Mixed feelings as COVID clip snowbirds wings
Have you heard about the SaltWire News app?
Daily fall forecasts and weather facts from Cindy Day
SaltWire's cartoonists bring heart and humour to the news.
SaltWire Selects: Stories you don't want to miss
What you need to know about COVID-19: October 20, 2020
Defencemen and goalies get lots of love in the playoff cauldron when the voting’s coming for the Conn Smythe trophy as post-season MVP, but it’s usually crickets for the Hart trophy in regular-season.
Dallas goalie Anton Khudobin has been the Stars’ MVP because he’s been excellent with a .923 save percentage in 20 games, and their Bhudda wasn’t supposed to be the storyline. On the other side, Tampa defenceman Victor Hedman has been their playoff MVP because he leads the league at plus-17, despite playing against the other team’s big guns, while also killing penalties and working the power play. With apologies to forwards Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov, he’s more valuable.
We know the regular-season rationale that there are awards for top defenceman (Norris) and best goalie (Vezina).They get their own kudos. But then change the criteria for the Hart to read most valuable forward.
Since 1965, when they started handing out the playoff MVP, 26 goalies or defencemen have won it — Patrick Roy three times and Bernie Parent twice in net, and Bobby Orr two times from the back-end. Eleven different goalies, 10 different blue liners.
Over the same span in the Hart voting, only Orr three times, goalie Dominik Hasek twice, defenceman Chris Pronger and tender Jose Theodore have broken the forward stranglehold. Theodore was the last one in 2002 for Montreal.
So why the difference in regular-season and playoff love?
“Goalies have an impact on the game because they play every single minute and defencemen who play the 200-foot game and get points,” said Tampa coach Jon Cooper. “Usually, goals are at a premium aren’t really high-scoring in the playoffs so if they get any, it adds to their lustre. And defencemen play monster minutes on the special teams, they stick out a bit more.
“The year we went to the final before (Chicago) Duncan Keith won it,” Cooper added. “You look at what Heddy’s (Hedman) done with his nine goals in however many playoff games, he’s on an unreal run here but in regular season, he’s probably not getting nine goals every 20 games.
“Points become a big factor in these games. Over 82 games, it’s hard for a defenceman to sustain that.”
While Miro Heiskanen and John Klingberg in Dallas, Cale Makar in Colorado and Quinn Hughes in Vancouver have or were getting plenty of hype for their offensive fireworks in the playoffs, teams that reach the Cup final almost always have one shutdown defenceman who plays his 22 minutes and finds the scoresheet occasionally. Such as glue guy Niklas Hjalmarsson on Chicago’s three Cup wins, the hugely effective Esa Lindell on Dallas’s back-end or workhorse Ryan McDonagh on the Tampa blue line.
“You look at the Oilers in their days, they had Kevin Lowe. He was the best defensive (defensive) player in the league for a long time. They had Paul Coffey going all the time and Kevin was just as important to all their championship teams,” said Dallas coach Rick Bowness. “There’s a lot of tight, low-scoring games in the playoffs and you have to shut it down. Usually those guys are key, key guys to your penalty-kill when that’s more magnified.
“You need guys who can play 22, 23 minutes against the top-end players.”
FINNS GETTING ALONG SWIMMIGLY
When Bowness was on the ice celebrating the Western Conference win over Vegas, he was yelling: “The Finns, the Finns, the Finns.”
Dallas has four: Heiskanen, Lindell, Roope Hintz and Joel Kiviranta; and loves ‘em all.
“They’re good people and good teammates and fun to be around,” said Bowness. “You look at Kivy, even going back to the 11 regular-season games for us, we realized this guy’s going to be a star for us. I mean, a Dallas Star. We thought it would be next year until these injuries hit and he’s running with it.
“You see how good Roope is on the rush and he’s getting better defensively and when he blocked that shot in Game 1, our whole bench erupted. It hurts like heck, no question. You don’t want to see your players having to eat pucks, you hope they go wide. But when he blocked the shot, our whole bench was thrilled for him. And you see the huge minutes Esa and Miro play against the opposition’s best players. The Finns? All hard-working.”
This ’n’ that: The NHL’s best official, Wes McCauley, is working his eighth Cup final, as he has every one since 2013, and fellow ref Kelly Sutherland is on his seventh. Dan O’Rourke (fifth), Steve Kozari (third) and Francis Charron (first) are the others in Edmonton. Sutherland, O’Rourke and Kozari were in the Edmonton bubble from the start … Dallas centre Joe Pavelski said on a video conference Monday that Patrick Maroon hit Kiviranta when he flipped the puck into the Dallas bench in Game 1. “Wasn’t anything major, the refs handled it,” said Pavelski … Hintz has a well-earned, high pain threshold. He played Game 7 against St. Louis Blues last season with a broken foot. He missed the last five minutes of Game 1 after blocking a Mikael Sergachev shot. In Game 2 against Vegas, he took a Shea Theodore shot off his arm but played on.
On Twitter: @jimmathesonnhl
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020