season beginning, its time for Scott Cullens latest update

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With the trade deadline passed and the stretch run to the NHL season beginning, its time for Scott Cullens latest update to the NHL Awards races. On one hand, there are familiar names throughout, with previous Hart, Norris, Selke and Jack Adams winners named as best through three quarters of this season. However, as we get more games in the file, the leading candidates begin to separate from the rest of the class. Its not to say that others cant mount a strong finish to alter the outcomes, but as the season gets closer to the end, there isnt as much wiggle room. Anyway, here are my picks for awards through first three quarters of this season: HART TROPHY Winner: Sidney Crosby, C, PittsburghRunners-up: Ryan Getzlaf, C, Anaheim; Alex Ovechkin, RW, WashingtonComment: Its no surprise that a healthy Crosby is in position to win the award as the leagues Most Valuable Player, because hes 14 points up in the scoring race and playing at the level to which weve become accustomed, when hes in the lineup. This year, he hasnt missed a game, and that is the biggest reason that Crosby at the forefront of the MVP discussion. Getzlaf is scoring at a career-best rate of 1.17 points per game, leading the team that sits on top of the standings. While his possession numbers are solid, Getzlafs line has been particularly fortunate in terms of shooting percentage, which leads to a dominant goal differential (57 for, 25 against) when Getzlaf is on the ice during 5-on-5 play. Its not the kind of thing that can be sustained long-term (as in year-over-year) but, this year, it puts him in contention for the Hart. I recognize there may not be a lot of observers that would consider Ovechkin among the most valuable in the league this year, yet I do despite his deficiencies. Hhes so far ahead of the rest of the league as a goal-scorer, that I cant ignore that contribution. Right now, Ovechkin is on pace for a 57-goal season. Second-place Phil Kessel is on pace for a 42-goal season. The last player to win the goal-scoring race by 15 goals or more was Brett Hull, in 1991-1992, when Hull scored 70 and Kevin Stevens scored 54. (Incidentally, in 1990-1991, Hull scored 86 goals, 35 more than a trio of players -- Theo Fleury, Cam Neely and Steve Yzerman -- tied for second.) Its just not that often that the leagues top goal-scorer is that far ahead of the field and, this year, Ovechkin is. Additionally, while he does plenty of damage on the power play, Ovechkin also leads the league with 26 even-strength goals, so its not all one-timers from the faceoff dot with the man advantage. Looking beyond those three, Kessel, Joe Pavelski and Jonathan Toews are among others who could warrant consideration. NORRIS TROPHYWinner: Duncan Keith, ChicagoRunners-up: Erik Karlsson, Ottawa; Victor Hedman, Tampa BayComment: This season hasnt been all that different from Duncan Keiths 2010 Norris Trophy-winning campaign. Hes played his typically-strong two-way game, though he is down more than three minutes per game compared to his peak playing time, and has added more offence this season, scoring at the second-best rate of his carerr (0.79 points per game). There are some that decry the play of the Senators Erik Karlsson, because hes not a hard-hitting block of granite on the blueline and thats their vision of a defenceman, but Karlsson is a game-changer. Hes a rare defenceman that can drive his teams offence and his negative plus-minus is more a function of relatively bad luck on percentages (both shooting and save) when hes on the ice. After Keith and Karlsson, there are a number of worthy candidates, with my preferred choice being Victor Hedman, who has been great, while adding an offensive component that is far ahead of his previously established levels. Im not sure that Team Sweden is on board with this vote, but thats their prerogative. Some familiar names -- Shea Weber, P.K. Subban and Alex Pietrangelo -- are also viable candidates, close enough that a really strong finish could alter the outcome. VEZINA TROPHYWinner: Ben Bishop, Tampa BayRunners-up: Tuukka Rask, Boston; Semyon Varlamov, ColoradoComment: As a 27-year-old who had played 45 career games coming into this season, Bishop has been a major surprise, a rock for a Lightning team that has maintained its playoff position despite missing Steven Stamkos for a couple of months. Rask has pretty much always been a top puck-stopper, with a .929 save percentage over the past three seasons, and hes played a career-high 46 games this year, handling a number one workload over a full season for, really, the first time in his career. It hasnt been a smooth and