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.

Discipline has been key for Flames (also, how the NHL has changed since obstruction crackdown)

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Of all the things to admire about the surprising Calgary Flames — from the way they’ve overcome the loss of Mark Giordano, to all the shots they’ve blocked, to the skill and speed they’ve displayed off the rush all season — one of the more under-reported keys to their success has been discipline.

Did you know the Flames haven’t taken a single minor penalty in their last three games, all of them victories?

Did you know they’ve had eight games when they haven’t gone shorthanded, and that they’re 5-1-2 in those games?

Did you know they’ve only been shorthanded 182 times in all, the fewest in the NHL? (In contrast, they’ve had 253 power-play opportunities.)

The Flames aren’t the only disciplined team in the NHL. The Hurricanes, Blackhawks and Islanders don’t take many penalties either.

Of course, compared to 2005-06, which was the season following the lockout when the league made a commitment to crack down on obstruction, no team takes too many penalties these days.

Consider: The Winnipeg Jets have been shorthanded an NHL-high 306 times this season. That would’ve made them the most disciplined team in 05-06, when the Devils had to kill the fewest penalties (348) and the Capitals the most (550!).

Part of it is the players getting the message. But another part is the officials letting more go. The NHL can deny the latter, but it’s clear to anyone who’s watching that the standard has slipped, for better or worse.

For example, this wasn’t an interference penalty the other night in Vancouver:

source:

For the record, Alex Burrows wasn’t upset that Drew Doughty didn’t get penalized there. He was actually happy with how the officials let the Kings and Canucks play. How closely the game is called is a personal preference. It’s a balancing act. Too many power plays can ruin the flow. A little obstruction may help reduce injuries too.

But here’s another stat to consider:

In 2003-04, the season before the crackdown on embellishment, the Devils were shorthanded 266 times, the fewest in the NHL, and way fewer than the Flames will be in 2014-15.

That same season, the Ottawa Senators led the NHL with 80 power-play goals, and the 30 teams combined to score 1,717 power-play goals.

With two days left in the 2014-15 season, the Detroit Red Wings lead the NHL with 70 power-play goals, and the 30 teams have combined to score just 1,391 power-play goals.

Related: GMs to consider a “re-set” for obstruction rules

 

Eliminated Kings are disappointed and upset … but maybe a little proud?

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There’s no sense denying the fact that the Los Angeles Kings are unhappy about being eliminated from the playoffs. Still, just moments after the Calgary Flames crushed their hopes, some reactions give you the sense that the team hasn’t lost sight of some resounding accomplishments.

Head coach Darryl Sutter was mainly talking about the effort on Thursday when he praised his team to LA Kings Insider, yet it felt like he could have been discussing the season at large.

“We played hard. I got no complaints about anything to do with our team,” Sutter said. “Give the Calgary Flames lots of credit. Now, I get to pull for them.”

The Kings carried themselves like a team that has won two recent championships, even giving the Flames some kudos (beyond Sutter, who has some simple reasons to root for a franchise he toiled for years ago):

Even Kings bloggers seem to have some nice perspective on the situation.

Well, sort of.

Again, don’t get things twisted; the team is obviously upset about this letdown.

Still, you get the impression that the Kings still believe that they have the makings of a contender going forward. Assuming, of course, that there aren’t big changes this summer.

“As a defending Cup champion I don’t think there’s any way that you shouldn’t make the playoffs the next year,” Drew Doughty said to the Los Angeles Times’ Helene Elliott. “It’s disappointing especially because of the group we had. Or have.”

A tight salary cap situation would indicate that the Kings probably will stick with this group, minus some key pieces (perhaps including Mr. Game 7, Justin Williams). Even if the message comes with a heavy heart, one cannot help but feel as if the Kings are really saying “We’ll be back.”

Video: Doughty beats Bachman with blast from center ice

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This made things interesting for a bit between the L.A. Kings and Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday.

Down two goals just before the midway point of the third period, Kings’ defenseman Drew Doughty blasted a slap shot from center ice on Oilers goalie Richard Bachman. The puck somehow squeezed through Bachman’s legs, into the net, getting the desperate Kings back within a goal in a crucial game for the defending champs.

It wasn’t enough, however, as the Oilers held on for the 4-2 win, putting the Kings on the brink of elimination from playoff contention.

Embarrassed in Los Angeles, Oilers need to play ‘with a chip on our shoulder’ tonight versus Kings

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The Edmonton Oilers have a chance to get some revenge on the Los Angeles Kings for last week’s embarrassing 8-2 defeat at Staples Center.

You see, the Kings are in Edmonton tonight, and a loss for the defending champs would deal a serious blow to their playoff hopes.

“They embarrassed us last time, and frankly, I thought we looked like a junior team out there,” said Oilers forward Rob Klinkhammer, per the Edmonton Sun. “It was ugly. We just have to come in with a chip on our shoulder, play hard and play the right way. We can’t feed their game, they are super hungry, they’re making a push for the playoffs and they are a great team. We have to have our best game if we want to have a chance.”

Another factor in Edmonton’s favor, besides revenge, could be fatigue. The Kings played last night in Vancouver, where they lost 2-1 in a shootout. Drew Doughty logged almost 30 minutes in that one. Jonathan Quick was similarly busy in goal, where he faced 38 Canuck shots. There’s even been speculation Martin Jones could get the start tonight.

Of course, while the Oilers haven’t played since Saturday, they’re not counting on a diminished opponent.

“If we have the same effort that we had the other night in L.A., it’s going to be the same result,” said Taylor Hall.