Tonight is definitely going to be an exciting night for those of us here in the Bolts Nation. The greatest players in the National Hockey League are about to descend on the Encore at the Wynn Las Vegas for one of the biggest nights of the year, the NHL Awards.
There are four members of the Tampa Bay Lightning that have made the trip to Sin City to represent the team as finalists in their respective award categories.
Now, we will take a look at which members made the trip, what they are nominated for, and why they should take the hardware home.
The first thing that comes to mind when I think of the NHL Awards is the Lightning’s young guns. Tampa Bay Lightning rookies Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat are both nominated for the Calder Memorial Trophy this year.
This award is handed out to the “player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition.”
Being completely honest, I don’t think that proficient is a word I would use to describe Johnson or Palat. Frankly, that just isn’t a powerful enough word. I would say that the two of them are pretty amazing at what they do, and when you think about the things they were able to accomplish in their first season in the National Hockey League it is pretty spectacular.
Along with Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon, Johnson and Palat respectively led the National Hockey League among rookies in points. MacKinnon was in first place with 24 goals and 39 assists for a total of 63 points along with a plus-20 rating.
While MacKinnon may have led Palat and Johnson in points, both of the Lightning rookies had MacKinnon beat in the player-rating arena.
Palat, who played just one less game last season than Johnson, was able to score 23 goals and 36 assists for a total of 59 points to accompany his plus-32 player rating. Johnson, who was not very far behind Palat, was able to score 24 goals and 26 assists for a total of 50 points along with his plus-23 rating.
No matter who actually walks away with the award, though my money is on Palat, all three of them have played a spectacular season and have earned every single ounce of the recognition they have received this season.
I must say that I was rather relieved when the Lightning was able to re-sign both Johnson and Palat before the Free Agency period began. These are two players that we want one our team for the long haul, and now, at least for the next three seasons, we will have them on the ice in Lightning blue.
Also up for an award tonight is Lightning Head Coach Jon Cooper. Cooper has been named a finalist for the Jack Adams Award. The Jack Adams Award is awarded to the coach who has “contributed the most to his team’s success.”
Anyone who watched the Tampa Bay Lightning for any period of time last season knows that other than the heroics of Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop, Coach Cooper was one of the biggest contributors to the Bolts success during the regular season.
In his first full season with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Cooper led the team to a 46-27-9 record, finishing third overall in the Eastern Conference and making the post season for the first time since the 2010-11 season when the Lightning found themselves one game shy of the Stanley Cup Final.
Last, but certainly not least, Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop has been nominated as a finalist for the Vezina Trophy. The Vezina Trophy is awarded to “the goalkeeper adjudged to be the best at his position.”
I have said this before, but I will definitely say it again. When I think of the words “best” and “goaltender” in the same sentence, the only name that comes to mind is Ben Bishop.
Last season, Ben Bishop was a mainstay in the Top 3 in all goaltending categories. He seemed to have fallen off a little bit towards the end of the season with no reason in sight; however, as the season reached its end, we come to find out that Bishop had been playing with a rather serious injury ever since the Olympic Break.
This is one of the injuries that are taking him almost the entire off-season to rehabilitate from.
Anyone who has watched a Lightning game this season knows that a good portion of the team’s success this season has been squarely in the glove of Bishop.
Bishop played in 63 games this season with the Tampa Bay Lightning where he went 37-14-7. In that amount of time, he maintained a Goals Allowed Average of 2.23 along with a Save Percentage of .924.
While he may not have had the season that he would have wanted, having to depart the season prior to the start of the playoffs, he certainly played a spectacular season and is certainly deserving of the Vezina Trophy, should it be awarded to him later this evening.
Along with the Colorado Avalanche, the Tampa Bay Lightning leads the way tonight with four finalists each. This is one of the better showings that the Lightning have had in a while. This is a testament to the amount of growth the team has done in the last few years.
No matter how things turn out tonight, whether or not any or all of our players come home with some additional hardware, they are all winners in my book; winners that I am happy to know will be a part of the Lightning organization for many years to come.
What are your thoughts on the members of the Lightning organization, both players and coach, who have been nominated for Awards at tonight’s ceremony? Who do you think will be walking away with the trophies tonight? Let us know what you think in the comments below.
The NHL Awards will air live at 7:00 p.m. on the NBC Sports Network.