Mid-season NHL Awards: Habs in Good Shape

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By Joce, Senior Writer, All Habs Hockey Magazine

As the NHL season has reached its midway point for most teams, the Cinderella story of the first half of this shorten season has to be the Montreal Canadiens. Coming off a last place finish in the Eastern Conference, 28th overall last season, the Habs sit comfortably atop the Eastern standings, with only the Blackhawks and the Ducks having a better record in the entire NHL.

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PENTICTON, BC. — This is a team which has gone through some major changes in the front office and behind the bench, playing in a shorten season without a proper training camp and exhibition games to work on a new system. The Canadiens seem to be playing just as well on the road (9-2-2) as they are at home (8-3-2). They just finished a tough road trip, playing six games in ten days, five of them being on the road. They’ve accumulated eight out of a possible ten points on that trip. Further, the Habs are 11-1-3 in their last 15 games, getting at least one point in 14 of those 15 games. No matter how you twist this around, it’s nothing short of amazing.

This is also a team which had to deal with some adversity. Rene Bourque, who was having a great start to the season, has been out with a concussion for a few weeks now. The team also lost Raphael Diaz, who surprisingly had racked up 13 points in 19 games, testing the Canadiens’ depth on defense. Brandon Prust is the team’s latest casualty, separating his shoulder. Yet, the team keeps on rolling.

If the NHL awards were handed out today, a case could be made for several Habs’ players to be nominated and that speaks volume. We’re not talking about Habs’ only awards here, but league-wide recognition. Here’s a look at Canadiens’ players in nomination:

 

JAMES NORRIS TROPHY
Subban
In spite of missing the first part of the season due to a contract dispute, P.K. Subban is turning into an outstanding hockey player. After the game against the Florida Panthers, head coach Michel Therrien said that in his opinion, Subban is playing what is perhaps the best hockey of his young NHL career. His 18 points in 20 games place him second amongst defensemen in points per game behind only Kris Letang in Pittsburgh, and he leads the NHL in goals with six.

 

VEZINA TROPHY
Price
Carey Price is having a season which is difficult to gage. In the past, the only way the Habs could win was if Price was outstanding. It’s not so much the case this year. Price has had three bad games. He’s had to be outstanding a couple of times but most times, he just needed to make the first save, control his rebounds and freeze/play the puck when needed. For a guy who plays the puck as much as he does, it is amazing to see how few mistakes he makes as he’s a third defenseman out there. He leads the NHL with 13 wins and he’s in the Top 10 in goals against average. His saves’ percentage will have to improve in order to put his hands on this precious trophy though.

 

JACK ADAMS TROPHY
Therrien
Few head coaches have done as good of a job as Michel Therrien has accomplished so far with the Canadiens. Joel Quenneville is coaching a very good team, as we all know, to an amazing start but they’re showing that they’re human after all, losing two in a row. Don’t count out Bruce Boudreau in Anaheim and Paul McLean in Ottawa, who keeps his team in the playoffs in spite of a rash of injuries to key players. Therrien has taken over one of the worst teams in the NHL and he’s bringing them to the top of the conference and the league. He has the Habs pulling in the same direction, playing a system which allows them to win both at home and on the road.

 

FRANK J. SELKE TROPHY
Plekanec
Awarded to the NHL’s outstanding defensive player, this trophy exemplifies what Tomas Plekanec represents to the Habs. He plays against the opposition’s top line most nights, he is often relied on to take key face-offs and he’s an outstanding penalty killer. In addition, he is a threat offensively every time he’s on the ice. In order to get more recognition from the voters though, he has to improve on his face-offs percentage. Unlike his predecessor, Michel Therrien is much more aware on how he utilises Plekanec and that could be a huge plus down the stretch.

 

LADY BYNG MEMORIAL TROPHY
Gionta
Awarded to the player who exemplifies great leadership qualities on and off the ice, it is often given to players with few penalty minutes and who perform at a high level. The Canadiens’ candidate in this first half of the season would be none other than team captain Brian Gionta, who has received only four minutes in penalties in 26 games so far. He has been on fire lately and if he remains healthy, he could very well be in nomination for the Lady Byng at season’s end.

