If the Senators, down 2-0 to the Anaheim Ducks, can rebound on home ice, captain Daniel Alfredsson will get the nod from the selected members of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association who cast ballots at the end of the last game. The Swedish winger was the clear-cut Smythe leader going into the Stanley Cup final.
Alfredsson has been a standout. He leads all goal scorers with 10 goals and has 18 points, while linemates Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza lead the way in the latter stats category with 21 each.
Goaltender Ray Emery has played the best hockey of his career, and Anton Volchenkov and Chris Phillips have been Ottawa’s most prominent defencemen.
Alfredsson is the best bet to be named MVP if the Senators claw their way back into the series. Trouble is, NHL history is not on their side. Only one team of 30 that has lost the first two games on the road has emerged with the Stanley Cup – the 1971 Montreal Canadiens.
So, let’s look at the Ducks.
Goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who won the Smythe in 2003, will garner considerable support because of his 1.76 goals-against average and sparkling .933 save percentage. Giguere’s big equipment and strong positional play create a wall across the goal-line.
Anaheim has no forward among the leading point-getters. On the back end, Chris Pronger, Scott Niedermayer and Francois Beauchemin have been towers of strength.
The story through two games of the final has been the prominence of Anaheim’s collective defence and the impressive two-way work of the so-called checking line of Sammy Pahlsson, Travis Moen and Rob Niedermayer.
They’ve handcuffed Alfredsson, Spezza and Heatley, and they’ve been potent up front.
The trio produced 24 goals during the regular season but has burst through to score 12 in 18 playoff games. Moen scored the winner in Anaheim’s 3-2 Game 1 win and Pahlsson was the hero in the 1-0 Ducks triumph in Game 2.
Pahlsson has been dynamite at faceoff dots. He won 10 of 12 draws Wednesday.
After he laces up his skates, Pahlsson assumes a fierce competitive attitude. He can get down and dirty.
He’d be a good Smythe pick as a representative of the line that has meant so much to the Ducks throughout this spring’s playoffs.
The MVP award usually goes to a goalie, top scorer or dominant defenceman. Some of the forwards generally classified as gritty checkers who won the Smythe were Dave Keon in 1967, Bob Gainey in 1979 and Butch Goring in 1981.
It might be time to once again recognize the work done by the men in the trenches, and Pahlsson would be a great pick as the representative of a line that has played such a vital role.