October 17, 2011

Will the real NHL Superstars please stand up?!?! (Part 2)

In Part 1, I discussed the most disappointing star forwards, and Art Ross candidates so far this season. In this article I will discuss disappointing Norris and Vezina candidates.

Norris Candidates

1) Zdeno Chara (BOS)– 4 GP, 0 points, +1
Chara is a perennial Norris candidate, and excluding Lidstrom, the potential favorite for the award year in and year out. But so far this season, he is playing like anything but that. Chara hasn’t seemed to be able to get it going offensively, much like the rest of the Bruins team. Big Z is always a threat on the powerplay with his 100+ MPH slapshot, and tends to wreak havoc on opposing goalies, but so far this season he has been non-existent offensively. Defensively Chara hasn’t been bad, as he is a plus on a Bruins team that has struggled so far this year, so he hasn’t been a detriment to the team. However, if Chara plans to have his name as a finalist for the Norris, then he better pick his game up, because nobody wins the Norris if they don’t contribute on both ends of the ice.

2) Dustin Byfuglien (WIN) – 3 GP, 0 points, -3

Last season, Byfuglien took the NHL by storm by simply dominating after being switched to a full-time defenseman. Last year he was one of the most dominant d-men in the league, by scoring 20 goals, and being one of the leading scorers when it came to the backend. Buff was literally an unstoppable force last season, just like he was in the playoffs when he earned the nickname Buffy the Luongo slayer. When news came that the team was moving back to Winnipeg, you figured it would motivate him to step his game up to an entire level. But so far, he has been horrible, as he is not producing on the offensive side of the ice, and defensively is a -3! The good news for Jets fans Is that the only place to go from here is up for both Byfuglien and the team itself!

Vezina Candidates

1) Roberto Luongo (VAN) – 1 win- 1 loss, 3.6 GAA, .871 save %
To say that Luongo has been less than spectacular so far this season would be a HUGE understatement. His save % being sub .900 shows that he is struggling to see the puck and stay in good position. Luongo hasn’t looked smooth at all, and if you watch him has seemed to be fighting the puck, and struggling to handle pucks that he would normally have no problem with. In my opinion, this problem and his production as of late has nothing to do with talent. There is no questioning that he is one of the best goalies in the NHL and he has been since first stepping into the league. I believe Luongo’s problem is in his head right now, he is lacking confidence. After the beating he took from the media for his performance in the Stanley Cup, it’s going to take Luongo a while to get his confidence back. But after a few wins in a row, or one big game from him, his confidence will come back, and when it does look out, because Luongo is going to prove all of his doubters wrong once again. But in the meantime, he is not performing up to par, and is one of the biggest reasons for Vancouver’s slow start, along with depth scoring. The return of Kesler this week should help Luongo both win wise, and also defensively as Kesler is one of the best 2-way forwards in the league.

2) Carey Price (MTL) – 1 W, 2 L’s, 1 OTL. 2.96 GAA, .880 save %.
The season started off great for Price. He lost to Toronto 2-0, but in no way was he responsible for the loss. In fact in the final 2 periods he made at least 3-4 highlight reel saves, that seemed to be sure goals. Montreal then dominated Winnipeg, and Price allowed only 1 goal, however, he wasn’t tested all that much in that game. The Habs then headed back to Montreal for the home opener and that is where the wheels fell off. In his last 2 games vs Colorado and Calgary, Price has allowed a total of 9 goals on only 51 shots! So in his last 2 starts Price has a 4.5 GAA and a .823 save %. Those numbers are a far cry from Price’s 2.35 GAA, and .923 save % last season. Price was one of the heavy preseason favorites to win the Vezina, and many thought the Habs had a legitimate shot at the Cup simply because they have Carey between the pipes. They will need much better play out of him, if they want even the playoffs to happen. Perhaps it is the pressure of his upcoming 100th career win that is getting to him, but something isn’t right with Price at the moment. However, last year was no fluke, Price has been a bluechip prospect his entire career, and will undoubtedly turn it around at some point. Hopefully for the Habs that comes soon, as with both undefeated Sabres and Leafs, along with the Reigning Stanley Cup champ Boston Bruins in the division, the Habs don’t want to fall too far behind.

3) Cam Ward (CAR) – 2 wins, 2 losses, 3.26 GAA, .899 save %
Cam Ward along with Ryan Miller have been called the most underrated goalies in the league. After Miller’s incredible Olympic performance with the US, he was no longer off the radar, so the underrated title fell solely onto the shoulders of Cam Ward. So far this season he is on pace to lose the underrated title, but not because of becoming known as elite, instead if he continues at this pace, he will play his way right out of the conversation. Ward has always been incredibly consistent, and although I wont judge him on the wins/losses because his team isn’t as good as the 2 goalies mentioned above. The concerning stats are his 3.26 GAA, and his sub .900 save %, as  both statistics are incredibly weak for what we have come accustomed to from Cam Ward between the pipes for the Hurricanes.

There are plenty other D-men, and goalies that have played very poorly so far this season, but when you consider the expectations placed on these players they are by far the most disappointing. Once again though, we are only a handful of games into the season, and nobody ever won a Norris or Vezina trophy in the month of October. So don’t count these guys out just yet, because there is a reason they were preseason favorites, and there is a very good chance they will turn it around to remind us all why we have become so accustomed to them being near the top of the stats categories…not the bottom.

Grant Robinson (@thesportsgrind)

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