By: Daniel Rebain – NHL/UFC Writer & Content Strategist
The NHL had some great moments this season that started on January 13th, but 56 games later the regular season has come to an end. IT IS PLAYOFFS TIME BABY! Before we do get to the playoffs though we here at the Morning Blitz will like the give out our yearly awards in out “Inaugural Morning Blitz NHL Awards Show.”
Morning Blitz NHL Award Winners
Hart Trophy (MVP) & Ted Lindsay (Most Outstanding Player)
Connor McDavid C, Edmonton Oilers (33 Goals, 71 Assists, 104 Points)
With the easiest award in 2021, the Hart and Ted Lindsay both go to Connor McDavid. What can I say about McDavid? He will go down as the best player of my generation.
With the best offensive season, we have seen in recent history, McDavid put up an outstanding 33 goals, 71 assists for 104 points in just 55 games; still has one game left as I am writing this. He also leads the field by 21 points with Leon Draisaitl second with 83 points (31g, 52a).
McDavid is the first player in since 95′-96′, and just ninth player in league history, to score at least 100 points in his first 53 games of a season. McDavid got to the 100-point mark with 31 points (9g, 22a) in a 11-game span.
McDavid is the best player the NHL has to offer, and for the league to be heading to ESPN & TNT starting next season, will be a blessing for the NHL to get more non-NHL fans watching the game. And with that, Connor McDavid is the Hart Trophy winner to go along with the Ted Lindsay in 2021.
Preseason Pick: Nathan MacKinnon C, Colorado Avalanche
Calder Trophy (Best Rookie)
Kirill Kaprizov LW, Minnesota Wild (27 Goals, 24 Assists, 51 Points)
There is no question who this award will go to, and his name is Kirill Kaprizov of the Minnesota Wild. The biggest favorite going into the year was Alexis Lafreniere (12g, 9a), the #1 overall pick by the Rangers in 2020.
But I told you guys back in January, this had a similar feeling to 2015, Connor McDavid vs Artemi Panarin, where Panarin stole the show and the Calder even in McDavid’s rookie season.
This is what we should have expected when Kirill came over from Russia though. The fifth-round pick of the Wild in 2015, scored 30+ goals in each of his last two seasons in the KHL with and put up more than a point per game with 62 points in 57 contests.
This season he crushed expectations and took the league by storm, putting up 27 goals, 24 assists for 51 points in only 55 games; imagine if there were 82 games. So, the Morning Blitz Calder Trophy winner is Kirill Kaprizov.
Preseason Pick: Kirill Kaprizov LW, Minnesota Wild
Vezina Trophy (Best Goalie)
Marc-Andre Fleury, Vegas Golden Knights (26 Wins, .928 SV%, 1.98 GAA, 6 SO)
Now, this was kind of a toss-up for me. Most people will go with Andrei Vasilevskiy as their Vezina pick. In 2021, he should finish second or maybe even third for me. My pick for the Vezina goes to Marc-Andre Fleury.
Fleury in only 36 starts finished the year 26-10, but that is not why he wins the Vezina. You go in a little deeper into Fleury’s stats, he is second in goals against (1.98 GAA), second in save percentage (.928%), and third in shutouts this season (6).
But the biggest stat in his favor “goals saved above expected” and he is #1 in that category with 21.7 GSAx, 4.7 more than Andrei Vasilevskiy. Vasilevskiy in his own right does lead the league in wins (31), but he did have three more starts than Phillip Grubauer who finished with 30.
Over the 56-game regular season I feel like Fleury was the better overall goalie for his team than Vasilevskiy was for the Lightning. So, the Morning Blitz Vezina Trophy goes to Marc-Andre Fleury.
Preseason Pick: Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning
Norris Trophy (Best Defenseman)
Charlie McAvoy D, Boston Bruins (5 Goals, 25 Assist, 30 Points)
The Norris Trophy is defined as the league’s “top defensive player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-around ability in the position”. So, the question to me is “who was the best defensemen man, not just best offensive defensemen.”
For me, that answer is Charlie McAvoy. Yeah, I might be a hater, I just do not feel you can give the Norris to Adam Fox (5g, 42a), who is playing on a team that is mid-table, 14th, in goals against (2.77 GA/GP). And the fact the Rangers missed the playoffs as well. But if you really look at where he got his points, a lot of them came against the New Jersey Devils & Buffalo Sabers. I want to reiterate; Adam Fox had a great year for a very offensive Rangers team.
