April 28 — The Norris, Chasing Cups & a Canadian Check-in

Yesterday’s NHL Scores

Last Night’s News 📰

NO MORE MOREHOUSE: Long-time Pittsburgh Penguins CEO David Morehouse announced on Wednesday that he would be stepping down from his post. Morehouse, who oversaw three Stanley Cup championships with the club, did not provide a reason for departing the Penguins, who were sold to Fenway Sports Group last year.

LAST IN, LAST OUT: One night after losing in the seventh round of a shootout to the Dallas Stars, the Vegas Golden Knights suffered the same fate to the Chicago Blackhawks, eliminating them from the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. Not that it mattered, as the Stars earned the point they needed to clinch the final Wild Card spot in their 4-3 overtime loss to the Arizona Coyotes.

JETS CO-PILOT TO VICTORY: Winnipeg Jets forward Kyle Connor had a goal and two assists to give him 92 points on the season, passing Blake Wheeler (91 points in 2017-18 and 2018-19) for the most points since the Jets relocated. However, it was Connor’s teammate Eric Comrie who stole the show. Comrie, a 26-year-old in his sixth season, made 35 saves to earn his 12th win and his first career shutout in 26 games started. 

NHL PLAYER POLL: Yesterday, the NHL released its player poll, with more than 500 NHL players surveyed throughout the season. Topics ranged from who they thought had the best hockey hair, the player they dreaded playing against the most, and the best current women’s hockey player. 

Top Shelf Thursday – Top Veteran Cup Chasers

How wild is it that next week we will be watching playoff hockey? More importantly, it will be playoff hockey with packed arenas filled with fans cheering on their team. It seems so long since we have had a legitimate postseason atmosphere, and we are ready for the best time of the year. This year several veterans are chasing the ultimate prize, and this week we break down our favorites looking for their first Stanley Cup.

Joe Thornton & Claude Giroux (Florida Panthers)

Seeing ‘Jumbo’ Joe Thornton lift the Stanley Cup would be something every hockey fan can celebrate. After 24 seasons, it would be heartwarming to see him finally have his moment. He has played 32 games this season, and while the rule states that a player must appear in 41 games on the season or one game in the Cup Final to have their name engraved, he could still be eligible if the team petitioned the league. Giroux lived and breathed as a Philadelphia Flyers staple for 15 seasons, and this could be one of his last chances to win as retirement inches closer. 

Joe Pavelski & Ryan Suter (Dallas Stars)

The Dallas Stars officially punched their ticket, which means Pavelski and Suter have one more chance to win the Stanley Cup. Pavelski has been in the league for 16 seasons and has made it to the Stanley Cup Final once with the San Jose Sharks. On the other hand, Suter has not been part of a deep playoff run during his time with the Nashville Predators or Minnesota Wild. Seeing them win on the same team would be something, especially considering how dramatic it was to clinch a spot.

Jason Spezza & Mark Giordano (Toronto Maple Leafs)

Honestly, the Toronto Maple Leafs hoisting the Stanley Cup would be absolute chaos. There would be so much happening that it would be a secondary story that at 38 years old, Jason Spezza and Mark Giordano would win their first Stanley Cup. Spezza has been with the club the past three seasons, while Giordano was a trade deadline acquisition. Seeing these veterans pass the Cup to each other would be the cherry on top of a massive celebration in Toronto.

Brian Boyle (Pittsburgh Penguins)

Brian Boyle has had quite the journey over his 14-year career. In 2018, he won the Masterton Trophy as the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey after being diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia, which is a type of bone marrow cancer. Boyle did not play during the pandemic-shortened 2020-21 season due to not receiving contract offers but earned a professional tryout (PTO) with the Pittsburgh Penguins in August. He signed a contract on opening day in October and has 19 points in 65 games. Seeing him lift the Stanley Cup at 37 years old would bring tears to the eyes of many hockey fans.

Norris Trophy Preview

Yesterday, we took a look at the race for the Calder Trophy, given to the NHL’s rookie of the year. Today, we’re previewing the James Norris Memorial Trophy, awarded annually to the league’s top defenseman. Unlike the 2021-22 Calder race, which features a relative favorite (Moritz Seider) but a few guys who can pull off the upset, the fight for the Norris is essentially a two-man race.

Two superstars sit atop the betting odds board for the Norris Trophy. A wide gap exists between them and the next guy, who has a sizable lead on the guy after him. Meanwhile, the rest of the field past the top four is irrelevant. Here is a look at those four, one of whom will take home the Norris Trophy in a couple of months.

