At least one major trophy race is too close to call
Posted: Monday April 9, 2007 3:43PM; Updated: Tuesday April 10, 2007 1:39PM
Like the season-ending Little League banquets, the NHL just loves to hand out awards. There are the weekly and monthly three stars awards and the rookie of the month award, an award for plus-minus, a trophy for sportsmanship, a trophy for the best defensive forward, two awards for goaltenders and a slew of other big trophies handed out at the end of the season in a spiffy ceremony that is televised live in Canada. (Basically, the league has everything except an award for most honest golfer.)
Now, maybe there is room to grow with an awards category or two. How about Buffalo's Jason Pominville winning the Most Underrated Forward award? His 30 even-strength goals left him in a three-way tie for second with Dany Heatley and Alexander Ovechkin. (Vincent Lecavalier led with 31.) Or Minnesota goalie Nicklas Backstrom winning the To The Rescue Trophy for stepping in when Manny Fernandez was injured in late January? Certainly the NHL leads the leagues in self-congratulations.
Perhaps there is a psychological explanation for all the back-patting: I'm OK, You're Really Good.
In any case, like predictions at the start of the season -- what am I, the Hunchback of Nostradamus? -- nominating our award winners at the end of the season apparently is part of the job description.
Crosby, 19, won the scoring title as a teenager. He has lifted a moribund franchise into a playoff wildcard, a team that could do real damage in the playoffs or crash in the first round. No one knows. He has played superbly under a microscope, at least among hockey fans. No, he doesn't play the last minute to protect a lead like Tampa Bay's Lecavalier, as Lightning coach John Tortorella noted of his 50-goal, 100-point center, but give him time. Crosby has responded to every challenge. He is so good, he might wind up being the next hockey player to host Saturday Night Live.
Also worthy: Martin Brodeur (Devils); Roberto Luongo (Canucks)
Nicklas Lidstrom, Red Wings
Lidstrom doesn't shoot the puck like Sheldon Souray, throw body checks like Dion Phaneuf or block shots like Anton Volchenkov, but he plays positional, winning hockey. In a game predicated on mistakes, Lidstrom makes fewer than any blueliner of the past 25 years -- and that includes the steadfast Raymond Bourque. Lidstrom is vanilla ice cream, but hey, Rocky Road is overrated. Anaheim's Chris Pronger might have given him a strong run, but injuries cost the towering blueliner more than 15 games.
Also worthy: Kimmo Timonen (Predators); Pronger
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