Keith In Running For Norris At Midseason

By:
01/06/2010 12:47 PM - From chicagoblackhawks.com: (link)

With the 2009-10 NHL season reaching roughly the halfway mark, NHL.com is pausing to take a snapshot of the League, looking at who has excelled, surprised or disappointed over the first 42 -- or so -- games.

As part of this process, we are looking at six of the NHL's major annual awards and selecting who we consider the winners halfway through the season.

Norris Trophy (Top defenseman) -- For the first quarter of the season, the nod went to Dan Boyle of the San Jose Sharks, who has done nothing to lose the designation, evidenced by his inclusion on the Canadian Olympic team. In 43 games, Boyle has scored 8 goals and 24 assists and is plus-5, playing over 26 minutes per game.

But at the halfway point, the nod goes to Boyle's Team Canada teammate,
Duncan Keith of the Chicago Blackhawks. He is on pace for a career season offensively with 6 goals and 30 assists. He is a plus-11 and plays nearly 27 minutes per game for one of the NHL's top defensive teams.

Runners-up

Dan Boyle, San Jose Sharks --
He remains in the mix thanks to what we mentioned above. His game has remained steady and consistent, but Keith has roared into the mix.

Mike Green, Washington Capitals -- Everyone seems to worry about his defensive game, but he has the puck so much the opposition doesn't get to it. Midway through the season, Green leads all defensemen in scoring with 10 goals and 29 assists and is plus-13 in just over 25 minutes per game.

Chris Pronger, Philadelphia Flyers -- The Flyers have been one of the League's disappointments in the first half, but Pronger has been his usual mean, minute-munching self. He has 5 foals and 20 assists and is a plus 11 in just over 26 minutes per game.

Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings -- Thanks to Doughty's continued excellence (see his selection to Team Canada) the Kings are among the most surprising teams of the season. Doughty has scored 9 goals and 23 assists and is a plus-8 in just over 24 minutes per game.

Honorable mention -- Tomas Kaberle, Toronto Maple Leafs; Andy Greene, New Jersey Devils; Tobias Enstrom, Atlanta Thrashers; Bran Campbell, Chicago Blackhawks.

How 2009 Finalists are faring --
Zdeno Chara, the 2009 Norris winner, scored 3 goal and 22 assists in 41 games and is plus-9. Washington's Green is mentioned above. The Red Wings' Nicklas Lidstrom has been very quiet offensively with 1 goal and 18 assists in 41 games, but is plus-13 while playing over 25 minutes per game.

Calder Trophy (Top rookie) --
Making it as a rookie defenseman is a grueling assignment, but halfway through the season, the Buffalo Sabres' Tyler Myers is looking like he has been on the blue line for years. He has contributed offensively with 3 goals and 19 assists and is a plus-8 in 23 minutes per game. Not shabby stuff for a 19-year-old who had to be considered for an Olympic berth.

Runners-up

John Tavares, New York Islanders --
Tavares has done a very good job blending the ability to play with the expectations that greeted him upon arriving on Long Island. He has slumped
a bit in recent games, but on the whole, the Islanders have to be very pleased with his 16 goals and 12 assists in 43 games.

Niclas Bergfors, New Jersey Devils --
Last season, Bergfors was a fill-in for the Devils, spending most of the season in the minors. This season, he has excelled under coach Jacques Lemaire, who knows when to challenge Bergfors and when to ease up. In 40 games, he has scored 13 goals and 13 assists.

Matt Duchene, Colorado Avalanche --
Named the NHL's top rookie for December with 5 goals and 8 assists in 14 games, Duchene has more than lived up to the billing that saw him selected third in the 2009 Entry Draft. He has 11 goals and 16 assists in 43 games and is minus-10.

Honorable mention -- Ryan O'Reilly, Colorado Avalanche; James van Riemsdyk, Philadelphia Flyers; Evander Kane, Atlanta Thrashers.

How 2009 Finalists are faring --
Steve Mason was a revelation for the Columbus Blue Jackets last season, going 33-20-7, but he has struggled mightily this season with an 11-14-6 record and 3.18 goals-against average. Anaheim's Bobby Ryan is on pace to better last seasons' stats. In 42 games this season, Ryan has 31 goals and 26 assists. Chicago's
Kris Versteeg also looks like he's on track to replicate last season's marks. In 39 games, Versteeg has scored 12 goals and 12 assists.

Adams Trophy (Top coach) -- A quarter of the way in, NHL.com's pick for the Adams was Joe Sacco of the Colorado Avalanche and he remains right in the mix. But for the first half, the selection is Dave Tippett of Phoenix. He took over the Coyotes during training camp when Wayne Gretzky opted not to be a distraction while the financial state of the team was being settled in court. Tippett hit the ice skating as it were and hasn't stopped. Heading into play Wednesday night, the Coyotes were 26-14-4, the Western Conference's third-best record.

Runners-up

Joe Sacco, Colorado Avalanche --
Joel Quenneville, Todd McLellan and Jacques Lemaire have done great work this season, but they also have excellent rosters. Sacco is doing it with a lot of newcomers and some holdover veterans. Going into play Wednesday night, the Avs were one point behind Calgary in the Northwest Division. Terrific job by Sacco.

Terry Murray, Los Angeles Kings --
Blessed with an interesting blend of kids and veterans, Murray has done an excellent job of getting everyone on the same page and creating a buzz for the Kings. He has shown patience when needed and has been unafraid to kick some tail as well. Getting Ryan Smyth back from injury will help the rest of the way and goalie Jon Quick's confidence should blossom all the more with a stint at the Olympics.