Roman Josi – Nashville Predators

Josi has made some history this season. With 93 points (22 goals, 71 assists) through 78 games, he is the Nashville Predators’ franchise record-holder for most points in a single season. He is also the ninth defenseman in NHL history to score at least 90 points in the season and the first in almost 20 years (the last to do it was Ray Bourque in 1992-93).

Roman Josi, Nashville Predators (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Josi leads all defensemen in points and assists and ranks second in goals. His assists total is also the fifth-most of all players. The 31-year-old’s highest single-season point total before this year was 61 in 2019-20. He won the Norris Trophy that season, and the fact that he won’t be a shoo-in to take it home for the second time in 2021-22 speaks to how impressive his challenger has been.

Cale Makar – Colorado Avalanche

Makar, who was the favorite to win the Norris earlier this season, is still there with Josi. After winning the Calder Trophy in 2019-20 with 50 points (12 goals, 38 assists) in 57 games and averaging a point per game in last year’s abbreviated season (8 goals and 36 assists in 44 games), the 23-year-old has 85 points (27 goals, 58 assists) in 76 games this season.

Cale Makar, Colorado Avalanche (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Makar leads all defensemen in goals, ranks fourth in assists, and is second in points. In just his third season in the league, Makar is a significant reason why the Avalanche are on the heels of the Florida Panthers for the Presidents’ Trophy as the team with the most points in the regular season. Colorado is two points behind the Panthers with two games to go.

Victor Hedman – Tampa Bay Lightning

Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Hedman won’t win the Norris Trophy, but he’s still having an excellent season. The 31-year-old has 82 points (20 goals, 62 assists) through 80 games, a career-high for the Swede. He ranks third among defensemen in points and goals, while he is second in assists. The veteran, who had 72 points (16 goals, 56 assists) in 79 games in 2016-17 and won the Norris Trophy the next season with 63 points (17 goals, 46 assists) in 77 games, is looking to help bring the Lightning a third straight Stanley Cup title.

Adam Fox – New York Rangers

Adam Fox, New York Rangers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Fox will not defend his Norris title, but he’s still having a fantastic follow-up season. After winning the award in 2020-21 with 47 points (5 goals, 42 assists) in 55 games, the 24-year-old has 73 points (11 goals, 62 assists) in 77 games this year, ranking fourth among defensemen in points and tied for second in assists.

What Aboot Us?

With the postseason on the horizon and a vast disparity in performance among the seven Canadian NHL markets, it feels like the right time to do a late-season check-in on our Canadian clubs. The good news: three Canadian teams have topped the 100-point mark for the first time since the 2003-04 season. The bad news: the other four are going home after this week, most notably a Montreal Canadiens team that went from Stanley Cup finalist to the league’s worst team.

Calgary Flames

The last time Calgary had this strong a regular season, they rode 117 points to their lone Stanley Cup in franchise history and is considered one of the best teams of all time. On another note, is Johnny Gaudreau a dark horse Hart Trophy candidate?

Edmonton Oilers

A Round 2 Battle of Alberta, anyone? We may be getting ahead of ourselves, but the Oilers will join the Flames as odds-on favorites in their first-round playoff series, as Edmonton will face the inexperienced Los Angeles Kings in the opening round.

Montreal Canadiens

An over-achieving 2021 Playoffs, coupled with missing key cogs like Carey Price, Shea Weber, and Phillip Danault, suggested some regression for the Canadiens. However, heading into the season’s final game with 53 points is beyond any envisioned worst-case scenario. Trust us, there is no need to tell Habs fans that the draft lottery is on May 10!

Ottawa Senators

If the Senators were looking for encouraging signs heading into a 2022-23 season where they hope to become playoff contenders again, winning four straight and nine of their last 14 offers some momentum. A rising Tim Stützle is pretty darn promising, too.

Toronto Maple Leafs

A hugely successful season in Toronto has produced a franchise-best points mark and the club’s first 60-goal scorer. Now, the Maple Leafs will face a new wave of pressure coming in the form of another attempt to get past the first round.

Vancouver Canucks

Talk about a roller-coaster season! A horrible start, Jim Benning and Travis Green receiving the ax, and Bruce Boudreau coming in led to the Canucks surging and ultimately staying in the playoff mix right up to the final week. Can the coach of a non-playoff team win the Jack Adams Award?

Winnipeg Jets

When your star goalie bemoans a “wasted year,” that’s a clear indication that change is needed. Connor Hellebuyck may not have all the answers for Winnipeg’s disappointing 2021-22 campaign, but GM Kevin Cheveldayoff better figure something out this summer—assuming he will get that opportunity

NHL Standings

NHL’s Leading Scorers

Today’s NHL Schedule