LAS VEGAS, Unites States – The big three of Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, and Pavel Datsyuk accounted for eight of the biggest NHL prizes, a landmark evening for Russian hockey in the league. Nicklas Lidström’s monopoly on the best defenceman award stopped at six.
The NHL Awards moved out of its usual home in Toronto to the Nevada desert last night, and Russians accounted for much of the silverware handed out at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas last night.
In all, the big three of Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, and Pavel Datsyuk accounted for eight of the biggest prizes in hockey, a landmark evening for Russian hockey in the NHL. The other big winners on the night were the Boston Bruins as they had four winners during the evening.
Washington forward Ovechkin won his second straight Hart Trophy (Most Valuable Player) by finishing ahead of countrymen Evgeni Malkin and Pavel Datsyuk, the first time in NHL history three Russians had been nominated for the honour. The last player to win the Hart back-to-back was Buffalo goalie Dominik Hasek (1996-98), and the last forward to do it was Wayne Gretzky more than 20 years ago.
"I like playing in Canada," he said, "but right now, my favourite city to play in is Washington. Next year, hopefully the Stanley Cup will be ours."
The Lester B. Pearson Award (Most Outstanding Player; selected by the players) also went to Ovechkin. The award was presented by Igor Larionov and Vladimir Konstantinov, who walked out under his own strength, aided by a walker.
“This was a very hard year for my family because I lost my grandpa – this is for him,” Ovechkin said. Ending on a happier note, he added, “I’m happy to be here. What a life.”
His hat trick trophy was the Rocket Richard for leading the league in goals with 56 during the regular season.
Malkin won two trophies that didn’t have to go to vote. He took home the Art Ross for leading the regular season with 113 total points, and he won the Conn Smythe Trophy (playoff MVP) last week after his Pittsburgh Penguins beat Detroit 2-1 to claim the Stanley Cup.
Datsyuk may not have won the trophy for league MVP, but he did win the Selke Trophy as the best defensive forward for the second straight year, beating out Mike Richards of Philadelphia and Vancouver’s Ryan Kesler.
Minutes later, he returned to the stage to claim his fourth consecutive Lady Byng Trophy (Most Gentlemanly Player), only the second player to achieve this after Frank Boucher, who won it seven times in eight years (1928-35).
Steve Mason was named the NHL’s Calder Trophy winner for his outstanding rookie season. The Columbus goalie led all netminders with ten shutouts, and backed by his play the Blue Jackets made it into the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.
Another goalie, Tim Thomas, was a two-time winner. First, he and Boston teammate Manny Fernandez claimed the Jennings Trophy as a result of the Bruins allowing the fewest goals, and then Thomas won the Vezina Trophy as the league’s best in the crease. It was an incredible win given that the 35-year-old had been in the league only three years as a number-one goalie.
"I never really allowed myself to believe I might win, because it seemed like a faraway dream," he said. "I was more worried about getting my name on the roster than on a trophy like this. I want to dedicate this to all the people who believed in me. Their belief never wavered."
Hulking Boston defenceman and captain Zdeno Chara won his first Norris Trophy (best defenceman) and spoke eloquently about what it meant to him. "I wasn't supposed to make it past juniors," he said. "I hope this sends a message to kids out there. It's amazing what you can accomplish if you put your mind to it and work hard."
This means that the Slovak Chara ended Swede Nicklas Lidström’s virtual lock on the Best Defenceman award. Lidström has won it three years in a row (2006-2008) and also six out of the last seven times it has been awarded. Lidström still made the second All Star Team.
Chara’s coach, Claude Julien, received the Jack Adams Award, beating San Jose’s Todd McLellan and Andy Murray of St. Louis. The award was presented to him by Pat Burns, his mentor for much of Julien’s career.
Nashville’s Steve Sullivan took home the Bill Masterton Trophy after his courageous comeback this year from serious back injury. Sullivan missed nearly two full years before returning to the Predators’ lineup, but was grateful for his teammates “for never stopping to believe in me”.
Ethan Moreau of Edmonton won the King Clancy Trophy for humanitarian contributions to his community, and Calgary captain Jarome Iginla won the Mark Messier Leadership Award. Hall of Famer Jean Beliveau accepted a Lifetime Achievement Award from NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and received a standing ovation before making his speech. Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo won the Fan Fav Award as voted on by fans through www.nhl.com.
NHL All Star Teams
First All-Star Team
Goal – Tim Thomas, Boston Bruins
Defence – Mike Green, Washington Capitals
Defence – Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins
Centre – Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins
Right Wing – Jarome Iginla, Calgary Flames
Left Wing – Alexander Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
Second All-Star Team
Goal – Steve Mason, Columbus Blue Jackets
Defence – Nicklas Lidström, Detroit Red Wings
Defence – Dan Boyle, San Jose Sharks
Centre – Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings
Right Wing – Marian Hossa, Detroit Red Wings
Left Wing – Zach Parise, New Jersey Devils
Goal – Steve Mason, Columbus Blue Jackets
Defense – Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings
Defense – Luke Schenn, Toronto Maple Leafs
Forward – Patrik Berglund, St. Louis Blues
Forward – Bobby Ryan, Anaheim Ducks
Forward – Kris Versteeg, Chicago Blackhawks