NHL Awards: Matthews wins Richard, McDavid claims Art Ross

NHL 2022 Awards
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The 2021-22 NHL regular season is officially in the books following the Winnipeg Jets 4-3 win over the Seattle Kraken on Sunday afternoon.

We will have to wait a few weeks to see who wins the majority of the NHL’s awards for the 2021-22 season, from the Stanley Cup to the MVP, but we do know at least a handful of the individual and team awards that have already been secured. That includes individual awards like the Art Ross Trophy and Rocket Richard award, and team awards like the Presidents’ Trophy and William Jennings Trophy.

Here we take a look at those four winners and how they ended up getting there.

[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2022 schedule, TV info]

Art Ross Trophy (scoring champion): Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers

Florida Panthers forward Jonathan Huberdeau gave McDavid quite a run here, but in the end it was McDavid winning the fourth Art Ross Trophy of his career and his second in a row. McDavid finished the season with 44 goals and 123 points, establishing new career highs in both categories. He is the only player to win the award two years in a row since Jaromir Jagr did so back in the late 90s, and McDavid has actually won it back-to-back times on two separate occasions. He also joins an incredibly small list of four-time scoring champions that includes only him, Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Jagr, Stan Mikita, Gordie Howe, and Phil Esposito.

His 123 points are the seventh most in a season over the past 25 years, while he is just the fifth different player since 2000 to top the 120-point mark in a single season, joining Sidney Crosby, Nikita Kucherov, Joe Thornton, and Jagr.

Rocket Richard Award (goals leader): Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs

Matthews has now taken over the crown as the best current goal scorer in the NHL, winning his second consecutive Rocket Richard award. He set a Maple Leafs franchise record for goals in a single season and became the first play in more than a decade to score 60 goals in a season. He is only 24 years old and just completed his sixth season in the NHL but he already has 259 goals in only 407 regular season games. That averages out to a 52-goal pace per 82 games. The only thing that prevented him from reaching the 50-goal mark prior to this season were shortened seasons and injuries.

[Related: Matthews first player in a decade to score 60 goals in a season]

William Jennings Award (fewest goals allowed): Frederik Andersen and Antti Raanta, Carolina Hurricanes

The Carolina Hurricanes took a bit of a gamble this season by completely overhauling what was a very productive goalie situation a year ago. They let Alex Nedelkjovic and Petr Mrazek go over the offseason and replaced them with Frederik Andersen and Antti Raanta. Both goalies have been excellent starters throughout their careers but had been held back by injuries in recent seasons. The gamble was whether or not they could be healthy and play to their past levels all season. For the most part, they did. Andersen and Raanta helped the Hurricanes allow just 202 goals during the season, the lowest mark in the league. They combined for a .916 save percentage on the season.

Andersen finished with a 35-14-3 record and .922 save percentage in his 52 appearances, while Raanta went 15-5-4 with a .912 save percentage in his 28 appearances. Given the overall strength of Carolina’s forwards and defense the play of its goalies was going to be the big X-factor for the season that made or break how it went. The goalies ended up being outstanding, the Hurricanes were the best defensive team in the league, and ultimately won the Metropolitan Division. The only concern is that both Andersen and Raanta have been dealing with some injuries over the past couple of weeks just as the Stanley Cup Playoffs are set to begin.

Presidents’ Trophy (best regular season record): Florida Panthers

All season it seemed like the Colorado Avalanche were on track to win the Presidents’ Trophy with the league’s best record, but then a 13-game winning streak by the Florida Panthers helped push them into the top spot in the league. This is the first time in franchise history the Panthers have finished with the league’s best record, and it came in a season where they had one of the best offenses the league has seen in decades. They are the first team since the 1995-96 Pittsburgh Penguins to average more than four goals per game over a full season.

[Related: With Avalanche loss, Panthers win Presidents’ Trophy]

Now they had to do something they have not done since that same 1995-96 season: Win a playoff round. The Panthers are going to be heavy favorites in the Eastern Conference thanks to their offense and the way they have played down the stretch. Whether or not they can continue that same scoring pace — or a similar scoring pace — in the playoffs remains to be seen, while they also have some concerns in goal given Sergei Bobrovsky‘s career playoff struggles and the way he and Spencer Knight have performed in the second half of the season.

