Even though Sidney Crosby claimed the only award that matters last Friday night, the NHL is going to gather in Las Vegas to honor individuals for their great seasons. Pittsburgh Penguins players don't figure to factor into the show as much as they have over the past couple of years, but Evgeni Malkin still will be in the running for a couple of awards.
Here's the run-down of the finalists, as well as the results of the vote taken by the Pensburgh writers. Feel free to share your picks in the comments! Also, a description of the award (since some are for "value", others for "proficiency") is also included...The devil is in the details!
After the jump, the Pensburgh award ceremony!
First of all, congratulations to two winners already decided.
Maurice "Rocket" Richard trophy -- awarded to the NHL's leading goal scorer.
Ovechkin wins his second Richard trophy in a row, with 56 goals this season. The next closest goal scorer only had 46 (Philly's Jeff Carter). Ovechkin had a sick year and filled the net at a crazy pace; he's dangerous every time he touches the puck and with his flair on and off the ice, Ovechkin is a fitting recipient of an award the bears Maurice Richard's name.
Art Ross Trophy: awarded to the NHL's leading scorer
With 35 goals and 78 assists, Malkin becomes the 4th different Penguin to win the Art Ross, bringing the award to Pittsburgh for the 13th time in the past 21 seasons, an amazing stretch of dominance. Malkin was the league's leading scorer since about Game 5, so he basically led the way from pole to pole. And he did it with even strength linemates Petr Sykora and Ruslan Fedotenko -- two players that struggled at different points of the season and only combined for 85 points themselves. In three seasons in the NHL, Geno has improved his assist and point total every season and with his 23rd birthday this summer, he should be in line to compete for this award for the forseeable future.
Calder Trophy: to the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition in the National Hockey League"
Finalists: Bobby Ryan (Anaheim), Kris Versteeg (Chicago), Steve Mason (Columbus)
Mason, in a word, was awesome in his rookie campaign. 33-20-7 with a 2.29 goals against average (second in the league), a .916 save percentage and a league leading 10 shutouts. Mason was a huge reason that Columbus made their first ever appearance in the playoffs. Mason was a 3rd round pick in 2006 for the Blue Jackets and has proven to be a big time goalie, leading Team Canada to the gold medal in the 2008 U-20 World Championships. He seems poised to be one of the top goaltenders in the league for the next decade.
Norris Trophy: "to the defense playe who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position"
Finalists: Zdeno Chara (Boston), Nicklas Lidstrom (Detroit), Mike Green (Washington)
Offensively Green had a season for the ages. He led all defensemen in goals (31), points (73) and power-play goals (18). He's the first defenseman to score 30 goals since 1992-93 and set the record for consecutive games with a goal (8) by a defenseman. And he missed 14 games due to illness/injury! Defensively Green is better than you might think too, maybe it's because he plays in the other zone and his team controls the puck a lot but he was best n the league amongst defensemen in Goals +/- at even strength. Green was second on his team in blocked shots and the best defenseman in takeaways, so he's no slouch there either. Simply put his wizardly was enough to unseat perennial winner Nick Lidstrom and the mountainous Zdeno Chara.
Lady Byng Trophy: "to the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability."
Finalists: Pavel Datsyuk (Detroit), Zach Parise (New Jersey), Martin St. Louis (Tampa Bay)
Parise scored 45 goals, 49 assists and had a great year for New Jersey, even if it went a little under the radar. He also recorded just 24 penalty minutes in a full 82 games. Most players might get a little trash talked to them for winning this award, but Parise plays the game hard and clean, the way it's meant to be played. He breaks a three year streak for Datsyuk.
Vezina Trophy: to the goaltender "adjudged to be the best at this position"
Finalists: Tim Thomas (Boston), Steve Mason (Columbus), Nicklas Backstrom (Minnesota)
Tim Thomas' stellar play in net catapulted a team that most observers didn't have in the playoffs to be the East's top regular season team. 36-11-7 record with a league best 2.10 GAA and league best .933 save % and threw in five shutouts. So he stopped the most pucks and kept the score down the most, sounds purely like the best goalie.
Selke Trophy: awarded to the forward who "demonstrates the most skill in the defensive component of the game".
Finalists: Pavel Datsyuk (Detroit), Mike Richards (Philadelphia), Ryan Kesler (Vancouver)
Richards can thank one gaudy number for this award: short-handed goals. The Flyers captain netted a league high seven shorties. Richards also played 3:12 short-handed, leading his team in that standards. Richards also won 43% of his face-offs while short-handed, which while it doesn't sound too impressive is still something considering a lot of those draws come in the defensive zone with the opponents having two forwards to help dig out 50/50 draws.
Masterton Trophy: awarded to "the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey"
Finalists: Chris Chelios (Detroit), Richard Zednik (Florida), Steve Sullivan (Nashville)
Zednik suffered a horribly gruesome injury that almost took his life in February 2008 but he came back with a vengeance in 2008-09 with scoring 17 goals (his most in four years) and 16 assists in 70 games. On top of all that, Zednik also scored a beauty of a goal of the year candidate. Well deserving of an award for perseverance to hockey.
Jack Adams Award: awarded to the coach "adjudged to have contributed the most to his team's success"
Finalists: Claude Julien (Boston), Andy Murray (St. Louis), Todd McLellan (San Jose)
Pensburgh winner: Andy Murray
While Julien did a great job getting Boston to the top of the Eastern Conference ledger, Murray had a lot less talent to work with and got the Blues from last place at the All-Star break into the playoffs after a 25-9-7 run. For that (and because Dan Bylsma didn't get nominated) Murray gets the nod here for a job well done.
Hart Trophy: awarded to the "player adjudged most valuable to his team"
Finalists: Pavel Datsyuk (Detroit), Evgeni Malkin (Pittsburgh), Alex Ovechkin (Washington)
A hometown vote? Perhaps. Ovechkin seems to be the odds on favorite. But Malkin, who bucked up and muscled the Pens into the playoffs is a worthy contender to the MVP throne. One moment, in particular stands out: February 4th. While it wasn't the turnaround to the Pens season, it was a statement made by the man they call Geno. Going into the 3rd period against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Pittsburgh was down 3-0. Malkin absolutely took over, scoring two goals, grabbing a primary assist and leading the Pens to a 4-3 over-time win.
The game wasn't against a good team, but that's not the point. Malkin's value singlehandly got Pittsburgh the win that night, he was dominant and proved his value. While there's no doubt Ovechkin did the same (and Datsyuk too), Malkin won the scoring title and carried his stellar play onto the post-season where he was awarded the Conn Smythe trophy for playoff MVP.