The National Hockey League has yet to give out this season’s awards and achievements, but here at the Inscriber we thought- “why wait until the end of the playoffs?”
This shortened season has given fans a lot since January and the best is yet to come in the quest for the Stanley Cup. Below are the predictions of this year’s winners for the Calder, Selke, Jack Adams, Norris, Vezina, and Hart trophies including the 2013 Stanley Cup Champions.
Hockey fans were not fortunate enough to witness a Pittsburgh Penguins/Philadelphia Flyers series in the postseason this year. However, this mini-round table is brought to you by a Penguins fan and a Flyers fan. It’s Jeff Ekiert versus John Machurek. Let the discussion begin.
CALDER TROPHY: Awarded to the league’s top rookie.
Ekiert– Jonathan Huberdeau, Florida Panthers
Two of the top candidates for Rookie of the Year are Huberdeau and Nail Yakupov of the Edmonton Oilers.
Both are playing on losing teams. Edmonton is a team in the midst of an exciting rebuild developing their first round picks over the last few years. Florida on the other hand is a team that had a dismal downfall this year after winning the division in 2011-12.
Huberdeau was the only positive thing that came out of this season for the Panthers. He spent his first year on the worst team in the NHL and scored 14 of the team’s 109 goals this season (tied for worst in NHL, Nashville Predators).
Despite tying for the most points among rookies, only one can be named. Yakupov will certainly become one of the league’s most notable stars but the fact is Huberdeau was enforced to impress with no talent around him. That’s a lot of pressure.
Machurek– Nail Yakupov, Edmonton Oilers:
Yakupov has not disappointed in his first year in the NHL. This kid was the overall number one pick in last year’s draft and lived up to his expectations scoring 17 goals and 31 points in 48 games this season. This kid is going to be a stud alongside Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Sam Gagne and Jordan Eberle.
SELKE TROPHY: Awarded to the league’s top defensive forward.
Machurek– David Backes, St. Louis Blues
Backes does not get enough praise for his what he can do. He has soft hands, but can back check with the best of them.
Backes threw around his 6’3, 221 pound frame and finished seventh in the league in hits with 158. He also was tied for 16th among forwards in blocked shots with 41.
Of all forwards with 40 or more blocked shots, he has the most hits. Backes was also a key part of the St. Louis penalty kill that was ranked seventh in the league.
Ekiert– Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins
This once called “Pavel Datsuk Trophy” is getting away from the Detroit Red Wings’ star. Though Datsuk is a nominee every year and certainly worthy of it in 2013, Bergeron is one of the reasons Boston finished third in the NHL on the penalty kill (87.1 percent).
Sure, Backes is great and all but not only does Bergeron make for a dangerous forward in his own zone, but he also has proven he is one of the best centers in the faceoff circle. In 2013, he finished with a stellar 62 percent on the draws.
THE JACK ADAMS AWARD: Awarded to the league’s top Head Coach.
Ekiert– Paul MacLean, Ottawa Senators
A lot of skeptics may not have felt the Senators were a contender this season. The offense was subpar going into 2013 with a limited amount of fire power and an aging captain who was expected to be traded at the deadline.
The goaltending was a question mark (before Craig Anderson started his fine play). They certainly seemed to be written off once they lost Jason Spezza for the entire season. And the injury to Milan Michalek was another devastating blow.
Once Matt Cooke forced Erik Karlson out of the lineup indefinitely on February 13, people just felt bad for this team. A lot of Ottawa fans wondered in mid-February, “How can we win without Spezza, Karlson, Anderson and Michalek?” Believe in the power of the “Stache!”
MacLean could be looked at as the Art Howe in the movie “Moneyball.” The only difference is, he lost key components due to bad luck, not management. Ottawa somehow made it into the playoffs as the No. 7 seed. This is probably a team that had no business making the playoffs whatsoever. But it is what it is. That mustache deserves a curtain call!
Machurek– Jack Capuano, New York Islanders
Just like Ekiert’s pick, a little outside the box here, but hey he deserves it.
Before this season everyone expected the Islanders to be cellar dwellers in the Atlantic Division as they have been the past few years. They somehow found their way into the dance this postseason.
Capuano doesn’t have much the greatest team assembled by any stretch, but he somehow got them to make the playoffs. That should be enough to earn the award competing in a division with the Penguins and the New York Rangers.
NORRIS TROPHY: Awarded the league’s top defenseman.
Machurek– PK Subban, Montreal Canadiens
It’s a tough year to pick the Norris winner as many players are deserving. The top three are Subban, Kris Letang, and Ryan Suter.
Subban gets the edge for being the dual threat. He can blast one from the point or he show his soft hands. Not only is he a physical presence, but he is one of the best at quarterbacking the powerplay.
The Habs’ blueliner finished second among defenseman with seven powerplay goals and first in assists with 19. He also finished tied with Letang among defensemen in total points with 38.
