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NHL Betting: Super Bowl Style Awards
Rick Nash, Sidney Crosby, Ilya Bryzgalov and Claude Julien are your winners
Jan. 29, 2008
By Jason Brough
Bodog Nation Contributing Writer
Now that the NHL all-star break is behind us, it’s time for the playoff stretch drive. But first, some awards. And in the spirit of the big football game on Sunday, let’s do it with a Super Bowl theme.
The Eli Manning Trophy for “pulling it together”
And the winner is… Columbus Blue Jackets forward Rick Nash.
Like the New York Giants’ quarterback, Nash has been plagued with bouts of inconsistency during his career. In 2003-04 – his second season in the NHL – he scored 41 goals. Those were the good times. Then came the lockout, and then came the injuries. The year after the work stoppage, Nash was sidelined for most of the first half of the season, though he still managed 31 goals in 54 games. Last year, however, his goal production fell dramatically when he scored just 27 times in 75 games.
This season, Nash is filling the net at the highest rate of his career. He already has 26 goals in 49 games and is on pace for 42. Also noteworthy is his improved defensive play. A career -65, he’s breaking even in the plus-minus department this year. Not to mention, on Jan. 17 at Phoenix, he scored what most are calling the goal of the year when he turned both Coyotes’ defensemen inside out and potted the game winner with 22 seconds remaining.
“It just seemed like the puck was on a string,” Nash said. “I made a couple of dekes and the puck just stayed with me.”
To top off a sublime first half of the season, Nash just happened to be the deadliest shooter in Sunday’s All-Star Game in Atlanta, notching three goals for the showcase’s only hat trick.
Columbus Blue Jackets’ odds to win the Stanley Cup: 50/1
The Tom Brady Award for “highest ankle sprain”
And the winner is… Pittsburgh Penguins forward Sidney Crosby.
The high ankle sprain is a curious injury. In the case of the New England Patriots’ quarterback, all it needs to heal is a walking boot for a day. For hockey’s biggest star, it means missing six to eight weeks.
Crosby hurt himself on Jan. 18 when he crashed into the end boards during a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Then (and still) leading the team with 63 points in 46 games, the injury had many believing that the Pens’ playoff hopes were dashed, if not severely impaired.
Apparently, many didn’t count on Evgeni Malkin.
Pittsburgh’s other superstar has stepped up big time in the captain’s absence. Malkin has four goals in the three games the Pens have played without Crosby, and with a win and overtime loss, the team has taken three points out of a possible six.
“[Malkin]’s been handling [Crosby’s absence] very well so far,” said teammate Sergei Gonchar. “It seems like he’s up for the challenge. He’s playing well. It’s not going to be easy. In my opinion he’s ready for it and he’s doing a good job.”
Crosby concurs: “When things are more desperate, when [Malkin] knows he’s being depended on a little more, he’s got that extra jump.”
Pittsburgh Penguins’ odds to win the Stanley Cup: 10/1
The Randy Moss Prize for “best change of scenery”
And the winner is… Phoenix Coyotes goalie Ilya Bryzgalov.
Sometimes a fresh start is all a player needs. For Bryzgalov, it just wasn’t working in Anaheim. He started the first four games of last season’s Stanley Cup run and then watched J.S. Giguere take over for the rest.
On Nov. 16, 2007, Bryzgalov was placed on waivers and picked up by Phoenix. His first game with the Coyotes came the next night in Los Angeles, a 1-0 win for his third career shutout.
It wasn’t just a one-shot deal, either. Bryzgalov has gone 17-10-2 with Phoenix and is a big reason coach Wayne Gretzky’s squad has a legitimate shot at making the postseason for the first time since the 2001-02 campaign.
“I like it here,” said Bryzgalov. “I feel very comfortable with the coaches, management. I think it’s a great place. It’s a young team. I think we have a bright future. It’s my decision that I want to be a part of that.”
Bryzgalov’s words didn’t come out of nowhere; they were in response to the Coyotes rewarding their newfound starter with a $12.75 million, three-year contract.
“He makes our team better and he makes our franchise stronger,” Gretzky said.
Phoenix Coyotes’ odds to win the Stanley Cup: 70/1
The Laurence Tynes Medal for “third time’s the charm”
And the winner is… Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien.
He lasted parts of three seasons in Montreal and only got one year in New Jersey. Now, in his third stint as an NHL head coach – this time with the Boston Bruins – Julien might have found a more permanent home. A winner of seven of 11 and sitting seventh in the Eastern Conference, Boston is poised to make the playoffs for the first time since the lockout.
Seventh place might not seem like an overly impressive accomplishment, but you have to consider that the Bruins have been without Patrice Bergeron since Oct. 27 and Glenn Murray hasn’t played in over a month. Last year, Bergeron and Murray finished second and third, respectively, behind Marc Savard in team scoring. The Bruins, meanwhile, finished last in the Northeast, 13th in the conference, with a 35-41-6 record.
Out went Dave Lewis, in came Julien.
“He’s very sharp… on top of things,” defenseman Zdeno Chara told The Gazette (Montreal) about his coach. “He has brought accountability. You’ve got to be responsible. He’s strict, pays attention to details and has a good sense of what this team needs.”
Boston Bruins’ odds to win the Stanley Cup: 35/1
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