The Flyers bested the Islanders last night 4-1 at Wachovia Center in Philadelphia. The loss eliminated the Islanders from the possibility of making the playoffs. However without their starting goalie, Rick DiPietro for the rest of the season, that was all but a foregone conclusion for the Islanders. The win puts the Flyers 4 points up on the Capitals, in sole possession of 7th place in the Eastern Conference. There isn't much to watch in the tight Eastern Conference playoff fight tonight - like Washington, both the Flyers, Hurricanes, Sabres, Panthers and the Bruins are idle. There are two games that will figure in the Western Conference tonight - Colorado vs. Calgary and Minnesota vs. Edmonton; if you want to be a rabid NHL scoreboard watcher.
There's a lot of conversation in the blogsphere about the likely and deserving Hart and Calder Trophy candidates. Many are debating the merits of considering Alexander Ovechkin for the Hart Trophy if the Capitals don't make the playoffs. This is confusing and makes little sense, the Hart Trophy is for the individual who is most valuable to his team. While the Great 8 isn't the only player worthy of consideration for the Hart this year, whether the Capitals make the playoffs or not shouldn't be a consideration on whether sportswriters vote for him. When you consider the criteria, even if you want to look at the Caps record, you need to look at the record of two teams the one coached by Bruce Boudreau and the one that started the season under Glen Hanlon. Since their coaching change, the Caps have played on pace to garner 102 points. After having been swept by the Caps 4 games to 0 this season, the Ottawa Senators will gladly face somebody else in the first round. Assuming the Montreal Canadeans hold onto their current pace and win the conference, there is no doubt they'd rather face the Bruins or Flyers (both of whom they blanked this season), and probably the Rangers (1-2-1) in the first round. The Canadeans went 2-2 against the Caps this season - and that was before the Caps picked up a goalie who knows their playbook - but that's another story. The point is the Caps are a competitive team that can and has played toe to toe with any other team in the NHL. There is no doubt other players, like Nicklas Lidstrom at Detroit; Martin Brodeur in New Jersey among them, should be considered for the Hart Trophy. Last year (2007) the Hart Trophy was awarded to Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Penguins made the playoffs finishing the season seeded 5th with 47 wins and 107 points, but were bested in the first round by the Ottawa Senators 4 games to 1, winning the Stanley Cup has never been a prerequisite to winning the Hart - that's why there's a Conn Smythe Trophy.
Each year the Hart Trophy is to the NHL player to the player who was the most valuable to his team during the regular season as voted by members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association. The voting is conducted at the end of the regular season by members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association, and each individual voter ranks their top five candidates on a 10-7-5-3-1 points system. Ties are broken based on who has the most first place votes. The closest the voting for the Hart Trophy has ever come was in the 2001–02 season, when José Théodore and Jarome Iginla tied in the total voting. The tiebreaker for choosing the Hart Trophy winner in such a case is number of first-place votes: Théodore, who had 86 first-place votes to Iginla's 82, claimed it. Given the basic tenet: the award is given to the player who was the most valuable to HIS TEAM during the regular season; it seems very likely that Alexander Ovechkin, the first player to score more than 60 regular season goals in over a decade, will be one of the three finalists for the award. Whether he'll win or not will depend on the how the members of the PHWA vote - but it wouldn't surprise many if he does win regardless of whether or not the Capitals make the playoffs. If Ovechkin does win and the Caps haven't made the playoffs, don't be surprised if he indicates he'd trade it for a playoff win in a minute during his acceptance speech. If AO doesn't win, don't be surprised to see him deflect questions on the subject with positive comments about the winner, regardless of whether or not the Caps made the playoffs. Ovechkin has proven time and time again, despite still improving on his English skills, to be "a class act".
As per wikipedia - the Calder Memorial Trophy is an annual award given "to the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition in the National Hockey League." The award has been awarded 70 times since its beginnings in 1937. The voting is conducted by members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association at the conclusion of each regular season to determine the winner. The voting is conducted at the end of the regular season by members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association, and each individual voter ranks their top five candidates on a 10-7-5-3-1 points system. Three finalists are named and the trophy is awarded at the NHL Awards ceremony after the playoffs. Obviously, looking at the definition of the purpose of the award, all the names being bandied about - Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Nicklas Backstrom, etc are worthy of consideration. All the rookies being talked about have put up numbers that substantiate their proficiency in their first year of competition. Again, whether Backstrom wins or not look for him to indicate he'd trade the trophy for a playoff win and to compliment whoever wins, if he's not on the dais with the trophy in June. The young Swede continues to impress with his maturity on and off the ice every day.
Enough about individual honors during a playoff race, back to focusing on what really matters. Next up Southeast Division leading Carolina, in Raleigh, tomorrow night. LETS GO CAPS!!!!