NHL Awards Tracker: Zdeno Chara Emerging As Top Norris Trophy Candidate

Zdeno CharaApril is here, and the NHL regular season is down to its final two weeks.

As teams fight for every point in the playoff race, many players are still improving their resumes in the award races, several of which still lack a clear-cut front-runner.

One that has changed a bit over the last two months is the Norris Trophy race. Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith has been atop most Norris rankings throughout the season, but Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara and a number of other quality blueliners have emerged as worthy candidates.

Check out the top candidates for the major awards below.

Hart Trophy (Most Valuable Player)

1) Sidney Crosby, Center, Pittsburgh Penguins

2) Ryan Getzlaf, Center, Anaheim Ducks

3) Claude Giroux, Center, Philadelphia Flyers

Crosby leads the league in scoring with 99 points (36 goals, 63 assists), 18 more than Getzlaf, who’s in second place. The Penguins captain also has tallied 36 power-play points, five-game winning goals and an impressive 52.2 faceoff percentage in 22:01 ice time per game. Crosby also is playing a larger role defensively. He’s played on the penalty kill, leads the team with 37 takeaways and his 27 blocked shots rank fifth on the team among forwards.

More importantly, Crosby has played in all 75 of the Penguins’ games, and his consistent scoring has helped them remain atop the Metropolitan Division all season despite losing significant players for long periods of time with injuries. He’s failed to tally a point in back-to-back games just twice, which is incredible. Pittsburgh is 3-15-1 when Crosby doesn’t get on the scoresheet.

Getzlaf is having arguably the best season of his career. He’s tallied 83 points, which includes a career-high 31 goals and a league-best 3.25 points at even strength per 60 minutes. The Ducks’ captain leads his team in points, assists, time on ice per game among forwards, while also adding seven-game winning goals. It’s also important to note the defensive impact that Getzlaf has on the Ducks’ success. His 83 blocked shots are the second-most in the league among forwards, and he’s tallied a team-leading 51 takeaways in addition to a role on Anaheim’s top penalty-kill unit.

Giroux has been exceptional since the Olympic break with 21 points in the last 15 games, but the Hart Trophy race is between Crosby and Getzlaf.

James Norris Trophy (Best All-Around Defenseman)

1) Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins

2) Marc-Edouard Vlasic, San Jose Sharks

3) Duncan Keith, Chicago Blackhawks

Chara is having one of his best and most efficient seasons. He’s playing about 45 seconds less per game than he did last season, but he’s making an even greater impact at both ends of the ice. From an offensive standpoint, Chara has been fantastic. He’s tallied 36 points, which includes 17 goals (fourth-most among D-men), 10 of which were scored on the power play.

Chara plays against the third-toughest competition among D-men (TotTM percentage QoC of 29.9), leads the Bruins in TOI/G (24:45) and hits among D-men (153), while also tallying 21 takeaways and 99 blocked shots. He also gets 3:11 of short-handed and 2:27 of power-play ice time per game.

Keith plays on Chicago’s top pairing and has tallied more points (57) than Chara, but he doesn’t consistently face the opposing team’s best forwards each game. That challenge usually is given to the Niklas Hjalmarsson-Johnny Oduya pairing.

The chart below (via Extra Skater) illustrates that Chara is the only defenseman with an offensive-zone start percentage below 50, a TotTM percentage QoC of at least 29.5 and a 5v5 CF percentage over 54. Basically, when Chara is on the ice, Boston controls possession and transitions from its own zone to the attacking zone consistently (all against top competition, too).

Player usage chart - 15 playersVlasic, who was selected to Canada’s Olympic team, has dominated defensively for San Jose. The 27-year-old hasn’t received anywhere near the praise he deserves for an outstanding season at both ends of the ice.

Vlasic’s offensive production (24 points in 76 games) is good but not outstanding, and that likely will hurt his Norris chances, which is unfair, but voters tend to reward scoring (see Erik Karlsson in 2011-12). Vlasic helps the Sharks turn good defense into offense by controlling possession and outshooting opponents (evidenced by his CF percentage rel. of 6.7, fourth-best among d-men), opposes the opponents’ top forwards (TotTM percentage QoC of 29.1), gets 2:10 of short-handed ice time per game and has blocked 142 shots.

Anyone who watches Vlasic play knows he makes very few mistakes, starts breakouts with quick, crisp passes out of the defensive zone, and excels on the penalty kill. He’s a well-rounded defenseman who would be a superstar in a Canadian or Original Six hockey market.

Calder Trophy (Best Rookie)

1) Nathan MacKinnon, Center, Colorado Avalanche

2) Jacob Trouba, Defenseman, Winnipeg Jets

3) Ondrej Palat, Left Wing, Tampa Bay Lightning

MacKinnon has scored only one goal in his last 16 games, but he still leads all rookies in points (56), goals (23), assists (33), game-winning goals (five), power-play goals (eight) and shots (211), and ranks third in power-play points (15). The 18-year-old center’s 17:04 of ice time per game ranks fifth among rookie forwards. Even though MacKinnon didn’t score many goals in March, he still made an impact offensively by creating scoring chances for his teammates with his play-making skill and game-changing speed.

