Anze Kopitar

PHT’s awards picks for 2014-15

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Just a brief awards post on this busy day. Halford and I each gave our top picks. Feel free to add your two bits in the comments section.

Hart Trophy

Brough: Carey Price. Nobody was more important to their team than this guy. If not for Price, the Habs may not have made the playoffs. I did strongly consider Alex Ovechkin, given he had 10 more goals than anyone else. If Caps fans are mad at me for choosing otherwise, perhaps they can take solace in the fact I didn’t really consider Sidney Crosby at all.

Halford: Carey Price. I also strongly considered Ovechkin, who was the only skater to break the 50-goal mark. But Price was the only goalie with a GAA under 2.00 and save percentage over .930, and on a Montreal team that finished 20th in offense (2.61 goals per game), Price was the more valuable player.

Norris Trophy

Brough: Erik Karlsson. I don’t apologize for picking the defenseman with the most points. It’s not the only factor I considered (obviously), but the ability to move the puck and create offense from the back end is vitally important, and nobody does it better than Karlsson.

Halford: Drew Doughty. No d-man logged more total ice time this season. Not even Ryan Suter. The Kings may have missed the playoffs, but it wasn’t because of Doughty. He’s the best two-way defenseman in the world.

Calder Trophy

Brough: Aaron Ekblad. It was extremely hard not to pick Johnny Gaudreau or Mark Stone, but considering Ekblad’s rookie season, compared to the ones by other 18-year-old defensemen throughout the years, was in line with Bobby Orr’s, I’m not going to lose any sleep over my decision.

Halford: Mark Stone. This was the toughest pick by far but, in the end, I couldn’t ignore how well he played over the final half of the year, especially when the Sens went on their tear. Only Ovechkin, Crosby, Jamie Benn and John Tavares scored more points than Stone (44) after Jan. 1.

Jack Adams Award

Brough: Barry Trotz. Did a masterful job convincing the Capitals to buy in and play with more structure. Also handled Ovechkin perfectly, providing constructive criticism while also publicly praising and bonding with his captain and face of the franchise.

Halford: Bob Hartley. The Flames went from 77 to 97 points, snapped a six-year playoff drought and did it with their captain and best player, Mark Giordano, missing the final 21 games of the regular season. Yeah, there was some puck luck and good fortune involved, but Hartley did a remarkable job getting this team to overachieve.

Selke Trophy

Brough: Patrice Bergeron. A tough season for Bruins fans, but having this guy under contract through 2021-22 is a good way to feel better.

Halford: Patrice Bergeron. I considered some extremely talented guys — Jonathan Toews, Anze Kopitar, Pavel Datsyuk — for the Selke, but never thought about giving the first-place vote to anybody but Bergeron. Kinda says it all.

Vezina Trophy

Brough. Carey Price. Played the fourth-most minutes among all NHL goalies and nobody had a lower save percentage than his .933 mark. Ultimately, this wasn’t a tough decision, despite some excellent seasons from a handful of other goalies.

Halford: Carey Price. He’s going to win in his first year as a finalist, an interesting factoid in that it reminds you Carey Price has never been a Vezina finalist before, let alone won one.

Lady Byng Trophy

Brough: Sean Monahan. Took just six minor penalties all season, to go with 31 goals. There were actually a few candidates for this award on the ultra-disciplined Flames.

Halford: Jiri Hudler. It’s a Calgary love-in! Hudler took one more minor penalty than Monahan did this year, but also finished with the team scoring lead (76 point). That gets him the nod in my book.

Get your game notes: Kings at Blackhawks

Tonight on NBCSN, it’s the Chicago Blackhawks hosting the Los Angeles Kings at 8:30 p.m. ET. Following are some game notes, as compiled by the NHL on NBC research team:

TOP STORYLINES

• Back at United Center: This is the 3rd and final meeting of the season (each has 1 regulation win), but the first game at United Center since June 1, 2014 – Game 7 of last year‟s Western Conf. Final, which LA won 5-4 (OT).

