We have caught up with the present day (almost) on NHL Saturday: the 2021 season represents the most-recent awards we can analyze, although the 2022 season hardware announcements will come later this month. So, we’re taking next weekend off after this piece goes live, and we will catch up fully by the end of June. One note: The league had a revised schedule and division plan to cope with Covid, still.
Therefore, all teams only played 56 games against geographically convenient opponents. Quite weird!
2021 Hart: Connor McDavid (original), Brad Marchand (revised)
Five forwards finished in the Top 10 overall for Point Shares, including two teammates at the top: Edmonton Oilers centers Connor McDavid (12.97) and Leon Draisaitl (10.91), followed by Boston Bruins left wing Brad Marchand (9.58), Toronto Maple Leafs C Auston Matthews (9.49), and Colorado Avalanche right wing Mikko Rantanen (9.04).
That’s a big gap between McDavid and Draisaitl, and usually we’d eliminate the two teammates, but hold on. A two-point gap in PS for this season equates to a 3-point gap in a normal, 82-game season, and that’s going to waive all rules, because it’s significantly huge. So, how did Oilers do with only four teams in each geographically re-arranged division making the postseason?
Edmonton had a 17-point cushion for the postseason, while Boston (13), Colorado (28), and Toronto (22) had varying situations to consider. Independently, both McDavid and Draisaitl still didn’t make the difference for the Oilers, and while Marchand didn’t make the difference for Boston, either, the Bruins had less margin for error to work with than Edmonton did, in the theoretical world without its star(s).
So, we’re going with Marchand here, which sucks for vote-winner McDavid, because it’s like 2017 all over again. Marchand’s stats: 29G, 40A, 46 PIMs, plus-26, in 18:55 ATOI for the age-32 Bruins star, in a division were only six points separated the four playoff teams in the standings. That’s a lot of pressure to perform every time out on the ice. This is well earned by Marchand.
2021 Norris: Adam Fox (original), Jeff Petry (revised)
Eleven blueliners posted at least 7 PS this season, so our whittled down list depends on postseason qualifications: Oilers stalwart Darnell Nurse (8.9), Carolines Hurricanes journeyman Dougie Hamilton (8.2), Vegas Golden Knights leader Shea Theodore (8.2), Florida Panthers rock MacKenzie Weegar (7.4), Colorado Avalanche phenom Cale Makar (7.3), Tampa Bay Lightning veteran Victor Hedman (7.3), Pittsburgh Penguins legend Kris Letang (7.2), Avs acquisition Devon Toews (7.2), and Montréal Canadiens star Jeff Petry (7.2).
Vote-winner Adam Fox (7.8) of the New York Rangers did not play for a postseason squad, so he’s out. The two Colorado teammates are also removed from the discussion, of course. Now, we move on to playoff margins for error: Edmonton (27), Carolina (20), Vegas (28), Florida (19), Tampa Bay (15), Pittsburgh (17), and Montréal (4). Yes, in the All-Canada division, the Habs barely made it.
That makes Petry, at age 33, our Norris winner. His season, like his career, was relatively unremarkable, but the sabermetrics do not lie: 12G, 30A, 20 PIMs, plus-6 rating, and 22:44 ATOI. But consider Montréal was outscored by 9 goals on the season, and that’s why the context here is huge. He also added 97 hits and 60 blocks to his stat line, and without him, the Habs would have missed the playoffs.
2021 Vezina: Marc-Andre Fleury (original), Juuse Saros (revised)
Five backstops topped 8.0 PS during the regular season: Tampa Bay superstar Andrei Vasilevskiy (9.6), Winnipeg Jets standout Connor Hellebuyck (9.1), Nashville Predators phenom Juuse Saros (8.6), New York Islanders veteran Semyon Varlamov (8.4), and Vegas legend Marc-Andre Fleury (8.0). Strangely, Fleury won his first Vezina vote ever, although we gave him our nod back in 2015.
Hellebuyck won this in 2020, so can he make it two in a row at Fleury’s expense? Onto the usual, the postseason cushions: Tampa Bay (15), Winnipeg (8), Nashville (4), New York (11), and Vegas (28). This simple exercise shows us that Saros was very valuable to his team, followed closely by Hellebuyck. That’s a narrow margin there, but Saros will take home our hardware.
His statistical output: 21-11-1, 2.28 GAA, .927 S%, and 3 shutouts. In the other 23 games, Nashville posted a 10-12-1 record, which means maybe the head coach should have put Saros in net more often, right? Especially when the other goalies gave up more than half a goal more per game than Saros did.
2021 Calder: Kirill Kaprizov (original), Vitek Vanecek (revised)
Six rookies topped 5.5 PS this season, and we’re narrowing the field down to only the playoff qualifiers: Minnesota Wild LW Kirill Kaprizov (6.7), Washington Capitals G Vitek Vanecek (6.1), and Carolina G Alex Nedeljkovic (5.5). The postseason comfort zones were, in order, Minnesota (21), Carolina (20), and Washington (17). Kaprizov won the vote, but we’re going with Vanecek instead.
He posted a 21-10-4 record, with a 2.69 GAA and a .908 S% while dealing 2 shutouts as well. Vanecek stepped into a tough spot, as the team’s No. 1 goalie was out often with injuries, and with a veteran roster capable of winning it all, he stepped up to fill the gap admirably and make the difference between making and missing the Stanley Cup playoffs.
2021 Conn Smythe: Andrei Vasilevskiy (original, confirmed)
The Lightning beat the Canadiens in the Finals, needing only 5 games to dispatch the opponent and claim a second consecutive Cup title. Only two players really deserve Conn Smythe consideration here: Vasilevskiy (16-7, 1.90, .937, 5) and RW Nikita Kucherov (8G, 24A, 14 PIMs), who won the Hart vote and our confirmation in 2019. The Habs were a surprise finalist, of course, but they managed just 8 goals.
That’s why we’re confirming the vote win here for Vasilevskiy: The other team can’t win if you don’t let them score much, and holding Montréal to 1 goal or less in three of the five Finals matchups is an excellent recipe for success. Also, Vasilevskiy was the primary reason for why the Lightning never lost back-to-back games in either Stanley Cup title run in 2020 or 2021. We know 2020 doesn’t matter here.
But still … that’s pretty impressive, and we will reward him for it here, pretty simply.