 

CALDER MEMORIAL TROPHY
Gallagher
The race for rookie of the year is very exciting so far. Lightning’s Cory Conacher is leading the rookies with 20 points after a fuming start to the season, but he has drastically cooled off to the point where coach Boucher isn’t playing him much lately. Jonathan Huberdeau leads all rookies with 12 goals and he’s the “sexy choice”. Oilers’ much talked about defenseman Justin Schultz leads defensemen with 15 points in 25 games. Former Sting teammates Nail Yakupov and Alex Galchenyuk are tied with 13 points each but it’s a surprising rookie who could squeeze in for that race. Brendan Gallagher played less games (22) than most and sits third in rookie scoring.

 

BILL MASTERTON TROPHY
Markov
Is there a NHL player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey than Habs defenseman Andrei Markov? After missing most of the last two seasons due to knee problems, Markov is back in full stride and he’s proving his doubters wrong. At the time of writing this article, the Russian defenseman is eighth among his peers in scoring with 17 points and he is one of the key contributors to the surprising Habs’ success.

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Let’s be realistic, there is no way that those trophies will all be awarded to the players mentioned above. In spite of the fact that it’s a shorten season, it remains a long season where a lot can happen. What this exercise does however is show why or how the Canadiens had such a great first half. Here’s hoping that the team continues to build on what they’ve accomplished thus far as if they do, some of the NHL hardware might just be heading to Montreal. Go Habs Go!

 

En français: Trophées de la LNH mi-saison : les Canadiens en bonne position

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J.D. Lagrange
J.D. is a Senior writer for All Habs as well as Associate-Editor for the French version Le Magazine All Habs, while one of three Administrators of the fan forum Les Fantômes du Forum. He has created the handle Habsterix as a fictional character for the sole purpose of the internet. It is based on the cartoon Asterix of Gaule and his magic potion is his passion for the Montreal Canadiens. How old is he? His close friends will tell you that he’s so old, his back goes out more than he does! He was born when Béliveau lifted the Cup and remembers the days when seeing the Habs winning was not a wish, it was an expectation. For him, writing is a hobby, not a profession. Having moved to beautiful British Columbia in 1992 from his home town of Sherbrooke, Quebec, he started writing mostly in French to keep up his grammar, until non-bilingual BC friends pushed him into starting his own English Blog. His wife will say that he can be stubborn, but she will be the first to recognise that he has great sense of humour. He is always happy to share with you readers his point of views on different topics, and while it is expected that people won’t always agree, respect of opinions and of others is his mission statement. || J.D. est Rédacteur-Adjoint sur Le Magazine All Habs et il est un Rédacteur Principal sur le site anglophone All Habs, tout en étant un des trois Administrateurs du forum de discussion Les Fantômes du Forum. Il a créé le pseudonyme Habstérix comme caractère fictif pour l’internet. Celui-ci est basé sur Astérix de Gaule et sa potion magique est sa passion pour les Canadiens de Montréal. Lorsqu’il est né, Jean Béliveau soulevait la Coupe Stanley et il se rappelle des jours où gagner n’était pas un espoir, mais une attente. Pour lui, écrire est un passe-temps, pas une profession. Ayant déménagé dans la superbe Colombie-Britannique en 1992 en provenance de sa ville natale de Sherbrooke, Québec, il a commencé à écrire en français pour garder sa grammaire, jusqu’à ce que ses amis anglophones ne réussissent à le convaincre d’avoir son blog en anglais. Son épouse vous dira qu’il est têtu, mais elle sera la première à reconnaître son grand sens de l’humour. Il est toujours fier de partager avec vous, lecteurs et lectrices, ses points de vue sur différents sujets, et quoi que les gens ne s’entendent pas toujours sur ceux-ci, le respect des opinions et des autres est son énoncé de mission.