This is the final weekly NHL column this season, which means it's time to pick the winners of the major regular-season awards. The envelopes, please:
Kane has been the most consistent player on a good but oddly inconsistent team and is the NHL's only 100-point scorer, no small feat. Holtby's sustained excellence is the backbone of the Capitals' success and he's one win from tying Martin Brodeur's single-season record of 48. Benn (41 goals, 88 points) is a force for the West leaders. Thornton (18 goals, 78 points) is a key reason the Sharks will return to the playoffs.
In addition to leading the league in wins, Holtby has a 2.17 goals-against average and .923 save percentage, ranking among the leaders. Crawford (2.32, .926), sidelined because of a suspected concussion, has steadied the Blackhawks through their stumbles. Quick (2.21, .919 before Monday's game) is considered better in the playoffs than the regular season, but he's second in wins despite playing for a low-scoring team that puts him under constant pressure.
Karlsson has astounding numbers — a league-leading 64 assists and 79 points — but let's keep the "defense" in defenseman. Doughty plays heavy minutes against opponents' top scorers, kills penalties (Karlsson doesn't), is among the leaders in minutes played and plus/minus, and thrives in physical games. Maybe Karlsson should be classified a rover, not a defenseman. Letang (64 points) is solid at both ends and has been a catalyst for the surging Penguins.
Calder (rookie of the year): Artemi Panarin, Chicago. Runners-up: Shayne Gostisbehere, Philadelphia Flyers; Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers; Colton Parayko, St. Louis Blues.
McDavid (45 points in 43 games) would win on pure talent, but an injured collarbone sidelined him for three months. It's impossible to know if he would have maintained his scoring pace over a full season. It's tough to ignore Panarin's rookie-best 28 goals (seven game-winners) and 72 points. Gostisbehere averages nearly 20 minutes a game on defense, has 43 points (21 on the power play), and is plus-six defensively. Parayko averages more than 19 minutes' ice time, is plus-23 and has 31 points for the battered but resilient Blues.
Three-time winner Bergeron deserves a fourth, which would tie him with Bob Gainey for most Selke wins. Kopitar is belatedly getting recognition from Eastern voters, who aren't always awake to see his two-way skills. Toews is as serious about defense as every other aspect of the game, which is very.
The Capitals were expected to be good but not this dominant. Trotz has kept them motivated and structured. Hitchcock has navigated past injuries to get the Blues battling for the Central Division title. Boudreau turned the Ducks into an efficient defensive team after off-season changes disrupted their offensive chemistry. They're scoring now, and still solid defensively.
Farewell to Rexall Place
In its glory days, the arena then known as the Northlands Coliseum was home to some of hockey's greatest players. But time marches on and owners discovered they can make big bucks on luxury suites and other amenities, and so the Oilers will play their final game at Rexall Place on Wednesday.
The Oilers' new downtown arena, Rogers Place, will have more restrooms and high-tech features, but it can't duplicate the memories of Wayne Gretzky, Jari Kurri, Mark Messier, Grant Fuhr, Glenn Anderson, Paul Coffey and others growing up together to become one of the NHL's dynasties.
A personal recollection: leaving the building after one of the Oilers' five Stanley Cup championships and watching in horror as a friend of Gretzky's tried to stuff the Cup and the Conn Smythe Trophy into the too-small trunk of Gretzky's car. After several failed attempts, the Smythe was spared further indignity by being placed in the back seat, and Gretzky left to celebrate.
• The Penguins will enter the playoffs hot — they've won six in a row and 12 of 13 — but they're without forward Evgeni Malkin (upper-body injury) and probably will open without goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who's recovering from his second concussion this season. Rookie Matt Murray is 7-2-1 with a 1.88 goals-against average and .933 save percentage, but can he continue to play at that level?
• R.I.P former NHL referee Ron Wicks, who died of liver cancer last week at 75. He officiated in five Stanley Cup finals and more than 1,400 regular-season games.
• Linesmen Brad Lazarowich (1,971 games) and Andy McElman (1,500 games) worked their final assignments Sunday before retiring. Referee Greg Kimmerly also exited Saturday, after 1,138 games.
• Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith was fortunate he was suspended only six games — including the playoff opener — for swinging his stick at the face of Minnesota Wild forward Charlie Coyle. It's no excuse that Coyle had upended him before that. Keith, who didn't appeal the decision, acknowledged that it was a dangerous play and apologized to Coyle.