NHL Scoring Race

A Closer Look At: Races to Watch

Well here we are, little more than a week and half until the culmination of the 2014-15 NHL season. It has been an interesting season to say the least.  Some teams and players have emerged, while others have taken a step back.  While not every team or player are playing for the Playoffs down the stretch, there are still some interesting and tight races.

(Jason Reed/Reuters)

The Race to The Rocket Richard…

is all but wrapped up.  This really isn’t a race to watch, as it is something to behold.  Ovechkin is this generations answer to Mike Bossy or Brett Hull.  He is a pure goal scorer, and now that he seems to either have the leash off, or made adjustment to his game, he is once again a force to be reckoned with.  He now has 50 goals in 6 of his 10 seasons.  Considering that one of this season’s earmarks has been the lowest offensively since the 2004 lockout, Ovechkin’s achievement is all the more impressive.  Having Ovechkin back in peak form isn’t only good the Capitals, but its also great for the NHL.  Ovechkin is one of the faces of the game, and he is certainly earning back a lot of respect after a couple of “down” years.

The Race to the Art Ross…

is the tightest it has been in  years. As of this writing, there are 6 players that could legitimately win the scoring race. (Crosby/Ovechkin/Tavares/Voracek/Benn/Backstrom).  The fact is, there are only 6 points from the top to the bottom of this list.  Although there are only 5 to 7 games left, that still leaves it open for any of these guys to realistically win it.  Although it is nice to see Crosby and Ovechkin back atop this list, we are probably a season away from the romanticism of their past battles.  Instead this year, I think that it is great to see Tavares finally come into his own.  As a Flyers fan, it’s great that other people can appreciate the player he has become.  Benn has been the a Fantasy sleeper for a couple of years, but he is now showing that Yzerman knew what he was doing bringing him to Sochi.  Finally Backstrom seems to hang around like an old Volkswagon, he just quietly goes about his business, even though he doesn’t have the shine of some of his contemporaries.  Although some point to the parity in the league, I have my doubts that we will witness a race this tight again next season.  Although I want to call Voracek for the win, something tells me the Crosby Show is officially back on the air.


Falls From Grace…

We are about to witness what could be a monumental fall from grace.  The President’s Trophy winner and the Stanley Cup winner from last season could find themselves on the outside looking in on April 12th.  The Bruin’s ownership has clearly seen something wrong for a while because they called out their team months ago.  I can only imagine what kind of environment that would create.  From my perspective, that was almost like a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Which I find can be the issue with much of the sports media these days.  Too many times we have organizations trying to send messages through the media.  At some point that has to become tiresome for the players.  If the Bruin’s miss the Playoffs, I can’t help but think some of the seeds of doubt were planted prematurely.

If the Kings were to win the Cup again this year, you would certainly have to consider them to be a modern day Dynasty.  The thing is, they have won their Cups in a strange way.  They have never been higher than a 5th seed since they have started regularly qualifying for the Playoffs again in the 2010-11 season.  They were an 8th seed when they won in 2012, and a 6th seed last year when they won.  They are fun to watch because they are clearly on a mission once they get there, but if they miss the Playoffs this year, are they going to be the same team going forward?  They simply seem to play with fire, and seeing the possibility of them missing the Playoffs doesn’t surprise me nearly as much as the Bruins.


Rising to the Occasion…

The Winnipeg Jets are absolutely entrenched in a tight race in the West.  The Kings are breathing down their necks, and now it looks like Byfuglien could face a significant suspension.  Yet, they are 6-4-0 in their last 10 games.  They seem to have found a great fit in Paul Maurice, and I felt the players dealt with the Evander Kane situation well enough.  Sure, maybe they shouldn’t have dealt with it through the media, but it seemed clear to me that this team really had come to value the idea of being a band of brothers.  The team seems to have a bit of a swagger these days, and they really don’t look like the Atlanta Thrashers in Winnipeg Jets costumes anymore.  The Kings have the easier schedule down the stretch, but I really don’t think that amounts to much right now.  Teams out of the dance tend to play up to the competition.  My call is that the Jets get their first taste of playoffs in 20 years.

The Sens (I mean Andrew Hammond) have charged up the standings.  They should have been out of it since the organization decided to fire Paul MacLean, but once again they seem to live up to the moniker “pesky”.  They just don’t seem to go away, or stop believing in themselves.  Even after Boston downed the Panthers on March 31st, the Senators found a way to win and keep pace.  It has been exciting, and I find myself truly wishing for the Senators to find a way in to the playoffs.  If anything they have earned a place there already.  It looks like both them and the Bruins have equally difficult schedules to close out the season.  Its almost too close to call, and whoever blinks first will be out.  Sens might get in, but it is probably going to take until April 11th.


Rookie of the Year…

So its a tough call. Do we focus solely on scoring, or do we pay a little more attention to the importance of goaltending?  Sure Johnny Gaudreau and Filip Forsberg find themselves caught up in a fantastic rookie scoring race. (At this writing, Gaudreau has 60 points to Forsberg’s 59).  What about Michael Hutchinson though?  Sure, Peter Mrazek and Jake Allen have put up similar numbers, but Hutchinson’s campaign would appear to have a greater impact on his team.  This seems to be the same argument that could be had in any given year when it comes to discussing the Hart.  It would certainly seem to apply for the Rookies as well.  Forsberg would have been the most likely at the halfway point, but we really can’t deny the runs of Calgary and Winnipeg down the stretch, and the importance that Gaudreau and Hutchinson have had on either team.  I would say announcing the winner of the Calder as “Johnny Hockey” would be an opportunity to sweet to pass up by the NHL.

These are only but a few of the story lines bringing us to the end of the season.  While we have the excitement of the Playoffs around the corner, we can only hope for 2015-16 to have so many compelling story lines.


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