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Recognizing the NHL's best this season

Chicago's Jonathan Toews gets the nod for most valuable player and Columbus' Sergei Bobrovsky for best goalie, among others.

April 22, 2013|Helene Elliott
  • Chicago Blackhawks' Jonathan Toews (19) moves the puck up ice against the St. Louis Blues
Chicago Blackhawks' Jonathan Toews (19) moves the puck up ice against… (Dilip Vishwanat / Getty…)

The season will end Sunday and so will the voting period for the NHL's major trophies. Members of the Professional Hockey Writers' Assn. vote for most trophies; the Jack Adams (Coach of the Year) is selected by the NHL Broadcasters' Assn., and the Vezina (best goaltender) is chosen by NHL general managers. The Times doesn't allow its writers to vote.

The envelopes, pleaseā€¦

Hart (MVP)

Winner: Jonathan Toews, Chicago. Runners-up: Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh; John Tavares, New York Islanders.

Toews is the unquestioned leader of the NHL's best team and a key reason the Blackhawks have sustained their excellence. Crosby had 56 points in 36 games before breaking his jaw, but Pittsburgh has the depth to succeed without him. Tavares, with 26 goals and 45 points for a team that wasn't expected to contend for the playoffs, might win someday, but not yet.

Vezina (best goaltender)

Winner: Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus. Runners-up: Tuukka Rask, Boston; Antti Niemi, San Jose; Craig Anderson, Ottawa; Corey Crawford and Ray Emery, Chicago.

Through Saturday's games, "Bob" was second in save percentage (.931) and sixth in goals-against average (2.03) in 35 games. Rask has similar numbers (.929, 1.96) on a better team. Niemi is a workhorse who kept the Sharks going when they slumped. An ankle injury has limited Anderson to 21 games, not enough to win this. Crawford and Emery are too good to pick one.

Norris (best defenseman)

Winner: Ryan Suter, Minnesota. Runners-up: Kris Letang, Pittsburgh, P.K. Subban, Montreal.

Suter, a commanding presence defensively who has chipped in 28 assists while averaging more than 27 minutes' ice time per game, is the reason the Wild might return to the playoffs. Letang and Subban are more offense-oriented, though both have improved defensively. Prediction: Drew Doughty of the Kings will be a finalist next season.

Calder (rookie of the year)

Winner: Brandon Saad, Chicago. Runners-up: Cory Conacher, Ottawa; Brendan Gallagher, Montreal; Jonathan Huberdeau, Florida, Jonas Brodin, Minnesota.

Saad (10 goals, 25 points) makes a good team better with his high-tempo style and well-rounded game. Conacher (28 points) and Gallagher (25 points) average fewer minutes than Saad's 16:24. Huberdeau, who leads rookies with 14 goals, might be the most spectacular of the group. Defenseman Brodin benefits from being paired with Ryan Suter but averages a rookie-high 23:06 on merit.

Jack Adams (coach of the year)

Winner: Randy Carlyle, Toronto. Runners-up: Joel Quenneville, Chicago; Paul MacLean, Ottawa.

It's not a Mr. Congeniality contest, so Carlyle should win for getting the Maple Leafs into the playoffs for the first time since 2004 while coaching in a fishbowl. Quenneville had ample resources but is making a two-goalie system work and kept the team at an exceptionally high level. MacLean faced injuries to core players yet is still likely to guide the Senators to the playoffs.

Selke (best defensive forward)

Winner: Patrice Bergeron, Boston. Runners-up: Toews; Anze Kopitar, Kings.

Bergeron is widely considered the cream of the crop. Toews and Kopitar are team leaders who have worked hard to become strong, two-way forwards.

It all starts with Bob

Goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, nicknamed Bob, has been the backbone of Columbus' playoff push. He has kept the Blue Jackets in the mix in the West; it's a low-scoring team that's adapting well to its first experience with pressure.

"It was frustrating losing, 2-1, all the time and now they win a lot of games, 2-1. They bend. They don't break," said John Davidson, the club's president of hockey operations and a former NHL goalie. "Bob's been Bob. He's been good. And the team defense, along with the actual defense, they're pretty good."

Bobrovsky, acquired from Philadelphia in June, has given the Blue Jackets a hard-working, blue-collar identity. Winger Marian Gaborik, who waived his no-trade clause to go from the New York Rangers to Columbus on April 3, has brought pizzazz and scoring potential.

Gaborik's arrival was a pivotal moment for the Blue Jackets, who traded an unhappy Jeff Carter to the Kings last season. Columbus owns three first-round picks in the June draft but had to give fans some immediate hope. Gaborik was the answer

"It's important to us," Davidson said. "It's one of my missions to tell the hockey world how good a place Columbus is. They've got all the tools. It's a great facility. It's a really nice city. It's a good place to raise a family. It's a good sports city. We just need to keep proving our worth as a hockey club to have that expand."

They can do that by making the playoffs for the second time in 12 seasons.

"This has been a real good eye-opening experience for this club," Davidson said. "It's taught us things as management regarding some players, and at the same time for them it goes right into the bank account as something they've learned and played hard with. It wouldn't surprise me one bit if this team gets in."

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