• LA’s playoff push: The Kings are ending a 5-game road trip today (3-1-0 record thus far).

• The Kings swept NJ, NYR, and NYI on the same road trip for the 3rd time in franchise history. They are just one of three teams all-time to accomplish that feat (NSH, ANA). However, LA‟s winning streak was snapped on Saturday in the loss to MIN.

• LA has once again fallen outside the playoff picture, however the Kings have a game in hand on both the Flames and the Jets. In addition, the Kings lead the tiebreaker (ROW) against Winnipeg. A win tonight would put the Kings back in the playoffs (Wild Card if CGY also wins, 3rd in Pacific if CGY loses).

• Tonight ends the Kings’ most challenging remaining stretch schedule-wise. Four of their final 6 games after tonight are against teams out of the playoff race (EDM twice, COL, SJ). The other two games are crucial Pacific Division matchups and could determine LA‟s fate this season – at Vancouver in a week and at Calgary in the Kings’ penultimate game of the regular season.

• Late-season surges have been LA‟s identity in each of the past 3 seasons, as they have not clinched a playoff spot until the very end of the season.

• The Kings can become the first repeat champ since DET won in 1997 & 1998…on the other end of the spectrum, they could become only the 4th team since the 1967-68 expansion to miss the playoffs the season after winning the Cup, joining CAR (2006-07), NJ (1995-96) & MTL (1969-70).

• Chicago battling for position: Though the Hawks have won just twice in their last 5 games (2-3-0 record), they are coming off a come-from-behind 4-3 win in Winnipeg yesterday. While still 3rd in the Central, Chicago is under pressure from Minnesota (26-6-2 since Jan. 15 – most wins in NHL), and must keep winning to avoid being a Wild Card team. The Hawks have a game in hand on the Wild and one more matchup this season.

• Without Patrick Kane: After last night’s win, Chicago has now gone 9-4-1 without its leading scorer. Kane underwent successful surgery on Feb. 25 to repair his left clavicle fracture and was expected to be out 12 weeks from that time. That timetable likely puts Kane out until at least the WC Final. While he has been on the ice since, there is no change in the prognosis. At the time of the injury, Kane was tied for the league lead in points with 64 in 61 games.

• For the better part of March, Chicago had been winning games with improved defense to make up for the dip in scoring caused by Kane’s absence. Though those trends over the 14 games without Kane still hold, recently the Hawks have seen different results.

• Before the 4-goal outburst yesterday, the Hawks had scored 7 goals in the 5 previous games. And CHI now has allowed 12 goals over its last 3 games – it had allowed just 13 in the 9 games before that.

KINGS TEAM/PLAYER NOTES

• Jonathan Quick ranks 2nd in the NHL with 65 starts this season, which includes his current run of 14 straight. He was pulled after the first period against MIN – he stopped 7 of 9 shots. Despite the loss Saturday, Quick‟s play since Feb. 7 (the start of LA‟s season-high 8-game win streak) has sparked the Kings’ turnaroud

• This season vs. CHI: 1-1-0 record, 3.03 GAA, .887 SV%. This includes a 26-save performance in the most recent meeting (4-3 Kings win on Jan. 28).

• Regular season career vs. CHI: 7-13-1 record, 2.79 GAA, .908 SV%.

• Including playoffs, Tyler Toffoli has 15 points (8 goals) in 17 career games against the Blackhawks.

• Anze Kopitar has led the Kings in scoring each of the past 7 seasons, and his 60 points this season also leads the team. Kopitar had a 5-game point streak snapped in the loss to the Wild, but he still has 6 points in the 4 games on this road trip.

CHICAGO TEAM/PLAYER NOTES

• Since Kane was injured, 3 Hawks have stepped up offensively – captain Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp, and Andrew Shaw. All 3 players scored in yesterday’s win.

• Toews – a Winnipeg native – scored the game-winning goal with 31 seconds left in regulation yesterday.

• Sharp went 19 games without a goal from Jan. 30 to March 12 (2nd-longest drought of career), but he now has 4 goals (and 4 assists) in the 8 games since, including the game-tying goal on a 3rd-period breakaway yesterday.