steady road to the top for Varlamov, who has rebounded from a career-low .903 save percentage last season to post a career-best .925 save percentage this season. That might be a matter of arbitrary end-points, with Varlamovs real performance level somewhere between those two extremes but, for this season, his numbers warrant award consideration. If not Varlamov, Carey Price and Jonathan Bernier have both had strong seasons, strong enough that an impressive finish could push them into the discussion. CALDER TROPHYWinner: Nathan MacKinnon, C, Colorado Runners-up: Tyler Johnson, C, Tampa Bay; Olli Maatta, Pittsburgh Comment: Having set the record for the longest point streak by an 18-year-old rookie, MacKinnon is already looking like the kind of game-breaking skilled forward that teams hope to get with the No. 1 pick in the draft. Nothing like having a great pedigree and living up to it. MacKinnons closest challenger may be Johnson, an undrafted, 5-foot-9, 23-year-old who has simply scored wherever hes played and when Stamkos got hurt, Johnson took on more responsibility and continued to play at a high level. Its not easy for a teenage defenceman to step into the NHL and consistently play with poise, but dont tell that to Maatta, who has been a revelation for the Penguins. Injuries on the Pittsburgh blueline have forced the Penguins to use Maatta more than might have been initially anticipated, but hes risen to the challenge. Bruins power play quarterback Torey Krug and Johnsons left winger, Ondrej Palat, are other contenders. SELKE AWARDWinner: Patrice Bergeron, BostonRunners-up: David Backes, St. Louis; Jonathan Toews, ChicagoComment: This isnt an easy award to hand out, though there are some consistent performers that tend to be in consideration year after year. Heres a list of centres that face a decent level of competition yet still have strong possession stats. In addition to Bergeron, Backes and Toews, who have been at the top of my lists for past couple seasons at least, Anze Kopitar, Gabriel Landeskog and Alexander Steen are first-rate two-way performers that warrant attention. JACK ADAMS AWARDWinner: Bruce Boudreau, Anaheim Runners-up: Ken Hitchcock, St. Louis; Jon Cooper, Tampa Bay. Comment: It can be difficult to gauge exactly what a coachs role is in a teams performance, so there is some guess work involved here. One of the factors I try to take out of the equation, or at least minimize in importance, is goaltending, because great goaltending can mask all manner of shortcomings. Anyway, Im not sure that Bruce Boudreau has done anything revolutionary with the Ducks that allows them to score on such a high percentage of their shots, but getting strong contributions from so many throughout the lineup has to be considered in some way a reflection of Boudreaus approach. Oh, yeah, the Ducks are also first place in the standings, so he has that working for him too. The St. Louis Blues play such a relentless, grinding game that Im inclined to credit a coach that can keep his team playing that style so effectively. Enter, Ken Hitchcock. Admittedly, Jon Cooper has the benefit of outstanding goaltending, thanks to Ben Bishop, but his team has survived without Steven Stamkos and has done so with a lineup full of young, inexperienced players playing significant roles. For that, Cooper gets my nomination. There are many other qualified candidates. Patrick Roys Avalanche are exceeding expectations, Mike Yeo and Mike Babcock have managed to get through significant injuries and Claude Julien keeps the Bruins rolling with a steady spproach; all of these coaches deserve credit for their work behind the bench this season. Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook. Cheap Kevin Durant Shoes .The Ottawa Senators winger was relegated to a corner seat in the locker-room to allow Daniel Alfredsson to return to his regular stall one last time. Kevin Durant Shoes Deals . Their 9-19 record remains identical to the crosstown rivals in Brooklyn and trails both Toronto and Boston in the Atlantic Division. Raymond Felton, their declining point guard, is back on the sideline nursing his third injury of the season. https://www.kevindurantshoescheap.com/ . Patrik Bartosak turned away 50-of-52 shots for the Rebels (28-26-4), who halted their losing streak at seven games. Trailing 2-1 after 40 minutes of play, Feser forced overtime with his second goal of the game at 5:35 of the third period. Kevin Durant Shoes Free Shipping . The Cavs announced the move Saturday, one day after LeBron James said hes returning to Cleveland. A 12-year veteran, Haywood has played in 794 NBA games, averaging 6. Kevin Durant Shoes From China . Canada Day is here and with it comes Free Agent Frenzy