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Posted at 04:02 PM ET, 04/06/2012

NHL awards: Stats geek vs. old-school reporter

New school vs. old school. #Fancystats vs. the eyeball test. Neil Greenberg vs. Tarik El-Bashir.

Ever wondered what hockey scribes do between the end of the regular season and the playoffs? We argue over which players deserve to win the NHL’s major awards.

This week, Neil and I picked our winners based on the criteria we’re most comfortable using. In other words, Neil, a noted advanced statistics geek ( not nerd, he says), used his calculator. As an ink-stained beat writer, I relied on, you know, actually watching the games.

Here’s what we came up with:

(Stats through Thursday’s games.)


(Jonathan Daniel - GETTY IMAGES)
Neil: Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis Blues
Pietrangelo has faced the stiffest competition on the Blues, who are going to set the record for fewest goals against per game in the modern era. Plus, he has tilted the ice in St Louis’ favor during even strength when the score is tied, which eliminates score effects and any benefit from playing on special teams. Pietrangelos’ 57 percent of shots at net in the Blues’ favor is better than both Norris frontrunners Erik Karlsson (52 percent) and Shea Weber (49 percent).

Tarik: Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins
It’s Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final and you can pick any defenseman in the NHL to be your team’s No. 1. Why would you pick anyone other than Chara? At 6 foot 9, he’s got the game’s longest reach. Plus, he’s a big hitter who puts opposing forwards’ heads on a swivel. Chara also ranks second in plus-minus (plus-33) and has 52 points, one shy of second place among blueliners. Simply put, he’s a more complete player than the other candidates.


(Jae C. Hong - AP)
Neil:  Jonathan Quick, G, Los Angles Kings
Quick gets just 2.01 goals of support per 60 minutes this season, second fewest only to Anaheim’s Jonas Hiller (1.92). Take away his stellar save percentage  (.931) and league-leading 10 shutouts and the Kings are likely drafting in the lottery instead of leading the Pacific Division and entering the playoffs as the third seed.

(Bruce Bennett - GETTY IMAGES)
Tarik: Evgeni Malkin, C, Pittsburgh Penguins
Is there really any question here? A year after missing half the season and playoffs with a bum knee, the 25-year-old Russian leads the league in points (107) and is second in goals (49). During the team’s remarkable 13-0-1 streak, Malkin racked up 13 goals and 24 points.  More important to me, though, the power forward carried the Penguins (106 points) while captain Sidney Crosby was sidelined with a concussion for most of the season.


Neil: Carl Hagelin, LW, New York Rangers
Sure, Colorado’s Gabriel Landeskog, Philadelphia’s Matt Read and Edmonton’s Ryan Nugent-Hopkins have appeared to score more, but when we look at the level playing field of even-strength play, that is not the case. Hagelin (2.51) has more points per 60 even-strength minutes than Read (2.14), Nugent-Hopkins (1.97) and Landeskog (1.79). Plus he has done a better job at driving puck possession than any of the other Calder hopefuls.

Tarik: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, C, Edmonton Oilers
For a scoring-line forward, it’s about point production. Period. Nugent-Hopkins, a play-making center who plays both ends of the ice, is tied with Landeskog for the rookie lead in points (52) despite playing in 20 fewer games due to a shoulder injury. He’s also tied with New Jersey’s Adam Henrique for the lead in assists (34) and has more power-play points (23) than any other freshman.



Neil: Henrik Lundqvist, G, New York Rangers
Lundqvist is among the league leaders in save percentage (.931), shutouts (eight), and goals against average (1.93), but his ability to keep the Rangers in the game when trailing is what separates him from the pack. His .941 even-strength save percentage when the Blueshirts trailed by a goal was best in the league, and when the Rangers trailed by two Lundqvist got even better (.955).

(Jae C. Hong - AP)
Tarik: Jonathan Quick, G, Los Angeles Kings
The aptly-named goaltender is a game-changer who uses his size (6 foot 1, 214 pounds) and quick reaction time to thwart would-be scorers. For me, the stat that gives Quick the edge over other contenders are his league-best 10 shutouts, which includes three in a row in October and one against Presidents’ Trophy contender St. Louis last month. The 26-year-old has also lost five games by a score of 1-0 and ranks in the top five in all standard goalie metrics – wins (35), save percentage (.929) and goals against average (1.93).



(Gene J. Puskar - AP)
Neil: Dan Bylsma, Pittsburgh Penguins
Of the teams who made the playoffs, just Nashville, Vancouver and Pittsburgh have both their power-play and penalty-killing units in the top 10. And of those three, Pittsburgh is the best at tilting the ice in its favor (55 percent of shots with the score tied), despite missing superstar Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang, the team's best defenseman.

(Christian Petersen - GETTY IMAGES)
Tarik: Ken Hitchcock, St. Louis Blues
There are plenty of good candidates, including Dave Tippett (Phoenix), Paul MacClean (Ottawa) and John Tortorella (New York Rangers). But where would St. Louis be had “Hitch” not been hired Nov. 6? Quite possibly headed toward a third straight postseason-less campaign. Instead, the Blues have ridden Hitchcock’s defense-first style to the upper reaches of the league standings. If he wins, he’ll join Bill Barber (2001, Philadelphia) and Bruce Boudreau (2008, Capitals) as the only coaches to win the award after taking over midseason.

More from Post Sports:
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On Hockey: Holtby a solid Plan B for Capitals
Hamilton: Fighting their way in good for Caps

By and Neil Greenberg  |  04:02 PM ET, 04/06/2012

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