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Capitals defenseman John Carlson named Norris Trophy finalist

Capitals defenseman John Carlson was named a Norris Trophy finalist Monday. (David Zalubowski/AP)

Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson was named a Norris Trophy finalist Monday, along with the Nashville Predators’ Roman Josi and the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Victor Hedman.

Carlson was an early favorite for the honor, awarded to the NHL’s best defenseman, after his blazing offensive start to the season. After just 11 games, teammates were campaigning for him openly, with captain Alex Ovechkin starting a “Johnny for Norris” hashtag on Twitter.

Carlson, 30, has never won the award. He finished fourth in voting after the 2018-19 season and fifth in 2017-18. Carlson was selected to play in his second All-Star Game this year.

“It is huge. ... It is an honor for me personally, but it is also a cool thing within your team and organization to kind of rally behind you,” Carlson said of being a Norris finalist for the first time.

Carlson would be the second player in franchise history to win the Norris. Rod Langway won it twice, in 1983 and 1984. This season, Carlson led all defensemen in points (75) and assists (60) and set or tied career highs in every offensive category.

“When you are hot, you are hot, and everything he touched was something like a goal or he got an assist,” Capitals winger Richard Panik said. “It is always great to have someone on the team like that.”

Carlson finished 10 points ahead of the next highest-scoring defenseman, with Josi recording 65 and Hedman third with 55. Carlson averaged 1.09 points per game, the most by a defenseman since Ray Bourque (Boston Bruins), Sergei Zubov (New York Rangers) and Al MacInnis (Calgary Flames) in the 1993-94 season. Bourque won the Norris that season.

“It is well-deserved for [Carlson] to be in the final three, and [he] ultimately should be, in my opinion, the favorite to win it,” Capitals Coach Todd Reirden said.

Despite the regular season being shortened by 13 games by the novel coronavirus pandemic, Carlson’s 75 points were the fourth most by a Capitals defenseman in franchise history, and they trailed the franchise record, set by Larry Murphy in 1986-87, by six.

“John obviously had an unbelievable year. ... Just his passing ability, his skill level — he’s unbelievable,” Josi said. “It is an honor to be nominated with those two guys.”

Josi also posted career highs in several categories, including points (65), goals (16) and assists (49). His points and assists were franchise records for a defenseman. He also scored the most points in a season by any Predators player since 2009 and had the eighth-best scoring season in team history.

The Norris Trophy is awarded “to the defenseman who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position.” It is named after former Detroit Red Wings owner James E. Norris and has been handed out annually since the 1953-54 season.

Calgary’s Mark Giordano won the award for the 2018-19 season, and Hedman won the year prior.

NHL announces schedule changes

The NHL announced that the Capitals’ third round-robin game against the Bruins originally scheduled for Aug. 8 will now be played Aug. 9. The round-robin game between the Philadelphia Flyers and the Lightning originally scheduled for Aug. 9 will now be played Aug. 8. Both games will still be played in Toronto, and their start times are still to be announced.

The league did not provide a reason for the changes.

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