But for me Charlie McAvoy should win the Norris for his all-around play for Boston this season. McAvoy only put up 30 points (5g, 25a) this season. A key stat for a defenseman is plus minus, and McAvoy recorded a +22, tied for eight. The Bruins were forth in goals against (2.39 GA/GP) plus they were second on the penalty kill (86.0%) this year, adding to McAvoy’s case. Also, if you look at Wins over replacement percentage (WAR%), McAvoy is at 100% with Fox trailing just behind at 99%. But these are just numbers and my opinion.
Over the years the Norris Trophy has turned into the best offensive defensemen award and this year hopefully it changes. And one more stat before we move on, 21 of McAvoy’s 30 points are via 5-on-5 (70%), while Adam Fox has only 25 of his 47 points came from even strength play (53%). For that sole reason, Charlie McAvoy is the Morning Blitz Norris Trophy recipient.
Preseason Pick: Alex Pietrangelo, Golden Knights
Jack Adams Trophy (Best Coach)
Rod Brind’Amour, Carolina Hurricanes
Rod Brind’Amour has made the playoffs all three years he has been behind the bench for the Carolina Hurricanes. For a team that does not have that “star player”, it is remarkable to see what he has accomplished in just 2021 alone.
Brind’Amour had the Canes running on all cylinders this season, leading the Hurricanes to their first division title since 2006, the year the Canes went on to hoist the Stanley Cup with Brind’Amour as their captain.
The Hurricanes under Brind’Amour 36-12-8 record for 80 points, good for third in the NHL. The team scored 175 goals (3.13 GF/GP) while only allowing 134 goals (2.39 GA/GP). Special teams were prolific for the Canes, top three on the power play (25.6%) and penalty kill (85.2%).
All in all, nobody would have had the Hurricanes winning the Central division this season. The way the Canes were consistent all season, dominant on specials teams while being top five in goals against per game, Rod Brind’Amour edges out Minnesota Wild head coach Dean Evason for the Morning Blitz 2021 Jack Adams Award.
Preseason Pick: Jared Bednar, Colorado Avalanche
Art Ross Trophy (Most Points): Connor McDavid C, Edmonton Oilers; (Preseason Pick: Connor McDavid C, Edmonton Oilers)
Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy (Most Goals): Auston Matthews C, Toronto Maple Leafs (41 Goals, 25 Assists, 66 Points)
(Preseason Pick Mikko Rantanen RW, Avalanche)
Selke Trophy (Best Defensive Forward): Morning Blitz Pick: Mark Stone RW, Vegas Golden Knights (21 Goals, 40 Assists, 61 Points)
(Preseason Pick: Anthony Cirelli C, Lightning)
General Manager of the Year: Morning Blitz Pick: Marc Bergevin, Montreal Canadiens
Before we wrap the regular season up let us check how the division’s played out compared to what I thought back in January:
Honda NHL Western Division
Colorado Avalanche (39-13-4, 82 Points)
It took till the last game of the season but my preseason pick in the West pulled through, stealing the division crown and the President’s Trophy (Best record) right from underneath the Vegas Golden Knights skates
Preseason Pick: Colorado Avalanche
Scotia NHL North Division
Toronto Maple Leafs (35-14-7, 77 Points)
As i said in preseason, “There’s really only two teams that you can pick to win this division, the Maple Leafs and the Oilers.” And I was right, but I picked the wrong team. I thought pure star power would but the Oilers over the Leafs. But to be fair to the Leafs, they were solid defensively, only allowing 2.62 goals against per game while scoring 3.35 goals for per game.
Preseason Pick: Edmonton Oilers
Discover NHL Central Division
Carolina Hurricanes (36-12-8, 80 Points)
Well, who would have thought that anyone else other than the Lightning would win the Central? The Hurricanes were one of the most consistent teams all season, playing a team orientated game. Led by Sebastian Aho (24g, 33a) the Canes had the second-best power play (25.6%), top five in goals against (2.39 GA/GP) and ran the third best penalty kill (85.2%). Team play for the Canes lead them to their first division crown since 06′, their last Stanley Cup win.
Preseason Pick: Tampa Bay Lightning
Mass Mutual NHL Eastern Division
Pittsburgh Penguins (37-16-3, 77 Points)
What a grueling season it was in the East division huh? I had the Flyers taking the crown because they had “goaltending and defense.” WELL, was I completely wrong. Sidney Crosby (24g, 38a) and the Penguins are division champs again. The Penguins really came to play in 2021, out battling the Capitals, Bruins, and Islanders for 56 games. Thanks to being the second-best scoring team (3.45 GF/GP) in the league and Tristan Jarry racking up 25 wins, the Penguins will be looking to add a fourth cup in the Crosby Era.
Preseason Pick: Philadelphia Flyers
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