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Captain fantastic

Yzerman lands Conn Smythe with stellar playoff run

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Posted: Wednesday June 17, 1998 02:26 AM

  Yzerman (right) earned his first Conn Smythe Trophy with 24 points on six goals and 18 assists(AP)

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Steve Yzerman won his second Stanley Cup and his first Conn Smythe Trophy on Tuesday night.

Once called a player who couldn't lead his team to victory in the big games, Yzerman was finally officially recognized as the most valuable player of the playoffs with his strong all-around contribution.

"No one has ever deserved the Conn Smythe more," teammate Brendan Shanahan said. "He carried our team through the playoffs just like a captain should."

Yzerman was the Red Wings' best player in the postseason and it had to do with more than just his playoff-leading statistics of 24 points on six goals and 18 assists.

Not only did Yzerman score, but he also worked on the power play and penalty killing and was a force on defense against whatever Capitals line was on the ice.

Coming into the Cup-clinching fourth game of the finals, Yzerman had posted the top face-off percentage of 68.2, winning 15 of 22.

Yzerman typically deflected the praise.

"We're not a team of stars," he said. "We play together and have fun together. It's been quite a year and we've been through a lot as a team. We're having the time of our lives.

"I'm having a lot of fun right now. I once set a goal for myself to play 20 years. I have five more to go."

For the first 13 years of his career, Yzerman had the label of not showing up for the big games. He could always score, posting six 100-point seasons, but his teams never won championships -- that is, until the Red Wings ended a 42-year Cup drought last season.

All the perceptions about Yzerman changed after that, from being a loser to one of the great captains in the game.

Part of the credit went to coach Scotty Bowman, who convinced Yzerman to become more of a two-way player. But even that took time to change the image.

"Stevie plays well at both ends of the ice and my understanding is he's an outstanding leader," Capitals coach Ron Wilson said. "He scored points, he kills penalties, he's on the power play.

"He is obviously their most consistent and important player and he deserves the award."

Before Detroit swept Philadelphia last year, Yzerman joked that people would not sit down next to him at a craps table in a casino.

But he started to get lucky after that. Yzerman scored in all four games against the Flyers and continued that scoring splurge in the finals against the Capitals this year. He scored in seven straight games before going scoreless in the clinching game Tuesday night.

No player has had a longer streak since Edmonton's Wayne Gretzky scored in 12 consecutive finals games in 1987 and 1988. The longest such streak in Stanley Cup finals history is 15 by Bryan Trottier of the New York Islanders in the early 1980s.


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