• Shaw had gone 13 straight games without a point leading up to Kane’s exit from the lineup. He has 7 points (5 goals) in the 14 games without number 88, including 4 goals in the last 4 games.

• Goaltender Corey Crawford has made 5 straight starts, and though he picked up the win yesterday stopping 31 of 34 shots, he has allowed 3+ goals in 4 of those 5 games.

PHT Morning Skate: Brandon Pirri loses his stick to a fan

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Florida Panthers forward Brandon Pirri scored twice in Thursday night’s 4-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs. Pirri now has 16 goals in 22 games. However, he may have lost his lucky stick. During the third period Leafs forward Richard Panik flipped Pirri’s stick over the glass (see video below). Panik received a misconduct on the play. A lucky fan five rows up received a nice souvenir as a result.

“That was a weird play,” chuckled Pirri post-game. “It got pretty deep in the crowd.”

Want to have former New York Yankee Derek Jeter as a neighbor? Buy Vincent Lecavalier’s house. Lecavalier’s Florida home, which is a few doors down from Jeter, is currently on the market. (Tampa Bay Times)

Editor’s Note: Play one-day fantasy hockey tonight! Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a $20,000 league for Friday’s NHL games. It’s just $2 to join and first place wins $2,000. Starts Friday at 8:00pm ET. Enter Now!

A young Boston Bruins fan received a hockey card Thursday night. Liam Fitzgerald, who was born with Down syndrome and beat a leukemia diagnosis, received the card from Upper Deck.

Connor McDavid had quite an impact on attendance in the Ontario Hockey League this season. Teams entertaining McDavid saw a 20 percent increase in attendance when the Erie Otters were in town. (NHLtoSeattle.com)

Darren Helm’s girlfriend gave birth to the couple’s daughter on a Michigan highway this week. (Detroit Red Wings)

Actor Matthew Perry was on Jimmy Kimmel Live this week and discussed his friendship with L.A. Kings’ forward Anze Kopitar.

Ken Campbell writes the Arizona Coyotes need to win the NHL Draft lottery more than the Buffalo Sabres. (The Hockey News)

Sutter heaps praise on ‘dominant’ Kopitar

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With five points in his last two games, both huge road wins for the desperate Los Angeles Kings, Anze Kopitar drew all sorts of praise Tuesday night from his coach, Darryl Sutter.

“Kopi’s our best player, you know, and after the All-Star Game, I think that our team has played really well since then, and so has Kopi,” Sutter said following the 4-2 victory over the Rangers, per LA Kings Insider.

“How many good teams don’t have a top centerman who’s not a dominant player? I’m telling you, you have to have it.”

Sutter’s right about that. Rare is the Stanley Cup champion that doesn’t have a center who’s won the Hart Trophy or Selke Trophy, or at least been a serious candidate to win. (In fact, if you can think of one, please share in the comments section.)

The Kings have three games left on their key five-game road trip. They play tomorrow on Long Island before finishing with games in Minnesota and Chicago.

Get your game notes: Kings at Rangers

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Tonight on NBCSN, it’s the New York Rangers hosting the L.A. Kings on Rivalry Night at 7 p.m. ET. Following are some game notes, as compiled by the NHL on NBC research team:

TOP STORYLINES

• Stanley Cup Final rematch…The Rangers host the Kings tonight in the first meeting at Madison Square Garden since the Rangers staved off elimination in Game 4 (2-1 win) of last season’s Stanley Cup Final. The Kings won the series in Game 5 in LA (3-2 in 2OT; series-clinching goal by Alec Martinez) to capture their 2nd Stanley Cup in the last 3 seasons.

• This is the 2nd and final meeting of the season…In the first meeting, NYR won 4-3 at LA back on Jan. 8th during a stretch where the Rangers had ultimately gone 13-1-0 including a California sweep, winning at ANA, LA & SJ in the same season for the first time in franchise history.

