Morning Skate 329: Early look at the NHL Awards

Morning Skate 329: Early look at the NHL Awards

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.comBOSTON With only weeks remaining in the regular season, that means it will soon be time to vote on the NHL Awards handed out each summer in Las Vegas amid the glitz, glamour and Vegas trapping that scream out anything but the National Hockey League.Here are some candidates Im kicking around for each major award while counting down the days until the official ballot lands in my email inbox.Hart Trophy: Daniel Sedin, Corey Perry, Tim Thomas, Pekka Rinne, Henrik Lundqvist, Henrik Sedin, Jonathan Toews, Henrik Zetterberg, Lubomir Visnovsky, Nicklas Lidstrom, Keith Yandle. My thinking: Plenty of good candidates beginning with Daniel Sedin and his 96 points as the lead horse in the race with plenty of other candidates at every other position with some excellent hockey resumes. Pretty amazing that there are three Henriks in my MVP discussion kind of tells you what direction the NHLs elite are headed toward.Norris Trophy: Nicklas Lidstrom, Zdeno Chara, Lubomir Visnovsky, Keith Yandle, Dustin Byfuglien, Christian Erhoff, Shea Weber, Kris Letang, Drew Doughty, Brent Seabrook. My thinking: Theres an upper tier of defensemen in this years crop including Lidstrom, Visnovsky, Yandle, Chara and Weber that should dominate the voting as some of the other name defensemen really didnt live up to their hype this season. Lidstrom may walk away with another one at zz years old this season.Vezina Trophy: Tim Thomas, Pekka Rinne, Henrik Lundqvist, Carey Price, Roberto Luongo, Marc-Andre Fleury, Ilya Bryzgalov, Ryan Miller. My thinking: When a guy like Tim Thomas is 10 points ahead of everybody else in the save percentage category and setting modern day NHL records, there really isnt much a race. You can make some nice arguments for good goalie performances on lesser hockey teams, but there should be an investigation if Thomas doesnt take it home.Calder Trophy: Jeff Skinner, Logan Couture, Michael Grabner, Tyler Ennis, Taylor Hall, Brad Marchand, Cam Fowler, P.K. Subban, Kevin Shattenkirk, Corey Crawford, Sergei Bobrovsky, James Reimer. My thinking: Jeff Skinner is the leading scorer and was the It boy at NHL All-Star weekend, but this is Logan Coutures award after watching him burst on the scene in San Jose. A pretty impressive rookie crop that really outlasted both Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin when it came down to it.Selke Trophy: Ryan Kesler, Pavel Datsyuk, Jonathan Toews, Patrice Bergeron, Mike Richards, Travis Zajac. My thinking: This should be Keslers year to take home a trophy along with the rest of the his Canucks teammates, but Toews, Bergeron and Richards all deserve real consideration with Datsyuk battling through so many injuries this season.Jack Adams Award: Bruce Boudreau, Peter Laviolette, Dan Bylsma, Guy Boucher, Claude Julien, Barry Trotz, Alain Vigneault, Mike Babcock, Dave Tippett. My thinking: After playing through the blaring spotlight of HBOs 247 cameras and an underachieving first half that had many people calling for his head, Bruce Boudreau has emerged with a team playing great hockey in the second half of the season. He deserves plenty of consideration, though this may come down to Vigneault for the season hes enjoyed with the dominant Canucks or Boucher helping to steer the Lightning to their first playoff berth since 2007.On to the links: A one-on-one interview with the Vancouver Sun andMontreals Mike Cammalleri about a wide-ranging number of subjects.Joe Yerdon and the NBC Pro Hockey Talk crew shine the proper amount of light on Scott Arniel for calling it like he sees it in Columbus. Adrian Dater goes through some Monday morning quarterbacking at Versus.comCSNPhilly.com hockey insider Tim Pannacciohas the scoop on ticket prices being raised for Flyers fans in Philadelphia.According to the boys at Wicked Good Sports, there is nobody that the Bruins should play in the upcoming Stanley Cup playoffs.CBCs Elliotte Friedman weighs in with his 30 thoughts including a pair of thoughts about the whole Mark RecchiMax Pacioretty saga that played out last week between Boston and Montreal.Bruins President Cam Neely sits down with Felger and Mazz on 98.5 the Sports Hub to talk about the upcoming playoffs.

Haggerty: Bruins get chance to show good results weren't just short term

Haggerty: Bruins get chance to show good results weren't just short term

The mission for the Bruins on their four-game road swing through the West Coast is certainly to keep the momentum going, but it’s also to quell any talk that the positive results will be short-lived following the coaching change.

