Three-quarters of the way through the NHL season, a look at awards races, along with some advanced stats.
Feel free to compare to my first-quarter results. The midway results were hijacked by life events so, with the trade deadline just around the corner (on the other side of this weekend, in fact), it's time to take stock of what's been happening in the league.
With injuries derailing bids from Sidney Crosby and Pavel Datsyuk, and Ryan Kesler perhaps the next closest candidate as a skater, Thomas' exceptional goaltending earns him a place at the table. Fair to say that no one is running away with this award.
Admittedly, Lidstrom's even plus-minus is well below his normal levels, but the 40-year-old continues to take on the toughest assignments on a night-in, night-out basis. Challengers like Letang and the Thrashers duo of Enstrom and Dustin Byfuglien have had strong seasons, and play slightly more than Lidstrom's 23:40 per game, but don't face the same level of competition. This race is still open for contenders if someone like Keith Yandle or Shea Weber makes a furious charge to the finish.
Toews and Zetterberg both face an elite level of competition on a nightly basis, with Toews holding a slight edge in categories like shot differential and plus-minus, while Kesler is having a tremendous season, providing more offence than ever before, leading to his career-best plus-23.
As long as Thomas has an historically-great .939 save percentage, this is a one-horse race.
Crawford has taken the Blackhawks' starting job and owns an impressive 2.11 goals against average and .923 save percentage. Looking for a younger rookie? Couture and Skinner have both been tremendous; perhaps a slight edge right now to Couture for more goals and a better plus-minus.
Winner: Guy Boucher, Tampa Bay
Runners-up: Dave Tippett, Phoenix; Scott Arniel, Columbus
Perhaps not surprisingly, first-year coaches are having an immediate effect on their new teams, but have to include Tippett again. Barry Trotz and Todd Richards surely warrant consideration too.
And now, some deeper stats from the ever-outstanding www.behindthenet.ca:
First, the best goal differentials (5-on-5, per 60 minutes, minimum 40 games played):
Given the Bruins and Canucks' stingy defensive play, it's not surprising that they are dominating this measure, but Adam McQuaid as the far-and-away leader, really? Well, he is plus-23 and plays 13:20 per game.
On the other hand, the worst goal differentials (5-on-5, per 60 minutes, minimum 40 games played):
|480.||Kevin Westgarth||LW||Los Angeles||-1.29|
|483.||Dominic Moore||C||Tampa Bay||-1.31|
|487.||Brad Richardson||RW||Los Angeles||-1.38|
|490.||David Clarkson||RW||New Jersey||-1.52|
|491.||Matt Martin||LW||N.Y. Islanders||-1.57|
|492.||Rob Schremp||C||N.Y. Islanders||-1.71|
|493.||Simon Gagne||LW||Tampa Bay||-1.82|
|495.||Brandon Crombeen||RW||St. Louis||-1.93|
|496.||Adam Mair||C||New Jersey||-2.24|
A wider selection of teams represented at this point in the season, but plenty of disappointment to go around. Worth noting that Wisniewski has been better since moving from the Islanders to the Canadiens.
Going beyond the goals, and perhaps eliminating team goaltending from the evaluation, a look at the best shot differentials (5-on-5, per 60 minutes, minimum 40 games played):
|3.||Ryan Malone||LW||Tampa Bay||10.1|
|9.||Ryane Clowe||LW||San Jose||9.2|
|10.||Patrik Elias||LW||New Jersey||8.9|
|11.||Sean Bergenheim||LW||Tampa Bay||8.6|
|12.||Randy Jones||D||Tampa Bay||8.4|
|15.||Logan Couture||C||San Jose||8.1|
|20.||Brett Clark||D||Tampa Bay||7.6|
Four members of the Lightning, and none of their "stars", are represented here, while many of those rating well don't see a lot of playing time, making the presence of top six forwards like Gionta, Clowe, Elias and Toews all the more impressive.
The worst shot differentials (5-on-5, per 60 minutes, minimum 40 games played):
|490.||Erik Christensen||C||N.Y. Rangers||-10.4|
|494.||Zenon Konopka||C||N.Y. Islanders||-13.4|
|496.||Matt Martin||LW||N.Y. Islanders||-15.1|
Seven Minnesota Wild players in the Bottom 20? Niklas Backstrom's Vezina candidacy should be cemented with that alone.