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#2831   2018-12-04 01:35 GMT        
With the trade deadline passed and the stretch run to the NHL season beginning, its time for Scott Cullens latest update to the NHL Awards races. On one hand, there are familiar names throughout, with previous Hart, Norris, Selke and Jack Adams winners named as best through three quarters of this season. However, as we get more games in the file, the leading candidates begin to separate from the rest of the class. Its not to say that others cant mount a strong finish to alter the outcomes, but as the season gets closer to the end, there isnt as much wiggle room. Anyway, here are my picks for awards through first three quarters of this season: HART TROPHY Winner: Sidney Crosby, C, PittsburghRunners-up: Ryan Getzlaf, C, Anaheim; Alex Ovechkin, RW, WashingtonComment: Its no surprise that a healthy Crosby is in position to win the award as the leagues Most Valuable Player, because hes 14 points up in the scoring race and playing at the level to which weve become accustomed, when hes in the lineup. This year, he hasnt missed a game, and that is the biggest reason that Crosby at the forefront of the MVP discussion. Getzlaf is scoring at a career-best rate of 1.17 points per game, leading the team that sits on top of the standings. While his possession numbers are solid, Getzlafs line has been particularly fortunate in terms of shooting percentage, which leads to a dominant goal differential (57 for, 25 against) when Getzlaf is on the ice during 5-on-5 play. Its not the kind of thing that can be sustained long-term (as in year-over-year) but, this year, it puts him in contention for the Hart. I recognize there may not be a lot of observers that would consider Ovechkin among the most valuable in the league this year, yet I do despite his deficiencies. Hhes so far ahead of the rest of the league as a goal-scorer, that I cant ignore that contribution. Right now, Ovechkin is on pace for a 57-goal season. Second-place Phil Kessel is on pace for a 42-goal season. The last player to win the goal-scoring race by 15 goals or more was Brett Hull, in 1991-1992, when Hull scored 70 and Kevin Stevens scored 54. (Incidentally, in 1990-1991, Hull scored 86 goals, 35 more than a trio of players -- Theo Fleury, Cam Neely and Steve Yzerman -- tied for second.) Its just not that often that the leagues top goal-scorer is that far ahead of the field and, this year, Ovechkin is. Additionally, while he does plenty of damage on the power play, Ovechkin also leads the league with 26 even-strength goals, so its not all one-timers from the faceoff dot with the man advantage. Looking beyond those three, Kessel, Joe Pavelski and Jonathan Toews are among others who could warrant consideration. NORRIS TROPHYWinner: Duncan Keith, ChicagoRunners-up: Erik Karlsson, Ottawa; Victor Hedman, Tampa BayComment: This season hasnt been all that different from Duncan Keiths 2010 Norris Trophy-winning campaign. Hes played his typically-strong two-way game, though he is down more than three minutes per game compared to his peak playing time, and has added more offence this season, scoring at the second-best rate of his carerr (0.79 points per game). There are some that decry the play of the Senators Erik Karlsson, because hes not a hard-hitting block of granite on the blueline and thats their vision of a defenceman, but Karlsson is a game-changer. Hes a rare defenceman that can drive his teams offence and his negative plus-minus is more a function of relatively bad luck on percentages (both shooting and save) when hes on the ice. After Keith and Karlsson, there are a number of worthy candidates, with my preferred choice being Victor Hedman, who has been great, while adding an offensive component that is far ahead of his previously established levels. Im not sure that Team Sweden is on board with this vote, but thats their prerogative. Some familiar names -- Shea Weber, P.K. Subban and Alex Pietrangelo -- are also viable candidates, close enough that a really strong finish could alter the outcome. VEZINA TROPHYWinner: Ben Bishop, Tampa BayRunners-up: Tuukka Rask, Boston; Semyon Varlamov, ColoradoComment: As a 27-year-old who had played 45 career games coming into this season, Bishop has been a major surprise, a rock for a Lightning team that has maintained its playoff position despite missing Steven Stamkos for a couple of months. Rask has pretty much always been a top puck-stopper, with a .929 save percentage over the past three seasons, and hes played a career-high 46 games this year, handling a number one workload over a full season for, really, the first time in his career. It hasnt been a smooth and steady road to the top for Varlamov, who has rebounded from a career-low .903 save percentage last season to post a career-best .925 save percentage this season. That might be a matter of arbitrary end-points, with Varlamovs real performance level somewhere between those two extremes but, for this season, his numbers warrant award consideration. If not Varlamov, Carey Price and Jonathan Bernier have both had strong seasons, strong enough that an impressive finish could push them into the discussion. CALDER TROPHYWinner: Nathan MacKinnon, C, Colorado Runners-up: Tyler Johnson, C, Tampa Bay; Olli Maatta, Pittsburgh Comment: Having set the record for the longest point streak by an 18-year-old rookie, MacKinnon is already looking like the kind of game-breaking skilled forward that teams hope to get with the No. 1 pick in the draft. Nothing like having a great pedigree and living up to it. MacKinnons closest challenger may be Johnson, an undrafted, 5-foot-9, 23-year-old who has simply scored wherever hes played and when Stamkos got hurt, Johnson took on more responsibility and continued to play at a high level. Its not easy for a teenage defenceman to step into the NHL and consistently play with poise, but dont tell that to Maatta, who has been a revelation for the Penguins. Injuries on the Pittsburgh blueline have forced the Penguins to use Maatta more than might have been initially anticipated, but hes