Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon and a pair of Tampa Bay teammates — Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson — have been named the three finalists for the 2014 Calder Trophy, the NHL announced on Wednesday.
Awarded annually to the league’s top rookie, this year’s Calder is expected to go to MacKinnon, the first overall pick at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft that led all first-year players in points (63) and assists (39). He also broke Wayne Gretzky’s record for the longest point streak by a player 18 or younger — 12 games — and became the fourth Colorado player in the last eight years to be named a Calder finalist, joining Paul Stastny, Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog, who took home the trophy in 2012.
As for Palat and Johnson, they’ve made strong cases to be among the Calder finalist group. Johnson led all first-year scorers with 24 goals and set a Lightning rookie record in the process; he also became just the second rookie in NHL history to score five power-play and shorthanded goals in a single season.
What’s more, Johnson becomes the first undraft Calder finalist since Ed Belfour in 1991 — he signed with the Bolts as an undrafted free agent in 2011 following a standout career with WHL Spokane.
As for Palat, he finished second to MacKinnon in points (59) and was three shy of breaking Brad Richards’ franchise rookie scoring record. The Czech skater — who represented his country at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi — captured rookie of the month honors in January and March, and finished atop the first-year leaderboard in plus-minus (+32).
Oh, and in case you’re wondering — Palat and Johnson are the first teammates to be nominated for the Calder since Chicago’s Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane in 2008.
People love star athletes because they can do amazing things. Even so, people also often love to see the occasional moment of weakness.
Aside from the occasional injury hiccup, Sidney Crosby‘s been as advertised after being a super-hyped No. 1 overall pick. He has that “Golden Goal,” two Olympic gold medals, a Stanley Cup ring and plenty of individual accolades.
Not many people expected the Capitals-Penguins series to be over in five games, but there’s a chance that could happen before the end of the week. After their 3-2 overtime loss to the Pittsburgh on Wednesday night, the Capitals are one loss away from being bounced from the 2016 playoffs.
The Capitals failed to take advantage of the fact that Kris Letang was suspended for Game 4 because of his hit on Marcus Johansson in Game 3. Letang is now set to return for Game 5 which makes Washington’s task even more difficult.
“We didn’t take advantage of it,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said, per NHL.com. “One thing I said to the guys coming into this, and we talked it about it yesterday, was when Kris got his suspension, is that they’re going to rally. Their whole team, their forwards are going to come back. They talked about they didn’t play their best game (in Game 3) and now they have Letang out and everybody had to step up on their side, and I thought they did.”
If you look back at the regular season, the Capitals were head and shoulders above the rest of the Eastern Conference and the league for a good portion of the season. Washington finished 11 points ahead of second place Dallas in the league standings and it looked like they had the team that would finally take them over the hump.
Although things look gloomy, it’s important to realize that the series is far from over. Many NHLers would tell you that the fourth win is always the hardest to come by in a best-of-seven series, and by no means is anyone expecting the Capitals to wave the white flag.
“Whenever you lose a game, it’s obviously an opportunity missed, but it had nothing to do with them missing some of their players,” said Caps forward Jay Beagle, per NHL.com. “We’re looking forward. Our back’s against the wall and the most important game of our lives is coming up.”
Game 5 goes Saturday night in Washington.
PHT Morning Skate: Shane Doan takes a (friendly) shot at the Miracle on Ice
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.
Trevor Daley, traded to Blackhawks for Sharp & Johns and to #Pens for Scuderi (who was flipped to LA for Ehrhoff) played 28:41 in G4 W.