Commentary

Handing out the NHL hardware

Familiar faces among the NHL's best, and some surprises, too

Updated: March 3, 2014, 5:44 PM ET
By Scott Burnside | ESPN.com

At last, we can truly and verily report we are at the quarter pole.

That's right, the NHL season has reached the final turn, and with just a quarter of a season to play and so much undecided, here's a look at our award winners at this late stage.

Hart Trophy: Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
Sorry to be predictable, but this is a runaway. Crosby continues to set the standard for greatness, leading the NHL scoring race by 11 points over Phil Kessel and leading the league in assists with 51 (to go with his 29 goals). Oh, sure, different players have taken a run at the top perch: Alex Steen, Patrick Kane, Ryan Getzlaf, Jonathan Toews and Alexander Ovechkin, who continues to crush the competition in goal scoring. This is Crosby's trophy, though, barring something dramatic happening in the final quarter. Runners-up: Getzlaf, Toews

Norris Trophy: Ryan Suter, Minnesota Wild
For a long time, we liked Duncan Keith of the Blackhawks to capture his second Norris Trophy as the league's best defenseman, and the second-leading scorer among blueliners this season may yet get there. But right now we're giving the nod to the guy who should have won it last season. The strong play of the Wild and the leadership role played by Suter in keeping his team afloat in spite of injuries to key personnel -- including captain Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise and Josh Harding -- push him ahead of Keith as we head down the stretch. Suter continues to log more ice time per game than any player in the NHL, by a wide margin, including a healthy 2:34 average on the penalty kill. Runners-up: Keith; Shea Weber, Nashville Predators

Vezina Trophy: Ben Bishop, Tampa Bay Lightning
This is as tough a category as there is in terms of major awards. Carey Price has had an outstanding season for Montreal (and his Olympic performance reinforced his status as an elite NHL netminder), Tuukka Rask has done everything the Boston Bruins have asked, and Henrik Lundqvist has been his usual brilliant self for the New York Rangers after a so-so start. Look at Bishop's numbers, though. He's at or near the top of all the main statistical categories, including the most important: wins. It's hard not to dub him our netminder of the year (or netminder of three-quarters of a year), especially given the way the Bolts have maintained a healthy grip on a playoff spot in the Atlantic Division despite myriad injuries and other distractions. Runners-up: Price, Rask

Calder Trophy: Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche
The first overall pick from last June's draft is turning the Rookie of the Year race into a runaway, as MacKinnon piles up the points for an Avs team that continues to exceed expectations. It's not just that he's running away with the rookie points race, although that's a factor (his 49 points are 12 more than surprising Tampa rookies Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat). For us, it's the fact that MacKinnon seems to be getting better all the time. As of Monday, MacKinnon is enjoying a 11-game point streak and had points in 13 of his past 14 games, including five multipoint efforts. MacKinnon, playing most recently with captain Gabriel Landeskog and veteran Paul Stastny, also leads all first-year players with five game-winning goals and leads in points, goals, assists and power-play goals. Runners-up: Johnson; Jacob Trouba, Winnipeg Jets

Jack Adams Trophy: Dan Bylsma, Pittsburgh Penguins
As usual, there are a lot of intriguing choices when it comes to picking the Coach of the Year. This is an award that usually goes to a coach who gets a lot out of a little, which often precludes the coaches of top-end teams, fair or not. There are guys this year like Jon Cooper in Tampa and Patrick Roy in Colorado who deserve attention for getting their teams into the thick of the playoff discussion, but for us it comes down to two coaches of top teams: Bruce Boudreau of the league-leading Anaheim Ducks and Dan Bylsma of the Eastern Conference-leading Pittsburgh Penguins. Given the injury/suspension issues Bylsma has had to confront with the Penguins this season, we'll go with the Pittsburgh coach to earn his second Jack Adams award. Runners-up: Boudreau, Cooper

Frank J. Selke Trophy: Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins
The award given to the league's best defensive forward is among the most prestigious in the NHL, and always one of the hardest to narrow down to a group of deserving finalists. Anze Kopitar continues to do yeoman's work for a Los Angeles Kings team that has the stingiest defense in the NHL. Toews is in the hunt, for sure, after his first-ever Selke win in last year's lockout-shortened season. And what about other elite players like Pavel Datsyuk of the Detroit Red Wings or even Crosby, given their dedication to the two-way game? For our money, though, the Selke goes to the man who has won more faceoffs than anyone in the NHL this season and consistently is asked to shut down opposing teams' top offensive units. Bergeron, a former Selke winner, is a big reason the Bruins rank first in the Eastern Conference and second in the league in goals allowed per game. Runners-up: Kopitar, Toews

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