The Pittsburgh Penguins are a team used to seeing their players have a strangle-hold on individual awards from scoring titles to MVPs over the years, but in 2018-19, it’s shaping up to be a pretty quiet year.
The PHWA midseason award voting. Some of this I agree with, and some of this not so much. But Pettersson, Trotz and Lehner are locks at this point. pic.twitter.com/5bKPQSGekx— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) January 24, 2019
Nary a Penguin in sight! It’s pretty crazy that Sidney Crosby is 21 points off the pace Nikita Kucherov has set in the scoring race this year. Sid’s having a pretty good year with 57 points (21 goals + 36 assists) in 49 games but Kucherov is off the charts right now on a pace for a 130 point season that would be the biggest in recent memory. Five more players in Mikko Rantanen, Johnny Gaudreau, Connor McDavid, Nathan MacKinnon and Patrick Kane all have at least 14+ more points than Crosby at this point, which again speaks to their seasons and also just how much scoring is going on this season.
In fact, here’s the best seasons since the great lockout of 2004-05:
Since Crosby scored 120 points in 2006-07, no one has really come close to that number. All six of the above named are on pace to at least make a run at it. MacKinnon and Kane are on pace for 116 points this season. McDavid’s toiling away for a 122 point pace in the Edmonton wasteland. Rantanen 121. And Kucherov’s mentioned 130 that would be the best season in the salary cap era.
Probably the best chance for a Penguin to make at least a finalist spot would be Kris Letang for the Norris trophy. Letang ranks tied for third among defensemen in the league with 11 goals so far this season, his 40 points are sixth most and his 26:08 played are third most among regular defensemen.
The Norris more than any other award seems to be a popularity vote for something of a “lifetime achievement”. After Niklas Lidstrom dominated the award for years, it’s now been passed around almost ceremoniously in a rotation to others. This year the narrative that it’s Mark Giordano’s “turn” has picked up a lot of steam and momentum. Giordano to his part is certainly having a Norris worthy season as well. Still, with a strong finish, there’s a good chance Letang can make some head-way and put his name in contention.
This year could be Marc-Andre Fleury’s best chance at a Vezina too, which almost surely would clinch any remaining doubts on the three-time Cup winner and 400+ game winner’s hall of fame credentials. Fleury has never finished higher than fifth in Vezina voting - which happened last year as a matter of fact. In all his seasons as a Penguin, Fleury only received Vezina votes two times (2010-11 and 2011-12).
Fleury leads the NHL so far this season with 27 wins. His .911 save% is only 17th among goalies with 25+ games played this season. One name not listed here who might be a contender to watch is Tampa’s Andrei Vasilievskiy who has a 20-6-2 record this season behind powerhouse Tampa with a .925 save% that ranks second in the league. He might get some momentum for votes. Frederick Andersen with a .923 save% in Toronto is bound to pick up more steam too if he stays healthy.
Overall it might be a quiet year for awards for the Pens, but no doubt the team goal to win a third Stanley Cup in four years is way more important to the group anyways.