• Contrary to the series last postseason, it was New York, not LA, who overcame a deficit in their first meeting this season for the win…down 2-0 in the 1st, NYR scored 4 unanswered goals…Martin St. Louis is credited with the game winner (LA overcame a 2-goal deficit to win Game 1 & 2 of SCF).

• Presidents’ Trophy outlook: No team in the NHL has more points than the New York Rangers…No team has played fewer games than the Rangers…The Blue Shirts are on the verge of being the first team to reach 100 points this season (their first 100-point season since 2011-12; 109 pts).

• Since the inception of the Presidents’ Trophy in 1985-86, New York has won the award twice, most recently in the 1993-94 season, when they went on to win their last Stanley Cup.

• The last 2 Presidents’ Trophy winners had different postseason fates: the Bruins lost in the second round last season while the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup back in 2013.

• Ultimate goals…The Rangers & Kings each look to become the first team to reach the Stanley Cup Final in consecutive seasons since the Red Wings & Penguins met each other in the Cup Final in 2008 & 2009.

• Late-season surges have been the identity of LA in recent years. In each of the past 3 seasons, they have not clinched a playoff spot until the very end
of the season.

• With 10 games to go last season, LA had 88 points and sat 3rd in the Pacific Division.

• What’s also at stake for LA…The Kings can become the first repeat champ since DET won in 1997 & 1998…on the other end of the spectrum, they could become only the 4th team since the 1967-68 expansion to miss the playoffs the season after winning the Cup, joining CAR (2006-07), NJ (1995-96) & MTL (1969-70).

• Best start in franchise history…The Rangers are challenging their best regular season in franchise history…

• For NYR, the last time they won the Stanley Cup (1993-94) was a record-setting regular season in both wins (52) & points (112), both marks still stand as franchise bests. Here is NYR through 71 games in club history:

• Division title…New York needs 12 points to clinch its 1st division title since 2011-12, when they reached the conference finals, and only 2nd in the last 20 seasons.

• With 4 more points, (potentially a win tonight and at OTT on Thursday), the Rangers would secure their 5th straight postseason appearance – their longest such streak since making 10 consecutive trips from 1978-1987.

• Crunch time for LA: Though the Kings are 6-2-2 in their last 10 games, they remain on the outside of the playoff picture with 10 games remaining.

• LA opened its challenging 5-game road trip with a 3-1 win vs. NJ last night.

• Though LA has a poor overall road record this season (13-14-7), they have improved of late going 8-2-1 in their last 11 road contests. The Kings only have 3 home games remaining out of their final 10.

• Rangers rolling…Teams might have longer active winning streaks than the Rangers but the Blue Shirts very well may be the hottest team in the league right now…New York has earned a point in 9 of its last 10 (8-1-1).

• During this 10-game stretch, the Rangers have still yet to allow more than 2 goals in a game and have only allowed 2 twice. This is the first time they have accomplished that since Feb. 20 – March 18, 1971 (12 GP).

• NYR in last 10 games: 11 total goals allowed

• Rangers offensive outburst…The Rangers scored a season-high 7 goals against the Ducks on Sunday night (after scoring 6 total goals in their previous 4 games and only 13 over their previous 8).

• The 7 goals at home were the most by NYR at The Garden since Mar. 6, 2011 (vs. PHI).

RANGERS TEAM/PLAYER NOTES

• Injury alert…The Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist, who suffered a vascular injury in his throat on Jan. 31 vs. CAR (and last played on Feb. 2 vs. FLA), was medically cleared to practice with the team last Tuesday.

• The next step in his recovery was skating with the team this morning, his first organized team skate since the injury. If all goes well, Lundqvist will dress for a practice on Wednesday and fly with the club for a 2-game road trip to OTT & BOS. The Rangers return home for a Sunday matinee game against Washington. It is unclear when he will make his first start back.

• Martin St. Louis (NYR) was originally expected to miss 10-14 days after suffering a lower-body injury on Mar. 15 vs. FLA. No update on his status has been given.

