Before the second round kicks off with a couple of games Thursday night, I figured I’d hand out some hardware for one of the most exciting first rounds the NHL has seen in recent years.
Most Valuable Player – Dan Ellis, Nashville
The 28-year-old first-year netminder, who had exactly one game of NHL experience prior to taking over the No. 1 role with the Preds this season, was the lone reason Nashville won a game, never mind came close to beating the powerful Red Wings. Ellis faced more than 40 shots per game and still finished with a 2.52 GAA and .938 SP. Honorable mentions: Jose Theodore, Colorado; Alex Ovechkin, Washington.
Best Player – Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh
He may be ‘The Kid,’ but he looked like a man among boys while tearing apart the Senators in four straight. The league’s best player (yes, I said it) averaged two points per game and has Pens fans considering an early start to a future dynasty. Honorable mentions: Daniel Briere, Philadelphia; Jaromir Jagr, Rangers.
Best Goalie – Jose Theodore, Colorado
Seems a touch odd I’d give best goalie to Theo after giving the MVP to Ellis, eh? Well, that’s because Ellis was the most valuable player to his team, but no tender played better than former Hart Trophy winner Theodore. The 31-year-old potential UFA was brilliant in each of the Avs’ wins and was second in both GAA and SP among goalies who played all their team’s games. Honorable mentions: Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh; Ellis, Nashville.
Best Defenseman – Mike Green, Washington
This season was Green’s coming out party and the speedy sophomore looked comfortable at both ends of the ice in the wide-open Philadelphia series. Green is certainly offensive-minded – as his six points in seven games would attest – but the fact he was only minus-2 while playing nearly 27 minutes per game is a bonus. Honorable mentions: Dion Phaneuf, Calgary; Stephane Robidas, Dallas.
Top Rookie – Nicklas Backstrom, Washington
He won’t win the Calder, but he may turn out to be the best non-goalie rookie of his class over the long run. After settling in, Backstrom was dominant at times against the Flyers and finished the series with a four-game goal streak and six points overall. Honorable mentions: Carey Price, Montreal; Brandon Dubinsky, Rangers.
At the risk of dislocating my shoulder to pat myself on the back, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention I came out of the first round 7-1 with my predictions, which just happened to be tops in the office.
In case you like to bet a penny or two and want to hop on the hot-hand bandwagon, I like the Stars, Red Wings, Canadiens and Penguins in the second round.
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Edward Fraser is the editor of thehockeynews.com. His blog appears Thursdays.
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