Maurice Richard Trophy

via NHL PR

Ovechkin’s Richard reign continues, and more early NHL Awards

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The NHL announced the winners of three regular season trophies following the conclusion of the 2018-19 season. Interestingly, all of these announcements could be paired with additional trophies when the full 2019 NHL Awards roll around following the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Art Ross Trophy: Nikita Kucherov won the scoring title, generating 128 points, a new single-season record for a Russian-born player. There are a bunch of great facts about Kucherov’s season in this post.

There’s a strong chance Kucherov will eventually bring home the Hart Trophy as league MVP, too. In addition to that, Kucherov’s teammate Andrei Vasilevskiy is a strong candidate to win the Vezina Trophy, and his coach Jon Cooper could very well land the Jack Adams. (I mean, probably not, but there’s a sizeable number of people who believe that he’s deserving.)

Of course, the Lightning also locked up the Presidents’ Trophy as the top team in the NHL back in March.

Maurice Richard Trophy: Alex Ovechkin scored 51 goals to become the first player to win this award as the top goal scorer on eight different occasions. It wasn’t easy, though, as Leon Draisaitl pushed it to the limit by finishing with 50 goals himself.

This infographic tells a nice story about how 2018-19 was a strong season for scorers

In case you’re wondering, 18 of Ovechkin’s 51 goals came on the power play.

William Jennings Trophy: Thomas Greiss and Robin Lehner helped the Islanders allow an NHL-low 196 goals this season, putting together similarly splendid stats to win this trophy for fewest goals against.

The league’s blurb captures just how remarkable this turnaround was for Isles goalies:

Lehner and Greiss both finished the season among the top five netminders in goals-against average and save percentage. That helped the Islanders, who gave up 296 goals in 2017-18, become the second team in NHL history to allow the fewest goals immediately following the season in which it yielded the most. The original Ottawa Senators first accomplished that feat in 1918-19, the second season in League history (when there were only three teams).

Of course, the fascinating chicken-and-the-egg discussion revolves around: “How much was this turnaround about those goalies, and how much was it about the work of Barry Trotz and Mitch Korn?” Trotz is a virtual lock for the Jack Adams this year (sorry, Cooper and others), so chances are, both the goalies and their coach will come away with hardware for their work during the 2018-19 campaign.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

The Buzzer: Spectacular debut to end season; Many records broken

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(UPDATE: Here’s the full Round 1 schedule with dates and TV info.)

Round 1 matchups are set

The Predators winning the Central Division was the biggest tournament-altering moment of the last night of the regular season. You can now see all eight series matchups here, with additional information.

Those who didn’t make it …

Get to cross their fingers and hope that their team wins the 2019 NHL Draft Lottery. Get the lowdown in this post.

Kucherov, Lightning hit 128

In a remarkable moment of symmetry, both the Lightning and Nikita Kucherov will end 2018-19 with 128 points. On the way, the Bolts tied the NHL record with 62 wins. This post is basically the factoids on those specific accomplishments, and they’re really something.

Three Stars

1. Ryan Poehling

For Poehling, this wasn’t just the last game of the season, it was also his first NHL game. So what did he do? He celebrated it with a hat trick and a shootout-winner, that’s how. Yes, it is indeed worth a post of its own.

In what was one of the other highlights of the night, legendary announcer Bob Cole ended his broadcasting career while Poehling began his in a memorable way:

2. Robin Lehner

Lehner put a bow on a remarkable regular season, making 29 saves for his sixth shutout of 2018-19. He did so in just 46 games played (43 of those being starts), going 25-13-5 with a tremendous .930 save percentage.

With Thomas Greiss being almost as good in 2018-19, it’s unlikely that Lehner built up the volume of games (and to some voters, most importantly wins) to be a serious Vezina threat. Nights like these should stand as a reminder of just how special his season has been.

Then again, Lehner and Greiss combined to win the William Jennings Trophy for the lowest GAA, so they get fitting recognition as a tandem.

Now, the question is: can he back it up during the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs? For all of the Penguins’ flaws, they have a knack for making even the hottest goalies look cold.

3. Oliver Bjorkstrand

If the Blue Jackets hope to upset the mighty Lightning, they’ll probably need more than just a strong series from Artemi Panarin and for Sergei Bobrovsky to finally overcome the ghosts of playoffs past.

Someone like Bjorkstrand pitching in would really help. He’s been absolutely on fire during the last 10 games, firing in an impressive nine goals and two assists for 11 points. Bjorkstrand managed all of his assists in one game: Saturday’s 6-2 thumping of the Senators, where the winger also scored a goal.

Bjorkstrand’s shown signs of being a dangerous player in the past, including at lower levels than the NHL. He could be an X-factor in the first round … if Columbus manages to keep things close, at least.

Highlight of the Night

Scratch that, let’s call this what it is:

One more Gritty video

Gritty vs. goalies? The Flyers are embracing their history, right?

Factoids

Scores
TBL 6 – BOS 3
STL 3 – VAN 2 (SO)
MTL 6 – TOR 5 (SO)
CBJ 6 – OTT 2
BUF 7 – DET 1
NJD 4 – FLA 3 (OT)
CAR 4 – PHI 3
NYR 4 – PIT 3 (OT)
NYI 3 – WSH 0
NSH 5 – CHI 2
DAL 3 – MIN 0
EDM 3 – CGY 1
WPG 4 – ARI 2
LAK 5 – VGK 2
SJS 5 – COL 2

For the third consecutive postseason, NBC Sports’ coverage of Stanley Cup Playoff first-round games on NBCUniversal cable networks (NBCSN, USA Network and CNBC), as well as NHL Network, will air side-by-side and will be available for streaming on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app in local markets alongside regional sports network game telecasts. (Local blackouts apply in Las Vegas and Pittsburgh in the first round).

