The 2011-12 season reaches its mid-point upon the completion of Monday night's game between the Washington Capitals and the Los Angeles Kings. But, NHL.com is going to take all week to look at the significant stories as the League makes the turn and heads toward the Stanley Cup Playoffs. We'll look at the races for the League's individual awards, while profiling some of the most surprising players and teams as we look ahead to the final three months of the season.
Before last week, there were only two active NHL players who had won the Selke Trophy -- Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk
(three times) and Vancouver's Ryan Kesler
(once). When Florida signed John Madden
on Jan. 4, that raised the total to three. The point is, the players who once were considered the standard among defensive-minded forwards -- Rod Brind’Amour, Jere Lehtinen
, Michael Peca
-- all are gone.
Datsyuk basically is the bridge between those players and a younger generation of talented, responsible forwards. Kesler was the first to break through last season, but others could derail Datsyuk's march to what would be a record-tying fourth Selke. Besides the two players not named Datsyuk listed below, there are other skaters, like Los Angeles' Mike Richards
and Chicago's Jonathan Toews
, who have earned recognition as elite defensive forwards who one day could lay claim to this award.
Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins
Center - BOS
GOALS: 11 | ASST: 23 | PTS: 34
SOG: 97 | +/-: 26
-- Bergeron has centered the best line in the NHL this season. That wouldn't be surprising given the Bruins' record this season and status as defending Stanley Cup champions. What makes it surprising is he has a second-year player on each wing.
The trio of Bergeron, Brad Marchand
and Tyler Seguin
has dominated -- offensively and defensively. Bergeron has been on the ice for 34 goals at even strength this season and only 10 against. The only players with a bigger disparity are his linemates.
If Bergeron wasn't considered among the best two-way forwards in the NHL before this season, he should be now. He might be the top challenger to the next guy on this list.
Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings
-- Datsyuk's reputation as the best defensive forward in the League is warranted. Bergeron is having an amazing season, and it should take that elite level of performance to unseat Datsyuk -- especially when he also is performing well.
As of Sunday morning, Datsyuk was No. 25 in advanced hockey statistic website Behind the Net's quality of competition ratings among forwards with at least 30 games played, and none of the 24 players in front of him had a better goals for/against differential at even strength (34-17). Only three of those 24 players have been on the ice for less than Datsyuk's 17 goals-against, including the other player who deserves to be a Selke finalist.
Mikko Koivu, Minnesota Wild
-- Koivu's offensive numbers haven't placed him among the NHL's elite centers, but his team's conservative philosophy has played a part. He has been considered one of the League's top defensive forwards, and the numbers back that up at the midway point of this season.
Like Datsyuk, he is among the top 25 forwards in quality of competition ratings, and he's been on the ice for only 15 goals-against, tied for the second-fewest in the League. Koivu also has been on the ice for only two more power-play goals against (six) than shorthanded goals for (four). He and teammate Cal Clutterbuck
have been the second-best duo in the League at producing offense shorthanded, behind New Jersey’s Zach Parise
and Adam Henrique