The All-Star game isn’t exactly in the middle of the hockey season, but we still like to view it as the season’s midpoint. And now that we’ve returned from our fantasy vacation, where John Scott is a champion among men, the focus now shifts to the NHL’s stretch run. Some teams will be eyeing the Feb. 29 trade deadline to help their chances at securing a playoff spot. Others will join #tanknation and bumble through the rest of the season.
As the playoff races heat up, so too does the race for some of the NHL’s most coveted hardware. Some, like the Hart Trophy, now seem all but sewn up now. Others, like the Vezina race, have been blown wide open thanks to a lengthy injury to reigning winner Carey Price.
Here are our current odds for the NHL’s top prizes as we enter the season’s “second half.”
Hart Trophy Odds (MVP):
- Patrick Kane (Chicago Blackhawks): 1/5
- Alex Ovechkin (Washington Capitals): 6/1
- Jamie Benn (Dallas Stars): 13/2
Given the hectic start to Kane’s season, it sounds absurd to say he’s been the calming influence on the Blackhawks; but that’s exactly what he’s been this season. While the rest of Chicago’s lines struggled to gel, Kane kept the team competitive, reeling off a 26-game point streak. Then the team, as whole, started coming together, winning a franchise record 12 straight at the end of January. With a seemingly insurmountable lead in the Art Ross race as well, Ovechkin or Benn will have to do something spectacular in the latter part of the season to be considered more than just a runner up.
Richard Trophy Odds (Most Goals):
- Patrick Kane (Chicago Blackhawks): 1/1
- Alex Ovechkin (Washington Capitals): 5/3
- Jamie Benn (Dallas Stars): 9/2
This race should be a lot tighter than the MVP race, with only two goals separating Kane (30) from the others. Ovechkin (28) is the most likely candidate to close the gap; he’s the highest volume shooter in the entire league, with 234 shots on net. He’s also got six 50-goal seasons under his belt already. Benn, meanwhile, is scoring on 17.4-percent of his shots – a huge leap from his previous career high – so you can expect him to revert back closer to the mean in the second half.
Vezina Trophy Odds (Best Goalie):
- Corey Crawford (Chicago Blackhawks): 1/1
- Braden Holtby (Washington Capitals): 5/2
- Cory Schneider (New Jersey Devils): 3/1
Often the forgotten piece of the Blackhawks’ winning core, Crawford is actually putting together an unbelievable season, one that should’ve warranted a spot in the All-Star Game. He’s faced the second most shots of any goalie in the league and still compiled a .931 save percentage, 2.14 goals against average, and seven shutouts while leading the top team in the West. Holtby and Schneider certainly have impressive resumes of their own and can reel in Crawford down the stretch, but for now, he’s the favorite.
Norris Trophy Odds (Best Defenseman):
- Erik Karlsson (Ottawa Senators): 1/2
- Drew Doughty (LA Kings): 7/2
- Shea Weber (Nashville Predators): 5/1
Karlsson is having another fantastic offensive season, ranking fourth in the league in points. But he’s also getting it done at the back end, leading the NHL in ice-time, blocking 100 shots, and posting a +3 rating on an Ottawa team that’s -17 as a whole. Doughty appears to be his number-one challenger; last year’s runner-up is on pace for a career-high in goals and holding down a very strong +13 rating despite playing over 28 minutes a night. A lot of guys could claim that third nominee spot, but I think Weber is having another great all-around season with 12 goals, 109 hits, 89 blocked shots, and only ten penalty minutes.
Calder Trophy Odds (Rookie of the Year):
- Artemi Panarin (Chicago Blackhawks): 4/3
- Dylan Larkin (Detroit Red Wings): 3/2
- Max Domi (Phoenix Coyotes): 5/1
Panarin has been the biggest beneficiary of Kane’s offensive explosion this year; the rookie is crushing all others in scoring with 46 points. But you could argue Larkin and Domi have taken on bigger roles with their team. Larkin is tied for the team lead in points for Detroit and is a fantastic +24. Domi’s 32 points have helped the Arizona Coyotes get back into the playoff hunt ahead of schedule.
Jack Adams Odds (Coach of the Year):
- Gerard Gallant (Florida Panthers): 5/8
- Joel Quenneville (Chicago Blackhawks): 4/1
- Dave Tippett (Arizona Coyotes): 4/1
If you expected the Florida Panthers to be on top of the Atlantic Division this late in the season, congratulations! You’re name is probably Gerard Gallant, and you’re the front runner for coach of the year. Currently on pace to finish 14 points better than last season, the young Panthers have been the surprise of the season. Depending on how Arizona finishes the year, Dave Tippett could be the architect of the NHL’s other shocking turnaround. As for Joel Quenneville, he simply doesn’t get enough credit for keeping the Hawks at the top of the league despite big roster changes each year.
(Photo Credit: Lisa Gansky [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.)