NHL award candidates boast strong credentials - East Valley Tribune: Sports

NHL award candidates boast strong credentials

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Posted: Saturday, April 11, 2009 9:51 pm | Updated: 2:45 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

The NHL's regular season ends on Sunday, but while the playoff teams will be decided, debate over which players should win certain individual awards continues.

Should Alexander Ovechkin or Evgeni Malkin win the Hart Trophy as the league's MVP? Or should it go to the less-hyped Pavel Datsyuk or Jeff Carter?

Tim Thomas or Steve Mason for the Vezina as the best goalie?

Zdeno Chara or Mike Green for the Norris as top defenseman?

The winners will be announced in Las Vegas in June.

Here's a Cliffs Notes version of their credentials:

Hart Trophy: Ovechkin, who won it last season, easily has the most goals and is battling Malkin for most points. He's the favorite, but Red Wings coach Mike Babcock has been pushing for Datsyuk, who was plus-38 with two games left and is the best player for the defending Stanley Cup champs. As for Carter, 12 of his 45 goals were game-winners.

Norris Trophy: The Capitals' Mike Green has had an unbelievable season, hitting 30 goals, but the Bruins' Chara will probably win — as he should. While the intimidating Chara doesn't match Green in goals or points, he's better defensively and, as one Panthers blue-liner said, "changes the game with his hitting."

Vezina Trophy: The Sharks' Evgeni Nabokov and Wild's Nicklas Backstrom wouldn't be bad choices, but I think it'll come down to the Blue Jackets' Mason and Bruins' Thomas. It's hard to argue against Thomas, who's atop the league in goals-against average and save percentage, but no way Columbus makes the playoffs without Mason.

Calder Trophy: Mason probably will be a landslide winner as top rookie, but Nashville's Pekka Rinne deserves some serious consideration. Rinne's goals-against average, save percentage and shutouts match up well against Mason's. Plus, like Mason, he has kept his team in playoff contention. Anaheim's Bobby Ryan and Chicago's Kris Versteeg have also had impressive first seasons.

"I don't know if it's quite sunk in yet. We're so used to just playing out the season, at least the last 10 games or so. This is huge. I'm really happy for our fans. They've waited a long time for this, too."

Blue Jackets forward Rick Nash to the Columbus Dispatch about the franchise's first playoff berth.

Around the rinks

Trophy collection: Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk has won the Lady Byng as the NHL's most gentlemanly player the past three seasons and is a candidate to win it again, with only 22 penalty minutes and no fighting majors in 79 games.

Datsyuk also could very well win his second consecutive Selke as the best defensive forward. He leads the league in plus-minus rating and is second in takeaways.

Power charge: Entering the final weekend of the regular season, the average success rate on power plays in the NHL this season was 18.9 percent, the highest since 19.6 percent last season. This comes despite the fact there were three fewer power plays per game than in 2005-06, the first season under the new rules.

Too little, too late: The Sabres were eliminated from playoff contention by the Rangers' win Thursday, and like the Panthers they found out after a win. The Sabres ended the Hurricanes' nine-game winning streak and 12-game winning streak at home, but will miss the postseason for the second consecutive year and fifth time in seven seasons.

Blown away: The Islanders' 9-0 loss to the Hurricanes on Tuesday was their worst margin of defeat in the franchise's 36-year history. They were outshot 57-12 in the game. It punctuated a season in which the Islanders have lost more than 500 man-games because of injuries and endured losing streaks of 10 games and eight games.

Keeping Clouston: The Senators opted to keep their fourth coach since making the Stanley Cup Finals two years ago. They signed Cory Clouston to a two-year deal Wednesday, removing his interim tag after an impressive run since he was promoted from the team's AHL club.

"I think the biggest thing that I'm looking forward to, and it's a long way away from now, (is) getting the next season started," Clouston told reporters

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