Trouba has been a force at both ends of the ice for the Jets in 22:32 of ice time per game (most among rookies). He ranks fourth in scoring among rookie D-men with 27 points despite having played in 14 less games than the leader while also posting 109 shots and three power-play goals. Where he’s made the most impact for Winnipeg is defensively. Jets head coach Paul Maurice has shown a lot of trust in his young D-man by starting 32.7 percent of his shifts in the defensive zone and giving him 2:58 of short-handed ice time per game. Trouba also has 95 hits and ranks second among rookie D-men in blocked shots (120) and fifth in takeaways (25). He’s already a well-rounded player at 20 years old.

Palat has played exceptionally for Tampa Bay in the second half of the season and ranks second in rookie scoring with 51 points. A strong finish to the regular season could vault him ahead of Trouba.

Tuukka RaskVezina Trophy (Best Goaltender)

1) Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins

2) Ben Bishop, Tampa Bay Lightning

3) Semyon Varlamov, Colorado Avalanche

Rask cemented himself as the clear choice for the Vezina with an amazing March performance that included a 9-1-1 record, a .943 save percentage and a 1.90 goals against average. For the entire season, Rask leads the league with a .931 save percentage and a 2.02 GAA among goalies with 30 or more games played. He also tops the league with a .944 even-strength save percentage and seven shutouts. Rask is the primary reason why Boston has allowed the fewest goals against (50) in the third period.

Bishop has been excellent all season for Tampa Bay and ranks second with a .935 even-strength save percentage. He ranks third with a .926 save percentage, and his 36 wins are tied for the second-most in the league. Despite posting an 8-3-3 record in March, Bishop had a mediocre 2.78 GAA and a .907 save percentage, which has significantly hurt his chances of overtaking Rask atop the Vezina rankings. He’s still a lock to be a finalist for the award, though.

Varlamov has been one of the most consistent goaltenders this season and the driving force behind Colorado’s remarkable turnaround, but he doesn’t have the stats to steal enough votes from Rask or Bishop to win the Vezina.

Frank J. Selke Trophy (Best Defensive Forward)

1) Patrice Bergeron, Center, Boston Bruins

2) Anze Kopitar, Center, Los Angeles Kings

3) Jonathan Toews, Center, Chicago Blackhawks

ExtraSkater

ExtraSkater

Bergeron is almost a lock to win this award. His 58.7 faceoff percentage is the fifth-best among players who’ve taken 500-plus draws, and he ranks third in faceoffs taken (1,624) and first in faceoffs won (954). He ranks fifth in short-handed faceoffs won (125) and second in short-handed faceoff percentage (55.1) among players with 200-plus draws. Bergeron is still the premier possession player in the league with a 5v5 CF percentage of 61.0, which illustrates how little possession opposing teams enjoy when he’s on the ice.

Bergeron’s 29.5 TotTM percentage QoC rating shows that he plays against elite forwards each night, and a lot of those shifts (34.8 percent) start in the defensive zone. He often takes the defensive-zone faceoff, gives Boston possession of the puck and helps transition into the offensive zone. He tilts the ice in the Bruins’ favor so many times each game. Bergeron is one of the main reasons why Boston ranks first in goals against and eighth in penalty killing.

Kopitar has dominated defensively this season, but he’s unlikely to get more Selke votes than Bergeron. Kopitar has an outstanding 68.8 goals for percentage, receives 2:05 of short-handed ice time each game, and has a team-leading 48 takeaways and a 53.1 faceoff percentage. Kopitar also starts 30.7 percent of his shifts in the L.A. zone and has a 29.7 TotTM% QoC.

The Kings already have started to attract voters’ attention.

Jack Adams Award (Best Head Coach)

1a) Patrick Roy, Colorado Avalanche

1b) Mike Babcock, Detroit Red Wings

3) Claude Julien, Boston Bruins

Colorado posted the second-worst record last season, but under the guidance of rookie head coach Patrick Roy, the team achieved its seventh 100-point season and likely will earn home-ice advantage in Round 1 of the playoffs. Roy has developed a great relationship with his players, which has helped him develop them at both ends of the ice and build a level of trust. Despite having a blue line that lacks top-tier skill and experience, in addition to several guys playing out of position, Roy has helped the Avalanche consistently win games with one of the youngest rosters in the league. He’s a lock to be a finalist for this award.

Mike Babcock has never won a Jack Adams, which is shocking based on all the great teams he’s coached in Anaheim and Detroit. His Red Wings have lost a ton of players to injuries this season, including the losses of his two best players, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, for the entire month of March. Without its two best players and several other veterans because of injuries, Detroit is still holding down a playoff spot with a roster made up of seven to 10 AHL players with little NHL experience. Babcock has gotten the most out of young players such as forwards Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar. Nyquist has scored the most goals in the league since Jan. 20 with 21. If the Red Wings get into the playoffs, expect Babcock to win this award.

Julien has led the Bruins to one of their best regular seasons ever despite losing many key players to injuries, including the season-ending ACL and MCL injury to top-pairing D-man Dennis Seidenberg. Boston had an incredible month of March, going 15-1-1 and winning 12 consecutive games. The Original Six club also has an active road winning streak of nine games, the longest in team history, and leads the league with 110 points. The Bruins are one of two teams ranked in the top eight of goals scored, goals against, power-play percentage and penalty killing.

Advanced stats, such as CF percentage, GF percentage and TotTM percent QoC, courtesy of Extraskater.com. Here’s another helpful advanced stats link.

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