The Bruins won there first three games interim head coach Bruce Cassidy headed into the five-day “bye week”, and they’ll come out on the other side with a potentially dangerous road swing through California that will finish up in Dallas next weekend. 

The Black and Gold have gone into death spirals before on the Cali trip, so that’s always a danger when going coast-to-coast to face tough teams in the Sharks, Ducks and Kings.

There’s also the fact that NHL teams are 3-10-2 as of Saturday afternoon in the first game coming back from the five-day midseason vacation. That means the B’s are going to face a stiff uphill battle on Sunday night against the Pacific Division-leading Sharks. 

The challenge is going to be there for the Bruins to answer all of those challenges when they’ve shrunk away from such adversity most of the season. It gives the Bruins yet another chance to show that the three games aren’t merely a sugar-high after cages had been rattled and is instead something that Boston sustains over the season’s final two-plus months.

“Our thinking is to try to win every game. We know the standings. We know it’s pretty tight. We put ourselves in some of the games in tough situations. Now, we’ve got to climb up and fight for every point,” said Zdeno Chara. “It’s going to be very important that we do that and play that way until the end.

“We can look at the standings as much as we want. I think that we really have to focus on how we play, how we want to go into every game, and what we can do to get as many points as possible.”

The good news for the Bruins is that the teams chasing them in the standings really haven’t gained ground on them, and they enter Saturday still in a playoff spot. So, the mathematics don’t look as dire for Boston as they did going into their rest period, and now they should be energized, recharged and highly motivated headed into the final 24 games of the season.

There’s also the fact that the Bruins were playing exciting, aggressive and winning hockey due to some of the tweaks made by Cassidy after taking control of the team. He finally got some production from the third line after putting forwards Frank Vatrano, Ryan Spooner and Jimmy Hayes together, a combo he never truly gave a look because he didn’t trust them to do the job defensively. Cassidy immediately placed 21-year-old Peter Cehlarik into a top-six role with power-play time straight from the AHL. That’s something one almost never saw happen with rookies and inexperienced guys during Julien’s run.

The B’s defensemen corps scored four goals in the three wins and showed aggressive, timely risk-taking to produce offense when playing it safe was normally the call of the day under Julien. The forwards were avoiding the low-to-high passing to the point that so often resulted in perimeter shots from the Bruins in the offensive zone, and instead attacked the net down low with the forwards looking to put some anxiety into the opponent’s D-zone coverage.

It all worked and it all looked remarkably different from the way the Bruins played in the opening 55 games.

“It’s something we need to bottle up and not change our approach, not change what we’re doing, make sure we’re moving [during the bye] and not just sitting idle and getting rusty,” said David Backes last weekend headed into the bye. “Make sure that mentally, we can have those same sort of mindsets for every guy to be contributing. It’s something that doesn’t show up on the score sheet, but guys are recognized in here for doing those things and that’s winning culture. That’s what we’re building.”

The Bruins now get their chance to prove this is a permanent change to a winning culture rather than a short term, three-game adrenaline rush after watching their longtime coach get fired. It won’t be easy, but it shouldn’t be for the Black and Gold if they’re finally going to earn their way into the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time in three seasons. 

Saturday, Feb. 18: NHL more likely in Seattle than NBA?

Saturday, Feb. 18: NHL more likely in Seattle than NBA?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while hoping that Purple Passion doesn’t try the same comeback as Zima.

*A Seattle investor says that an NHL team coming to that city is much more likely than a return by the NBA to the Pacific Northwestern city.

*Gare Joyce writes eloquently about the loneliness of a hockey scout, and how that world can sometimes come to a crashing halt.  

*Good piece from Arpon Basu giving the sights and sounds of Claude Julien’s second stint behind the bench with the Montreal Canadiens.

*The agent for Russian player Maxim Shalunov says there is a “10 percent chance” that he’s going to sign with the Chicago Blackhawks.

*Mike Babcock says not to expect any big trade deadline deals from the Toronto Maple Leafs as they push for a playoff spot.

*Henrik Zetterberg reflects on a difficult season with the Detroit Red Wings where it looks like things might finally come down to a crashing halt.

http://www.detroitnews.com/story/sports/nhl/red-wings/2017/02/17/red-wings-zetterberg-reflects-tough-season/98064530/

*The Minnesota Wild have underrated depth on their team, and the Hockey News says it might just be their scariest attribute.

*For something completely different: as referenced above, it looks like that Zima drink of the 1990s is trying to make a comeback. I was in college when the Zima people were seemingly flooding campuses with advertising and samples back in the day.