as the NHLs 30 teams storm out of the gate for signing season. HOUSTON -- New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi admitted he didnt know anything about Yangervis Solarte when he was signed to a minor league deal in January. The rookie is quickly teaching his manager all about himself. Solarte had three hits and an RBI in his first major league start and Derek Jeter drove in a run to give the New York Yankees their first win this season, 4-2 over the Houston Astros on Thursday night. "You have to give a lot of credit to our scouting department and front office for finding this kid because he gives us a lot of options being a switch-hitter and can play all over the infield," Girardi said. The 26-year-old Solarte has spent time in the minors with Minnesota and Texas, but never got called up until this season after hitting .429 this spring. "Ive worked very hard for this, and to be able to help the team, thats even better," Solarte said in Spanish through a translator. "These are the small things that are key." Solarte singled in a two-run third inning which put New York up 2-1. He doubled in the fifth and scored on a single by Jeter to push it to 3-1. Houston cut the lead to one in the bottom of that inning before Solarte came through again, this time with a single that drove in Ichiro Suzuki. Solarte, the third baseman, also had a nifty defensive play when he grabbed a bullet hit right at him by Jose Altuve in the eighth. Ivan Nova allowed six hits, two runs and walked five in 5 2-3 innings. He was helped by a defence which turned four double plays with him on the mound. "This could have been a game where he gave up a lot of runs without those double play balls," Girardi said. "He made big pitches when he had to." David Robertson, who took over as closer for Mariano Rivera, pitched a perfect ninth for his first save. Dexter Fowler continued to shine in his first season with the Astros, getting two singles to become the second player in franchise history -- and first since Ken Caminiti in 1987 -- to begin his Houston career with three straight multi-hit games. "We had our chances, especially early on there," Houston manager Bo Porter said. "I think we hit into four double plays in the first five innings. We had baserunners everywhere. It was probably one big hit away from getting some separation early in the gaame.dddddddddddd" Houston starter Brett Oberholtzer also went 5 2-3 innings, allowing five hits and three runs while fanning five. Suzuki doubled with two outs in the seventh before scoring on the RBI by Solarte. Solartes hit was a high pop-up which dropped right between three Astros players assembled directly in front of home plate. Solarte doubled with one out in the fifth and scored on a two-out single by Jeter to make it 3-1. Jeter was thrown out trying to stretch the hit into a double. Houston got to 3-2 when Jonathan Villar doubled and scored on a single by Fowler in the bottom of the inning. The fourth double play by the Yankees got the first two outs before Chris Carter grounded out to end the inning. Oberholtzer retired the first seven batters he faced before running into trouble. Suzuki and Solarte hit consecutive singles before a third one by Brett Gardner scored Suzuki to tie it at 1-all. Jeter walked and Carlos Beltrans sacrifice fly scored Solarte to give New York a 2-1 lead. Fowler and Grossman hit back-to-back singles to start the first before Nova plunked Castro to load the bases. Altuve grounded into a forceout that left Castro out at second and scored Fowler to make it 1-0. Carter walked to load the bases again, but the Yankees turned a double play to limit the damage. The Yankees also used double plays to get out of the third and fourth innings. Castro was also hit by a pitch in the third inning to become the first Astro since Brad Ausmus on April 7, 2007, to be hit twice in a game. He remained in the game before being replaced by Carlos Corporan in the top of the sixth with a bruise on his right foot. X-rays were negative and he is day to day. NOTES: A replay was initiated by umpires on the field to check the count on an at-bat by Solarte with two outs in the ninth and it was confirmed it was a 3-1 count. ... Japanese ace Masahiro Tanaka is scheduled to make his major league debut against right-hander Dustin McGowan when the Yankees open a three-game series at Toronto on Friday. ... Houston right-hander Lucas Harrell opposes left-hander Tyler Skaggs when the Astros begin a series with the Los Angeles Angels. ... The Astros observed a moment of silence before the game to remember the victims on Wednesdays shooting at Fort Hood, which left three dead and 16 wounded. ' ' '

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