Ramblings: Hart, Vezina, Norris, and Calder winners revealed; Game 2 – September 22
The NHL announced the rest of its award winners on Monday, including top defenceman, goalie, rookie, and including the MVP to his team.
Months ago, I wrote about who I thought should receive the various awards: Vezina can be found here and the others here. This was before the finalists were even announced, so they really are my thoughts rather than picking a one-in-three winner. Full voting breakdown from the PHWA can be found here. We had a fifth-place Hart vote for J.T. Miller. You’ll want to peruse the rest.
(Maybe they should have spread this out a bit more? One before each of Game 1, 2, and 3, and then the Lindsay/Hart before Game 4? It seems weird to give the Lady Byng winner their own day for a trophy win and yet all the major trophies are all on the same day, but I digress.)
My initial pick for the Calder was Cale Makar with Adam Fox in second and Quinn Hughes third. Obviously, Fox wasn't nominated, and Dominik Kubalik was, so that changes the equation. It seemed at least somewhat likely that three defencemen would get the nod, but it was not to be.
The winner: Cale Makar. The final point tally was relatively close, but Makar had double the first-place votes of second-place Hughes, and Makar was either first or second on every ballot.
I know this will anger Vancouver fans, but I outlined in my awards linked at the top why Makar should have been the Calder. It's a situation where fans won't help but feel slighted, and yet this was a year where any of three players (I still think Fox should have been nominated over Kubalik) could have won and there probably shouldn't be much consternation. It really was a special year for rookies, particularly on the back end, in the NHL.
On the bright side for Canucks faithful, as pointed out by Cam on Twitter, this made it three straight years that a Canuck was nominated for the Calder with Brock Boeser back in 2018, Elias Pettersson last year (which he won), and Hughes with the runner-up this year. If you're looking to build for the future, this is a pretty good start. They just need to stop handing out four-year contracts for bottom-6 players.
My 1-2-3 in this category was Hellebuyck-Rask-Bishop. The actual nominees included the first two but Andrei Vasleivskiy was voted in over Bishop. I think Bishop still deserved it but there's not a lot to get upset over. (Also, upon reflection, I probably should have had Jacob Markstrom in over Bishop anyway.)
This seemed like a slam-dunk, and I'll consider this a repayment for John Gibson just being completely robbed of everything back in 2018. Despite Hellebuyck's platitudes for his teammates during his acceptance speech, this was a bad defensive team. The reason his season stood out as much as it did was because of how bad that team was in its own end. If they were closer to the middle of the pack, who knows where things might stand.
It's also a what-if scenario in Winnipeg, too. What if Dustin Byfuglien was healthy heading into the year and stayed with the team? What about Bryan Little playing a bottom-6 role? Maybe not enough to get them over the hump, but if this team is healthier, maybe they try a different approach at the trade deadline.
All the same, it was a great season from Hellebuyck, who now has two great years out of the last three. More like this, and Winnipeg will be in the running for the playoffs every campaign.
This was a little bit more contentious. John Carlson was way out in front by points but there were a lot of defensive issues with his season, and this is an award for top defenceman. I forgot to pick a specific winner, but my initial lean was to Roman Josi, with Carlson in second and Pietrangelo in third. The first two were official nominees, but Victor Hedman was the third instead of Pietrangelo.
The winner: Roman Josi. The voting, like the Calder, was close, even with Josi having considerably more first-place votes. Many ballots had either Josi and Carlson first and second. Just because I like little things like this: someone gave Esa Lindell a third-place vote.
Anyway, I don't think this is a huge surprise to many. Carlson racked up more points but it's obvious that Josi was the engine of the Predators. The voting was cast before playoffs, but just think back to the series with Nashville and Arizona. The Preds forwards were largely a mess and it was up to Josi to clean it up. It was much the same in the regular season where he finished with 17 more points than any Nashville forward.
I don't have a lot of reason to think Josi will falter next year so I'll be interested to see where different fantasy rankers have him heading into 2020-21. There's a pretty good case for him going as the first blue liner.
The Lindsay is voted on by the players and the Hart is voted by media so I'm just going to combine the two into one category. My three nominees were Leon Draisaitl, Nathan MacKinnon, and Connor Hellebuyck. The three actual nominees were the first two on that list but with Artemi Panarin rather than Hellebuyck. I thought Draisaitl would win but that MacKinnon deserved it.
The Lindsay Winner: Leon Draisaitl
The Hart winner: Leon Draisaitl. The voting was somewhat close here as well but Draisaitl garnered more first-place votes than every other player combined. There were also three first-place votes for Hellebuyck, so I'd like to buy precisely three beers for precisely three writers.
It's hard to deny a player the Hart Trophy when he amassed 110 points with three weeks left in the season when no one else had cracked 100. Yes, he played more with Connor McDavid than he did without him and that helps a lot, but he helped carry this team into a playoff position at the pause, which is something the Oilers had struggled to do most of the last 15 years. I'm someone who has generally been a lot lower on Draisaitl than some of my fellow analysts and readers, but he opened my eyes for how good he is in the offensive zone.
After losing to Taylor Hall a couple years ago, it must be getting a bit frustrating for MacKinnon. All the same, he just turned 25 earlier this month and the whole gang will be back for another Cup run next year. MacKinnon should be firmly in place for another Hart nomination.
Congratulations to all the winners.
It was a rough-and-tumble Game 2 featuring lots of cheap shots and scrums from both sides. That naturally led to a fair amount of power plays, and three power play goals. Brayden Point and Ondrej Palat each tallied with the man advantage in the first period with Joe Pavelski adding on in the second. All told, it led us to a 3-1 game heading into the final frame.
Mattias Janmark scored five minutes into the third period to give us a one-goal game, but Andrei Vasilevskiy held on the rest of the way to even the series at one game apiece. He finished the game with 27 saves to Anton Khudobin's 28.
I thought this game was a lot better in entertainment value than Game 1. Sign me up for five more of these.
John Lu – the long-time TSN/Montreal reporter – revealed early Monday morning that he had been fighting a pulmonary embolism that resulted from his battle with Covid-19. It's a Twitter thread but it's worth taking the time to go through his experience. All the best to John Lu and his family as he continues his battle and recovery. Hopefully his words and experience can help illuminate just how serious this is.
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