Ekiert– Kris Letang, Pittsburgh Penguins
Yes, Machurek, this one was very tough. Once Subban returned for the Canadiens after missing the first few games of the season, he was in his best form and was so consistent throughout the 2013 season that it was hard to ignore him.
Letang and Subban tied for the league lead in scoring among defensemen but Letang played 35 games to Subban’s 42 giving him an impressive 1.09 points per game.
Injuries to Letang go to show that the team is that much better defensively when he is healthy. He is the centerpiece of their defense the main quarterback of the powerplay which finished 2nd in the league.
Letang also gets the edge over Subban because he is the only defenseman in the league who has so much speed that he can join an offensive rush as a fourth forward, pinch down low and get back into defensive positioning when needed.
VEZINA TROPHY- Awarded to the league’s top goaltender.
Ekiert– Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets
Bobrovsky made quite a splash in his first season in Columbus. He came in with some pressure on his shoulders and wanted to prove he can be a No. 1 goaltender after struggling to find his true identity in Philadelphia.
Early on, there seemed to be some questions about his ability to help this team compete, but after the mini-goaltender controversy between him and Steve Mason, Bobrovsky played well enough to earn votes for league MVP.
This was all accomplished on one of the worst scoring teams in the NHL (25th) and 28th on the powerplay.
Columbus missed out on making the playoffs by a thread. The only reason they came that close to making the postseason for just the second time in team history was because of the man behind the mask. He simply carried this team all year and dominated the position.
Machurek– Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets
Finally! We agree on something.
The one knack against him is he didn’t take his team to the playoffs, but he is the only reason his team came close to clinching the eighth seed.
Of goalies with 25 or more games played, Bobrovsky finished with a record of 21-11-6, a more than respectable 2.00 GAA and finished second in the league with a .932 save percentage. He also tallied four shutouts this season. He did all of this while facing the tenth most shots in the league.
HART TROPHY- Awarded to the league’s Most Valuable Player.
Machurek– Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
Ovechkin helped power the Capitals as they tied for fourth best offense in the NHL scoring with 146 goals.
While he did have a slow start, Ovechkin came on strong during the last month and a half of the season. He led the league in goals with 32 and tied arch-rival Sidney Crosby in points with 56.
Ovechkin excelled on the powerplay leading the league in powerplay goals (16) and tied for the league lead in powerplay points with 27.
Not only is he an X-Factor on the offensive side, but Ovy is one of the most physical players at his caliber delivering numerous bone-crushing hits each night. He finished in the top-25 among forwards in hits with 120.
Ekiert– John Tavares, New York Islanders
Really? Ovechkin would have gotten some respect from this writer if only he played like that all season. Watching him in the first half was like watching “The Hangover,” it made me laugh hysterically.
The Islanders are making their first playoff appearance since 2006-07. The only way that was possible for this club is not because they were reliant on their defense. Their goaltending has been solid enough to make them a contender. But the true reason why they are in the playoffs is because of their young center who they drafted first overall in 2009.
Taveres was great last year and just seems to be getting better. He is in the class of elite players in this league.
This season, he finished third in the NHL with 28 goals and totaled 47 points.
If anyone asks how Matt Moulson has become such a great scorer in the league, look at the stats. If Moulson scores, be sure to see Taveres on the board with the assist and vice versa. He is a huge threat on the powerplay and cannot be replaced. Take him off this team, and the Islanders do not come close to being in the playoffs this season.
STANLEY CUP PREDICTIONS
Machurek– St. Louis Blues
Ken Hitchcock will bring home his second Stanley Cup this year and here’s why.
The team is getting hot at the right time, along with the great play between the pipes. Brian Elliot who got off to a very shaky start ended the season on a very high note. He finished the month of April with an 11-2 record and a 1.28 GAA and three shutouts.
With Backes already up for the Selke, he will prove why his team is this year’s Los Angeles Kings… a team no one is talking about and quietly knock off opponents while the spotlight is on the other powerhouse teams.
Usually it is the hottest team coming into the playoffs as we saw last season with the Kings. This season it is the Blues’ turn.
Any money says Ekiert picks the Penguins.
Ekiert– Pittsburgh Penguins
Yea Machurek that’s right. The Stanley Cup Finals will take us back to 1992.
It will be the Penguins beating the Chicago Blackhawks in seven games.
Looking at this from a fan’s perspective, this would be one of the most entertaining matchups in the history of all major sports.
Think of the possibilities with this endless list of superstars. Sidney Crosby VS Jonathan Toews, Evgeni Malkin VS Patrick Kane, Kris Letang VS Duncan Keith, Jarome Iginla VS Marian Hossa, Marc–Andre Fleury VS Corey Crawford… catch my drift?
The Penguins will simply win this series by proving they want it more. They have the most talent of any team in the NHL and they proved in their 15-game winning streak in March that they can beat you in so many ways.
Don’t be bummed out because there was no All-Star Game this season… it will be aired during the Finals this summer between these two clubs.