Jeff Skinner, Logan Couture, and Michael Grabner named Calder Trophy finalists; Who should win?

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This year’s rookie class was especially loaded in the NHL which helped make the race for the Calder Trophy all the more interesting. With numerous players having outstanding first seasons, the campaigning to see who would end up being the three finalists to see who would land the league’s rookie of the year award was tough. In the end, if you’re not scoring you’re not trying as three high-flying, high-scoring forwards will vie for the big prize.

San Jose’s Logan Couture, Carolina’s Jeff Skinner, and Islanders winger Michael Grabner were named the finalists for the Calder Trophy this afternoon and each of their résumés offer a great case to be made.

Jeff Skinner was the leading point scorer amongst all rookies with 63 points (31 goals, 32 assists). Skinner emerged to become an instant fan favorite in North Carolina and turned his great season into an All-Star Game appearance as well. Skinner’s point total put him second on the Hurricanes in scoring just behind Eric Staal. Skinner’s play nearly led the Hurricanes into the playoffs as well, only falling short in the season’s last game. With an All-Star Game nod and being the top point getter amongst rookies, Skinner’s case to win it all is perhaps the strongest.

Logan Couture was a revelation for the Sharks and helped lead them to a Pacific Division title. While the Sharks saw disappointing seasons from Joe Thornton and Dany Heatley, Couture’s 32 goals made him the team’s second best goal scorer just behind Patrick Marleau. His 56 points were second amongst rookies and the fact that his team is actually in the playoffs helps boost his case.

Michael Grabner’s case is a real heartwarmer. During the summer, Grabner was traded by Vancouver to Florida as part of the Keith Ballard deal. In Florida, they didn’t seem to have a spot for him in the lineup and then waived him only to be claimed by the Islanders. Many thought playing there would be the last chance for the once highly touted prospect. Instead, it turned out to be the awakening he needed as he finished the season with 34 goals, best amongst all rookies. More amazingly so, only two of those goals came on the power play and six came shorthanded, second best mark in the NHL. Grabner’s speed and his offense made him a revelation and a steal for the Islanders. From a guy squeezed out of a roster spot in two cities to a potential rookie of the year. Not too bad.

Of course, with the announcement of the finalists there’s some debate over who got snubbed. Chicago goalie Corey Crawford heads that list after his outstanding season saving the Blackhawks and leading them to the playoffs. Defensemen P.K. Subban in Montreal, John Carlson in Washington, and Kevin Shattenkirk of St. Louis also turn out to be also-rans. After seeing a defenseman win the award last season in Buffalo’s Tyler Myers, this year’s outstanding corps of forwards made it tough for defensemen and goaltending to be noticed.

So now we ask you, who do you think wins the Calder Trophy this year? Let us know in our poll as well as in our comments.

Crosby: Penguins ‘probably deserved better’ vs. Senators in Game 6

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If you didn’t know that the Stanley Cup Playoffs can be awfully cruel, then the last week or so of action should make it pretty clear.

The Nashville Predators lost top center Ryan Johansen to a scary ailment few would have seen coming. The Anaheim Ducks fell in both games to the Johansen-less Predators, even after dominating significant chunks of Game 6. At least one Ducks player wondered if the better team won.

Much like in life, “fair” and “deserve” only matter so much. Sports have a scoreboard to serve as the ultimate deciding factor.

The Pittsburgh Penguins have similar thoughts after falling 2-1 to the Ottawa Senators tonight, extending the Eastern Conference Final to a decisive Game 7. You can nitpick questionable penalties and missed chances, but really, how negative can you be after Craig Anderson puts forth a blazing 45-save performance (with no overtime)?

Mike Sullivan and others echoed such thoughts.

” … Obviously, we’re disappointed in the result, but I don’t think we can get discouraged by that,” Sullivan said. “I think we’ve got to take the positives from it, and we’ve got to build on it, and we’ve got to become a more determined team for Game 7.

That’s not the sort of take that’s going to make the Senators angry in Game 7. The tone of the Senators’ discussions was likely very different after they lost Game 5 by a 7-0 score, yet maybe there was similar self belief.

Anderson puzzles Penguins as Senators force Game 7

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Who could blame fans for chanting “Andy” tonight?

The Ottawa Senators said they would choose to fight in Game 6, and Craig Anderson truly battled in this one, refusing to allow this unlikely run to an end on Tuesday. They wouldn’t roll over, even after a 7-0 humiliation in Game 5.

The underrated goalie continued his memorable (and emotional) 2016-17 season with a brilliant performance, making 45 saves to help Ottawa manage a gutsy 2-1 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

With that, hockey fans get a true treat: the Eastern Conference will go to a Game 7 on Thursday.

The Senators opted for a “bend but don’t break” strategy for much of the contest, possibly to Guy Boucher’s preference. Even so, the Penguins managed to grind their way to a 1-0 win thanks to another hard-work goal from Evgeni Malkin.

Mistakes would come back to haunt the Penguins, however, as Bobby Ryan broke Ottawa’s lengthy power-play drought to tie things up on a 5-on-3.

With their season in question thanks to a 1-1 tie in the third period, Mike Hoffman sent a booming shot by Matt Murray, and that ended up being all the Senators needed to tie the series 3-3.

Anderson was the standout, but Erik Karlsson was a hero in the way his detractors might not expect.

You can watch Game 7 on NBCSN at 8 p.m. ET on Thursday. The game is also available to stream via the NBC Sports App.

Report: Avalanche get permission to speak with Leafs assistant GM Dubas

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Could one of the most hapless possession teams of this more analytics-leaning era nab arguably the most promising analytics-leaning executive in the NHL?

It’s a reasonable question, as Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reports that the Colorado Avalanche asked for and received permission to speak to Toronto Maple Leafs assistant GM Kyle Dubas.

Current GM Joe Sakic recently got a vote of confidence and also cleaned out some of the coaching staff around Jared Bednar, so this is certainly a time of change for the Avalanche.

It will be interesting to see what kind of role Dubas would receive if he did join the fold in Colorado. Would he still be considered an assistant GM, only with more sway with what would likely be a smaller group of decision-makers? Could we see Sakic move up and give Dubas the full GM title (or eventually transition that role to the young upstart)? Might there be some other factor that would qualify as a more “outside the box” idea?

One thing seems clear: the Avalanche might want to be decisive, as demand could be significant for Dubas if he’s even somewhat on the market.

This could be interesting, especially if you’re a nerd for team-building storylines.

Video: Senators score twice to take 2-1 lead in Game 6

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The Ottawa Senators have defied odds during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and they’ve done so with what’s often been an ice-cold power play.

They finally struck gold on the man advantage on Tuesday, and at a key moment. The Pittsburgh Penguins were dominating much of the game and pressing for an even bigger edge after Evgeni Malkin made it 1-0.

Maybe the Penguins got overzealous, or maybe officials … finally started making some calls. Either way, the Senators ended up with a 5-on-3 advantage for almost a minute-and-a-half. With that opportunity, Bobby Ryan scored a huge goal for Ottawa on a shot that was both oddly and perfectly placed.

Moments later, Kyle Turris narrowly missed a golden opportunity, so the contest remained tied 1-1.

Despite a late push by the Penguins to finish the second, Game 6 will enter the third period with a 1-1 score.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE COVERAGE FOR GAME 6

Update: Mike Hoffman‘s booming shot gave the Senators a 2-1 lead in the third. We’ll see if Pittsburgh can tie it up.