On NHL Saturday today, we move to the 2015 season, which saw the concluding act of perhaps one of the most “quiet” dynasties in sport history: the 2010-2015 Chicago Blackhawks, winners of three Stanley Cups—albeit none consecutively. So, maybe they were not really a dynasty, but it’s still the best effort of any club in the 21st-century NHL, and that’s something to keep in mind.
Now, for the best show on ice … read on!
2015 Hart: Carey Price (original), Alex Ovechkin (revised)
The forward pool was shallow this year, with the top contenders for our Hart being the following skaters: Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (12.64 PS), New York Rangers LW Rick Nash (11.4), New York Islanders center John Tavares (11.2), and St. Louis Blues right wing Vladimir Tarasenko (11.2). Only Ovechkin finished in the NHL Top 10 for PS.
Montréal Canadians goaltender Carey Price (16.16) won the Hart vote, so we have to pick one of those four guys: The Caps made the postseason by just 5 points, as did the Isles. The Rangers finished 12 points ahead of both the Islanders and the Capitals in the Metropolitan Division, while the Blues won the Central Division with a 15-point playoff cushion. So we go with Ovechkin over Tavares, basically.
Ovi has won this from us twice before (2008, 2013), and these are the numbers that did it for him this time around: 53G, 28A, 58 PIMs, and 395 SOGs. He topped the league in goals and SOGs, and Ovechkin also led his peers in power-play goals (25) and game-winning goals (11). It’s clear that Washington would have been golfing in the spring instead of still skating without him.
2015 Norris: Erik Karlsson (original, confirmed)
The two outstanding candidates here were Montréal Canadiens star P.K. Subban (12.4 PS) and Ottawa Senators veteran Erik Karlsson (11.9). Subban was the only blueliner to finish in the NHL Top 10 for PS, although Karlsson won the Norris vote. We took Subban’s vote win away from him here in 2013, while we did confirm Karlsson’s hardware from 2012. What happens now?
Well, with the Habs finishing 11 points higher than the Sens, atop the Atlantic Division, it’s clear that Karlsson brought more value to the ice. In fact, Ottawa claimed the No. 7 postseason seed, making the playoffs by just 3 points. Karlsson’s stats—21G, 45A, 42 PIMs, and 27:15 ATOI—were a primary reason that the Senators had a shot at the Stanley Cup.
2015 Vezina: Carey Price (original), Marc-Andre Fleury (revised)
With 8 goalies in the NHL Top 10 overall for PS, we present these vetted candidates, based on team finish in the standings: Montréal veteran Price (16.16 PS), Washington starter Braden Holtby (14.39), Minnesota Wild midseason acquisition Devan Dubnyk (12.62), Nashville Predators stalwart Pekka Rinne (12.57), and Pittsburgh Penguins star Marc-Andre Fleury (12.24). Price won the vote at the time, so …
We know the Habs had a 14-point playoff margin for error, making Price valuable. Yet, we also know the Caps had just a 5-point cushion, making Holtby even more valuable. But we are not done yet: The Wild also had a 5-point margin to work with, and Nashville’s 9-point bubble is also complicating things. Finally, the Pens secured the final Eastern Conference postseason spot by just 2 points. Literally.
All these goalies had Vezina-worthy value, in truth, but we have to go with Fleury, because it’s straight-up reality he was the most valuable to his team. We know this doesn’t seem fair to Price, but he was piloting a division winner with the league’s best defenseman, to boot, anchoring things down in front of him. Meanwhile, Fleury—tossing a league-best 10 shutouts without a lot of help—was carrying the load.
He posted a 34-20-9 record with a 2.32 GAA and a .920 S% at age 30, showing his lasting power as the second phase of his stellar career was just beginning. Fleury also started 64 games, a number he has never reached again since in a career that is still going on right now.
2015 Calder: Aaron Ekblad (original), Johnny Gaudreau (revised)
Five rooks stood out, although two were from the same team: Ottawa RW Mark Stone (8.7 PS), Florida Panthers D Aaron Ekblad (8.5), Nashville C Filip Forsberg (8.3), Calgary LW Johnny Gaudreau (7.8), and Sens forward Mike Hoffman (7.2). With Florida missing the postseason, Ekblad won’t get to keep his voted-upon trophy, and this comes down to Forsberg or Gaudreau.
The Flames snagged the final Western Conference postseason spot, so that means this nod is going to Gaudreau for the following stat line: 24G, 40A, plus-11 rating, and 14 PIMs. He added 2.0 DPS, too, to bring some defense to the equation for his Calgary teammates.
2015 Conn Smythe: Duncan Keith (original, confirmed)
Chicago beat Tampa Bay in six games to claim the Stanley Cup again, with D Duncan Keith being named the Conn Smythe winner at the time. It’s going to be hard to unseat Keith, as he posted 21 points in 23 games while posting 31:07 ATOI and leading the team with a plus-16 rating. In fact, the next-best Chicago skater was just plus-7 in the postseason, as the Blackhawks goaltending wasn’t outstanding.
The ATOI also was a team high by almost 5 minutes per game. So, Keith was scoring, defending, and spending a shit ton of time on the ice throughout the postseason. This is an impressive performance we have no doubt about confirming. Remember, we took away Keith’s Norris nods in 2010 and 2014, but there’s no way to even conceive of depriving him here. We like that in terms of karma. Nice job, Duncan.
Check in on Saturdays for our NHL awards historical analysis on The Daily McPlay!