The regular season is winding down to its final games, and, while some teams are gearing up for the playoffs, others are readying themselves for the McEichel sweepstakes. As the season’s final games are played, there will be some very interesting conversations shaping up surrounding the various trophy races. Here are my picks for the winners of some of the major individual awards.
Hart (and Vezina) Trophy: Carey Price. The Montreal Canadiens allow only 2.2 goals per game — the lowest total in the league — precisely because of this guy. Price is at the tail end of one of the best seasons for a goalie in recent memory. He boasts a goals against average of 1.90 and a save percentage of .937, both well above his career highs. Montreal leads the league in points, but without the stellar play of Price it would probably be little more than a wild card contender.
John Tavares is also in the Hart conversation: he has led the previously bottom-dwelling New York Islanders to legit playoff contending status. I would still pick Price over Tavares, though, since the Canadiens would be much worse without Price than the Islanders would be without Tavares. Price is truly the most valuable player to his team in the league.
Since I picked Price to win the Hart, he is obviously my pick for the Vezina also. However, there are some other great candidates.
Pekka Rinne has had an outstanding season for the Nashville Predators, leading them to first place in the Central Division — and the entire NHL — for the majority of the season. Also, Cory Schneider is arguably the most underrated goaltender in the league right now. He is second in the league in save percentage (.929) and flaunts a 2.16 goals against average. Keep in mind that he plays in front of a pretty bad New Jersey Devils team. Imagine what his stats would be like if he played on a team with better defense.
Calder Trophy: Aaron Ekblad. Filip Forsberg stole much of the Calder talk early in the season, and Johnny Gaudreau has been a rookie sensation in Calgary as Johnny Hockey. However, Aaron Ekblad is my pick to win the Calder due to his historically great rookie season in Florida that nobody seems to be talking about. This kid is only 18 years old and he is doing things that no defenseman has ever done at his age. Ekblad has totaled 11 goals and 24 points through 70 games while steadily manning the blue line. He was one of the major reasons why the Panthers stayed in the playoff race as long as they did.
Jack Adams: Peter Laviolette. Finally, I think that Peter Laviolette of the Nashville Predators deserves to be named coach of the year. Even though the Predators have struggled mightily of late, they have still greatly exceeded expectations this year. Laviolette has managed to form a cohesive unit between the team’s young stars such as Filip Forsberg and its more experienced stars such as Shea Weber and Mike Ribeiro, leading the team to a breakout season. Jack Capuano of the Islanders deserves an honorable mention for leading a young, inexperienced and normally unimpressive team to the top of the standings.