NHL Award Predictions: Defensive Awards
With the NHL Awards just three days away, Anthony Pucik predicts who he thinks will win all the awards in Vegas. Today, he takes a look at some of the best defensive players in the NHL this year.
Frank J. Selke Trophy
Finalists: Patrice Bergeron (Boston Bruins), Anze Kopitar (Los Angeles Kings), Jonathan Toews (Chicago Blackhawks)
Being a defenseman in the NHL it tough, but being a forward that is a great two-way forward is even tougher. Bergeron, Kopitar and Toews are perfect examples of two-way forwards who are not only amazing offensively, but can also be relied on when the opponent is in the offensive zone. All three of these men are deserving of the Selke, but I would have to say that Bergeron has the upper hand in this one. He was second in the NHL in plus minus at +38, which means he was on the ice for 38 more goals than were given up when he was on the ice and the way he plays is a big reason for that. He also picked up a shorthanded goal while on the penalty kill for the defensively sound Bruins, showing that even in a situation where the Bruins are at a disadvantage his defense not only limits the ability for the other team to score, but puts his team in a position to do so. So this year, I think the Selke Trophy goes to one of the best two-way forwards in the NHL in Bergeron.
Finalists: Ben Bishop (Tampa Bay Lightning), Tuukka Rask (Boston Bruins), Semyon Varlamov (Colorado Avalanche)
It would be easy to say Varlamov deserves the Vezina, facing the most shots in the league (2,013), having the most saves (1,867) and wins (41) in the league, or Rask who had the second best save percentage (.930), most shutouts (7) and four best goals against average (2.04), but I say the most deserving of the three is Bishop. The Vezina is said to be awarded to the goaltender who is best at his position, and I feel that Bishop showed that this season. He may not have had 41 wins like Varlamov but he did have 37, which was for fourth in the league. He also may not have put up the save percentage and GAA of Rask, but he was seventh best in the league in both those categories at .924 percent and a 2.23 GAA with five shutouts being fourth best in the league. What the stat line doesn’t show, however, is how valuable Bishop was to the Lightning. Obviously Rask and Varlamov were important to their respective teams too, but it was visibly evident that Bishop was a big reason for the Lightning’s success this season. Without Bishop in the playoffs, Tampa Bay was swept in four games by the Montreal Canadiens in a series that wasn’t really close without the Lightning’s number one net minder between the pipes. Rask and Varlamov had great seasons, but I think Bishop’s consistently solid play and the value that he brought to the Lightning as a whole make him deserving of the Vezina Trophy this season.
James Norris Memorial Trophy
Finalists: Zdeno Chara (Boston Bruins), Duncan Keith (Chicago Blackhawks), Shea Weber (Nashville Predators)
One could argue that an offensive defenseman is even more valuable than a two-way forward in the NHL. To have a point man who can be great defensively and also be a threat to score is great for a team’s power play and overall success throughout the year. For me, the best offensive defenseman this season is Duncan Keith. He may not have as many goals as Chara or Weber, but his 55 assists, which put him at sixth overall in the league, is extremely impressive. In one of the best offensive systems in hockey in the Chicago Blackhawks, Keith has plenty of players to pass the puck off to who can score. His ability to find open skaters both on the point and on the rush is extremely impressive, and he is also one of the many Blackhawks point men that have the ability to rip a shot from the blue line behind some of the best goaltenders in the league. His +22 rating also helps his case, as he shows that not only can he score, but he prevents the other team from doing so when he is on the ice more often than not. Given Keith’s all around ability as a defenseman, he is my choice for the Norris.