Staple, with Newsday since 1997, has covered high school sports, hockey and football.
For the first time in a long time, a handful of Islanders could end up finalists for some of the hardware the NHL hands out.
The Professional Hockey Writers Association votes on five of the major awards, so listings from my possible ballot here wouldn't be entirely fair -- there's still some season left and the organization prefers ballots to be submitted before they're published.
So here are a few Isles candidates and where they may fall on the ballots:
Hart Trophy (Most Valuable Player, voted upon by the PHWA). John Tavares is still among the league leaders in points despite his recent four-game scoring drought, and the team's changed fortunes this season have certainly raised Tavares' profile even more in the eyes of those who cover the league.
The most noteworthy case can be made with Tavares' 27 points in the 22 games Kyle Okposo missed. Okposo and Tavares had been a strong tandem until the All-Star break; when Okposo was sidelined, Tavares carried the Isles on a few occasions.
Will he win? The Canadiens' Carey Price is having an MVP season and there's always Alex Ovechkin, who beat out Tavares in 2013 when the two were finalists. But it seems a good possibility Tavares will at least reach the final three.
Calder Trophy (rookie of the year, PHWA). Anders Lee wasn't in the conversation for this award until he started piling up goals playing with Tavares after the All-Star break and his 23 entering last night's game was one off the rookie lead.
Given Lee's relatively low profile and unflashy game, he might not be able to squeeze past either the Predators' Filip Forsberg or the Flames' Johnny Gaudreau to be a finalist, but there's a strong case to be made.
Norris Trophy (top defenseman, PHWA). Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk have done as much as any two Islanders to spark this season. They've put up decent point totals and, if voters are so inclined to look, are ranked at the top of the league in the Corsi and Fenwick stats that count shot attempts for and against when on the ice.
Leddy in particular is an interesting case, since like Lee he maintains a very low profile and isn't given to wild bursts of pizzazz, like with P.K. Subban and Erik Karlsson, two of the last three Norris winners.
The main problem for both Leddy and Boychuk is the sheer volume of elite defensemen currently in the league. Subban, Shea Weber, Duncan Keith, Ryan Suter, Karlsson, plus newer names like Victor Hedman and Mark Giordano likely will push Leddy and Boychuk out of contention.
Vezina Trophy (top goal-tender, voted upon by the league's general managers). Jarolsav Halak has been a huge upgrade in the Isles net. But this is the era of gaudy goaltender numbers, and despite Halak's franchise-record 34 wins, his .920 even-strength save percentage is middle of the pack.
Price, Nashville's Pekka Rinne, the Wild's Devan Dubnyk, Caps workhorse Braden Holtby . . . Halak has a tough go to get a nod.
Jack Adams Trophy (top coach, voted upon by NHL broadcasters). There's plenty of chatter regarding Jack Capuano's worthiness for this award and on his side is the fact that hardly any coaches have won the thing twice (Al Arbour won it just once, for crying out loud!). So new faces are welcome.
Whether the Isles' second-half cooling off will make Capuano less worthy than the host of coaches whose teams are right around the Isles in the league standings is a real unknown. Considering the Isles' dramatic turnaround, Capuano could be a finalist.
Donovan throwing his weight around
Matt Donovan played for the first time in 30 games against the Canadiens last Saturday and wanted to make sure he got himself into the game. So he threw a big hit on the Habs' Dale Weise and didn't just snap himself into it, he may have snapped the Isles coaching staff to attention.
Donovan stayed in the lineup last night. "I just told myself to go out and play [against Montreal] like I had nothing to lose and everything to gain," he said. "So I wanted to give a couple hits, take a couple and get into the game. I think it worked."