LAS VEGAS – International talent shone brightly at Wednesday's NHL Awards. Swedish star Henrik Sedin of the Vancouver Canucks capped off the glitzy event by edging superstars Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby for his first Hart Trophy as NHL MVP.
Other notable awards included a third straight Selke Trophy for Russian forward Pavel Datsyuk of the Detroit Red Wings, a first Lady Byng Trophy for Canadian forward Martin St. Louis of the Tampa Bay Lightning, and a first Norris Trophy for Canadian defenceman Duncan Keith of the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks. Goalie Ryan Miller, the backbone of Team USA at the Winter Games in Vancouver, got his first Vezina Trophy.
The voting for the Hart was tight. Sedin, who also won the Art Ross Trophy with a league-leading 112 points, received 894 points from the Professional Hockey Writers Association, while Ovechkin had 834 and Crosby 729. 2010 marked the first time a Canuck has won either the Hart or the Art Ross.
The 29-year-old centre from Örnsköldsvik, a two-time Olympian and former Swedish Elitserien MVP, thanked ex-Canuck teammates Markus Näslund, Trevor Linden, Trent Klatt, and Mattias Öhlund for their early guidance in his acceptance remarks, as well as quipping to linemate and twin brother Daniel: “There's no way you can say you're the better player now.” He added afterwards: “When they called my name for the Hart, it was surreal.”
Ovechkin fell short in his bid to join Wayne Gretzky and Bobby Orr in the exclusive group of players who have won three straight Hart Trophies. Nonetheless, Washington's Russian superstar made up a little bit for a disappointing season – he lost the Olympic quarterfinal to Canada, bowed out in a first-round playoff stunner versus the Montreal Canadiens, and then settled for silver at the 2010 IIHF World Championship in Germany – when he was given the Ted Lindsay Award.
Replacing the former Lester B. Pearson Award, the Ted Lindsay Award goes to the NHL's most outstanding player as voted by the players. Ovechkin, coming off his fourth career 50-goal season, joins Gretzky and Guy Lafleur among the only three-time winners.
Datsyuk is another Russian who had personal success but team disappointments this year. Currently, no player has won more consecutive Selkes as the league's best defensive forward than the 31-year-old Sverdlovsk native, except Montreal's Bob Gainey (four straight between 1978 and 1981). However, Datsyuk wasn't able to make it to the Stanley Cup final for what would have been a third straight year with Detroit, and the future Hall of Famer's Best Forward performance at last month's Worlds wasn't enough to get a stacked Russian squad past the underdog Czechs in the final.
Nonetheless, the veteran playmaking centre, known for his wacky wit, thanked Detroit management for paying him, and added that he wished that would never stop. Datsyuk's closest Selke competition was Vancouver's Ryan Kesler: the margin of victory was 688 points to 655 points. Datsyuk got just one more first place vote than Kesler (37 to 36).
St. Louis was excited to take the Lady Byng as the NHL's most gentlemanly player. The diminutive Tampa sniper, who led the 2009 IIHF World Championship in scoring, joked that former teammate and 2010 nominee Brad Richards had advised him to send Christmas cards to the referees. The other nominee was Datsyuk, who failed to capture his fourth straight Lady Byng.
Meanwhile, Tyler Myers of the Buffalo Sabres got 94 of a possible 132 first-place votes en route to capturing the Calder Trophy as NHL rookie of the year. The towering 20-year-old blueliner racked up 11 goals and 37 assists in his debut season. Myers, a 2009 World Junior gold medallist, was also chosen to represent Canada at this year's Worlds in Germany. Myers prevailed over Worlds teammate Matt Duchene (Colorado) and goaltender Jimmy Howard (Detroit).
Miller took the Vezina away from fellow 2010 Olympians Martin Brodeur (New Jersey) and Ilya Brzygalov (Phoenix). The Buffalo netminder, 29, won 41 regular season games and posted a 2.22 GAA and 92.9 save percentage last season. As the MVP and Best Goalie of the Olympic tournament, he backstopped Team USA to February's gold medal game against victorious Canada.
“All my heroes are on this trophy,” Miller said of the Vezina.
Keith, who had gotten his teeth fixed after losing seven chompers en route to Chicago's first Cup since 1961, built on a gold medal performance with Canada at the Olympics, as he was named the NHL's top defenceman with 69 points. The other candidates were youngsters Drew Doughty (Los Angeles) and Mike Green (Washington). Perennial nominees like Nicklas Lidström, Chris Pronger, and the just-retired Scott Niedermayer were shut out, seemingly signalling a changing of the guard among the NHL's blueline elite.
Dave Tippett of the Phoenix Coyotes received the Jack Adams Trophy as the NHL's top coach, and Phoenix captain Shane Doan got the King Clancy Trophy for leadership on and off the ice. Washington goalie Jose Theodore was awarded the Bill Masterton Trophy for perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey. Theodore tragically lost his two-month-old son Chace last year due to health complications, and founded a children's charity called Saves for Kids in response.
Sidney Crosby, who shared the Rocket Richard Trophy with Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos (51 goals apiece), was chosen for the Mark Messier Leadership award over Doan and Ryan Miller. “He's been the leader of the league since he came into the league,” said Messier of the 22-year-old Pittsburgh captain.
The NHL First All-Star Team was as follows: goalie Ryan Miller, defencemen Mike Green (Washington) and Duncan Keith (Chicago), and forwards Alexander Ovechkin (Washington), Henrik Sedin (Vancouver), and Patrick Kane (Chicago).
The NHL's Second All-Star Team was as follows: goalie Ilya Bryzgalov (Phoenix), defencemen Nicklas Lidström (Detroit) and Drew Doughty (Los Angeles), and forwards Daniel Sedin (Vancouver), Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh), and Martin St. Louis (Tampa Bay).
The NHL All-Rookie Team was named, with World Junior alumni aplenty: goalie Jimmy Howard (Detroit), defencemen Tyler Myers (Buffalo) and Michael del Zotto (New York Rangers), and forwards Niclas Bergfors (New Jersey), John Tavares (New York Islanders), and Matt Duchene (Colorado).