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The Best Races to Track in the Last Two Weeks of the NHL Season

You probably think most of the conventional races in the NHL regular season have been settled. We are here to show you some of the more unconventional races still to be decided.
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

With less than two weeks remaining in the 2016-17 regular season, the races are in the homestretch and could not be more exciting.

In the West, you have … OK, all eight playoff teams in the West have been set for a while. But at the top of the conference, it's an all-out battle for … the Blackhawks have the top seed wrapped up already? Fine, fine.

In the East, there is … one? One spot up for grabs? Maybe two? And there are three teams vying for those spots? Four, tops? This is not exactly the final chase scene from Heat, even if the Tampa Bay Lightning run down the Boston Bruins and hold their hand after killing their playoff hopes.


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So what is there to watch before the postseason? Anything?

Besides baseball, yes, there are some fun races. Some are your traditional ones, like most points (team and individual), but there are some other fun ones happening. Let's take a look at all of them and handicap each candidate's chances of achieving glory (or shame).

1. Presidents' Trophy

Washington Capitals (108 points) vs. Columbus Blue Jackets (105 points)

I understand the Penguins (103 points) and the Blackhawks (103 points) are right there, so feel free to screenshot this paragraph and @ me with some sort of condescending tweet that starts with "ummmm" if either of those teams finishes with the most points. That said, this feels like a two-team race.

The Capitals and the Blue Jackets each have seven games remaining. The Capitals have five games on the road, where they've been slightly above average, but two of those games are against the Avalanche and the Coyotes, which should be at least three points in the bank. The Blue Jackets also have five games remaining on the road, but there are no freebies.

If the Capitals beat the Blue Jackets in Columbus on April 2, it will be a second straight Presidents' Trophy for coach Barry Trotz.

2. Precinct Committeeperson's Trophy (I tried to find the lowest possible elected office in the United States and this is what I found so that's the joke here for the teams battling for the worst record please clap)

Colorado Avalanche (43 points) vs. Nobody

Congrats to general (campaign) manager Joe Sakic and the Avalanche, who clinched this trophy already so they are running unopposed.


3. Art Ross Trophy

Connor McDavid (89 points) vs. Sidney Crosby (82 points)

Normally, we at VICE Sports would have called this race with 90 percent of the season reporting, but this is Crosby. If anyone can close this gap with seven games to play, it's him. All Crosby has to do is tie McDavid, because in that case the award goes to the player with the most goals.

The Penguins' remaining schedule includes two games against the Rangers and one against the Maple Leafs, two teams that can be as porous as anyone defensively; the Devils, who are in shambles; and the Hurricanes, who can give up five goals at any moment thanks to Cam Ward.

It probably doesn't happen, but don't be surprised if Crosby makes things interesting.

4. The Craig Adams Trophy

Riley Sheahan vs. Sadness

Sheahan has zero goals in 73 games. The Red Wings have six games remaining, which means it's possible Sheahan goes 79 games without a goal. That would be the third-most games played by a forward during a season without scoring at least one goal. Only two forwards—Craig Adams of the Penguins in 2009-10 and Ken Baumgartner of the Bruins in 1997-98—played more games (82) without scoring a goal.

I'm going to predict that as long as Sheahan plays in all six remaining games, he will vanquish sadness and score a goal.

Sheahan had 27 goals the previous two seasons, which were nearly identical to each other, statistically. He has 100 shots with six games remaining, and I'm saying he gets a goal down the stretch and he gets it in Game 81 against Carey Price, because that's just how these things go. If this is correct, please @ me with a screenshot and tweet, "Again you are right in your analysis."


5. Second Wild Card Spot in the East

Toronto (87 points) vs. Boston (86 points) vs. Tampa Bay (83 points) vs. N.Y. Islanders (82 points) vs. Carolina Hurricanes (82 points)

This race was already dissected on this site, so I'll keep it brief: I'm all-in on Toronto getting the final spot because it's a fun story. If Boston doesn't barf on itself over the next two weeks, the idea of Tampa Bay grabbing the final wild card spot and, at the very least, torturing the Capitals for seven games in the first round is too good.

Toronto and Tampa Bay both getting in would be great, but these aren't your older brother's Leafs. Don't expect them to collapse.

