Matt Duchene's Calder Trophy argument

Duchene.jpgAs we near the end of the season, we’re going to take a look at
who
we think should be three finalists for the Hart, Norris and Calder
Trophies, making arguments for each. Next is the Calder trophy, the
NHL’s award for the Rookie of the Year. Next up: Colorado Avalanche
forward Matt Duchene.

Why he deserves it:
Heading into the 2009 NHL draft, the top three players in the draft
were at a different level than everyone else. John Tavares, Victor
Hedman and Matt Duchene were all projected to be extremely special
players and were all thought to be able to provide instant help for
whichever team drafted them. The questions was which order would they
go? Everyone knew that Tampa Bay would draft Hedman, as they already had
great skill up forward. Would the Islanders change their minds at the
last instance and draft Duchene?

Thankfully for the Avalanche, the
draft went as planned. The Islanders picked Tavares and the Avs
selected an extremely gifted forward who grew up as big an Avalanche fan
as they come. And while Tavares has certainly had a great season, no
one could have anticipated the impact Duchene has had in Colorado. He
leads all rookies in goals (24) and points (55) and has proven to be an
exceptionally well-rounded defensive player as well. In 81 games, he has
just 16 penalty minutes; he’s rarely out of position and has shown a
maturity on the ice well beyond what anyone thought possible in his
first season in the NHL.

Why he doesn’t deserve it: Good
question, and one that can only be answered when used in comparison
with his direct competitors. The Avalanche had an incredible run to
start the season yet finished with a bit of a stumble, something that
play against him when voters decide on the award. It’s also arguable
that Jimmy Howard and Tyler Myers have had a bigger impact and have been
more valuable to their team’s success than Duchene, although that’s a
tough argument to quantify.

He also has one hell of a goal celebration.

Why he gets it: He’s the
leader of an incredibly talented class of rookies, which includes
Tavares, Jamie Benn, Niclas Bergfors and T.J. Galiardi, and it’s tough
to think of another rookie that has played better or more consistent
then he has this past season.

Why he won’t get it: Voters
believe that Myers or Howard had the best season. This is a race that
is tough to judge, and unfortunately some sort of bias will kick in.
Duchene plays for a team that way out in Colorado, while Myers and
Howard are out on the East coast (relatively). Once again, it’s
unfortunate that’s the case, but that’s the reality.

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    Stars put Spezza on injured reserve, recall Faksa from AHL Texas

    Dallas Stars v Arizona Coyotes
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    Sitting three points out of top spot in the Central Division and on the eve of an important divisional clash on home ice with the Chicago Blackhawks, the Dallas Stars have placed center Jason Spezza on injured reserve retroactive to Thursday, the club announced on Friday.

    Spezza, 32, was injured during Thursday’s game against the Colorado Avalanche. The Stars can move back to within a point of Chicago for the division lead with a regulation win on Saturday.

    In 52 games this season, Spezza has 18 goals and 40 points, which ties him with Patrick Sharp for fourth on the team in total points.

    With Spezza out, the Stars recalled 22-year-old forward Radek Faksa from the Texas Stars in the AHL.

    Faksa has 15 goals and 26 points in 28 games this season with Texas. In 18 games with the NHL Stars, he has one goal and three points.

    Hitch’s recipe for more goals is a pretty simple one

    Ken Hitchcock, David Backes, Dmitrij Jaskin, Paul Stastny, Patrik Berglund
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    Ken Hitchcock wants the Blues to spend more time attacking and less time defending.

    Because hockey isn’t rocket science, that’s why.

    “To score and win games in the National Hockey League…you have to spend as much time in the offensive zone as you can,” Hitchcock told the Post-Dispatch.

    “When you’re occupying the offensive zone more, you’re forechecking more. When you’re occupying the offensive zone more, the goalie has to make saves. They’re having to defend more. And the opposing team takes penalties on you. So they’re all connected. … What I want to see from us is staying on the puck for longer stretches.”

    According to the stats, the Blues have not been spending as much time in the offensive zone as we’re used to seeing from them. In fact, in their last 20 games, they rank in the bottom third of the league in score-adjusted Corsi. That compares to their first 20 games when they were in the top third.

    The result is fewer shots, and more importantly, fewer goals. The Blues have fallen all the way to 25th in offense, averaging just 2.37 goals per game. Last year, they finished fifth (2.91).

    Yes, some of that may be due to the absence of Jaden Schwartz, and he should be back soon. But there’s a reason people are watching GM Doug Armstrong as the Feb. 29 trade deadline approaches. This team could probably use another piece up front.

    The Blues host Minnesota Saturday.

    St. Louis has scored just five goals in its last five games.

    Goalie nods: Lindback ‘really excited’ for first start in almost three weeks

    Anders Lindback
    AP
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    Tonight in Anaheim, Anders Lindback will make his first start for the Arizona Coyotes since Jan. 16.

    The Coyotes have been riding rookie Louis Domingue since just before Christmas, but Domingue has allowed five goals in each of his last three starts, including last night’s 5-4 loss to Chicago.

    Lindback’s last appearance came Tuesday in relief, when he allowed one goal on 10 shots in a 6-2 loss to the Kings.

    Lindback was in goal for one of Arizona’s three victories this season over Anaheim, stopping 33 of 36 shots in a 4-3 overtime win on Nov. 9. However, his .896 save percentage ranks among the lowest in the league.

    Frederik Andersen is expected to start for the Ducks.

    Elsewhere…

    — No word yet on a Penguins starter in Tampa, but Ben Bishop will go for the Bolts.

    Cam Ward will start for the Hurricanes in Winnipeg, where Connor Hellebuyck is expected for the increasingly desperate Jets.

    — Joonas Korpisalo was solid last night in Vancouver, but the Blue Jackets have not announced their starter for tonight’s game in Calgary. Karri Ramo will be in goal for the Flames.

    A ‘pretty solid two-way player,’ Sundqvist to make NHL debut for Penguins

    Pittsburgh Penguins' Oskar Sundqvist (49) collides with Minnesota Wild's Jason Zucker (16) in the first period of a NHL preseason hockey game in Pittsburgh, Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
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    The latest Penguins injuries, these ones to Evgeni Malkin and Eric Fehr, have led to an opportunity for Oskar Sundqvist.

    Sundqvist will make his NHL debut for the Penguins tonight in Tampa. The 21-year-old center has five goals and 11 assists in 39 AHL games this season.

    “Sunny’s a pretty solid two-way player,” coach Mike Sullivan said, per the Tribune-Review.

    “I don’t think he’s going to dazzle you with flashy plays, but I think he’s a guy who plays the game the right way. He’s hard to play against because of his size. He’s got a long reach, and he’s got a good stick.”

    Sundqvist was selected 81st overall by the Pens in 2012. He’ll become the fourth player out of that Pittsburgh draft class to make his NHL debut, after Olli Maatta, Derrick Pouliot, and Matt Murray.

    Veteran Matt Cullen will replace Malkin on the second line, skating with wingers Carl Hagelin and Phil Kessel.

    Related: Nick Bonino out ‘at least a month’ with hand injury