Morning Skate 114: Haggs' mid-season awards

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Morning Skate 114: Haggs' mid-season awards

With the Bruins reaching the exact midpoint of their schedule tonight in a road game against the Carolina Hurricanes, here are the NHL midseason awards as I see them halfway through the year:

Hart Trophy: Jonathan Toews Its hard to argue with the numbers. One of a handful of players with more than 20 goals, winning more than 60 percent of his face-offs, playing more than 20 minutes a night and hes a plus-13. Captain Serious is on track for some serious awards. Other mentions: Phil Kessel, Claude Giroux, Marian Gaborik, Henrik Sedin, Steve Stamkos, Evgeni Malkin.

Norris Trophy: Zdeno Chara Hes having his best statistical season and has been a monster since the beginning of November. His five power play goals put in a tie with Shea Weber and Dion Phaneuf and his plus-28 leads all NHL defenseman. Other mentions: Shea Weber, Dion Phaneuf, Erik Karlsson, Kimmo Timmonen.

Vezina Trophy: Henrik Lundqvist Tough to keep it away from either of the Bruins goaltenders, but Lundqvist is one of the biggest reasons the Rangers are leading the Eastern Conference. The .937 save percentage and 1.89 goals against average are legit for King Henrik. Other mentions: Tim Thomas, Tuukka Rask, Brian Elliott, Jonathan Quick.

Calder Trophy: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins The Nuge is still leading all rookies in scoring, but New Jersey Devils forward Adam Henrique is quickly catching up to him in a talented crop of first year players. Other mentions: Adam Henrique, Cody Hodgson, Gabriel Landeskog, Matt Read.

Jack Adams Award: Kevin Dineen -- Has got to be Kevin Dineens award to lose down in Florida after changing the losing culture and getting the Panthers into the middle of the playoff mix. Its been more than 10 years since the Panthers have made the playoffs, and Dineen is a big reason theyll be in this season. Other mentions: Ken Hitchcock, Paul MacLean, John Tortorella.

Selke Trophy: Patrice Bergeron The Bs center is on pace for more than 70 points, has won close to 60 percent of his face-offs on the best draw team in the NHL and is the best defensive forward playing for the best defensive team. Winning the Stanley Cup certainly helped Bergeron get some recognition, and this is the year when it all catches up to No. 37. Other mentions: Jonathan Toews, Ryan Kesler, Pavel Datsyuk.

Lady Byng: Martin St. Louis Its his award until he decides to retire, so theres really no competition for it despite the dark horse run by Loui Eriksson last season. Worth mentioning: Daniel Paille has zero penalty minutes in 36 games this season. Other mentions: Andrew Brunette, Matt Read, Daniel Paille, Loui Eriksson, Kyle Wellwood.

On to the links:

Down Goes Brown has their humorous look at the NHL All-Star snubs around the league.

A good piece by New England Hockey Journals Jesse Connelly on the hockey-friendly Felger and Mazz Show thats helped bring the Bruins and hockey make into the media mainstream in New England.

Great piece of Kevin Paul Dupont on legendary Boston Globe hockey scribe Fran Rosa, who passed away last week.

Pro Hockey Talk has the story of the Philly police getting to the bottom of the meathead Flyers fans that attacked several Rangers fans at a Cheese Steak stand after the Winter Classic.

A good look by Yahoo at the Montreal Canadiens, Pierre Gauthier and the trade for Rene Bourque as examples of something very strange going on up in Montreal.

Steve Buckley from the Boston Herald tracked down Ken Linseman, who loves Brad Marchands game and says he proudly carries on The Rat tradition in Boston.

A plea for the end to staged fighting by the Globe and Mail. Is this really whats wrong with the game of hockey? I dont think so.

For something completely different: Southie families are up in arms about a meeting that may take place between Mark Wahlberg and Whitey Bulger as precursor to a movie about the Boston gangster.

Morning Skate: Old friend Warsofsky called up by Penguins

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Morning Skate: Old friend Warsofsky called up by Penguins

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while waiting for the next wave of announcements that the Bruins have signed college players out of the NCAA tournament.
 
-- Former Wild goaltender Josh Harding is finding his way after his MS diagnosis forced him out of the NHL prematurely.

-- Young D-man Seth Jones is becoming the “hoss” defenseman that the Blue Jackets will need come playoff time.

-- PHT writer Cam Tucker has Wild coach Bruce Boudreau calling a loss to the Canucks “embarrassing” as the hard times continue for Minnesota.  

-- Backup goalie Curtis McElhinney is ready to step up for the Leafs after they lost Frederik Andersen to injury.
 
-- Old friend David Warsofsky has been recalled from the AHL and will be with the Penguins as crunch time hits ahead of the playoffs.

