Posted by Katie Peverada
With the playoffs beginning this week, the NHL is in for a wild two months (the best two months in sports!). It also means another two months of speculating who will get an invitation to Vegas for the annual NHL Awards.
With the NHL regular season in the books, the statistical awards have already been handed out and, to absolutely no surprise, Sidney Crosby of the Penguins and Alexander Ovechkin of the Capitals took home the two scoring trophies. Crosby, who finished with 104 points (36G, 68A), won his second career Art Ross Trophy as the NHL scoring champion. Ovechkin used a 51-goal season to earn his second straight Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy as the league's leading goal scorer. And taking home the William M. Jennings Trophy, awarded to the goalie who allows the fewest goals and plays at least 25 games, was the King's Jonathan Quick.
For most of the other awards there are always going to be arguments about players and teams facing different levels of competition. These award picks, however, ignore that and go off of pure performance. Here are my picks for the Hart Memorial Trophy, James Norris Memorial Trophy and the Vezina Trophy:
Hart Memorial Trophy (most valuable player): There's always a discussion over whether this award should go to the player who is the most valuable to his team or the most valuable player in the league. However, Sidney Crosby's 2013-14 season makes that discussion obsolete. Crosby's Art Ross Trophy gives him the best NHL player award, and it doesn't hurt that he finished 17 points ahead of Ryan Getzlaf in that category. If you go down the most valuable player to his team route, Crosby wins there too. Crosby led all forwards in TOI/G (21:58) and took 104 more face-offs (1,887) than any other player. But perhaps the statistic that shows how valuable Crosby was for the Penguins this season comes in the team's league-leading 531 man-games lost to injury. So yes, with players like Lee Stempniak on his wing - instead of Pascal Dupuis - Crosby was still able to carry his team to the second-seed in the East.
James Norris Memorial Trophy (best all-around defenseman): In maybe the tightest awards race, in which there are six legitimate contenders, there should be a repeat winner in the Chicago Blackhawk's Duncan Keith. Among defensemen, Keith is second in points (6G, 55A), eighth in +/- with +22 rating and 15th in TOI with 24:38. Part of the reason Keith was able to be on the ice so often for Chicago was because he only had 28 penalty minutes. His two-way play is of the utmost importance to the Blackhawks.
Vezina Trophy (best goaltender): A year ago, there were questions surrounding Semyon Varlamov's tenure in Colorado, but when Hall of Fame goaltender Patrick Roy took over as coach of the Colorado Avalanche, he was transformed into a Vezina-winning goalie. Varlamov led the league in wins (41), which was also a franchise record, and was third in save-percentage (.927) - all while backstopping one of the weakest defensive teams in the league. He was the only goaltender to face more than 2,000 shots, seeing a league high of 2,013. Varlamov overcame all of this, earning a new contract along the way, to lead Colorado to the playoffs.
Next week: Picks for the Calder Trophy (rookie of the year), the Jack Adams Award (coach of the year), the Selke Trophy (best defensive forward) and the Lady Byng Award (sportsmanship).