The race for the Vezina Trophy was decided Sunday night, when Braden Holtby and the President’s Trophy-bound Washington Capitals took down the Columbus Blue Jackets in the key battle, first overall in both the Metropolitan Division and the entire National Hockey League.
Holtby blanked the Jackets into the third period en route to a 3-2 Caps conquest. He now owns the inside track over Columbus goalie Sergei “Bob” Bobrovsky to earn the Vezina as the league’s top netminder, although the Columbus goalie leads the league in victories and save percentage.
Should he be honored, Holtby would become the first winner of the Vezina in consecutive seasons since Martin Brodeur of the New Jersey Devils did it both in 2007-08 and 2003-04. The only previous Vezina winners from Washington were Olaf Kolzig (1999-00) and Jim Carey (1995-96).
Bobrovsky already earned this award in 2013. It’s one of six annually presented at the annual NHL Awards show here in Las Vegas. This year’s NHL Awards is moving, but just down the street to The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on Paradise Road. It is scheduled for Thursday, June 22.
A vacationer comes to Las Vegas and might see me at a sportsbook, so the inevitable question is certain, “Who do you like tonight?”
Unlike our friendly visitor, whose window to (legally) wager is just a few days, my vision often spans more than a weekend. My perspective may cover a week, a month, or in certain situations the entire season (e.g., injuries to Steven Stamkos of Tampa Bay or goalie Jonathan Quick of “my” L.A. Kings).
This places me on my soapbox rant about how all of the major team sports leagues need to do more about something that is ruining the tail-end of the regular season: scheduling dynamics. It’s something that is so easily fixable, yet it often leads me to believe “the fix” may be in.
This originally dawned on me in 1970. It’s the first season of AFL (now AFC) regular season games against “the establishment” NFL (NFC).
You might be old enough to remember the initial contest in the Monday Night Football series, but I remember Game 4, when “my” dis-owned Chargers rallied late to take a one-point lead, only to watch the Green Bay Packers kick a last-second field goal for a 22-20 win.
Sure, sometimes unpreventable problems present themselves. A hurricane in Miami once moved an NFL Week 1 contest to a mid-season date that was originally a bye date (a recent LSU/Florida game, too). The L.A. Dodgers had a 1992 series with Montreal postponed due to the Rodney King verdict that triggered rioting; months later, it created three consecutive doubleheaders.
But what the NHL did to several clubs is simply unfair.
Boston closes with 6-of-7 at home, while Toronto ends with four straight at home, leaving Ottawa struggling for air. The Senators may have climbed into first place for one brief day in the Atlantic Division, but we all knew it was short-lived, playing 7-of-9 (and 9-of-12) times on the road to close the season.
The NHL talks about the big “rivalry” schedule devised by the league and NBC Sports. However, not in Chicago, where the Hawks close playing only 3-of-12 against division woes (two vs. Colorado). That’ll help decide a division champ!