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Video: Stamkos breaks Lightning season record with 53 goals

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With 172 goals in his first 318 career regular season games, 22-year-old star Steven Stamkos seems primed to finish his career among the NHL’s greatest goal scorers. He already grabbed a piece of Tampa Bay Lightning franchise history in the process.

After fanning on a shot, Stamkos made no mistake about his second attempt, beating a hopeless Ilya Bryzgalov with just .6 seconds left in the second period of tonight’s 5-3 win to earn his league-leading 53rd goal of 2011-12. Stamkos isn’t just beefing up his Maurice Richard Trophy lead, though, as that tally gave him the Lightning’s single season goal-scoring record.

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It seems fitting that Stamkos broke Vincent Lecavalier’s record (52 goals set in 2006-07) because in many ways, the 22-year-old has been the kind of player worthy of the hype that Lecavalier carried into the NHL.

That’s not to take away from Lecavalier’s own work, but Stamkos is shaping up to be the best center the club’s ever employed. (Beating out Martin St. Louis as the best overall forward would be an even bigger challenge, however, as the small winger has put up fantastic seasons even when Vinny and the rest of the team has been disappointing.)

Stamkos’ 53rd tally came on the power play, yet he’s made it clear that he can score more than just the faceoff circle one-timer that admittedly remains a fearsome play. Only 11 of his tallies have come on the man advantage this season, which provides evidence that Stamkos’ offensive game has plenty of dimensions.

That’s great news for a Bolts franchise that needs it and a scary thought for all the teams who must fathom the thought of dealing with 10 or more years of dangerous Stamkos snipes.

Here are overall highlights of the Lightning win:

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Steven Stamkos becomes this season’s first 50-goal scorer

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Steven Stamkos isn’t even 23 years old yet, but he already has a huge contract, hilarious hockey hair and two 50+ goal seasons. (Erik Erlendsson points out the historical significance of the accomplishment: only six NHL players have hit the 50-goal plateau at least two times.)

The elite forward took advantage of a dual disaster for Boston Bruins goalies Marty Turco and Tim Thomas, collecting tallies 49 and 50 in a 6-1 romp.

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Stamkos seemed primed to go toe-to-toe with Sidney Crosby for the Maurice Richard Trophy last season, but things fell apart for both players. Crosby had injury issues while Stamkos fought lesser ailments and inconsistency to “settle” for 45 goals in 2010-11. The talented sniper’s career-high is 51, which he set in 09-10, just his second season in the NHL. Overall, Stamkos has 169 goals in just 312 career regular season games.

Corey Perry was the only player to cross the 50-goal barrier last season and it’s hard to fathom this season generating multiple 50-goal scorers either. Here’s a look at the rest of the top five:

Evgeni Malkin: 38 goals, 14 games left
Marian Gaborik: 34 goals, 13 games left
Corey Perry: 34 goals, 13 games left
Phil Kessel: 34 goals, 12 games left

I hate to be the guy to doubt that elite club of talented players, but it’s tough to imagine anyone else ending up with 50 goals or more this season.

Pessimists might point to that fact while worrying about league-wide scoring, yet that only shines a brighter light on Stamkos’ all-world (and downright historic) sniping skills.

Corey Perry, Daniel Sedin and Martin St. Louis named Hart Trophy finalists; Who wins?

There are plenty of awards to shoot for in the NHL, but the Hart Trophy is easily the biggest. It’s the league’s MVP award, so reading its list of winners is a quick guide to the players who sat atop the NHL in a given season.

The NHL announced the top three nominees for the 2010-11 season: Anaheim Ducks winger Corey Perry, Vancouver Canucks forward Daniel Sedin and Martin St. Louis of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Here’s a quick rundown of their superlative seasons.

Perry: No doubt about it, Perry had the hottest second half of any player in the NHL, scoring 19 goals in his final 16 games. The divisive Ducks winger was the only person to reach the 50-goal plateau this season, earning himself the Maurice Richard Trophy in the process. One interesting category that sets him apart from Daniel Sedin – his main competition for the MVP trophy – is time on ice. Perry was second among forwards with an average of 22:18 minutes on ice, including 1:38 of shorthanded time. That’s almost four more minutes per game than Sedin’s 18:38 total and six seconds of shorthanded time per game.

If you judge value by how much a player is used, Perry wins that margin by a substantial amount.

Sedin: Perry has his pluses, but Sedin’s +30 was the second highest plus/minus total among NHL forwards. He also lead the NHL in the all-important points category, taking home the Art Ross Trophy with 104 points (five more than St. Louis and six more than Perry). He was also the best player on the best team in the NHL. The question is: will voters allow him to match his twin Henrik Sedin, who won the Hart last season (as you can see from this post’s main photo, by the way)?

St. Louis: The Lightning’s pint-sized star is the dark horse of this race, but that shouldn’t camouflage another outstanding season by St. Louis. He finished second in the league in scoring with 99 points, getting stronger while his much-ballyhooed linemate Steven Stamkos sagged. That’s the thing about St. Louis, though. While Tampa Bay hits peaks and valleys, he’s almost always a world-class player and person.

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So now that you’re caught up to speed about the three finalists, tell us which player you think is most deserving. Should it be the polarizing (and pulverizing) force in Perry, the scoring leader in Sedin or the undersized brilliance of St. Louis? Let us know by voting in the poll and sharing your thoughts in the comments.