2012 NHL Trophy Contenders

With two months remaining in the NHL season, players are beginning to separate them­selves in each of the major trophy races and teams are making statements in both the East and the West. This week out West, the Detroit Red Wings earned their 21st consecutive home win – an NHL record – and moved ahead of the rest of the conference. Though their 80 points put them four ahead of second place Vancouver, the Wings are just one point ahead of the Eastern Conference-leading Rangers, who had a big win themselves Tuesday night, beating the second place Bruins in a 3–0 shutout. Thanks to goalten­der Henrik Lundqvist, the Rangers have created a nine-point gap between themselves and the B’s, and clearly look like the team to beat in the East.

For Lundqvist, with the goaltenders fantas­tic play has come discussion of his MVP con­tention – an honor that is very rarely bestowed upon goaltenders. With that possibility in mind, here’s a look at the top contenders for each major NHL trophy.

Calder Trophy (NHL’s Best Rookie):

1) Adam Henrique, NJ: The 22-year-old cen­terman has been a central figure in New Jersey’s success, especially on the penalty kill. Henrique leads the league in both shorthanded goals and shorthanded points, as well as leading all rookie skaters with 37 points.

2) Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, EDM: Last year’s number one draft pick has not disappointed, and is only behind Henrique due to missing 15 games to injury. Even with his lack of games played, the Oilers’ first-line pivot has racked up 35 points – 13 goals and 22 assists – to go along with a rookie-leading 18 powerplay points.

3) Matt Read, PHI: Read has cooled off a bit of late, but still sits third among rookies with 33 points and first with 16 goals. His plus-15 rating is 18 better than Nugent-Hopkins’s, but the fact that Nugent-Hopkins has two more points in 13 fewer games gives him the nod.

Vezina Trophy (NHL’s Best Goalie):

1) Henrik Lundqvist, NYR: He leads all goalies in save percentage and shutouts, and is fourth in wins and second in GAA. Only a monumental Rangers collapse could dash King Henrik’s chances.

2) Jonathan Quick, LA: Third in shutouts, GAA and save percentage, and seventh in wins, Quick has been lights out behind a disappointing Kings team. Thanks to his stellar play, however, the Kings are still in a playoff position as of now.

3) Pekka Rinne, NSH: Last year’s Vezina runner-up has picked up his play tremendously, and now ranks second in wins with 31. His sub- 2.5 GAA and .924 save percentage are solid, but compared to the likes of Lundqvist and Quick, it doesn’t appear Pekka’s got much of a chance.

Maurice Richard Trophy (NHL’s Top Goalscorer):

1) Steven Stamkos, TB: His 37 goals are five ahead of second place and it looks like there’s no stopping the 22-year-old sniper. With four goals in seven February games, Stamkos has continued his consistent play and will most likely carry the lead into April.

2) Evgeni Malkin, PIT: He has 32 goals in just 49 games and is the hottest player in the league right now. If he keeps playing the way he has, Malkin could potentially catch Stamkos late in the season.

3) James Neal, PIT: Malkin’s teammate is right behind him in the race for top goalscorer with 29, and there’s good reason. The 24 year-old winger has already surpassed his career-high for goals (27), thanks in large part to a league-leading 13 power play goals.

Art Ross Trophy (NHL’s Top Point-Scorer):

1) Evgeni Malkin, PIT: Not only does Malkin have 32 goals in 49 games, he also leads the league with 69 points. Averaging just under 1.5 points per game, Malkin is on pace for 105 points.

2) Claude Giroux, PHI: A mid-season con­cussion kept Giroux out for four games, but he has still managed 62 points so far this season. Though he’s seven behind Malkin, if the Flyers catch fire late, it will be due to Giroux’s play.

3) Steven Stamkos, TBL: Tied with Giroux for second in the Art Ross race, Stamkos needs the rest of the Lightning players to pick up their play if he wants a chance at winning. He’s on pace for 54 goals, but if he can’t find team­mates with whom to share the puck, Malkin and Giroux should run away with it.

Norris Trophy (NHL’s Top Defenseman):

1) Erik Karlsson, OTT: With 52 points in 58 games, Karlsson is 13 points ahead of the next top defenseman and appears to have the Norris locked down.

2) Shea Weber, NSH: A pre-season favorite for the Norris, Weber has not disappointed in the slightest. He’s in the top three in goals, top five in points and top 10 in plus-minus, and along with Pekka Rinne has led the Predators into playoff contention.

3) Zdeno Charra, BOS: It just wouldn’t seem right to leave the perennial contender out of the conversation, would it? With top ten goals and points numbers as well as a top five plus-minus, the shut-down defender has managed to put up solid offensive stats even while taking on every team’s top line.

Hart Trophy (NHL’s MVP):

1) Evgeni Malkin, PIT: Do we really need to say more about him? 69 points and 32 goals in 49 games in the absence of Penguin captain Sid­ney Crosby has Malkin firmly ahead of the pack.

2) Henrik Lundqvist, NYR: MVP: Most Valuable Player. Without a doubt, Lundqvist has been just that for his team, and is clearly the primary reason for first-place New York’s success.

3) Steven Stamkos, TB: I’ve always been a big believer in the importance of goalscoring over as­sists. If a player runs away with the Art Ross due to assists, I say hand him the Hart, too. But if the race is close at the end and the second-place player has more goals (can you say Stamkos and Malkin?). I’ve got to give it to the goalscorer. Stamkos could get this one if he keeps pace with Malkin in Pittsburgh.