-- USA Hockey is now reportedly reaching out to rec league and former Division III women’s hockey players to find a replacement roster for the world championships as the USA women continues their boycott.
 
-- For something completely different: We have an honest-to-goodness think piece about pulling the “Irish Exit.” Well, okay then.

Haggerty: Time for Bruins to make a change in goal

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Haggerty: Time for Bruins to make a change in goal

BROOKLYN -- For the second year in a row, Boston's franchise goaltender and $7 million man Tuukka Rask couldn’t physically answer the bell for one of the biggest games of the year.

Rask was unable to go Saturday night when the Bruins faced the Islanders at the Barclays Center because of a lower body injury. Anton Khudobin stepped in and helped the B's to a 2-1 victory that snapped their four-game losing streak, moved them past the Isles back in the second wild-card spot, and enabled them to close to two points behind Toronto for third place in the Atlantic Division.

It wasn't quite the same as last year, when Rask was too sick to play the win-or-go-home regular-season finale against Ottawa. The Bruins got shellacked in that one and missed the playoffs. There are still two weeks left in the regular season, so Saturday didn't have the same do-or-die consequences.

But Khudobin, who made 18 saves, gave Boston some energy and enthusiasm in the crease with the same kind of battling, chaotic style that Tim Thomas exhibited. Watching Khudobin throw a double-pad stack at John Tavares on a late third-period Islanders power play in a one-goal game was a clear sign that Rask wasn’t in net, and his unconventional technique perhaps distracted Tavares enough that he ripped his open shot off the crossbar and away from harm.

Afterward interim coach Bruce Cassidy fervently sang Khudobin’s praises, and almost seemed to be shedding some light on what they aren’t always getting from their top goaltender in these crunch-time games.

“That’s the type of win that goes a long way in the room when your goaltender is battling hard, and fighting that hard to see pucks and your D are blocking shots," he said. "And you kill that many penalties. (The Islanders failed to score on six power plays.) It was a nice building-block win for us.

"I loved [Khudobin’s] performance. He’s a battler. He got swimming a couple of times, but that’s Dobby. He keeps it interesting for you. He’s a battler and he always has been. That’s what we needed tonight.”

So now the Bruins have a choice about what to do Tuesday against the Predators. And the hope here is that Khudobin gets a second straight start, whether or not Rask is healthy enough to go.

Khudobin has won five games in a row and has a 1.98 goals-against average and a  .920 save percentage since the All-Star break. Rask, in contrast, has an inflated 2.91 GAA and .892 save percentage in that span.

More than that, however, there’s a real issue developing with Rask and how much trust the Bruins can have in him when the games matter most. He gave up a couple of bad goals in the loss to the Lightning on Thursday night, and afterwards looked like the boy who lost his dog when answering questions with a soft, unsure voice that began to trail off when it came time to accept responsibility for his part in the ugly defeat.

The downcast expression was a concern, and it certainly seemed like Rask was rattled mentally as much as he was beaten physically after that defeat.

So the overriding question now is: What good is a No. 1 goaltender if he doesn’t play like one when it matters most?

Maybe Rask is seriously injured and we’ll find out after the season that he needs hip surgery, and was far less than 100 percent all year. Or maybe playing three games in four nights was too much of a strain, and he needed the weekend away from the ice after the unavoidable bump in workload.

The fact that the Bruins expect Rask to practice on Monday, however, really takes some of the oomph out of the serious-injury argument, and makes one wonder how he can practice Monday after not playing in the biggest game of the season on Saturday.

Maybe Rask was angered by Cassidy calling him out by saying the team “needs more from him” after the goalie's lackadaisical performance in the loss to Tampa Bay, and that played into the goalie’s sudden case of “lower body discomfort” on Friday after saying Thursday he felt fine physically.

Maybe Rask is frazzled emotionally after the burden of carrying the team at times this season, and he needed a few days away from the ice to recollect himself and get ready for the crucial seven remaining games on the schedule.

Still, the Bruins can’t look at Rask as someone they can rely on when the chips are down for the rest of this season. That cost them last year, and shame on the Bruins if they again make the mistake of putting all of their playoff eggs in the Rask basket.

Perhaps it’s time to even start thinking about other goaltending options this summer. Rask will no longer have full no-trade protection once the season is over. He's been inconsistent at best in the biggest moments over the years, and the B’s shouldn’t pay a goaltender like he’s one the best if he isn’t when the late-season heat is on.

But that’s a question to ponder in a month or two.

For now, the Bruins should ride the hot goalie -- Khudobin, who showed Saturday he's willing to battle his butt off -- and let Cool Hand Tuukka cool his heels on the bench while recuperating from whatever it is that kept him out of a gigantically important game in Brooklyn this weekend.