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    LA Kings put goaltender Cal Petersen on waivers

    Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
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    LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Kings put goaltender Cal Petersen on waivers, a surprising move for a player once considered the successor in net to two-time Stanley Cup winner Jonathan Quick.

    Petersen, 28, went on waivers the day after allowing four goals on 16 shots in relief of Quick during a 9-8 overtime loss to the Seattle Kraken. Quick was pulled after giving up five goals on 14 shots.

    Only one NHL goalie has a save percentage lower than Petersen’s .868 this season, Elvis Merzlikins of the Columbus Blue Jackets with .864. Petersen is 5-3-2 in 10 games with a 3.75 goals-against average in his third full season with the Kings and fifth overall.

    L.A. signed Petersen to a three-year, $15 million contract in September 2021, and he figured to take the starting job from Quick, who turns 37 in January and is set to be a free agent after the season. Petersen has two years left on that deal after this one at an annual salary cap hit of $5 million.

    Penguins’ Kris Letang out indefinitely after 2nd stroke

    Kris Letang Penguins
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    PITTSBURGH — Kris Letang plays hockey with a grace and inexhaustible fluidity seemingly impervious to the rigors of spending nearly half his life in the NHL.

    For the second time in less than a decade, however, a major health scare has brought Letang’s career to a halt.

    The 35-year-old Letang is out indefinitely after suffering a stroke for a second time. Letang reported feeling ill and was taken to the hospital, where tests confirmed the stroke.

    While general manager Ron Hextall said Wednesday this stroke doesn’t appear to be as serious as the one Letang sustained in 2014, the Penguins will have to find a way forward at least in the short term without one of their franchise pillars.

    “I am fortunate to know my body well enough to recognize when something isn’t right,” Letang said in a release. “While it is difficult to navigate this issue publicly, I am hopeful it can raise awareness. … I am optimistic that I will be back on the ice soon.”

    The three-time Stanley Cup champion missed more than two months in 2014 after a stroke, which doctors determined was caused by a small hole in the wall of his heart. He spent Monday feeling off and told team trainers he was dealing with what Hextall described as a migraine headache.

    Penguins team physician Dr. Dhamesh Vyas recommended Letang go to the hospital, where tests confirmed the stroke.

    “He didn’t know (he had a stroke),” Hextall said. “He just knew something wasn’t right.”

    Letang is continuing to undergo tests but felt well enough on Tuesday to be at the arena for Pittsburgh’s 3-2 overtime loss to Carolina. He spent the second period chatting with Hextall then addressed his teammates in the locker room afterward in an effort to help allay their concerns.

    “I think it was important for Kris to be there because his teammates got to see him in good spirits and that he’s doing well,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said.

    Sullivan added initial test results on Letang have been “very encouraging.” Letang will continue to undergo testing throughout the week, though he felt good enough in the aftermath to ask Sullivan and Hextall if he could skate, an activity that is off the table for now.

    Hextall said he “couldn’t even guess” how long the Penguins may be without the married father of two, adding hockey is low on the team’s list of concerns about a player who, along with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, has helped the franchise to three Stanley Cups during his 17-year career.

    “First and foremost this is about the person and I told Tanger about that last night,” Hextall said. “This is Kris Letang, the father and family guy, the Pittsburgh Penguins, that’s second.”

    Letang, a six-time All-Star, has been one of the most durable players in the NHL. His 662 career points (145 goals, 517 assists) are a franchise record for a defenseman. He’s averaged well over 24 minutes of playing time over the course of his career, a number that’s ticked above 25 minutes per game seven times in eight-plus seasons since he returned from the initial stroke.

    The Penguins felt so confident in Letang’s durability that they signed him to a six-year contract over the summer rather than let him test free agency for the first time.

    “The level of hockey he’s played for as long as he’s played is absolutely incredible,” Hextall said. “The level he’s continued to play at at his age, the type of shape he’s in … he’s a warrior.”

    Letang has one goal and 11 assists in 21 games so far this season for Pittsburgh, which hosts Vegas on Thursday night. The Penguins are pretty deep along the blue line, but Sullivan knows he can’t try to replace Letang with any one player.

    “It’s not anything we haven’t been faced with in the past and the reality is we have what we have, and we’ll figure it out,” Sullivan said, adding “it’ll be by committee, as it usually is when you replace a player of that stature.”

