It is that time of year again, where the Maple Leafs have crapped the proverbial bed, the playoffs are right around the corner, and speculation begins on who will take home the NHL Awards for the past season. This year, as in most years, there are only a slim amount of candidates to choose from. Sidney Crosby is almost a guarantee to take the Hart. Ben Bishop will likely take the Vezina, edging out Carey Price and Jonas Hiller, I’m almost certain Patrick Roy will take home the Jack Adams Award, while the Norris will probably go to one of Zdeno Chara, Alex Pietrangelo, or Duncan Keith. Instead of focusing on the typical awards then, I would like to get back to my silly and sarcastic roots, and present my specialty NHL Awards for the past season.
Award for, “If Only We Could Play the Entire Game on the Power-Play” goes to…the Washington Capitals! The Caps have been deadly on the PP this year, owning the league’s best percentage at 23.4%. Captain Alex Ovechkin recenlt notched his 50th goal of the year, 23 of which have been with the man-advantage, putting him 8 ahead of Joe Pavelski for the league lead. The Capitals quick puck-moving PP has also given them at least six players with 15 power-play points in Ovechkin (38), Nicklas Backstrom (43 of his 77 total PTS have been on the PP), Marcus Johansson (21), John Carlson (21), Troy Brouwer (21), and Mike Green (15). The Caps probably wish they could play the whole game on the PP, as they have been brutal even strength. Ovechkin and Backstrom, their top two scorers, are a combined -53! Also, before acquiring Jaroslav Halak, neither Braden Holtby or Michael Neuvirth were solid between the pipes for Washington.
Award for, “Best AHL Team in an NHL Role” goes to…tie, Tampa Bay and Detroit! When I spoke to Lightning defenseman Mike Kostka, he said the 2012 AHL Champion Norfolk Admirals had amazing chemistry together. Recently, Kotska returned to the Tampa organization to join former Admirals Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Mark Barberio, and Radko Gudas, not in the AHL, bit with the big club. These four have brought that chemistry in they had in Norfolk to Tampa, with Johnson and Palat combining for 105 PTS, and Barberio and Gudas combining for a +13 rating with rock solid defense in front of Ben Bishop. The Red Wings should also be commended, as their young talent has filled in nicely for this injury riddled group. At times, Detriot has been without Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Franzen, Howard, Ericsson, and pretty well everyone aside from the equipment manager. Their AHL depth talent has stepped up their game, while the speedy Gustav Nyqvist has emerged as star, and despite playing only 54 games, is one point back of the team lead in points. Another season, another playoff trip for Detroit.
Award for, “Best Impression of the 2012 Maple Leafs Driving an 18-Wheeler Off a Cliff” goes to…2014 Maple Leafs! A few weeks ago, the Leafs look destined for playoff action, but mediocre goaltending, a brutal defensive effort, and lack of secondary scoring have caused Toronto to repeat their collapse from 2012. At least I can find comfort in the ol’ Leafs fan phrase, “there’s always next year.” Best of luck on the golf course to the blue and white, may all your drives be long and straight, and to James Reimer, best of luck to whatever team you wind up with for 2014-15.
Award for, “Best WWE Storyline Impersonation” goes to…John Tortorella/Bob Hartley! The date is Jan. 18th, 2014. The bad guy, Bob Hartley, sends out the Flames tough guys to begin the game. The good guy, Tortorella, does the same for Vancouver. A brawl ensues, and the good guy Torts’ is enraged. At intermission, he storms the Flames locker room, hoping to gain vengeance on the cowardly Hartley, who hides behind his enforcer, Brian McGrattan. This should not have netted Tortorella a suspension, but a slow-clap from Vince McMahon. This was a Triple H cheap shot backstage on Tortorella from being anything bettwe than the WWE has put out in years.
Award for, “Best/Worst Turnaround” goes to…Colorado and Ottawa respectively! When I did my pre-season predictions, I had the Avalanche finishing 5th in the division, but an improved defense, great play between the pipes from Semyon Varlamov, and a fast-paced offense led by Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog, Paul Statsny, Ryan O’Reilly, and Calder candidate Nathan MacKinnon, the Avs are now a playoff team. The Senators went the other way. After having one of the best team defenses last year, Ottawa has struggled, giving up the second most shots per game, while Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner struggled in goal. after being a coach of the year nominee last year, many now wonder if coach Paul MacLean will be back next season.
Award for, “Best Ed Belfour Impression for Looking Like They Just Left the Bar” goes to…Brian Burke! Remember when Belfour showed up to the Hall of Fame game looking hungover, wearing a jacket in jeans? That was classic. But Brian Burke is keeping the barfly look alive, with his disheveled appearances on TV, complemented by the half done-up tie, and shaggy, messy grey locks of hair. With Burke out of the Flames picture next year, it appears we will see less of him on TV screens next year, and I will miss him, with that barfly look mixed with his blunt attitude and willingness to speak his mind.
I hope you have enjoyed my awards and I’ll be back next week with playoff predictions. Have a good weekend everyone!
Photo credits to: frabz.com, blacksportsonline.com, vebidoo.com