A season ago, once we passed that 41-game plateau, we were well into the stretch drive of the shortened season and readying for the playoffs.
Not this year. We have half a season left, which means it’s time for the midseason awards:
Hart Trophy (MVP): Three years ago when Sidney Crosby was running away with the Hart race, he sustained a concussion that derailed everything. If he remains healthy this second half, Crosby will win his second Hart Trophy and second scoring title. Crosby is running away with the scoring race with 67 points, 13 more than anyone else. Crosby has helped catapult the Penguins to the tippy top of the East despite an unbelievable run of injuries. Runners-up: Patrick Kane, Chicago; Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim; Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay; Alex Ovechkin, Washington.
Norris Trophy (Best defenseman): Duncan Keith is a remarkable defenseman to watch. He’s got tremendous skill, mobility, vision and passing ability. And for a guy who’s not overly big at 6-1 and 200 pounds, he’s surprisingly strong in the corners and down low. He leads all defensemen in scoring this year and is a plus-17. Runners-up: Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis; Kevin Shattenkirk, St. Louis; P.K. Subban, Montreal; Drew Doughty, Los Angeles.
Calder Trophy (Best rookie): In the first half, this was a two-man race between Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon, the No. 1 pick in the 2013 draft, and San Jose’s Tomas Hertl, the No. 17 pick in the 2012 draft. Hertl made a name for himself with a four-goal, seven-shot performance against the Rangers in October, but MacKinnon, who is just phenomenal with electrifying skill, speed and a big shot, has consistently gotten better all season long. This kid is going to be scary and one of the league’s best for many years to come. Runners-up: Hertl (now out with a major knee injury); Torey Krug, Boston; Hampus Lindholm, Anaheim; Antti Raanta, Chicago.
Vezina Trophy (Best goalie): For a team that has played a large chunk of the year without goal scorer extraordinaire Steven Stamkos, 6-7 behemoth Ben Bishop, the University of Maine product, has been exceptional to help keep the Tampa Bay Lightning afloat. He is 22-5-3 with the NHL’s second-best goals-against average to the Wild’s Josh Harding and league’s best save percentage at .935. Runners-up: Harding; Tuukka Rask, Boston; Semyon Varlamov, Colorado; Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh.
Jack Adams Trophy (Best coach): In the first year under former goaltending great Patrick Roy, the Avalanche has surged to being one of the top teams in the Western Conference and maybe the biggest surprise in the NHL. Everybody knew how deep the Avs were up front, but nobody could have predicted that their blue liners would be as good as they are. Roy and his staff have to be given credit for how well players such as Erik Johnson and Jan Hejda have performed. Runners-up: Jon Cooper, Tampa Bay; Dan Bylsma, Pittsburgh; Craig Berube, Philadelphia; Bruce Boudreau, Anaheim.
Selke Trophy (Best defensive player): Jonathan Toews is one of the best two-way forwards in the game and is having another exceptional season for the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks. He has 45 points, is plus-21, has a 56.8 percent success rate on faceoffs and is a total pest to play against. Runners-up: Patrice Bergeron, Boston; Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles; David Backes, St. Louis; Ryan Kesler, Vancouver.
• Wild awards: Hart and Vezina: Harding; Norris: Ryan Suter; Calder: Justin Fontaine; Selke: Mikko Koivu; Best newcomer: Nino Niederreiter; Mr. Clutch: Jason Pominville.