Friday, November 30, 2007

Quarter Mark Awards

Ok, so the Isles game was the 25th game of the season for the Rangers. I say its the quarter mark because you gotta figure that the regular season is 82 games, it takes 16 to win the Cup and as much as we would like it to be, its almost impossible to sweep in this day and age so figure in two playoff losses (likely the games that I will travel to go to) and you have 100 games this season. So we are 1/4th in and I decided to do some awards-type things.

Hart: Henrik Lundqvist. You can rave about the stellar play of Vinny Lecavalier or Daniel Alfredsson all you want, but the Most Valuable Player is Hank. Vinny has St. Louis and Brad Richards, Alfredsson has "Drive A Porche" Heatley and Spezza (as well as the best team in the league). Hank has ... Jason Strudwick. C'mon. He has clearly been the most valuable player to his team game-in and game-out.

Norris: Nick Lidstrom. Yeah, yeah, he keeps winning it, but there is a reason for his. He is good. Just look at his numbers. 'Nuff said. I'm not even giving runners up because no one is close.

Vezina: Well, if Hank is the MVP, he very well has been the best goaltender. But honourable mention goes to Pascal Leclaire in Columbus and Chris Osgood in Detroit. Leclaire has to prove that his astounding start was not a fluke and Osgood has to fully take Hasek's starting gig before either one can take the trophy. But both are close at doing both.

Calder: Can I cheat and just say the Chicago Blackhawks? Its either Toews or Kane because both have been astounding, although it would be nice if some credit went to defensemen like Marc Staal and Steve Wagner in St. Louis. But flash counts, and Toews does have the goal of the season so far.

Jack Adams: Goddammit, Ted Nolan. The Islanders suck. Really. Individually they are the least talented team in the NHL right now, and that includes Washington. However, together, they are one of the toughest to play and that is a credit to Nolan. Alain Vigneault has led the Canucks to a resurgence, John Paddock stepped into the head coach job in Ottawa and kept them atop the East and Dave Tippett has made the Stars winners (at least lately). But none are as singlehandedly responsible for their teams' success as Nolan is. Man do I hate the Islanders.

ESPN did their list a few days ago, so if you want to see their picks (which are wrong), go here. If you are really bored, search "Trophies" here and see that only my picks for Calder and Norris remain the same from preseason, although, admittedly, I didn't put Hank on any lists for fear of jinxing him - especially since at the time they were saying he would play 70, 74 games.

Now, as you guys know, I pick three stars for each Rangers game and they often (key word) are the unheralded, real reasons that teams win - the defensive defenseman, the grinder, tough guy, etc. So without further ado, the Scotty Hockey First Quarter All Stars:

LW-Dan Carcillo, Phoenix - man Pittsburgh has to be pissed they dealt him away for Big Georges Laraque. Granted Larague provides a heavyweight bodyguard for Cindy, Carcillo is proving himself to be a middleweight version of Bob Probert, circa 87-88 - the year he made the All Star team, nearly averaged a point per game and still managed 400 PIM. Carcillo has 11 points in 22 games, 107 PIM and is +1 despite playing on the Coyotes.

C-Rod Brind'Amour, Carolina - I know he gets some recognition, and even a Selke, but I don't think there is a single player who comes near to him as the complete package - he wins faceoffs, scores goals, sets up goals, will defend his teammates, will forecheck, backcheck and probably drive the bus. If only the Canes were still in Hartford ... maybe then he would be seen as the superstar he is.

RW-Tomas Holmstrom, Detroit - Mention Detroit Red Wings and he is maybe the fifth or sixth player listed (Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Lidstrom, Hasek, Rafalski) but he is by far the biggest reason they win so much. For Ranger fans - a fair analogy is that he is their Adam Graves. He works the boards, corners and, most importantly, the crease to batter the opposing defenders and make room for his teammates. And, don't look now, but his hard work has earned him 26 points in 25 games. It would be a crime if he isn't named to the Western All Star Team this year.

D-Anton Volchenkov, Ottawa - If the NHL was smart and had a Rod Langway or Scott Stevens Award for best defensive defenseman, then Volchenkov would have it. By far the best shot-blocking blue liner, he also can be counted on for a big hit on the boards or just to shut down a high-flying winger.

D-Willie Mitchell, Vancouver - Now its hard for me to put him in as I haven't been able to watch a lot of Canucks games, but it seems to me like he has been a rock for them despite the lesser play of Luongo this year and the absence of Salo and Ohlund for various periods of time. He plays 20-25 minutes and matches up against the best the West has to offer.

G-Tim Thomas, Boston - I've liked him ever since I heard he was an American playing in Finland, he couldn't get a gig here so he left friends and family to continue playing the game he loved. And now Boston is loving him because, despite them giving the No. 1 job to Manny Fernandez, when Manny went down with injury, Tim stepped back in and put up phenomenal numbers 9-6-2, .940 save % and 2.05 gaa. Most underrated goaltender in the league.

And how about the Scotty Hockey Top Moment Of The First Quarter:
*Of course this is going to be a Rangers moment, and it goes to Martin Straka. Astoundingly it is not in a five minute recap of the game on Youtube (although Hank's save on Marc Savard is, which may be the best save of the season), but I did point it out in my game wrap. Straka blocked a shot from the point by one of the hardest shooters in the league on a penalty kill. The block badly broke his finger and forced him out of the lineup for a month, but at the time he stayed in the play and you know what? He went and put himself between Chara and the net again and blocked another shot! Hard work, dedication and fearlessness - the three biggest qualities appreciated here at Scotty Hockey.

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