While most will be focused on the race for playoff positioning and the battle for the final two open Wild Card spots in the Eastern Conference, there is another major story thread that will be resolved by the end of the night.
Sidney Crosby ran away with the Art Ross Trophy last season, but we’re going into the final day of the 2014-15 regular season without a good idea of who will win the award this year. Crosby might claim it for the second straight season and third time in his career, but 24-year-old John Tavares is tied with him in points at 84. On top of that, Jamie Benn is just one point behind them.
While Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins are fighting to stay alive and Tavares’ Islanders hope to wrestle the second Metropolitan Division seed away from Washington, Jamie Benn’s Dallas Stars have been eliminated from the playoff race. At this point, the possibility of Benn winning the scoring title is one of the few remaining silver linings for the squad.
Stars coach Lindy Ruff feels the battle for the Art Ross is important for the team under the circumstances.
“It’s exciting. It is a heck of an accomplishment when you see where he’s sitting,” Ruff told the Dallas Morning News. “It’s not easy to get there.”
Philadelphia’s Jakub Voracek (81 points) and Washington’s Alex Ovechkin (80 points) also have an outside chance of claiming the award.
Barring a truly memorable night from one of the league’s top players, no one will reach the 90-point mark in 2014-15. That’s the first time that’s happened in a non-lockout shortened season since 1967-68 when Stan Mikita had a league-best 87 points. That might be brought up in arguments in the near future to promote the idea that scoring is down or too low, but it’s worth noting that the league’s goals per game ratio has been roughly level for four straight campaigns. In other words, while the top of the leaderboard might not be as impressive this time around, scoring isn’t actually down so much as it has been more spread out.