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Brodeur, Crosby and Luongo finalists for Hart Memorial Trophy as MVP in NHL

The star Pittsburgh Penguins centre has already won the Art Ross Trophy as scoring champion, and the league announced Tuesday that he's a finalist for the Hart Memorial Trophy as MVP and for the Lester B. Pearson Award as outstanding player in the eyes of his peers.

The Pearson is the newest of the three, having been introduced by the NHL Players' Association in 1971. Only six players can boast of a Ross-Hart-Pearson sweep: Martin St. Louis, Jaromir Jagr, Mario Lemieux, Wayne Gretzky, who did it five times, Guy Lafleur and Phil Esposito.

Goaltenders Martin Brodeur of the New Jersey Devils and Roberto Luongo of the Vancouver Canucks are the other Hart finalists.

Luongo is also up for the Pearson and for the Vezina Trophy as top goalie, while Brodeur also is a Vezina finalist.

The other Pearson finalist is Vincent Lecavalier of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

For the first time since the inception of the NHL awards TV special in 1983, there are more than the traditional three finalists for a league trophy because there was a third-place tie between 2006 winner Miikka Kiprusoff of the Calgary Flames and Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers in Vezina balloting by the 30 league GMs.

The James Norris Memorial Trophy for best defenceman will go to Detroit's Nicklas 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.

Buffalo's Lindy Ruff, Pittsburgh's Michel Therrien and Vancouver's Alain Vigneault are the finalists for coach of the year.

Pittsburgh teammates Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal and Colorado's Paul Stastny have been nominated for the Calder Trophy as top rookie.

The Frank J. Selke Trophy for best defensive forward will go to Carolina's Rod Brind'Amour, Anaheim's Samuel Pahlsson or New Jersey's Jay Pandolfo. Brind'Amour won it last year.

Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk, Colorado's Joe Sakic or Tampa Bay's St. Louis will get the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy for most gentlemanly player.

Winners will be announced during the June 14 televised awards special in Toronto.

All voting took place at the conclusion of the regular season. Members of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association vote on the Hart, Norris, Calder, Byng and Selke, while members of the NHL Broadcasters' Association vote on the Adams.

The 19-year-old Crosby became the youngest player ever to win the Art Ross with 36 goals and 84 assists for 120 points. After the awards voting was completed, it was divulged that he'd been playing on a broken foot during the playoffs. He's the youngest Hart finalist since a 19-year-old Wayne Gretzky won it in 1980.

The last three Hart winners also were scoring champions in the same year - Peter Forsberg, then with Colorado, in 2003, St. Louis in 2004 and San Jose's Joe Thornton in 2006.

Goalies don't often win the Hart. Colorado's Jose Theodore got it in 2002 when he was with Montreal and Detroit's Dominik Hasek took it home in 1997 and 1998 as a member of the Buffalo Sabres. To discover who was the previous netminder to win it, one has to scan the record book all the back to 1962 for the name of Montreal's Jacques Plante.

That said, Luongo and Brodeur both have strong cases. They were work horses who rarely took a night off, and one of them will wind up with the Vezina.

Brodeur, who turns 35 on Sunday, had a league-record 48 wins, a .922 save percentage, a 2.18 GAA and a career-high 12 shutouts. He won the Vezina in 2003 and in 2004.

Luongo was second in wins with 47, and he was fourth in save percentage (.921) and sixth in goals-against average (2.29).

But he says he's focused more on Vancouver's playoff series against Anaheim than on winning personal awards.

"It's nice to be rewarded for your hard work during the season," he said after the Canucks skated Tuesday. "It's a nice feeling but that's the furthest thing from my mind right now.

"It's not really important to me. There is a more important ask at hand. Once this season is over, we'll get to enjoy those."

Vigneault described Luongo as "our best player all year long and one of the best players in the league."

The Pearson also is an elusive prize for a goaltender. Only Hasek in those two big seasons in the 1990s and Mike Liut way back in 1981 have won it. So, it'll probably go to Crosby or Lecavalier, who led the league with 52 goals.

The Norris competition features three men any team would love to have to man the blue-lines.

Lidstrom's plus-40 rating was tops among all defencemen, his 27 minutes 29 seconds average ice time was third in the league, and his 62 points were fifth-best among D-men. Niedermayer's 27:30 average ice time was second and he led all defencemen in scoring with career highs in assists (54) and points (69). Pronger's chances of winning the trophy might be diminished because he missed 16 games.

Picking a coach of the year is always tough.

Ruff won the Adams last year and just led the Sabres to their first No. 1 finish; the Canucks, with Vigneault behind their bench, posted a franchise-record 49 victories 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.

"He deserves it," Luongo said of Vigneault being a finalist. "It wasn't easy to come into a new team with a lot of new faces and do what he did.

"It's a well-deserved honour."

A coach needs a strong work ethic by his players and a good support staff, and Vigneault said he's had both.

"My nomination is more a reflection on the whole team from ownership down," said Vigneault, who was runner-up for the Adams in 2000 when he coached Montreal.

Malkin's stats make him a favourite to win the Calder. The Russian centre led all rookies in goals (33), power-play goals (16), assists (52) and points (85). He became the first player in 89 years to score goals in each of his first six NHL games.

Staal tied for second among rookies in goals (29) and set a rookie record with seven short-handed goals. On Feb. 10 in Toronto, he became the youngest player to get three goals in a game. His plus-16 rating led the Penguins and tied for second among all first-year players.

Stastny had the second-best points total (78) and tied for the rookie lead in winning goals. He set a rookie record with a 20-game point streak.

While Brind'Amour is in the running for a second straight Selke Trophy, Pahlsson and Pandolfo are first-time finalists.

In Byng balloting, Sakic, the 2001 winner, is due a return to the stage after finishing seventh in the NHL in scoring with 100 points. Colorado's captain joined Gordie Howe as the only players to reach the century mark at 37 or older. Howe was 40 when he amassed 103 points in 1968-69.

Datsyuk, who won last year, led Detroit with 87 points while taking only 20 minutes in penalties. St. Louis was fifth in league scoring with 102 points, led all forwards in average ice time (24:09) and was assessed 28 minutes in penalties. Sakic had 46 penalty minutes in 82 games.


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