For this edition of NHL Saturday, it’s time to cement the closing season of a dominant run from a single franchise, which included four Stanley Cup Finals appearances and three NHL championships over the course of a 10-season stretch. That’s a pretty impressive achievement from the Pittsburgh Penguins, a team that may not be back in the Cup Finals any time soon.
Didn’t we say that the 2010s were really interesting? Read on!
2017 Hart: Connor McDavid (original), Brad Marchand (revised)
There are four legitimate candidates here, as Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid (12.8 PS) won the Hart vote, finishing ahead of Boston Bruins left wing Brad Marchand (12.6), Pittsburgh C Sidney Crosby (12.3), and Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov (12.0). That’s a healthy group to choose from, and their respective PS marks aren’t really that far apart, either. On with the analysis!
Time to look at the impact each had on his team: Edmonton (16-point cushion), Boston (1 point), and Pittsburgh (17 points) made the postseason, while Tampa Bay missed out by 1 point, finishing just below the Bruins in the Eastern Conference hierarchy. This clearly means that Marchand was the most valuable forward of the bunch.
The Boston veteran finished seventh in the voting, for some reason, however, despite putting up 85 points (39G, 46 A) in 80 games for a team just squeezed into the postseason. Marchand also added a plus-18 rating and 81 PIMs on a squad that outscored its opponents by just 22 goals overall during the regular season. As we are wont to claim, the Bruins don’t make the playoffs without him.
2017 Norris: Brent Burns (original, confirmed)
This might be a no-brainer decision, as San Jose Sharks veteran Brent Burns led all NHL players with 15.35 PS during the season. The only other blueliner within shouting distance of him was Ottawa Senators star Erik Karlsson (12.9). We gave this nod to Burns last year, even though he didn’t win the vote, but he took the ballot box this time. Karlsson took both the ballots and our praise in 2012 and 2015.
But here is the dilemma: The Sens slid into the playoffs by just 4 points in the Eastern Conference, while the Sharks cruised into the Western Conference postseason order by 12 points. That makes Karlsson more valuable, even though Burns was the best player in the NHL. Usually, we’d give this to Karlsson on that value argument, but when a player is the best in the league, we have been known to reconsider.
In this case, the gap is so wide between the two, as well, so we’re going to confirm Burns’ award. We will not argue with anyone who thinks that Karlsson deserved this more, either. Posting 24:52 ATOI, the Sharks sniper led the NHL in SOG (320) while earning 76 points (29G, 47A), a plus-19 rating, and 40 PIMs. Burns also played RW when the San Jose roster was decimated, so there’s that value, too.
2017 Vezina: Sergei Bobrovsky (original), Frederik Andersen (revised)
Six goaltenders appeared in the league’s Top 10 for Point Shares, and based on postseason qualifying, we’ve whittled that list down to these contenders for this award: Columbus Blue Jackets star Sergei Bobrovsky (14.88), Edmonton journeyman Cam Talbot (13.95), Toronto Maple Leafs trade acquisition Frederik Andersen (13.14), Minnesota Wild veteran Devan Dubnyk (13.05), and Montréal Canadiens stalwart Carey Price (12.63).
Bobrovsky won the vote, but here’s the value breakdown: Columbus (14-point margin), Edmonton (16), Toronto (1), Minnesota (19), and Montréal (9) all made the postseason, but it’s clear that Andersen carried the most value in the process, while finishing well within shouting distance of the top goaltender in the league, topical-value considered. Bobrovsky was the best, but Anderson had more actual value.
Andersen’s numbers: 33-16-14, 2.67 GAA, .918 S%, and 4 SOs. His backups went 7-11-1, so you can tell that without him, the Leafs aren’t getting to the Lord Stanley’s dance. Andersen also managed to notch 16 PIMs, which is nice from a goalie—to know he’s not taking any shit from the opposing team. That kind of attitude from the net is infectious for the rest of the team’s psyche.
2017 Calder: Auston Matthews (original, confirmed)
Four rookies stood out this season: Penguins G Matt Murray (10.3 PS), Toronto C Auston Matthews (9.7), Columbus D Zach Werenski (9.1), and Winnipeg Jets RW Patrik Laine (8.9). No one else was within 2 PS of Laine, so this is our quartet of choices, as Matthews won the vote. Murray, of course, won our Conn Smythe nod last season, but this was his official rookie year under NHL rules.
Winnipeg missed the playoffs, so this comes down to Murray, Matthews, and Werenski. We know Toronto barely made the postseason, while the other two teams had plenty of points to spare. So, we can confirm Matthews’ vote win, readily: at age 19, he scored 40 goals and added 29 assists, while topping the entire NHL in even-strength goals (32). Pretty impressive, in truth. One less goal, and … well, you know.
2017 Conn Smythe: Sidney Crosby (original), Evgeni Malkin (revised)
The Pens beat the Nashville Predators in 6 games to win their second straight Cup—and fifth overall (1991, 1992). Pittsburgh C Sidney Crosby won the Conn Smythe vote, just like he did last year, although we went with Murray instead. What will we do this time? Well, Murray was on fire again (1.70 GAA), but he only started 10 games in the postseason, so we cannot go there twice.
However, C Evgeni Malkin—our pick for the Hart in 2009 and 2012—was better than Crosby here, playing in more games, scoring more points, and logging an awesome 53 PIMs throughout the postseason. He even outdid Crosby in plus/minus rating by 5 points and shot percentage by 4 points. We’re going with Malkin here—just as we did in 2009, actually, when he won the vote then.
Strangely, we have stripped Crosby of a lot of hardware here: no Hart in 2007, no Hart in 2014, and no Conn Smythe last year or this year. That’s just the way it goes, but it also does not make him overrated. It’s just content, after all, instead of subjective sentiment, and Crosby has just been out-valued here and there, circumstantially. But it is kind of weird that we’ve never given him an award … oh well. Bad luck!