The race for the Art Ross Trophy is down to 6 horses - who ya got?
Your knee-jerk reaction to that headline was “Sid,” wasn’t it? It was, because you’re a Smart Hockey Person. He’s won them before, he’s the best player in the game, and he is, to put it as plainly as possible, Sidney Crosby.
But it’s a traffic jam at the top – he’s five points back – and the sand in the upper half of the hourglass is getting awfully thin.
His biggest competitor in my eyes was felled around the quarter pole when Dmitry Kulikov dropped periscope and went submarine depth on Tyler Seguin’s knees, otherwise this would be a seven-horse race.
But lo and behold, we’re left with six, so let’s take a look at the odds for each stallion down the home stretch and place our imaginary bets.
The “longshots” are currently tied for second in the scoring race with 60 points apiece, three points back of the leader. So, y’know, “long” might be a bit of an overstatement. They have shots.
Let’s start with the numbers, then have a little chat. Keep in mind, for the purpose of racking up points, there’s little reason to care about percentages, I just want to know what they’re creating at the offensive end.
|Stat Category||Jakub Voracek||Nicklas Backstrom|
|Points Per Game||1.05||1.03|
|Shots Directed For Per 60 Mins||59.6||61.6|
|Scoring Chances For Per 60 Mins||30.7||29.2|
|Career Shooting %||10.40%||11.50%|
Jakub Voracek plays on a line with Claude Giroux on a team making a desperate playoff push that also happens to have 14 of its last 25 games at home. Put those things on the “pro” side of the scale. His shooting percentage isn’t out of whack and, of the six players we’re talking about today, only two guys are a part of more scoring chances.
Nicklas Backstrom, on the other hand, is an assist machine that gets to dish to the Abominable Goal Monster, Alex Ovechkin. His vision is tremendous and he’s also on a team that’s making a rush up the standings that has 14 home games and a mere 10 to go on the road.
Conclusion: Of the two guys in this group, I like Voracek’s odds incrementally more than Backstrom’s. At 25 it makes sense that this would be the year he takes a big offensive step. I believe we’re watching the real Jakub Voracek, not a lucky one. His team has that extra game to play, he’s closer to his true shooting percentage than Backstrom and he’s creating a few more chances.
If anyone from this group gets hot and stays healthy, they'll be darn close at the finish line.
|Stat Category||Alex Ovechkin||John Tavares||Patrick Kane|
|Points Per Game||1.02||1||1.09|
|Shots Directed For Per 60 Mins||63||67.6||60.9|
|Scoring Chances For Per 60 Mins||30.3||35.5||27.8|
|Career Shooting %||12.30%||13%||11.90%|
Alex Ovechkin won his first in only Art Ross Trophy back in 2007-08 and sits one fiery streak shy of grabbing his second. It’s possible, given he has the same advantageous team situation as Backstrom and has the competitive spirit to finish with the throttle down. He’s a lock to win the Rocket Richard, in my mind – his one zillion shots and reasonable shooting percentage make that a no-brainer – but he’s up against some stiff competition here and sits four points back.
Some of that stiff competition can be found within his own division – look at John Tavares’s numbers. He’s creating more scoring chances per 60 minutes than the next closest of our six stars by four. Pucks head to the opposing net when he’s on the ice six more times per 60 than the next closest of our horses. The Isles also happen to have a home-heavy stretch drive. The man is a beast, but unfortunately he’s a full five points back and the guy he’s trying to catch is OK.
That guy, of course, is Patrick Kane, he of the shoulder shimmies, the saucy mitts and the killer backhand. His point-per-game clip is tied for first in the NHL and he lines up along some mighty fine players on a team full of players who can get the puck up the ice (only the Kings direct more shots on net). As things sit right now he leads by three, and the way he looks right now, it’s hard to believe the 26-year-old is gonna slow down much.
Conclusion: Patrick Kane has the best chance of this trio to win the award and take home his first Art Ross. That he's already ahead by three points is a nice start – a bird in the hand, as they say – and the guy I think who has the best chance to catch him, John Tavares, simply has too much ground to make up.
|Stat Category||Sidney Crosby|
|Points Per Game||1.09|
|Shots Directed For Per 60 Mins||61.4|
|Scoring Chances For Per 60 Mins||31.6|
|Career Shooting %||14.50%|
As gamblers say, Sid is chalk. He’s the 1/1 bet that doesn’t pay out much, but even when he falls behind early, you see him gaining speed down the backstretch and are reminded why the odds were set as they were. And as it always goes, that horse wins by a nose and some fool who picked the ‘ol three-legged fella that almost won gets his heart broken.
Sid is tied for the league lead in points-per-game and has one extra game to play than Kane. He’s a part of the second most scoring chances per game to only that monster Tavares and is the only player below his career shooting percentage – and he’s well, well below it. There’s a weird stat with Sid, too, he’s been held scoreless 23 times this year, which means he only has points in 30 games. That means he’s damn near at two points per game when he’s on.
Do you want to bet against Sidney Crosby being on more often than not down the stretch?
Conclusion: I can’t do it. I just can’t pick against Sidney Crosby. He may be five back, which is no small climb, but do you remember Tiger Woods in his prime? He rarely lost to the Rocco Mediates and Bob Mays, no matter how out of touch the tournament seemed, no matter how great those other guys played. Like Tiger, Sid is just too competitive, just too good.
Bourne's Final Standings
Vote below and let us know who you think wins the 2014-15 Art Ross Trophy.
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