Pavel Datsyuk, Jonathan Toews

Pavel Datsyuk, Ryan Kesler, and Jonathan Toews named Selke Trophy finalists; Who wins?

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The Selke Trophy is always great for debate year in and year out. Well, except for perhaps the last three years when Pavel Datsyuk was seemingly the runaway favorite and took home the award. Datsyuk will again be a finalist this year but his case is a bit more compelling than in previous seasons. Never mind the intense competition he’ll have for this years honor.

Datsyuk is seeking to win his fourth straight Selke Trophy and while him being a finalist may not seem like a surprise, it kind of is. Datsyuk played in just 56 games this year thanks to injury but clearly his reputation precedes him. Scanning through some of the deeper statistics, you’ll see that this wasn’t just the case of giving the incumbent a shot at protecting his legacy. Datsyuk was 11th in the league in takeaways with 71 despite missing 26 games. Datsyuk wins 54.6% of his faceoffs as well making him a prime candidate for taking and winning defensive zone draws. Datsyuk was also a +11 in plus/minus as well if that’s your kind of thing to judge defensive players. He’s a worthy candidate and while his reputation is certainly a factor here, it’s not as if missing more than a quarter of the season makes him any less capable.

Ryan Kesler is Vancouver’s go-to guy when it comes to matching up against opponents big gun centers, just ask Chicago about that. Kesler was in the NHL’s top 20 in takeaways with 65 and he was a faceoff winning machine winning 57.4% of the draws he took. Kesler’s all round breadth of work is incredible as he was also able to score 41 goals all while being able to help shutdown opposing centers. While we’re not surprised to see a Canuck get nominated, we’re a bit surprised it wasn’t Manny Malhotra getting the nod here. That’s not to take away from what Kesler’s done this year, but if there was a player who exemplified what it was to be a defensive forward, it was Malhotra.

Jonathan Toews’ case for the Selke is built around him being a maven in the faceoff circle and a very sneaky puck thief. Toews wins 56.7% of his draws and he was second in the NHL in takeaways with 93. Only Joe Thornton had more with 114. Toews is a bit of a surprise nominee in that when the talk goes up about the top defending forwards his name doesn’t immediately come to mind. That’s not to say he’s not worthy here, it’s just caught us a bit off guard. His work in the playoffs last season certainly gave us inklings as to his ability there. His regular season résumé this year was certainly impressive enough for the voters but we’re doubting he’s even a real threat to win the award this year.

A pair of names we’re surprised to see left off are Boston’s Patrice Bergeron and Islanders forward Frans Nielsen. Both guys have been outstanding in their roles matching up against opposing top lines and in the case of Nielsen he’s done it fearlessly with great results cashing in on shorthanded chances and finding ways to frustrate the daylights out of the league’s top scoring centers.

All that said, who do you like to win the Selke this year? Will Datsyuk make it four in a row? Will Toews shock the world and win his first? Or is it Ryan Kesler’s time to take home the hardware? Let us know in the comments and in our poll to tell us what you think.

Penguins push Capitals to brink of elimination with OT win

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The Pittsburgh Penguins ended a long run of playoff overtime struggles on Wednesday … and are now one win away from ending the Washington Capitals’ season.

Many expected the Penguins to crater on defense without Kris Letang (they were 2-8-1 in the regular season without him). While there were shaky moments, Pittsburgh emphasized its speed and other strengths in taking a 3-2 overtime thriller against Washington.

With that, the Penguins’ series lead grows to 3-1.

It was a thrilling, sometimes nasty contest, from Sidney Crosby shaking off an Alex Ovechkin slash, to Evgeni Malkin delivering a hit some thought was over the line and plenty of typical playoff skirmishes.

Ultimately, Matt Murray played another strong game and Patric Hornqvist scored the overtime-winner to put the Capitals in a tough spot.

The Penguins lost their previous eight playoff overtime games, so maybe it was just a matter of time before such a game went their way?

Then again, the history between the two teams is a little different:

If the Capitals want to advance beyond the second round for the first time in the Ovechkin era, they’ll need to accomplish quite the feat against arguably the hottest team in the NHL.

Sidney Crosby looks hurt (and furious) after Alex Ovechkin slash

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NBCSN screen
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Sidney Crosby is known to get fiery, but even for his feisty standards, he was furious during the third period of Game 4.

An Alex Ovechkin slash caught Crosby on the hand, leaving the Pittsburgh Penguins star shaking his mitt and pleading for a call.

After that, Crosby left to get his hand looked at … but not before flipping out and destroying his stick.

You can watch it happen in the GIF and the videos above.

Crosby was able to return not that long after that moment, although we can only speculate regarding how his overall game will be affected if his hand isn’t 100 percent.

Dirty or not? Evgeni Malkin’s hit on Daniel Winnik

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Tensions seem to rise with every passing game in the playoffs, particularly in a series with bad blood like the one between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals.

Kris Letang was suspended for his hit in Game 3, and some wonder if Evgeni Malkin should suffer a similar fate for his check on Daniel Winnik on Wednesday.

Winnik left the contest and has not yet returned during the third period.

Take a look at the hit in the video above and decide for yourself.

Blues aim to raise money for victims of Fort McMurray fires

An evacuee puts gas in his car on his way out of Fort McMurray, Alberta, as a wildfire burns in the background Wednesday, May 4, 2016. The raging wildfire emptied Canada's main oil sands city, destroying entire neighborhoods of Fort McMurray, where officials warned Wednesday that all efforts to suppress the fire have failed.  (Jason Franson /The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
AP
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Fires devastated the Canadian city of Fort McMurray, and the St. Louis Blues are doing their part to help those who were affected.

Here’s what the team is doing to raise money during Game 4 against the Dallas Stars:

Proceeds raised through the team’s 50/50 raffle and the Blues for Kids silent auction will benefit families who have been misplaced by the fires.

Blues forward Scottie Upshall shared his thoughts with the Associated Press regarding several family members being among those evacuated from the area.

“It’s been a great city, a city that’s survived for many years through some tough times and for me, growing up there doesn’t seem too long ago,” Upshall said. “Places that probably aren’t standing anymore will be really, really tough to take. But as long as everyone’s OK, that’s the main thing.”

Other people from around the hockey world weighed in on the scary scene, including Ottawa Senators defenseman Chris Phillips, who told the Ottawa Citizen that “it hurts a lot.”

People shared some scary sights from the evacuation.