In this week on NHL Saturday, we get even closer to the present day with a look back at the only championship season for the Washington Capitals. It came for the organization after many seasons of success and near misses, quite often at the expense of the rival Pittsburgh Penguins—the Stanley Cup champions from 2016 and 2017. See how often poetic justice sort of serves itself? We do. We believe.
On with the spectacular ice show!
2018 Hart: Taylor Hall (original), Nathan MacKinnon (revised)
Four forwards separated themselves from the pack this year: Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid (13.1 PS), Penguins C Evgeni Malkin (12.4), Colorado Avalanche C Nathan MacKinnon (12.2), and New Jersey Devils left wing Taylor Hall (12.2). McDavid won the vote last season, although we gave the hardware to someone else; this year, it was Hall who pulled out the vote victory.
The Oilers missed the postseason, while Pittsburgh made it into the Eastern Conference playoffs by just 4 points—putting Malkin in the prime seat. However … both the Avs and the Devils qualified for Lord Stanley’s chase by a single point, leaving MacKinnon and Hall virtually tired here, in both value to the team and raw value. Dilemmas! It’s amazing to us this has happened before. Time to compare:
- Hall: 39G, 54A, plus-14, 34 PIMs, 19:09 ATOI, 2.3 DPS
- MacKinnon: 39G, 58A, plus-11, 55 PIMs, 19:54 ATOI, 2.2 DPS
Almost everything is equal here, but we like MacKinnon’s PIMs and ATOI more, in truth, so we’re going to shake it up here and give him our Hart nod. Obviously, this is a coin flip, so something had to give.
2018 Norris: Victor Hedman (original), Drew Doughty (revised)
We have four candidates here, too, that set themselves apart: Los Angeles Kings star Drew Doughty (11.7 PS), Tampa Bay Lightning veteran Victor Hedman (11.0), Nashville Predators stalwart P.K. Subban (10.5), and Dallas Stars youngster John Klingberg (10.5). Hedman won the vote, although his team won its division and cruised into the postseason with a 17-point cushion.
Likewise, the Predators won their division and accumulated a 24-point playoff margin. Meanwhile, Dallas missed the postseason entirely, while the Kings only had 4 points to spare in their playoff quest. That means Doughty is going to get our nod, both on actual and topical value. He previously won our Conn Smythe nod in 2014, by the way.
Doughty’s stat line: 10G, 50A, plus-23, 54 PIMs, 26:50 ATOI, and a league-best 7.3 DPS. He was the best defensive player in the league, so the 60 points on offense were just icing on his doughy cake.
2018 Vezina: Pekka Rinne (original), Sergei Bobrovsky (revised)
We have six contenders here: Winnipeg Jets youngster Connor Hellebuyck (14.0 PS), Toronto Maple Leafs veteran Frederik Andersen (13.6), Nashville institution Pekka Rinne (13.3), Tampa Bay phenom Andrei Vasilevskiy (13.2), Columbus Blue Jackets star Sergei Bobrovsky (13.0), and Kings legend Jonathan Quick (12.2). At age 35, Renne took home the vote after three prior Top-3 finishes.
Here are the playoff margins for all: Winnipeg 20, Toronto 9, Nashville 23, Tampa Bay 17, Columbus 1, and Los Angeles 4. That means it is clear that Bobrovsky is going to get our nod, after we confirmed his 2013 vote win—and took away his trophy from 2017 as well. We do believe in our process, of course, and here is another example of why: We taketh away, and we also giveth, too.
Bobrovsky’s stats: 37-22-6 for a team that was 45-30-7. You see his backups posted just an 8-8-1 mark, which would have cost the team a postseason berth. He wasn’t as good as he was last season, but he was good enough this time around (2.42 GAA, .921 S%, and 5 SOs).
2018 Calder: Mathew Barzal (original), Will Butcher (revised)
This was a low-key race as no player topped 8.2 PS for the season, although 8 players topped 6.5 PS. The vetted contenders here are Tampa Bay C Yanni Gourde (7.7), Winnipeg LW Kyle Connor (7.0), Boston Bruins D Charlie McAvoy (6.8), and Devils D Will Butcher (6.6). The winner of the vote was New York Islanders C Mathew Barzal (8.2), but his team finished 17 points out of the postseason chase.
We know New Jersey claimed the final Eastern Conference playoff berth by 1 point, so this award will go to Butcher, as all the other players had healthier cushions for postseason slots. Butcher posted 3.6 OPS and 3.0 DPS for a team that would have missed the playoffs without his 44 points (5G, 39A) and 62 hits.
2018 Conn Smythe: Alex Ovechkin (original), Evgeny Kuznetsov (revised)
The Caps topped the expansion Vegas Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup Finals, winning it all in a 5-game series. Longtime Washington star LW Alex Ovechkin earned the Conn Smythe vote by posting 27 points in 24 games, but we’re afraid this was a sentimental, subjective vote—not an objective one. After all, Caps C Evgeny Kuznetsov outscored, outhustled, and out-fought Ovi through the postseason.
Kuznetsov scored 32 points in 24 games, while doubling up his teammate in PIMs and also posting a higher plus-minus rating by 4 points. Vegas G Marc-Andre Fleury might have been a contender for this award, but he had a rough Finals, and of course, the Golden Knights managed only one victory. Therefore, it’s definitely Kuznetsov’s trophy is our eyes.
This marks only the fourth time that we’ve revised all five major awards, the last three coming since 2006.