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.
As the NHL hits its midway point, many players have established themselves as scoring threats who consistently find their way onto the stat sheet without finding their way to the penalty box. It's often one of these men who takes home the Lady Byng Trophy at the end of the season, the NHL's annual award for "skillful and gentlemanly play."
Martin St. Louis
has taken Byng home two years in a row, and he's done little this year to rule himself out of a hat trick, tallying 10 goals and 21 assists in 33 games while picking up just 8 penalty minutes. But at the season's quarter mark in November our nod went to Dallas' Loui Eriksson
, a first-time nominee for the award in 2011, and halfway through the season that hasn't changed.
Eriksson, 26, has continued to impress, but he's joined by a host of young players impressing on the ice while incurring minimal infractions. Look no further than the Atlantic Division, where New Jersey's Adam Henrique
(28 points, plus-7, 2 PIMs) and Philadelphia's Matt Read
(22 points, plus-6, 2 PIMs) have had solid rookie campaigns. Brian Campbell
, in his first season in Florida is taking a run at being the first blueliner to win the Lady Byng in nearly six decades, tallying 31 points and a plus-4 with just 4 PIMs for the surprising first-place Panthers.
Here are our picks for the top contenders for the Lady Byng Trophy at the halfway point:
Loui Eriksson, Dallas Stars
Left Wing - DAL
GOALS: 14 | ASST: 24 | PTS: 38
SOG: 97 | +/-: 14
-- Eriksson was looking strong at the quarter mark and with half of the season gone there is no reason to think he isn't still the front-runner to take home the prize. Dallas has had a surprisingly strong first half and Eriksson's 14 goals and 19 assists are a major reason why. The other big reason why he still looks like the best of the bunch? He isn't hurting his team in any way either, with just four PIMs this season and a very solid plus-9 rating.
Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings
-- The Kings' rocky start had many wondering about their Cup contender status and eventually cost head coach Terry Murray
his job, but now they're right in the mix for the Pacific Division crown. That is due in no small part to Kopitar, who has managed to score 11 goals and dish 25 assists in 40 games this season. Kopitar has become one of the better pivots in the Western Conference and done so with clean play. He only has four PIMs this season.
Matt Moulson, New York Islanders
-- Moulson looks headed for a third straight 30-goal season, with 18 goals and 14 assists in 37 games. He is on pace for career highs in scoring and has a realistic shot at 40 goals. More evidence that his game is maturing might be that Moulson is a plus-3 this season, no small feat on a team with a minus-28 goal differential. The only thing ungentlemanly about his game might be the mustache he sported for a chunk of the season. So far he's only been to the penalty box three times for six PIMs.