    Ovechkin tops Gretzky for most road goals, Capitals beat Canucks

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    VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Alex Ovechkin scored twice, passing Wayne Gretzky for the most road goals in NHL history, and the Washington Capitals beat the Vancouver Canucks 5-1 on Tuesday night.

    Ovechkin has scored 403 of his 793 career goals away from home. Gretzky holds the overall record with 894.

    “It’s always nice when you beat the Great One,” Ovechkin said. “It doesn’t matter what kind of milestone it is. It’s history.”

    Anthony Mantha added a goal and an assist for the Capitals (10-11-3). John Carlson and Martin Fehervary also scored, and Darcy Kuemper stopped 31 shots.

    Nils Hoglander scored for the Canucks (9-11-3), who had won three in a row. Spencer Martin made 23 saves.

    “Spencer’s been great for us. He’s probably a bit like the other players tonight. They weren’t ready to play and it showed on the scoreboard,” Vancouver coach Bruce Boudreau said.

    The 37-year-old Ovechkin nearly netted a hat trick when Vancouver pulled Martin for an extra skater with just over six minutes left, but his rocket of a shot skimmed the outside of the post.

    “I think he has 13 goals this year and I want to say like eight or nine have been like a new record. So it’s been cool,” Washington center Dylan Strome said. “Any time you pass Wayne Gretzky in anything, it deserves a standing ovation, which he got.”

    Fehervary was the one who sealed it, flipping the puck high into the Canucks zone and into the empty net at 15:57 of the third period.

    Ovechkin topped Gretzky 11:52 into the first, firing a one-timer from the left circle past Martin to give the Capitals a 2-0 lead with his 13th goal of the season.

    “On his second goal, it looks like, `Oh, maybe (Martin) should have had it.’ But I’ve seen (Ovechkin) score 100 goals like that,” said Boudreau, who coached the Capitals from 2007-11. “He’s got a shot that finds its way in.”

    The star forward from Russia got his first of the night 5:35 in, taking the puck off the stick of Vancouver defenseman Quinn Hughes near the net and batting in a quick shot.

    “It could have been 6-1 after the first period, quite frankly, with the amount of chances (Washington) had,” Boudreau said.

    It was Ovechkin’s 135th game-opening goal, tying Jaromir Jagr for the most in NHL history.

    “(Ovechkin) was really good in the first and I thought we were really good in the first so it was nice to get out and get a jump like that,” Capitals coach Peter Laviolette said. “He certainly led. We knew we needed to have a good first period, have a good game, and you need your best players to do that.”

    Carlson scored the lone goal of the second, chipping in a loose puck from the low hash marks at 18:47 to give Washington a 4-1 cushion.

    “It’s frustrating. Because when you lose games, it should never be about your compete level and battle level,” Canucks center J.T. Miller said. “It’s frustrating because they didn’t out-skill us today, they didn’t out-system us. They literally just outbattled us and created their own chances.”

    NOTES: Washington’s Lars Eller got his 200th career assist. … Miller had an assist, extending his point streak to nine games (four goals, seven assists). … The Capitals swept the two-game season series. … Vancouver assigned winger Vasily Podkolzin and defenseman Jack Rathbone to the Abbotsford Canucks on Monday, then recalled forward Phillip Di Giuseppe from the American Hockey League club on Tuesday.

    UP NEXT

    Washington: At Seattle on Thursday in the second of a five-game trip.

    Vancouver: Host Florida on Thursday in the second of a four-game homestand.

    Deal for Coyotes’ proposed arena approved by Tempe council

    David Kirouac-USA TODAY Sports
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    TEMPE, Ariz. — The Tempe City Council has unanimously approved a proposal for a new Arizona Coyotes arena and entertainment district, clearing the way for a public vote on the project next year.

    The City Council approved the proposal 7-0 after a lengthy meeting that included NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.

    The $2.1 billion project would include a 16,000-seat arena, practice rink, 1,600 apartments, two hotels and a theater. Approval of the project was the final step before it goes to referendum on May 16.

    The team is currently playing at Arizona State’s 5,000-seat Mullett Arena, by far the NHL’s smallest arena.

    The Coyotes have been searching for a permanent home since the city of Glendale pulled out of a multimillion-dollar lease at Gila River Arena. Arizona had been playing on an annual lease until Glendale said it would not be renewed for the 2022-23 season.