It’s only the second round of the playoffs, but it’s also been a very slow news day, so let’s talk early Conn Smythe Trophy candidates.
Claude Giroux (Flyers) – Pretty hard to bet against a guy with 15 points in seven games. Giroux has five more points than the NHL’s second-leading playoff scorer, teammate Danny Briere. The only possible thing you could say to mitigate Giroux’s performance is that most of it came in a series that made the 1980s look tight-checking, with 1980s goaltending to match.
Mike Smith (Coyotes) – No goalie’s been busier in the playoffs. Not even close. Smith’s faced 316 shots in eight games, six of which have gone to overtime. Phoenix has been outshot in all but one of its games (yesterday versus Nashville.) Without Smith, the Coyotes probably don’t beat Chicago, and isn’t that the epitome of most valuable?
Jonathan Quick (Kings) – Only Vancouver’s Cory Schneider has a better save percentage than Quick (.955), and only one of those two has a chance to win the Stanley Cup. Quick was named the first star in Saturday’s 3-1 win at St. Louis, building on a first-round performance against Vancouver that saw him surrender just eight goals in five games to the Presidents’ Trophy winners.
Henrik Lundqvist (Rangers) – The consensus favorite to win the Vezina for best regular-season goalie has been even better in the playoffs, posting a .945 save percentage in eight games. The postseason hasn’t always gone well for Lundqvist, but he’s doing just fine this time around.
Andy McDonald (Blues) – Eight points (4G, 4A) in six games on a defense-first team. Of the players on clubs that haven’t been eliminated, only Claude Giroux and Danny Briere have more points per game than McDonald (1.33). And McDonald didn’t get to shoot on Marc-Andre Fleury in the first round.
When the adrenaline wears off after a big hit or violent fight, fans will want to see results on the scoreboard and in the standings. It remains to be seen if the Oilers truly made strides in that regard during a summer of change.
On the bright side, their wunderkind star and expensive new addition are at least on the same page.
Report: Las Vegas NHL team asked permission to speak with Capitals assistant GM
Ross Mahoney was hired by McPhee to be the director of amateur scouting for the Caps which he did for 16 seasons before becoming assistant general manager. If you thought the team drafted well during McPhee’s tenure, Mahoney is a major reason why.
The Caps are in a tricky position here. Denying employees the chance to seek other opportunities looks bad, but then again the Capitals don’t want to see their entire office raided by Vegas.
There has always seemed to be a connection between hockey players and the game of golf. Some are better than others when it comes to the links.
Take NHL referee Garrett Rank, for example.
Rank, also an amateur golfer, has made the cut at the 2016 Canadian Open at Glen Abbey Golf Club just south of Toronto. He’s currently tied for 36th at even par heading into the weekend. He also sits seven shots behind the leader, Dustin Johnson, the future son-in-law of The Great One, Wayne Gretzky.
Rank, who joined the NHL Officials Association in 2014, has split his time between officiating in the NHL and the American Hockey League. But, according to the PGA Tour website, he was hired as a full-time NHL ref the day before the opening round of this week’s Canadian Open.
“I’d be lying if I told you that I didn’t take my clubs with me when I was on the road,” he told the PGA Tour website. “I think it helps me and makes it a little easier for me because I know that this isn’t the end of the world, whether I shot 65 or 75.”
“When I got the news I tried to maintain a positive attitude,” he told the Toronto Sun. “And you know what, it’s kind of a blessing in disguise. You never want to have cancer wished upon someone but I think it gave me a little better outlook in terms of a bad call on the ice wasn’t as bad. Or hitting a bad shot on the golf course wasn’t the end of the world.
“It has allowed me to stay patient and be grateful for the opportunities and things I have in life.”