Honorable mention --
Jacques Lemaire, New Jersey Devils; Bruce Boudreau, Washington Capitals; Joel Quenneville, Chicago Blackhawks; Lindy Ruff, Buffalo Sabres

How 2009 Finalists are faring -- Todd McLellan has the San Jose Sharks fighting for the top spot in the entire League at the halfway point. The Bruins have struggled to score and gone through a boatload of injuries, but Claude Julien has kept them in the hunt. Unfortunately for Andy Murray, a 6-14-3 record at home brought down the curtain on his time in St. Louis. He was fired on Jan. 2.

Hart Trophy (Most valuable player) -- Remember the idea of an MVP is the player most valuable to his team, not necessarily the best player in the League. So for the first half, our pick changes from Washington's Alex Ovechkin to the Rangers' Marian Gaborik.

Why?

Think about it for a moment. When Ovechkin was out of the lineup with an injury and a suspension, the Caps went 6-2-0. Now, subtract Gaborik's league-leading 27 goals (tied with San Jose's Patrick Marleau) and the Rangers would have 84 goals and a world of hurt. That makes Gaborik pretty darned valuable.

Runners-up

Alex Ovechkin, Washington --
Just named team captain, any idea that Ovechkin isn't central to an MVP discussion is foolhardy. With 26 goals, he trails only Gaborik and Marleau and his infectious style of play is a catalyst for the Caps, who are right there with the top teams in the Eastern Conference. And with the second half of the season awaiting, Ovechkin could go on a monster run.

Henrik Sedin, Vancouver Canucks --
Probably best known as one of the Canucks' twins, Henrik is stepping out on his own with a terrific first half where he tied San Jose's Joe Thornton for the points lead with 58 (20 goals, 38 assists, plus-16, 1.35 points-per-game). Overall, great work.

Joe Thornton, San Jose Sharks --
It was in vogue to be dismissive of "Jumbo Joe" at the start of the season, perhaps based on another disappointing playoff run last spring. But Thornton shrugged off the critics and went to work. He is tied with Sedin for the League lead in scoring with 11 goals and 47 assists and centers one of the NHL's top lines with Dany Heatley and Marleau.

Honorable mention --
Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils; Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins;
Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks; Ryan Miller, Buffalo Sabres; Ilya Bryzgalov, Phoenix Coyotes; Evgeni Nabokov, San Jose Sharks.

How 2009 Finalists are faring -- Ovechkin is faring quite well, sitting with 26 goals and 24 assists at the midway point. The Penguins' Evgeni Malkin is off last season's pace thanks to injuries. In 37 games, he has 13 goals and 26 assists. Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk is having a nice season with 10 goals and 23 assists, but has fallen way off the scoring pace this season.

Richard Trophy (Most goals) -- We mentioned above how important Gaborik is to the Rangers and his 27 goals is tied for the NHL lead at the halfway point with the Sharks' Marleau. But Ovechkin is lurking with 26 and the feeling here is a big second half awaits Washington's new captain.

Runners-up

Patrick Marleau, San Jose Sharks --
It has been an amazing season for Marleau. Replaced as captain before the start of the season, the trade rumor mill couldn't find him a new home fast enough. Instead, he has picked his game up and flourished. Playing primarily on a line with Thornton and Heatley, Marleau has 27 goals and 17 assists and is plus-17.

Marian Gaborik, New York Rangers -- On a team where coach John Tortorella has repeatedly asked for secondary scoring, Gaborik remains the man. The test in the second half will be keeping up the pace as the opposition focuses more and more attention on him.

Honorable mention -- Ilya Kovalchuk, Atlanta Thrashers; Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins; Dany Heatley, San Jose Sharks; Jarome Iginla, Calgary Flames; Steven  Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning; Henrik Sedin, Vancouver Canucks; Dustin Penner, Edmonton Oilers.

How 2009 Finalists are faring -- A run of good health the rest of the way and Ovechkin could well surpass the 56 goals he scored last season. The Flyers' Jeff Carter has only 14 goals midway through and will be hard pressed to come near the 46 goals he scored last season. Ditto New Jersey's Zach Parise, who went 10 games without a goal and has 18 at the midway point. He will have trouble rebounding to the 45 he scored last season.

Vezina Trophy (Top goalie) -- Our first quarter pick remains our first half selection as Ryan Miller has been "the man" for the Buffalo Sabres and the NHL this season. At the halfway point, Miller is among the League leaders in all categories. He is tied with Boston's Tuukka Rask with a .934 save percentage and has played double the games. He is tied for second with San Jose's Evgeni Nabokov in wins (23), behind Martin Brodeur's 27. His 2.02 goals-against average is tops among No. 1 goalies and he is tied with Brodeur and Bryzgalov for the lead in shutouts with five.

Runners-up

Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils --
The Devils are 30-10-1 at the halfway point and Brodeur has been one of the big reasons why as his 27-10-1 record attests. He has gotten done with rewriting all the NHL goaltending records and now can concentrate on getting New Jersey into prime playoff position.

Ilya Bryzgalov, Phoenix Coyotes -- Raise your hands if you expected the Phoenix Coyotes to be this good this season.

Liars!

Bryzgalov is one of the primary reasons for the rise of the Coyotes. Like Miller, he is among the League leaders with a 23-11-4 record, 2.08 GAA, .926 save percentage and five shutouts.

Honorable mention -- Evgeni Nabokov, San Jose Sharks; Antero Niittymaki, Tampa Bay Lightning; Miikka Kiprusoff, Calgary Flames; Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings; Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh Penguins.

How 2009 Finalists are faring -- Niklas Backstrom is 18-14-3 for the Wild with a 2.58 GAA. In Columbus, Steve Mason has struggled, going 11-15-6 with a 3.31 GAA. The Bruins' Tim Thomas is 12-9-5 with a 2.31 GAA.


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