Zdeno Chara, Nicklas Lidstrom, and Shea Weber named Norris Trophy finalists; Who wins?

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The Norris Trophy is one of the more respected and honored awards to be given out by the NHL. After all, being named the best defenseman in the NHL carries a lot of weight to it. When you’re thrown in the mix with past winners like Bobby Orr and Doug Harvey, there’s a certain cache to being honored.

This year’s three finalists go across the spectrum of what it’s all about to play along the blue line and what it means to carry a big reputation as well. Boston’s Zdeno Chara, Detroit’s Nicklas Lidstrom, and Nashville’s Shea Weber were named as the three finalists for the Norris Trophy and each of their cases for the award are intriguing. Unsurprisingly, all three finalists also double as the captains of their teams. After all, defense does win championships and it earns respect in the locker room.

Chara is the 6’7″ physically imposing monster along the blue line from Boston. Chara has won the award once before in 2008-2009 in what seemed to be his breakout year as a perennial candidate for the award. His work this season in helping stand up and protect Tim Thomas and leading him to a career year in goal didn’t go unnoticed. Going by the raw numbers, his season was spectacular. With 14 goals, 30 assists and a plus/minus rating of +33 Chara’s season looks outstanding.

Nicklas Lidstrom is a six-time Norris Trophy winner and while that carries a lot of swagger, his play this season at age 40 has been inspiring. Averaging more than 23 minutes of ice time per game, Lidstrom helped carry the Red Wings to the Central Division title and gave them the ever constant presence along the blue line for any and all situations. This season, he gave the Wings a lot more offense than even they thought they’d get out of him as he finished the season with 16 goals and 46 assists, his biggest points season since 2007-2008. Yeah, he won the Norris that year. One thing that may hamper his campaign is a plus/minus of -2. While we believe that metric has a ton of flaws to it, there are others that believe in it strongly. In this field of finalists it could make the difference.

Shea Weber is a beast in Nashville. He averages more than 25 minutes of ice time per game. He plays all facets of the game at even strength and on special teams. He’s physical. He’s got the booming slap shot like Chara and he scores too. With 16 goals and 32 assists this season he was a constant force along the blue line for the Predators. With his leadership Nashville stormed into the playoffs and his abilities have helped guys like Ryan Suter evolve into equally formidable defensemen. As good as he’s been, Weber’s season also provides an example for how misleading plus/minus can be as he was a mere +7 on the season.

With these three finalists, there are a few guys whose absence in the final three that will provide cause for complaint and while the offensive numbers of these three are good, the top defensive goal scorer and point producer both were left out of the mix in Dustin Byfuglien and Lubomir Visnovsky. Also missing was Phoenix’s Keith Yandle and Pittsburgh’s Kris Letang who had outstanding first halves of the season but slumped in the second half. That said, it’s tough to argue with the three guys chosen as finalists.

So tell us… Who do you think takes home the hardware this year? Let us know in the poll and in the comments.

Capitals defeat Blue Jackets in clash of Metropolitan Division powers

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WASHINGTON (AP) T.J. Oshie scored the shootout winner as the Washington Capitals overcame a stellar performance from Columbus goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky to beat the Blue Jackets 2-1 Thursday night.

Despite 44 saves from Bobrovsky, the Capitals reached 104 points and extended their lead atop the Metropolitan Division and NHL standings. Oshie engendered memories of his Sochi Olympic shootout performance by again beating Bobrovsky, the goalie he scored on four times in six chances that day.

Dmitry Orlov finally cracked Bobrovsky early in the third period on Washington’s 35th shot of the game. Orlov’s goal tied the score after Seth Jones beat Braden Holtby on a wild scramble early in the third for his first goal since Feb. 7.

Holtby had 29 saves in regulation and overtime and three more in the shootout to pick up his 38th victory of the season, one shy of Bobrovsky for the league lead.

A showdown between two of the top three teams in the league jockeying for position atop the Metropolitan Division lacked a playoff feel. But the matchup of two likely Vezina Trophy finalists lived up to that billing as Bobrovsky and Holtby went back and forth with big saves.

Bobrovsky entered the night first in wins, goals-against average and save percentage with Holtby second, second and third in those categories. The 2013 Vezina winner could also be an MVP contender this season given his value to Columbus’ third playoff berth in franchise history.

“When he’s in his game it’s very hard to score on him,” said Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, who had eight shots stopped by one of his Russian national teammates. “He likes the big moments, he likes pressure. His worth ethic is unbelievable. … In my opinion he’s one of the best goalies in the league right now.”

Methot ‘out for weeks’ after suffering a shattered finger from Crosby clash

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The Ottawa Senators lost defenseman Marc Methot for the bulk of Thursday’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and it seems he’ll be out for quite a while longer, too.

Methot was injured on a Sidney Crosby slash across the hand in the first period. He didn’t return to the game and there was no penalty called on the Penguins captain.

Footage showed the gruesome aftermath of the slash — Methot’s finger on his left hand bloodied and injured as he skated back to the bench.

“His finger is shattered and he’s out for weeks,” said Senators head coach Guy Boucher, per the Ottawa Sun.

Methot immediately confronted Crosby after the slash, which occurred as the Sens blue liner went to dump the puck into the Pittsburgh zone late in the first period.

The Senators got revenge, scoring a 2-1 shootout victory to move within a point of Montreal for the Atlantic Division lead. Crosby was also denied in the shootout.

NHL to make ‘special announcement’ in China next week

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The National Hockey League has announced it will make a “special announcement” at the LeSports Center in Beijing, China next Thursday.

In January, the league’s deputy commissioner Bill Daly made it clear the NHL has interest in playing games in China — likely starting out with pre-season games before potentially adding in some regular season contests in the future, as well.

Just after the league made its announcement on Thursday, the L.A. Kings tweeted out that they will participate in next week’s event, along with the Vancouver Canucks.

In January, hockey insider Darren Dreger reported that the Canucks and Kings were likely to play NHL pre-season games in China this upcoming September.

Last July, members of the Boston Bruins visited China, specifically Beijing and Shanghai, to host hockey clinics in those cities.

Beijing will also host the 2022 Winter Olympics.

Flyers survive early Mason mistake to upset Wild

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Insert the ‘It’s not how you start but how you finish’ cliche right here.

The Philadelphia Flyers fell behind the Minnesota Wild on Thursday, as Zach Parise was the beneficiary of a Steve Mason mistake just 2:07 into the first period.

Mason couldn’t control the deflection into the zone, coughing up a rebound in front. Eric Staal forced a loose puck to Parise and he buried it to open the scoring.

Yeah, not ideal for the Flyers, who are still clinging to the slimmest of playoff hopes.

But they responded with three unanswered goals, including this beauty from Sean Couturier.

Philadelphia took over for a 3-1 victory, with Mason making 24 saves on 25 shots, as Minnesota’s struggles continue. The Wild still sit second in the Central Division but have only two wins in their last 10 games and were unable to secure a playoff spot Thursday.