Czar Igor crowned as Vezina winner at NHL Awards, Shestyorkin finishes third for Hart a decade after Lundqvist, Matthews sweeps the Hart and Lindsay, Makar edges Josi for Norris, Drury up for GM of The Year

On Tuesday night in Tampa Bay, Igor Shestyorkin was recognized by most normal general managers when he easily won his first Vezina as the league’s best goalie at the NHL Awards on ESPN.

After a memorable ’21-22 season that saw him win 36 games while leading the league in GAA (2.07), save percentage (.935) with six shutouts, Czar Igor (credit to Sean McCaffrey of was crowned The Vezina winner. He received 29 first place votes from the 32 GM’s who voted. Three cast votes for their goalie including former recipient Andrei Vasilevskiy of the Lightning, Frederik Andersen of the Hurricanes, and Ilya Sorokin of the Islanders.

I’ll save the rant about how out of touch the Godfather Lou Lamoriello is. He is a bitter old man. It is what it is. I feel no such animosity towards Julien BriseBois or Don Waddell, who both voted for two of the game’s best netminders. How Andersen wasn’t third over Saros I don’t understand. No disrespect meant. Saros meant a lot to the Predators, who were no match against Colorado without him.

For Shestyorkin, it was a nice coronation that recognized his achievements. He made 52 starts and appeared in 53 games. Both career highs along with the 36 victories, 2.07 GAA, .935 save percentage and six shutouts. The 26-year old Russian netminder who the Rangers stole in the fourth round of the 2014 NHL Draft with pick number 118 spoke in English when he received the prestigious award from Kevin Weekes.

Thanking the Rangers organization along with teammates and specifically goalie coach Benoit Allaire for believing in him, Shestyorkin made sure to mention his wife who is pregnant with their first baby. He also paid his respect to both Markstrom and Saros for their outstanding seasons.

It was nice to see him opt to speak exclusively in English. He did well in speaking eloquently at the podium. He also would get an interview with the very busy ESPN reporter Emily Kaplan. There was a lot to like about how Igor handled himself on what was a great occasion. He also has a dry sense of humor as Kaplan found out.

Without his brilliant play, the Rangers don’t reach the Eastern Conference Final for the first time in seven years. Similar to former franchise goalie Henrik Lundqvist in 2012, Shestyorkin carried them as far as possible. He won five elimination games including three in a row during the first round to lead a 3-1 comeback to beat the Penguins.

It was his splendid play in the second round that made the difference in the Rangers taking the final two games including a second consecutive Game Seven to eliminate the Hurricanes in enemy territory. Although they fell short in losing four straight to the two-time defending champion Lightning in gut wrenching fashion to drop the Conference Final four games to two, Shestyorkin provided plenty of critical saves to give them a chance at the upset.

For the postseason, he finished 10-9 in 20 starts with a 2.59 GAA and .929 save percentage. The 720 shots faced along with the 669 saves made still lead all goalies this playoffs. It speaks to the high volume of shots he faced.

No more so than in his postseason debut when he made 79 saves on 83 shots in a 4-3 triple overtime loss to the Pens on May 3. An incredible effort despite Evgeni Malkin getting the winner on a deflection. Despite a couple of tough games in Pittsburgh that put the team in a 3-1 hole, Shestyorkin never wavered in confidence. He was able to move on and backstop the Rangers to their first series win since defeating the Canadiens in 2017.

Although he finished a distant third for the Hart Trophy which went to Auston Matthews, whose 60 goals and 106 points were hard to ignore while leading the Maple Leafs, Shestyorkin being recognized as a top three player for league MVP is a great honor. It’s not often goalies get recognized by the voters over skaters. Connor McDavid finished a distant runner-up behind Matthews, who also was recognized by his peers by winning the Ted Lindsay Award as voted on by the players.

Johnny Gaudreau, Jonathan Huberdeau and Kirill Kaprizov finished fourth, fifth and sixth. They got it right.

In a very close vote, the Norris went to Cale Makar of the Avalanche. He outdistanced Roman Josi, who actually received more first place votes. The difference was that Makar got more second place votes by the writers. Adam Fox was fifth despite playing through an injury. Boston’s Charlie McAvoy finished fourth.

Personally, I felt Josi deserved it for carrying the Predators to the playoffs. He had 96 points and was unbelievable down the stretch. Makar might’ve gotten some home cooking from the Canadian contingent. He’s a great player. But this feels similar to when Ray Bourque edged Scott Stevens. That was even closer.

The Calder went to Detroit defenseman Moritz Seider. He won comfortably over runner-up Trevor Zegras and Michael Bunting. It was the right call by voters to give the Rookie of The Year to the multidimensional Seider, who should challenge for the Norris in the future. Teammate Lucas Raymond finished fourth.

They also highlighted other awards that were already announced during the playoffs. That included Patrice Bergeron winning a record fifth Selke for the NHL’s top defensive forward. As huge a fan of Bergeron as I am which dates back to his rookie season after Boston took him number 45 in 2003, I hope he comes back. He’s still got something left.

