The youngest player ever to win the scoring title led the Pittsburgh Penguins into the playoffs for the first time since 2001, which makes the 19-year-old superstar from Cole Harbour, N.S., a favourite to win the Hart Trophy as most valuable player to his team and the Pearson Award as the most outstanding player in the league.
That’s what a poll of writers who cover NHL games for The Canadian Press indicates.
Nicklas Lidstrom of the Detroit Red Wings gets the nod for the Norris Trophy as top defenceman and Evgeni Malkin of the Penguins is a clear-cut Calder Trophy favourite for rookie of the year in the CP poll, while it’s a close call for most of the other trophies that reward regular-season work.
Official results could differ from the CP poll, but Pierre LeBrun, Bill Beacon, Jim Morris, Neil Stevens, Chris Johnston, Donna Spencer, Robin Brownlee and Chris Yzerman make no apologies for their picks.
The official Hart winner has been determined by secret ballots cast by selected members of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association. Crosby and goaltenders Martin Brodeur of the New Jersey Devils and Roberto Luongo of the Vancouver Canucks got the most points.
CP’s panel deemed Crosby’s scoring title at 19 trumped what anybody else did. It went 7-1 that he’d win the Hart. We’re talking Wayne Gretzky-like impact when we talk Crosby. One predicted Luongo will get the Hart.
History is on Crosby’s side.
The last three Hart winners also were scoring champions the same year – Peter Forsberg, then with Colorado, in 2003, Tampa’s Martin St. Louis in 2004 and San Jose’s Joe Thornton in 2006. Also, goalies seldom win the Hart. Jose Theodore was a surprise winner in 2002 when he was with Montreal and Dominik Hasek took it home in 1997 and 1998 as a member of the Buffalo Sabres. One has to go all the way back to 1962 for the name of Montreal’s Jacques Plante to find another winner in goal.
Who will win: Crosby.
Who should win: Crosby.
Crosby, Luongo and Vinny Lecavalier of the Tampa Bay Lightning, who scored a league-best 52 goals, are the finalists after the more than 700 members of the NHL Players’ Association weighed in.
Six of the eight on the CP panel said Crosby will win it. If he does, he would be the seventh player in league history to win the scoring title, get the MVP nod and also be picked most outstanding player by his peers in the same year.
The only goaltenders to win the Pearson since it was first awarded in 1971 were Mike Liut (1981) and Hasek (1997 and 1998).
Who will win: Crosby.
Who should win: Crosby.
Luongo and Brodeur led voting by league GMs for the Vezina Trophy for top goaltender, and the CP panel split 4-4 on who will win it.
Brodeur had slightly better stats with a record 48 wins, a .922 save percentage, a 2.18 GAA and a career-high 12 shutouts. Luongo had 47 wins, was fourth in save percentage (.921) and was sixth in goals-against average (2.29).
Luongo’s impact on his team’s rise was immense, and he faced more shots than did Brodeur, which is why five on the panel said Luongo should win the Vezina. But Brodeur’s seniority and popularity could swing it his way. Flip a coin.
Who will win: Brodeur or Luongo.
Who should win: Luongo.
The silverware for best defenceman will go to Lidstrom for the second year in a row and fifth time overall, or to one of Anaheim teammates Chris Pronger or Scott Niedermayer for a second time, according to the PHWA count.
CP went 6-2 that Lidstrom will win it. Niedermayer got the nod from two.
Lidstrom’s plus-40 on the plus-minus scale topped all defencemen. Two said Niedermayer should win it because he led all defencemen in scoring with career highs in assists (54) and points (69), but the league-wide buzz surrounds Lidstrom.
Who will win: Lidstrom.
Who should win: Lidstrom.
Pittsburgh teammates Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal and Colorado’s Paul Stastny got the most points for top rookie honours from PHWA voters.
The CP panel was unanimous in saying Malkin will step into the TV lights. The Russian centre led all rookies in goals (33), power-play goals (16), assists (52) and points (85). He was the first player in 89 years to score goals in each of his first six NHL games.
Hard to top that, although two on the CP panel said Stastny should win the Calder but won’t because all the hype is about Malkin.
Who will win: Malkin.
Who should win: Malkin.
The finalists in the PHWA vote on defensive forward are Carolina’s Rod Brind’Amour, who won last year, Anaheim’s Samuel Pahlsson and New Jersey’s Jay Pandolfo.
Pahlsson’s work in the playoffs earned him deserved recognition and the CP panel was nearly unanimous in deciding the pesky Swede should win the Selke, but there was little Sammi buzz outside California between October and April and the panel split down the middle (4-4) between Pandolfo and Brind’Amour.
Who will win: Pandolfo or Brind’Amour.
Who should win: Pahlsson.
Lady Byng Trophy
Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk, who won last year, Colorado’s Joe Sakic or Tampa Bay’s Martin St. Louis will be named most gentlemanly player. This one also is decided by PHWA’s selected league-wide group.
Four on the CP panel said Sakic, who won the Byng in 2001, will get it again, while two went with Datsyuk and two with St. Louis.
Sakic, who won the Byng in 2001, took the most penalty minutes of the three but is the sentimental favourite after finishing seventh in league scoring with 100 points and joining Gordie Howe as the only players to reach the century mark at 37 or older.
Who will win: Sakic.
Who should win: St. Louis.
Buffalo’s Lindy Ruff, Pittsburgh’s Michel Therrien and Vancouver’s Alain Vigneault are finalists for coach of the year, which is decided by members of the NHL Broadcasters’ Association.
Five on the CP panel said Ruff will take it a second year in a row, while two others picked Therrien and one said Vigneault would win it. Three said Vigneault should win it but won’t because of Buffalo’s No. 1 rank.
No wonder it’s close: Ruff’s Sabres topped the standings; Vigneault’s Canucks won a franchise-record 49 games and had the league’s best record after Christmas; and Therrien’s Penguins showed a 47-point improvement, which was fourth-highest in league history.
Who will win: Ruff.
Who should win: Ruff.