• Another variable in the mix which caused Lundqvist to miss practice on Friday is the fact that his wife, Therese, gave birth to their 2nd child, Juli (both girls), that day…Lundqvist posted to his Twitter account after:

“My little girl is here!!…Everyone is doing great. She did not get the memo of me returning to practice today so we’ll try that again. …”

• Rick Nash on Lundqvist, “For sure it will be great to have our leader back. He’s so competitive; that’s why he’s one of the best goalies in the world. Family comes first; that’s for sure. But now we know he will be back.”

• The Rangers have gone 17-3-3 without Henrik Lundqvist

• Winning with Cam: 27-year old undrafted goalie Cam Talbot, in his 2nd NHL season, has started 21 of the 23 total Rangers games since Lundqvist has been out. Sunday night vs. ANA, Talbot stopped 36 of 38 shots
including all 21 in the 2nd & 3rd period.

• Talbot has gone 7-1-1 in his last 9 start: 1.21 GAA, .961 SV%

• Talbot played in the LA game earlier this season: 3 GA on 31 shots

• Talbot this season: 19-7-4, 2.13 GAA (4th in NHL), .929 SV% (2nd in NHL)

• The Rangers lead the league with 11 shutouts on the season, including 5 by Talbot & 5 by Lundqvist. No other Ranger team has had two goalies each record at least 5 shutouts in the same season.

• Jennings Trophy…awarded to goalie (s) of the team with the fewest goals scored against on the season…the Rangers trail the Canadiens by 2 goals in this category for the league lead…

• Typically shared by 2 goalies (min. 25 GP necessary)…oddly enough, since Henrik Lundqvist entered the league in 2005-06, only in his rookie season has another Ranger goalie even played 25 games in a season (Kevin Weekes; 32) – Talbot has played 32 games this season.

KINGS TEAM/PLAYER NOTES

• Marian Gaborik had 2 assists last night in New Jersey. Now in his 14th season, the 33-year-old was the 3rd overall pick in the 2000 draft by MIN. After 8 seasons in MIN, Gaborik played for the Rangers for 3+ seasons (229 pts in 255 games). He has played for the Kings since March of last season when he was traded from CBJ.

• Gaborik led all players last postseason with 14 goals in 26 games, including 2 in the Stanley Cup Final.

• Mike Richards was recalled from Manchester (AHL) over the weekend, and he played for the Kings last night (0 points, 11:41 TOI) for the first time since Jan. 21st (missed 24 games).

• Richards was waived and subsequently sent to the minors in late January (14 points in 16 AHL games). His last game for Manchester was March 8, and he had since been in Southern California for on and off-ice tests to establish a baseline for his conditioning.

• Richards is in the 7th year of a 12-year/$69 million deal through 2020 (cap hit 5.75M).

• Richards, a 2-time Cup Champion with LA, has been with the Kings since the start of the 2011-12 season.

• LA has struggled to get goal-scoring from captain Dustin Brown. The Ithaca, NY, native has seen his goal production decline in every season since scoring 28 goals in 2010-11.

• He has just 10 goals in 72 games this season (on pace for his lowest total since his rookie season in
2003-04), including 15 straight without a goal (only 1 assist in that span).

• Anze Kopitar factored in all 3 Kings goals last night with 1 goal & 2 assists. He has led the team in scoring each of the past 7 seasons & once again leads LA with 57 points this season.

• Kopitar has points in 3 straight games and 12 points overall in his last 10 games.

• Andrej Sekera scored for the first time as a King last night – he opened the game’s scoring with a goal in the 1st.

• In 12 games w/ LA since being acquired from CAR, Sekera has 3 pts (1G-2A) while averaging 18:42 TOI/G.

• Alec Martinez (concussion) played his first game since Feb. 7th last night (missed 19 games). He had 3 shots on goal and registered 16:23 TOI.

• Martinez scored the Stanley-Cup winning goal last year against the Rangers in double overtime of Game 5.

• Jonathan Quick ranks t-2nd in the NHL with 62 starts this season. Since Feb. 7, his numbers are far more impressive than they were over the first half of the season including 19 saves on 20 shots last night at NJ.