NHL Hands Out Annual Hardware

As expected, the Pittsburgh Penguins took home plenty of hardware, while Jonathan Quick was snubbed of the Vezina Trophy.

Ed Millerby Ed Miller

With an exciting playoff run – one that saw the Los Angeles Kings hoist their first-ever Stanley Cup –  the only thing left to do this season was give out the annual awards.  The star-studded event took place Wednesday night in Las Vegas with one big winner and one big snub.

The night was all about Pittsburgh Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin, who had a hat trick, winning the Hart Trophy, Ted Lindsay Award and the Art Ross Trophy, much to the disagreement of many.

Since the Art Ross Trophy is automatically awarded to the league’s regular season points leader, it was expected that Malkin would take the trophy home.  It was a runaway for Malkin, who finished the season with 109 points, 12 more than the next closest player, Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos.  Meanwhile, the Ted Lindsay award – given to the league’s most outstanding player – could have gone to any number of players, but it’s hard to argue against Malkin. He basically put the Penguins on his back during Sidney Crosby’s absence during the first half of the season, racking up 20 points in 13 games during the month of December.  Without him, Pittsburgh would have never made the playoffs.

But the biggest trophy of the night, the Hart Trophy – awarded to the league’s most valuable player – should not have gone to Malkin, it should have gone to Stamkos.

Stamkos put together one of the best seasons in recent years, though it could have hurt his chances that his team was unable to make the playoffs.  His numbers are staggering, many of which went under the radar this season.  Sure, he had an impressive 60 goals and 97 points but Stamkos also had 12 game-winning goals – a NHL record – and took 26% of the Lightning’s shots this season.

The other finalist for the Hart was New York’s Henrik Lundqvist.  Lundqvist was a tough sell for MVP, since goaltenders have their own award – the Vezina Trophy.

“I think Malkin deserved it,” Lundqvist said.  “He was just outstanding this year.  Dominated for a long time this year, and personally I was just happy to be nominated.”

The 30-year-old goaltender did take home the Vezina, beating out Pekka Rinne and Jonathan Quick, in what was the biggest disappointment of the evening.  It should have been Quick!

Throw playoff stats out the window, this came down to regular season stats.  Lundqvist’s 1.97 goals-against average, .930 save-percentage and a 39-18-5 record were comparable to Quick’s 1.95 goals-against average, .929 save-percentage and 35-21-13 record but Quick was by far the only reason the Kings made the playoffs.  For the final month of the season he played spectacular hockey, while Los Angeles’ offense was unable to put the puck in the net.  There were a lot of 2-1 wins. 

In the end Quick walked away with the most important hardware – the Stanley Cup.

Most of the other decisions of the night did not come as much a surprise.  Colorado forward Gabriel Landeskog took home the Calder Trophy as the league’s best rookie, much to the dismay of New Jersey Devils fans who thought Adam Henrique was worthy, though Henrique really budded in the playoffs.

Ottawa defenseman Erik Karlsson dethroned Nicklas Lidstrom for the Norris Trophy as the league’s best defenseman, officially marking the end of Lidstrom’s career in the NHL.

Other winners of the night included Boston’s Patrice Bergeron (Selke Trophy as top defensive forward), Florida’s Brian Campbell (Lady Byng for sportsmanship), Montreal’s Max Pacioretty (MastertonTrophy for dedication) and not only St. Louis’ coach Ken Hitchcock (coach of the year) but its GM Doug Armstrong (GM of the year).

The players have the whole summer to enjoy their accomplishments. As for the teams, they’re already planning their moves for the NHL Draft which takes place in Pittsburgh this weekend.

Ed is the lead hockey writer and a sports contributor for CraveOnline Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @PhillyEdMiller, and subscribe on Facebook @ CraveOnlineSports.