Half the of the 2010-11 campaign is in the books, and now it's time to give out some midseason awards:
*The Langway "Undersecretary of Defense" Trophy
*The Kolzig Award
*The Hunter Trophy
The Langway "Undersecretary of Defense" Trophy
This trophy is awarded to the Capitals' best overall defenseman. This award is not just about preventing goals -- it's about carrying the heaviest burden, including minutes played, quality of competition faced and how often the blueliner was deployed in the defensive zone.
Probably the easiest of the awards to handicap, the winner is John Carlson. Back in September I had a hunch this would be a big year for the rookie blueliner, and he has not disappointed. Not only has he shut down top line competition while logging big minutes, but when paired with Karl Alzner, they have been virtually impossible to score on at even strength, giving up only .60 goals per 20 minutes of ice time.
The Kolzig Award
After long deliberation I have narrowed The Kolzig Award, given to the Caps' best netminder, down to two finalists: Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth.
An early injury to Varlamov put the burden solely on Neuvirth, and I felt then he was up to the task. Neuvirth went 7-3-0 with a shutout, a goals against average of 2.15 and a save percentage of .926 in October, winning NHL Rookie of the Month honors. Then Varlamov got healthy, causing some to whisper "goalie controversy," while others felt that the team still needed to go outside of the organization if it was to contend in the playoffs. In the end, Semyon Varlamov did all he could to silence his critics (myself included) and win the Kolzig, posting a .946 5-on-5 scoring chance save percentage and .952 penalty kill scoring chance save percentage over the last five games, including a win over Pittsburgh in the Winter Classic.
The Hunter Trophy
The Hunter Trophy, awarded to the "perfect player," embodies qualities on the ice that contribute to winning. Whether it is drawing penalties, standing up for your teammates or lighting the lamp at critical times, this skater does it all.
In the offseason, General Manager George McPhee felt the Caps needed to toughen up, so the club traded for pugilist DJ King. Despite the signing of a heavyweight enforcer, it has been Matt Hendricks, the midseason winner of the Hunter Trophy, that has stood up for his teammates most nights. His 10 major penalties are good for sixth in the NHL, but it's his discipline to draw more penalties than he takes and skill to earn time on the power-play unit, where the Caps see 30 percent of their scoring chances convert to goals, that ultimately nabbed him the award. It's not always pretty, but Hendricks has made his presence felt on the ice in a big way so far.
The Bonzai, awarded to Washington's best forward, has seen the frontrunner change more often than Boudreau's line combos. Out of the gate it looked like Alex Ovechkin was on a mission, looking to avenge the first-round loss suffered only months before. Then Alexander Semin became the favorite, providing pyrotechnics almost nightly. But at the half, the winner is Brooks Laich.
Laich has been a puck-possession machine in terms of Corsi, which measures shots directed at net, including goals, shots saved, missed and blocked. The higher the Corsi rating, the more time is spent in the offensive zone. His 17.28 Corsi per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 ice time is best among Washington's skaters, with more than 20 games played this season. He has also been the driving force in scoring chances at even strength. With Laich on the ice, the Caps see 62 percent of scoring chances go in their favor and only 53 percent when off. His presence is also felt on the penalty kill, where the Caps see almost a goal less against when No. 21 is on the ice than when he isn't. Just in time for his contract year.
So there you have it. Who are your midseason winners?