Things to look for as the season winds down:
The President’s Trophy as the league’s best regular season team is still in doubt. Minsk as 112 points with six games to play and Belfast has 110 with five games left.
This I find unbelievable: Belfast could finish as the league’s top team and two of their big name wingers are still looking for their first goals of the season. Yes, Vladimir Tarasenko and Mikael Granlund have played on the fourth line with Nardo Nagtzaam all season, but Tarasenko has taken 40 shots in 77 games and Granlund has taken 36 shots in 74 games. That’s not much bang for Belfast’s $4.2 million bucks.
Kovalchuk and penalties. In the real world, Ilya Kovalchuk of St. Petersburg was thrown out of a Gagarin Cup Finals game in the KHL Saturday for a vicious elbow to Jan Kovar’s head. (See this story for details and the video.) In the EURO League, Ilya Kovalchuk of St. Petersburg has yet to be called for a penalty this season. He has played 68 games averaging 20 minutes per game and has 47 points. Minsk’s Bo Horvat and London’s Nikita Kucherov have played more games without a penalty, but they don’t play anywhere near the minutes Kovalchuk does.
MVP Watch: It’s hard to predict who the Websim gods will nominate for awards, but here are a few that should get consideration (defensemen in italics):
- Matt Duchene, Belfast, 99 points, 45 goals, +68, just 2 penalty minutes, 91 hits, 47 blocks, 94/72 turnover ratio
- Alex Pietrangelo, Paris, 64 points, 23 goals, +48, 48 PIM, 206 hits, 80 blocks, 65/41 turnover ratio
- Jonathan Quick, Belfast goalie, 44-13-5 record, 2.16 goals against average, 91.4 save percentage
- John Tavares, Lisbon, 99 points, 37 goals, +21, 24 PIM, 72 hits, 82 blocks, 150/102 turnover ratio
- Steven Stamkos, Lisbon, 101 points, 39 goals, +21, 40 PIM, 60 hits, 34 blocks, 112/106 turnover ratio
- Evgeny Malkin, Paris, 95 points, 37 goals, +21, 62 PIM, 82 hits, 56 blocks, 111/82 turnover ratio
- Gabriel Landeskog, Madrid, 71 points, 38 goals, +23, 40 PIM, 39 hits, 33 blocks, 92/54 turnover ratio
- Milan Lucic, Minsk, 99 points, 38 goals, +30, 95 PIM, 72 hits, 41 blocks, 71/83 turnover ratio
- Michael Del Zotto, Minsk, 46 points, 13 goals, +24, 58 PIM, 181 hits, 74 blocks, 72/48 turnover ratio
Rookie of the Year watch: Shayne Gostisbehere of Oslo is clearly the favorite to win. He was an all-star and leads all rookies in scoring as a defenseman – he has 7 more points than the top-scoring forward among rookies, Reto Suri of Madrid. If anyone steals votes from Gostisbehere, it will be another defenseman. Rasmus Ristolainen of London, Alexander Weiss of Zurich, Cody Ceci of Munich and Colton Parayko of Geneva all could get a second look from voters. Gregory Beron of London will be overlooked, but he impressed and was definitely the best defensive forward among rookies.
Defensive forwards: Websim only allows players who score a lot of points to get consideration for this award, so maybe it should be called the Best Two-Way Forward award. If you look strictly at a forward’s defensive contributions, Tyler Seguin of Oslo would win it. He has the most blocked shots and the most takeaways among forwards. John Tavares of Lisbon, Adam Henrique of Gothenberg, Brandon Dubinsky of Copenhagen and Talgat Zhailauov of Munich are also having top defensive seasons.
- Kyle Turris of Paris has more shorthanded goals this season (7) than these snipers have powerplay goals: Jame Benn, Taylor Hall, David Krejci, Anze Kopitar, Derek Stepan and a whole lot more.
- The player with the most shootout shot attempts without a goal is Zach Parise of Oslo. He is 0 for 6. Surprisingly, Matt Duchene of Belfast is right behind him at 0 for 5.