NHL 2016-17 Recap Week 23 – Hart race heats up, Erik Karlsson makes his Norris case, Kings dynasty is done and much more
As we approach the final weeks of the season, the race for the Hart Trophy heats up. This race mirrors the NHL season. Very wide open and lots of great player/teams in which anyone could win it and you wouldn’t be surprised. Brad Marchand has vaulted his way to the top of the list thanks to his last few weeks of play. Marchand has 20 points in his last 11 games. Connor McDavid had seem like a lock for most of the season. Then there is Sidney Crosby, and to a lesser extent Evgeni Malkin, and then last years winner Patrick Kane, who has gotten hot as well. Connor McDavid seems likely to win the Hart, since he’s done more with less, and the Art Ross for the scoring title. But when you consider he is only in his second season and will probably win many more accolades, you might be inclined to give it to Marchand who has having a comparable season.
Crosby and Malkin pretty much cancel each other out. Even though if they had both each played all 82 games, one of them would have definitely won the scoring title. Although Crosby might still win it anyway. There’s also the factor of both playing on the defending Stanley Cup champions that doesn’t really help their cause. Patrick Kane seems unlikely to get it, mostly because he won it last year. The days of back to back Hart winners is over. Overlooked in the discussion is Nicklas Backstrom but he really shouldn’t be. Especially with Alex Ovechkin having a down year by his career standards. He leads the Capitals in points and is fifth in the NHL in scoring and second in assists. Pending any crazy happenings in the last few weeks, it seems likely the Hart finalists will be Crosby, Marchand and McDavid though.
Things I like
1. Many though that Brent Burns would run away with the Norris trophy this season but Erik Karlsson has been making a strong case against that lately. He leads the NHL in blocked shots for the first time in his career, also a personal career high, and he has 11 points in his last ten games. Until that terrible second game of the back to back the Senators had against the Canadiens. Karlsson’s biggest detractor is he’s already won it twice. Which is one of the reasons he didn’t win it again last season. Burns should still win it but Karlsson has ten more games to change voters’ minds.
Things I don’t
1. The Kings playoff hopes largely rested on them defeating the team ahead of them for the final wild card spot, the Blues. But they lost 3-1. They did out shoot the Blues heavily and the last Blues goal was an empty net one but they really needed that game. They followed that up with a loss against the Coyotes and a brutal game against the Flames. Hard to know where the Kings go from here. After what will be two missed playoffs in three seasons and one early first round exit, it seems like two Stanley Cups is all they will get out of this core. A coaching change is more than likely in order. Most of the players on the team are not playing to the caliber they were during the cup runs. They also lost character guys like Justin Williams and Jarret Stoll. A rebuild around Jeff Carter and Drew Doughty would make the most sense. The problem is they’ve given up a lot of picks over the years to try and get this team into the playoffs.
2. Auston Matthews has had a great rookie season thus far but he has disappeared down the stretch. He just went through a span of seven games with no points. He dropped from second in goals in the NHL to seventh. Although he is a rookie, it’s important that he breaks out of his slump. The Maple Leafs need him if they hope to make the playoffs and compete in them. Although the Leafs managed to be 4-3 during his slump. Matthews got back on track in the overtime loss to the Blackhawks with a goal and a few other quality scoring chances.
3. Another week, another one of those incontinent officiated games where replay clearly shows one thing and the refs decided something else. End the end of the Penguins vs. Devils game, you can see that Murray’s right pad is clearly pushed by Joseph Blandisi’s stick which causes him to be off balance and not in proper positioning. Even though you can clearly see this, the refs stuck with the call on the ice of a goal. I hate it when they spend like five minutes on a review but they can’t state why they came to that conclusion. Especially when it was the wrong conclusion.
Fights of the Week
Special thanks to http://hockeyfights.com for making this section a lot easier to do.
Marcus Foligno vs Kyle Clifford
This one takes awhile to get good.
Austin Watson vs Tom Wilson
Not a bad fight but Wilson definitely got the better of it.
Goat of the Week
Chad Johnson – Calgary Flames
This match-up between two hots teams was marred by bad goaltending. Chad Johnson’s bad game helped halt the Flames ten game winning streak. So while we could show a few goals, I’ll put the two lamest that were scored almost back to back.
This sequence was misplayed by Johnson twice, which lead to an easy goal for Marchand.
Here’s a goal let in by the Bruins which came from center ice. It looks like it was tipped but still.
Stat Line of the Week
3/19/17 Penguins 4 vs. Panthers 0
I usually don’t put blow out games here but Sidney Crosby deserves a mention. He scored his tenth career hat trick, a natural one, and became the first player this season to score 40 goals. All goals were assisted by Jake Guentzel and Conor Sheary. Marchand seems like the only other player to get to 40 this season.
33 – Shutouts for Mike Smith, first in Coyotes Franchise history
3 – Times in a week the Canadiens play the Senators, maybe try to schedule it a little more spread out
1 – Shutout for both the Stars and Panthers as a team for the season, last in the NHL
1.12 – Points per game average this season for Connor McDavid
1.23 – Points per game average this season for Sidney Crosby
1.14 – Points per game average this season for Evgeni Malkin
This Week in Hockey History
Special thanks to the Hockey Hall of Fame site for making this section a little easier to do.
March 13, 1996 Toronto obtained Wendel Clark, Mathieu Schneider and D.J. Smith from the New York Islanders, in exchange for Darby Hendrickson, Kenny Jonsson, Sean Haggerty and the Leafs’ 1st round pick in the 1997 Entry Draft.
March 14, 1995 St. Louis Blues’ veteran Peter Stastny scored his 450th (and final) career NHL goal in a 6-5 loss at Edmonton.
March 15, 2002 Teppo Numminen became the first defenseman in Phoenix Coyotes franchise history to score 100 career goals; the milestone came in a 3-2 win at Nashville, where the Coyotes were outshot 42-18.
March 16, 1989 Minnesota’s Mike Gartner scored twice in a 6-1 North Stars’ win against Chicago, to give him 400 goals in his NHL career. Gartner became the 28th NHL player to reach the 400 goal mark.
March 17, 1988 Brian Sutter became the second player in franchise history to score 300 goals as a member of the Blues. The milestone came as St. Louis tied 2-2 with the visiting Minnesota North Stars.
March 18, 1989 Dino Ciccarelli scored four goals and added three assists to set a Washington club record with seven points, in an 8-2 Capitals’ win over the Whalers at Harford. It was the 15th hat trick of Ciccarelli’s NHL career and his first with Washington.
March 19, 1944 Rookie goalie Bill Durnan tied an NHL record with his 38th win of the year, in the Canadiens’ 6-1 win at New York, in their final game of the season. Durnan’s 38 victories tied a record for goalie wins set by Boston’s Tiny Thompson in 1929-30.
The rankings are based on how the teams are currently playing.
30. New Jersey
Author: Alex Mueller
Alex Mueller graduated from Temple University with a minor in journalism over a decade ago. He’s been writing about NHL hockey, on and off, since the Fall of 2009. He’s written for Pucking Awesome, the Checking Line and now Hockey Recaps. He played goalie at San Diego Ice Arena. His first novel, Bobby Sterling vs Truth, is available on Amazon now.