Loui Eriksson, Nicklas Lidstrom, and Martin St. Louis named Lady Byng finalists – Who wins?

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All right get your lame jokes out of the way now. Today the NHL announced the finalists for the Lady Byng Trophy for the player to the “player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.” Often derided for being the trophy that goes to the guy who’s the softest player in the league, I’d dare you to say that to any of the three guys who will be vying for the award this year.

Detroit’s Nicklas Lidstrom, Tampa Bay’s Martin St. Louis, and Dallas’ Loui Eriksson are this year’s finalist for the award. We’d grown accustomed to seeing Pavel Datsyuk be the lead nominee for the award (he’s won it four times) but after his famous fight with Anaheim’s Corey Perry earlier in the season, that all but eliminated him from the competition this year.

Between these three players, the competition is interesting. Lidstrom has never been a finalist for the award in the past and a defenseman has only ever won the award four times. Incidentally it was only two players that pulled that feat and they were Detroit Red Wings when they did it. Bill Quackenbush in 1949 and Red Kelly did so three times in in 1951, 1953, and 1954. Considering it hasn’t been won by a defenseman since ’54 and the 40 year-old Lidstrom has long been one of the most cordial players on and off the ice, it feels like it’ll be a career achievement sort of award for Lidstrom this year.

Of course Martin St. Louis won it last year and having that sort of credibility to your name often makes the vote turn out to be a bit easier. St. Louis is a tenacious but clean player on the ice and is a prime example of what it means to be a superstar and MVP-like player while not pushing the edge of their game to questionable levels.

The same can be said of Loui Eriksson of Dallas who stands out as a true gentleman of hockey while having some rather dubious teammates. Eriksson’s work as a scoring threat and defensively tough player while keeping his nose clean in rough and tumble Dallas speaks volumes for him. After all, it can’t be easy to keep cool with the likes of Steve Ott, Krys Barch, and Mike Ribeiro running around driving opponents insane. I guess someone has to play “good cop” after all.

So it’s not the most exciting award to be given out, but it’s an oldie and a classic having been given out since the 1924-1925 season. Who do you like for the award? Do you give it to the classic veteran, the incumbent, or the new guy? Let us know in our poll.

Video: Rick Nash scores 20th goal in sprawling style

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Rick Nash has his critics stemming from his playoff struggles in the past, but for those who support him, moments like these are satisfying.

Why? Because you’d be absurd to discredit how hard he tries when Nash scores goals like he did for the New York Rangers against the New York Islanders on Wednesday.

Nash went all-out for his 20th goal of the season, sprawling after scoring against Thomas Greiss. It’s quite a sight, and Getty Images really was on top of that one.

via Getty Images

The Rangers may need more from him tonight, however, as the Islanders just went up 3-2. Watch the remainder of the contest on NBCSN.

Leafs pass Bruins for third in Atlantic after gutsy win against Columbus

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It wasn’t pretty – especially if you’re disgusted by that Roman Polak hit – but the Toronto Maple Leafs keep generating big wins as a playoff return looks increasingly likely.

Toronto managed a 5-2 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday, passing the Boston Bruins for third place in the Atlantic Division:

Maple Leafs: 83 points in 72 games
Bruins: 82 points in 73 games

This leaves the currently in-action New York Islanders four points behind the Bruins for the final wild card in the East.

The Maple Leafs aren’t just grabbing key points; they’re doing so against some strong opponents who’ve had plenty on the line, too. They beat a Metro contender in Columbus tonight, the Bruins on Monday, grabbed an OT point against Chicago on Saturday and handled the desperate Lightning last Thursday.

This game was all about William Nylander‘s brilliant start:

And also Toronto surviving a long penalty kill after that Polak hit:

Nazem Kadri‘s 30th goal really put the game out of reach, helping Toronto nab a significant victory.

The Blue Jackets can wallow in this defeat and Oliver Bjorkstrand‘s injury, either, as they turn around to face the Washington Capitals in a big one tomorrow.

Tortorella was irate after Roman Polak boarded Oliver Bjorkstrand

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John Tortorella was left enraged after Roman Polak delivered a dangerous boarding hit on Oliver Bjorkstrand, and he probably wasn’t too pleased after the Columbus Blue Jackets failed to make Toronto pay for Polak’s misdeeds.

Polak received a game misconduct and boarding major for the hit, but the Blue Jackets failed to score on a lengthy power play. Tortorella played to script, as cameras caught him expressing his anger at the situation.

First, take a look at the hit:

Next, behold Tortorella’s anger:

Again, Columbus couldn’t capitalize on its opportunities, so that didn’t make things any better.

Right now, the Maple Leafs lead the Blue Jackets 3-2. If Toronto ends up winning, this will stand as one of the game’s pivotal moments.

It’s far from the only exciting moment, however, with these goals and big hits also standing out.

Video: Josh Ho-Sang’s creativity gives Islanders a shot in the arm

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Honestly, after 10 games, the question shouldn’t be “can Josh Ho-Sang stick with the Islanders full-time?” Instead, the feeling is … what took so long for him to get this chance?

For all the grumbling about Ho-Sang sporting number 66, he’s provided serious bursts of brilliance and creativity for the Islanders, whether he’s been supporting or even setting up John Tavares.

The video above is some really good stuff, as it walks through his confident comments – and undeniable uncertainty – during the night he was drafted, all the way through him getting his chance with the Isles this season. Some of the best stuff comes from Doug Weight, who raves that Ho-Sang is a “five out of five” from an offensive standpoint.