Cam Neely readily admits that he’s biased, but he still believes his goaltender, his captain and his alternate captain are worthy of the NHL’s top postseason awards.
Neely joined Felger & Mazz on Thursday and was asked for his thoughts on who should win the Vezina Trophy for the league’s best goaltender, and he liked the chances of Tuukka Rask.
“I think [Pekka] Rinne was a strong candidate until he got hurt, and Tuukka’s just been solid game in and game out,” Neely said of Rask, who has a 2.04 goals-against average, .930 save percentage and seven shutouts. “Listen, I’m going to be a little biased, but I just love the way that he’s played. He’s been pretty solid, and there hasn’t been too many hiccups in his game all year.”
As for the Norris, which has gone to more offensive-focused defensemen in recent years?
“For me, I think the Norris Trophy … maybe they should add a trophy as far as best offensive defenseman,” Neely said. “To me, and I’ve said this many times, I would absolutely hate to play against Zdeno [Chara] on a regular basis. Just because of his reach and his strength and he’d be frustrating as hell to play against. He’s so solid back there, and now what we’ve done with him on the power play, putting him up front on the power play, and how he’s contributed there … he is in my opinion the best defender in the game. He can contribute offensively, but he doesn’t put up ridiculous offensive numbers. He doesn’t take chances offensively. And one of the things I think he’s done is say, ‘You know what — I’m going to focus on what I really do well,’ and I think you’ve seen that with him this year.
“I think by far he’s the best defender in the game.”
Neely’s case for Patrice Bergeron as the Selke Trophy winner was made with equal praise.
“You’re gonna point probably to his goal production this year, but I think Patrice has done just as good a job defending — he’s for the most part always up against the other team’s top line,” Neely said. “He doesn’t make too many mistakes in his zone, he’s a great three-zone player, he plays 200 feet, he’s great at faceoffs, great at penalty killing. I think you can take a look at [Jonathan] Toews in that category as well, but Bergy just does everything right. He’s a guy that you look at and say that’s a complete hockey player right there.”
Is Bergeron having the best season of his career?
“I would say that, I really would,” Neely said. “His skating has probably picked up maybe half a step, he’s clicked really well with [Brad] Marchand and then Reilly Smith, who’s fit in really nice on that line. It’s just his hockey sense and the dedication to playing all three zones, and he’s always in the right place at the right time making the right play. And he’s gotten better. A guy like that has got so much dedication on and off the ice, and he does a lot of things that people don’t realize in the community that go a long way. He’s a guy … we’re fortunate to have him in our lineup every night.”
Neely also discussed how the team handles resting players down the stretch, whether the playoff lineup is set, Reilly Smith’s goal-scoring drought, and more.