risen to the challenge. Bruins power play quarterback Torey Krug and Johnsons left winger, Ondrej Palat, are other contenders. SELKE AWARDWinner: Patrice Bergeron, BostonRunners-up: David Backes, St. Louis; Jonathan Toews, ChicagoComment: This isnt an easy award to hand out, though there are some consistent performers that tend to be in consideration year after year. Heres a list of centres that face a decent level of competition yet still have strong possession stats. In addition to Bergeron, Backes and Toews, who have been at the top of my lists for past couple seasons at least, Anze Kopitar, Gabriel Landeskog and Alexander Steen are first-rate two-way performers that warrant attention. JACK ADAMS AWARDWinner: Bruce Boudreau, Anaheim Runners-up: Ken Hitchcock, St. Louis; Jon Cooper, Tampa Bay. Comment: It can be difficult to gauge exactly what a coachs role is in a teams performance, so there is some guess work involved here. One of the factors I try to take out of the equation, or at least minimize in importance, is goaltending, because great goaltending can mask all manner of shortcomings. Anyway, Im not sure that Bruce Boudreau has done anything revolutionary with the Ducks that allows them to score on such a high percentage of their shots, but getting strong contributions from so many throughout the lineup has to be considered in some way a reflection of Boudreaus approach. Oh, yeah, the Ducks are also first place in the standings, so he has that working for him too. The St. Louis Blues play such a relentless, grinding game that Im inclined to credit a coach that can keep his team playing that style so effectively. Enter, Ken Hitchcock. Admittedly, Jon Cooper has the benefit of outstanding goaltending, thanks to Ben Bishop, but his team has survived without Steven Stamkos and has done so with a lineup full of young, inexperienced players playing significant roles. For that, Cooper gets my nomination. There are many other qualified candidates. Patrick Roys Avalanche are exceeding expectations, Mike Yeo and Mike Babcock have managed to get through significant injuries and Claude Julien keeps the Bruins rolling with a steady spproach; all of these coaches deserve credit for their work behind the bench this season. Scott Cullen can be reached at and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook. Cheap Dallas Stars Gear .Y. - OK, it is done. Authentic Marc Methot Jersey . 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"Hes not in the intensive care," Erskine said.SOCHI, Russia - According to head coach Mike Babcock, Team Canada came to Russia with a plan of how it would employ the goaltending duties at these Olympics, namely who, between Roberto Luongo and Carey Price, would be the guy. "Theyve both been real good," said Babcock. "Havent changed our minds." A decision has seemingly been made - Sundays Group B-deciding tilt against Finland ahead - but it could not have been an easy one. Price opened the tournament with a sturdy 19-save performance against the Norwegians, yielding just one goal. Luongo bettered his efforts a day later, stopping all 23 shots versus the Austrians. But which of the two deserves to start against the Finns, the most challenging opponent of the tournament to date and an indicator of which direction the brass is leaning, is a matter of some debate. On purely NHL terms, for this season, Price has been the better goaltender. He owns a .925 save percentage after 48 starts - ninth-best in the NHL - keeping the Montreal Canadiens afloat through good times and bad. He also entered the Olympics on a sterling five-game run that saw him stop 167 of 174 shots - .960 save percentage - banking one shutout in the process. Luongo has been steady meanwhile, boasting a .917 save percentage in Vancouver this season, a number about in line with his career average. But unlike Price, he and the Canucks have stumbled into the break, losing five straight. And though his struggling team managed to score just eight goals during the five-game slide, Luongo himself wasnt much better, allowing 17 goals in the process (.880 save percentage). If not better than Price at the moment, Luongo does have history on his side. Initially the backup to Martin Brodeur at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, Luongo grabbed the net against Germany in the pre-qualificationn round and didnt let go (albeit with a few hiccups) en route to the gold medal.dddddddddddd Price last starred on the international stage at the 2007 World Junior Championships. Sparkling with a 1.14 goals against average, he was named the tournament MVP. But unlike American starter Jonathan Quick, who has a stranglehold on the no. 1 gig due in large part to an unbelievable recent playoff track record, the 26-year-old Price has been just so-so in the postseason for the Canadiens. He had an .894 save percentage in falling to the Ottawa Senators in the first round last spring. Price did, however, steer the Hamilton Bulldogs to a Calder Cup championship during that brilliant 07 run. Back in 2010, Babcock started the Olympic tournament with Luongo against the Norwegians - they won 8-0 - but apparently had his mind set on Brodeur all along. The future Hall of Fame netminder started games two and three against the Swiss and Americans, but lost his job to Luongo after four goals passed on 22 shots in a 5-3 loss to the U.S. All of which goes to show that whatever may seem certain for even a moment in a tournament that extends for just days can change in an instant or two. Asked of his process for determining who would be the guy, Babcock pointed to the NHL season and said that he and the Team Canada brass had been closely monitoring who was doing what. If he favours the present then Price would seem to be the obvious choice, but if he has a sentimental spot for what Luongo managed on this stage last time around then the embattled Canucks keeper may just be the guy. The two netminders were to be informed of the decision on Saturday evening. "We did the same thing last time," said Babcock of 2010. "We had a plan. 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