Editor's note: We plan on featuring the best of our fan post section every Sunday this summer (and maybe beyond?). So, plan on getting your words in so we can highlight them!
As a part of my first-ever fan post on Raw Charge, I created my own awards as a way to highlight the positive in what was considered a disappointing season. This past season was another disappointment, though in a different way. The Lightning lost to the Washington Capitals 4 games to 3 in the Eastern Conference Final, and many people are furious at the way the season ended.
Though it has been over a week and some people aren’t over the loss yet, I thought it might be nice to travel back in time and see what a great year it was, as well as highlighting some key players from the season.
Breakout Star: Anthony Cirelli
Though the 20-year-old Cirelli only played 18 regular season games for the Lightning, he solidified himself as a future superstar in his short stay. From his first game, a 2-point night (1 goal, 1 assist) against the Dallas Stars, it was apparent what the Lightning had in the young star. Altogether, Cirelli would register 5 goals and 6 assists for 11 points in 18 games with Tampa. He also earned 1st line penalty killing minutes, signaling the trust that the coaching staff had in the young kid.
Though his playoff scoring took a bit of a dip (2 goals,1 assist in 17 games), Cirelli was still incredibly effective on the penalty kill and as a forechecker in limited minutes. The line of Cirelli, Adam Erne, and a combo of Alex Killorn and Yanni Gourde really helped the Lightning out during a rough stretch of the season where the top 2 lines went cold, and they should be even better this upcoming year.
Hart Trophy (Most Valuable Player): Andrei Vasilevskiy
I’m well aware that Kucherov put up 100 points in the regular season, and that Victor Hedman was a nominee for the Norris Trophy. Vasilevskiy, though, became the franchise this season. Only 23, Vasilevskiy set new career highs in games played (65) and save % (.920), and was tied for the league lead in wins (44) and shutouts (8). All of this made Vasilevskiy a finalist for the Vezina Trophy, along with Pekka Rinne and Connor Hellebuyck. He routinely made the impossible saves look normal, while setting Lightning records left and right. Vasilevskiy’s numbers didn’t look great in the playoffs, but he regularly made up for a leaky Lightning defense.
Norris Trophy (Best Defenseman): Victor Hedman
Considering Hedman is being nominated for the actual Norris Trophy, this one was a bit of a no-brainer. Hedman finished with a new personal best in goals (17), and finished 5th in team scoring (63 points). Hedman has been a star since he was drafted, and this year might be the year when his greatness is officially recognized. He should win his first Norris trophy.
Vezina Trophy (Best Goalie): Andrei Vasilevskiy
As if it would be anyone else.
Selke Trophy (Best 2-Way Player): Brayden Point
I remember going back and looking at my awards from last year and pegging Point as my "Breakout Star". In my synopsis then, I stated "he is a talent that should light up the league for years to come," and I couldn’t have been more right. He scored 66 points (32 goals, 34 assists) in his second full season with the Lightning, and added 16 points in 17 playoff games. Point was also an overtime and shootout wizard, potting 3 overtime goals and going 5/8 on shootout attempts. All of this added up to Point’s first All-Star appearance of his career. Not only that, but Point, along with linemates Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat, were tasked with shutting down some of the biggest names from their playoff opponents.
He'll be tasked to do even more next year, as his stardom will grow.
HM: Ondrej Palat
Calder Trophy (Rookie of the Year): Yanni Gourde
Mikhail Sergachev had a fantastic year, and Anthony Cirelli is going to be a star, but Yanni Gourde is a record breaker. Gourde, after putting up 6 goals and 2 assists last year in 20 games, exploded onto the rookie scene this year, setting Lightning rookie records for goals (25), assists (39), and points (64). His +34 rating was also tied for 3rd in the entire league, finishing only behind 2 Vegas Golden Knight players. His playoff scoring took a bit of a dip, as he only put up 7 points in 17 games, but this was due to a more defensive role on the 3rd line. Together, a line of Gourde, Cirelli, and Adam Erne could do some real damage next season.
HM: Mikhail Sergachev, Anthony Cirelli
Conn Smythe (Playoff MVP): Ryan Callahan
Listen, I don’t care that Callahan only had 3 points. I don’t care that he’s going to make $5.8 Million against the cap until 2020. This guy was the heart and soul of the Lightning throughout the playoff run, and gets my vote as the Conn Smythe winner for the Lightning. Vasilevskiy was a close second, but Vasilevskiy did have some very bad games. Callahan was a defensive machine while playing 4th line minutes, and he did all of that while playing with a shoulder injury that required surgery and will delay his start in the fall. Callahan was a warrior during the playoff run, constantly blocking shots and laying huge hits. His goal vs. Washington in Game 5 was the last Lightning goal of the season, and it was somewhat fitting that Callahan was the one to score it.
HM: Andrei Vasilevskiy
Top 5 Moments of the Year:
1. Save of the Year
2. Honoring Vinny
3. Winning the Trade
4. Point Break
5. Kuch owns the Caps
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