This is an unusual year for the Norris Trophy, with a handful of candidates and none that has separated from the pack.
Shea Theodore has entered the chat.
The Golden Knights defenseman picked up two more assists in Wednesday’s 5-2 victory over the San Jose Sharks at T-Mobile Arena and is quietly making a late push for the award that goes to the NHL’s top blueliner.
Theodore is tied with Edmonton’s Tyson Barrie for fourth in the league in scoring by defensemen with 38 points, four points behind Washington’s John Carlson and Tampa Bay’s Victor Hedman. Only Carlson (27) has more points at even strength than Theodore’s 24.
His 32 assists in 43 games are tied with two other players for third among defensemen and trail the New York Rangers’ Adam Fox (36) and Hedman (34).
In addition, Theodore has a plus-24 rating that is tied for fifth in the league while averaging 22:31 of ice time, and his plus-130 shot attempts differential ranks 13th overall. He is driving offense at five-on-five with a 54.3 shot-attempts percentage that is in the top 25 of defensemen who have played at least 20 games.
One major knock on Theodore’s candidacy is his lack of ice time killing penalties.
Theodore set up Alex Tuch’s go-ahead goal with 49.3 seconds remaining in the second period with a pretty pass to unlock the Sharks’ defense. Jonathan Marchessault carried the puck behind the net and found Theodore, who walked the blue line and was about to shoot when he spotted Tuch open at the side of the net for his 17th goal.
“I was honestly going to shoot it,” Theodore said. “I’m not sure where he came from, but he popped out to the side of the net and made a good play. That was a good goal and good that it was the go-ahead one.”
Hedman appears to be the favorite for his second Norris Trophy, while Fox and Carlson will garner votes. Boston’s Charlie McAvoy should also get consideration, and Montreal’s Jeff Petry could benefit from the Canadian voting bloc if Barrie doesn’t.
But Theodore’s name also is in the mix.
Here are three more takeaways from the win:
1. Stuff it
Mark Stone scored three power-play goals in the series against the Sharks, and the past two were almost identical.
Stone received a pass on the goal line from Max Pacioretty, and when none of the Sharks’ penalty killers closed him down, the Knights’ captain took a step toward the net and jammed the puck past the goalie to tie the score at 2 both times.
“I think it’s read, it’s studying the other teams and it’s the other players around me making great plays,” Stone said about Wednesday’s goal. “The goalie was really expecting (Pacioretty) to shoot that, and when it went down to me, it was more of a read to be able to have a little bit of time to slide it in.”
The Knights have scored a power-play goal in their past three games, and Stone’s move to the net-front position seems to have helped. He was critical of his play recently when stationed on the half-wall during the power play.
Coach Pete DeBoer said the power play looks more dangerous, with the goals coming from around the net with bodies in front.
“I think our power play is starting to really be a lot more relaxed,” Stone said. “I think most of the goals we’re scoring right now are being able to have poised plays through the middle, up to the points and making the right decision. I’ve just been the fortunate guy to bury the goals.”
2. Battle with Burns
Pacioretty did a somersault after being on the receiving end of a shove from behind by Sharks defenseman Brent Burns in the first period.
The Knights forward took exception to the hit and stalked Burns in front of the net, then appeared to purposely clip his skate after the whistle. Pacioretty delivered a cross-check to the chest of Burns, setting off a skirmish in the corner.
Tuch and San Jose forward Evander Kane wrestled one another, and Knights defenseman Nic Hague tangled with Timo Meier. The only penalties went to Pacioretty and Burns.
For the remainder of the game, Burns was booed each time he touched the puck.
3. New face on faceoff
Dylan Coghlan was unofficially baptized as a forward in the first period Wednesday when he took a faceoff.
Coghlan filled in at right wing on the fourth line during the first period and stepped up to the dot for a neutral-zone draw after Nicolas Roy was booted by the linesman. Coghlan lost the faceoff to San Jose’s Joel Kellman, and he was back playing defense in the final two periods.
Coghlan is the fifth defenseman in franchise history credited with taking a faceoff, according to stats at NHL.com. Brad Hunt, Colin Miller, Nate Schmidt and Theodore are the others. Miller and Theodore won their faceoffs.