Making case for Toews, Saad to win coveted trophies
BY MARK LAZERUS firstname.lastname@example.org April 25, 2013 8:38PM
Chicago Blackhawks Vs Detroit Red Wings. Chicago Blackhawks No.19 Jonathan Toews, celebrates his goal to tie the game 2-2. Friday 13, 2013 I Photo by Scott Stewart~Sun-Times
The facts: 7:30, CSN, 720-AM.
Updated: April 25, 2013 10:20PM
The Blackhawks clinched the Presidents’ Trophy on Wednesday night in Edmonton and immediately looked past it to the one trophy that matters.
“Obviously, we have our eyes on a bigger prize,” Patrick Sharp said.
But while the Stanley Cup is the big one, the Hawks might have a couple of other trophies in their future. NHL award ballots are due early next week, just in time for the playoffs. Here are one writer’s picks as we near the last days of this whirlwind shortened season.
HART TROPHY (MVP)
This season’s Hart race features four worthy contenders and one of the more intriguing debates in recent memory.
Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby had the Hart locked up a month ago with 56 points (15 goals, 41 assists) in only 36 games. But a broken jaw cost him 12 games — a quarter of the season — and without him, the Penguins didn’t skip a beat, winning seven of eight after an immediate two-game skid. The Islanders would be wallowing through another lost season without John Tavares (27 goals, 19 assists), and Alex Ovechkin (31 goals, 22 assists) has the Capitals soaring into the playoffs with his late hot streak.
But no player has meant more to his team in more aspects of the game — offense, defense, special teams, faceoffs, leadership — than Jonathan Toews (22 goals, 25 assists and a league-high plus-28 rating). The consummate captain is not just the best player on the best team, he’s utterly invaluable.
Lazerus’ pick: Jonathan Toews, Hawks
Another Penguins star — Kris Letang — is out of the running for missing a quarter of the season. So this one comes down to Montreal’s P.K. Subban and Minnesota’s Ryan Suter. Suter’s a better pure defenseman, but Subban’s numbers (11 goals, 25 assists) are hard to ignore. He’s also a far more physical presence than Suter and is a big reason why Montreal has been a surprise contender.
Pick: P.K. Subban, Montreal
Another top contender, another big injury. Ottawa’s Craig Anderson — a former Hawks goalie — has remarkable numbers (1.71 goals-against average, .941 save percentage) but missed half the season with an ankle injury. Another former Hawks star, San Jose’s Antti Niemi, leads the league with 24 wins and has a sparkling 2.14 GAA and .925 save percentage. But the story of the season is Columbus’ Sergei Bobrovsky (2.06, .930), who has almost singlehandedly lifted the Blue Jackets from doormat to playoff contender and could win Hart votes.
Pick: Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus
Hawks rookie Brandon Saad likely won’t win the Calder. But he should. Not only has Saad been productive — his 10 goals and 16 assists put him only two points behind Florida’s Jonathan Huberdeau, and his plus-16 rating leads all rookies — he has been a key component of one of hockey’s best lines. It might seem like a benefit to play alongside Toews and Marian Hossa, but it’s also hard to keep up with those guys. Saad not only can, he does much of the dirty work for them, too. Huberdeau or Montreal’s Brendan Gallagher are the favorites for the Calder. But anyone who has watched the Hawks all season knows what an all-around talent Saad is.
Pick: Brandon Saad, Hawks
(Top defensive forward)
Boston’s Patrice Bergeron, Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk and Toews are always can’t-miss picks here. But if Toews is the MVP, it’s largely because he’s the best defensive forward in the game, at even strength and on the penalty kill. Another Hawk who deserves consideration here but rarely gets it is Hossa, who never receives enough credit for his stellar play in his own end.
Pick: Jonathan Toews, Hawks
JACK ADAMS TROPHY
Joel Quenneville warrants consideration. Same goes for Pittsburgh’s Dan Bylsma. But how can it be anyone but Ottawa’s Paul MacLean? The mustachioed maestro lost Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson on the blue line, Anderson in goal and Jason Spezza up front, among others. Yet the Senators plugged the holes with minor-leaguers and stayed in the top six of the Eastern Conference for most of the season. This one is clear-cut.
Pick: Paul MacLean, Ottawa