6. The Race to Scapegoat Taylor Hall

Taylor Hall vs. Stupid People

Taylor Hall getting traded to the Devils for Adam Larsson was roundly mocked. Why would the Oilers trade one of the best left wings in the game for a so-so defenseman? This was a steal for the Devils.

Eight months later, the Oilers are in the postseason and the Devils are vying for the second overall pick in the draft. Of course, this has everything to do with Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Cam Talbot, and the Devils being a sinkhole of a team, but you know—you know—someone is going to draw a line between bad teams and Hall, because that's what hockey people do.

Hall has been in the NHL seven seasons and has yet to reach the playoffs. The Devils should consider flipping him somewhere in a Phil Kessel-to-Pittsburgh-type trade, because they are nowhere near contending and Hall has only three years left on his contract.


But all the blame for the Devils going from 84 points last year to somewhere close to 70 is the fault of one person: Lou Lamoriello. He left the Devils in shambles. Point the finger there before you point it at Hall.

It's not Taylor Hall's fault that New Jersey sucks. It's really not. Photo by Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

7. The Race to Fire Willie Desjardins

Willie Desjardins vs. Remembering to Turn Off His Phone

It's doubtful Desjardins can pull this off, but if he doesn't answer his phone or check voicemail after the season, the Canucks can't fire him. Just block all calls from GM Jim Benning and roll into the draft and pretend he was never fired. It's like how George Costanza's girlfriend couldn't break up with him if he never took her call. That's a reference to a television episode that first aired 20 years ago. I'm sorry.

8. The PIMs Cup

Mark Borowiecki vs. Firing Up the Boys

What is this award I made up? It's simple: it's the trophy I'm giving to Borowiecki if he can stay below 150 PIMs while leading the league in that category this year. He's currently leading the league with 145 PIMs (he picked up seven on Tuesday night), which means he has a shot at history.

If he takes no more than four minutes in penalties over Ottawa's final seven games (which means no fighting), he will be the first player to lead the league in PIMs with fewer than 150 since Gus Mortson of the Blackhawks had 147 PIMs in 70 games in 1956-57. Borowiecki has a chance to be the NHL's most gentlemanly goon in 60 years.


The problem for Borowiecki is Nashville's Cody McLeod, who has 141 PIMs with five games to go. If he overtakes Borowiecki, the PIMs Cup likely will stay on the shelf. Knowing these fighter types, they probably view the PIMs race the way scorers view the Art Ross, so look for them to push each other to 200 PIMs the rest of the way and ruin this idea.

Can Mark Borowiecki keep himself from punching someone in the last two weeks? Probably not. Photo by Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

9. Seventy-Three Trophy

Cam Talbot vs. Exhaustion

Talbot made his 68th start Tuesday; assuming Oilers coach Todd McLellan gives him one game off over the rest of the season, Talbot will make 73 starts, which is a number starting goaltenders rarely reach these days.

Since 2013, only two goaltenders have made 70 starts. If Talbot gets to 73, that would tie for the most since 2011-12, when Pekka Rinne and Miikka Kiprusoff made 73 starts.

This is significant (or maybe it isn't and I'm just manipulating numbers to make a point) because the last goaltender to make at least 70 starts in a season and win the Stanley Cup was Martin Brodeur in 2003. That's somewhat deceptive, as Jonathan Quick made 69 starts in 2011-12, and that worked out nicely as the Kings won the Stanley Cup that season.

But riding your goaltender into the ground during the regular season before a two-month postseason grind is never a good idea and hasn't worked out in a long time. The Oilers are pushing for a division title, so Talbot probably won't get too much rest down the stretch.


10. Rookie Scoring Title

Auston Matthews (62 points) vs. Patrik Laine (61 points)

This is going to Matthews, who has two more games remaining and has points in six straight games. Laine appears to have hit a wall, as he has just one point in his past six games.

If Laine didn't miss time with a concussion, he would probably win this. Instead, we'll probably end up having months of Calder Trophy hot takes that will make you wish someone would talk about anything else between now and the NHL Awards. The NHL should do the right thing and announce the Calder immediately so Canada doesn't tear itself apart.

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