Although I don’t care for his on ice antics which now include dangerous slewfoots and trips that seriously injure players like Sammy Blais, I have no issue with P.K. Subban winning the King Clancy for all his off ice work in the community. He’s a very unselfish player who’s had a great foundation since 2014 when he was with the Canadiens. Subban won’t be back with the Devils. It’ll be interesting to see if he catches on elsewhere. He has a future in broadcasting when it’s over.

As much as I love and respect Carey Price for overcoming his substance abuse issues to return to the net for Montreal, I feel that Kevin Hayes deserved to win the Masterton for what he endured following the tragic death of brother Jimmy Hayes. Both were strong candidates. What Kevin had to handle was even harder and more personal than Price. My heart goes out to the Hayes family.

Aside from Kenan Thompson amusing viewers with his wit and funny bits, he knows the sport. What would you expect from the current SNL star who first came to fame as Russ Tyler in Mighty Ducks 2 with the knuckle puck? He also was part of Kenan and Kel and originally from All That on Nickelodeon. A funny and talented comedian whose career has taken off.

I thought overall, ESPN did a good job. Even if it was only limited to an hour with them cutting away at the end for precious WNBA action, the event was live for the first time in three years.

Thompson and co-host Ashley Brewer were good at presenting awards and bringing attention to special human interest stories such as the courageous Chris Snow of Calgary. He’s battling ALS. Seeing him walk up on stage and speak with his wife and two kids was touching. He’s a true inspiration.

I also loved seeing Brian “Red” Hamilton come up with Nadia Popovici, who saved the life of Hamilton by noticing he had a cancerous mole on the back of his neck while sitting behind the Canucks equipment manager at a Kraken game. The med student and Seattle Kraken fan is special. It’s a remarkable story. They presented the Hart to Matthews.

Rangers Team President and GM Chris Drury is also up for the Jim Gregory Award as GM of the Year. With a strong season that included key additions Barclay Goodrow, Ryan Reaves, Andrew Copp, Frank Vatrano, Tyler Motte and Justin Braun, plus hiring Gerard Gallant who guided the Rangers to 52 wins and 110 points to finish third for the Jack Adams, Drury is a deserving candidate.

Drury is up against Tampa GM Julien BriseBois and Colorado GM Joe Sakic. While both are good choices, their teams had lofty expectations. They’re supposed to be where they are facing each other for the Stanley Cup. The Rangers over achieved and were the third team remaining in their first Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2017. A credit to both Drury and Gallant along with the players.

Speaking of the Cup, the Avalanche had their 2-0 series lead cut in half by the Lightning, who responded to a 7-0 drubbing by returning the favor with a big 6-2 win on home ice to take Game Three. They can tie the series later tonight in Game Four.

In the first two games, the Avalanche outscored the Lightning 11-3. After Andre Burakovsky won Game One in overtime, they put up a touchdown and kicked an extra point to win Game Two convincingly. Valeri Nichushkin and Cale Makar scored twice while Burakovsky added a goal and assist. Andrei Vasilevskiy gave up a playoff worst seven goals on 30 shots.

Playing without Brayden Point again back home, the Bolts got big games from Steven Stamkos and Ondrej Palat the other night. Each had a goal and assist. Anthony Cirelli notched a goal. Pat Maroon had a goal and helper. Nikita Kucherov added two assists as did Victor Hedman.

Kucherov was cross-checked by Devon Toews in the third period and left early. He will play tonight along with Corey Perry, who made history by becoming the only player to score a goal for four different teams in the Stanley Cup Finals (Ducks, Stars, Canadiens, Lightning).

Point isn’t expected to return tonight. Riley Nash will dress for a second straight game and play on the fourth line. Nazem Kadri might return for Game Four. If he can, that would be a good boost for the Avs.

Darcy Kuemper will get the start after being chased for five goals on 22 shots. That’ll be an interesting subplot with Vasilevskiy turning it around by stopping 37 of 39 shots in Game Three.

That’s going to do it. It was nice to talk Rangers with Igor getting the Vezina to join Lundqvist, Vanbiesbrouck, Giacomin/Villemure and Kerr. Had they awarded the Vezina differently in 1949-50, Chuck Rayner would’ve also won it. He was the Hart winner that season after going 28-30-11 with a 2.62 GAA and six shutouts in 69 games. Emile Francis was the backup getting into one game.

Rayner would backstop the Rangers to within a goal of winning the Cup. Thet fell in double overtime 4-3 to the Red Wings. Rayner went 7-5 with a 2.25 GAA and one shutout during the playoffs. They defeated the Canadiens in five games and lost to the Red Wings in seven.

Congrats again to Shestyorkin! Хорошего вам дня.

About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included separate stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also interned for or hockey historian Stan Fischler and worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil telecasts. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has covered consecutive Staten Island Yankees NY Penn League championships in '05 and '06. He also scored Berkeley Carroll high school basketball games from '06-14 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree. The Battle Of Hudson administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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