With the dust settled after the Penguins’ dramatic road victory in Game 7 over Detroit, here is my annual look at the best performers from the final series.
(Remember: These acknowledgments are only for the Pens-Wings showdown, not the entire playoffs. Awards for the first three rounds can be found HERE.)
Most Valuable Player – Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh
After a complete disappearing act in the latter stage of the 2008 tournament, Geno pulled an about-face this time around, scoring two goals and eight points in the final. The 22-year-old scored 14 goals and 36 points in 24 playoff games – the most since Wayne Gretzky in ’93 with the Kings – and became the first Russian to capture an award with only slightly more prestige than the Edward Fraser Stanley Cup Final MVP Award – the Conn Smythe.
Honorable mentions: Henrik Zetterberg, Detroit; M-A Fleury, Pittsburgh
Best Player – Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh
Sometimes the best player isn’t always the most valuable, but in this case they’re one in the same. With Zetterberg’s near-perfect job of shutting down Sidney Crosby, it was Malkin who needed to play first fiddle and he filled the chair perfectly.
Honorable mentions: Chris Osgood, Detroit; Henrik Zetterberg, Detroit
Best Goalie – Chris Osgood, Detroit
I could really call this one a tie, but Mama didn’t raise no fence-sitter, so I’ll give the nod to Osgood for his consistency. Pittsburgh managed to slip only 13 hunks of rubber past Ozzie and it would have been the 36-year-old hoisting the Conn Smythe – and cementing his place in the Hall of Fame – had the Red Wings offense not vanished in Games 6 and 7.
Honorable mention: M-A Fleury, Pittsburgh
Best Defenseman – Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit
At a sprite 39 years of age, Lidstrom proved he’s still the game’s best. After missing the final two games of the conference final, Lidstrom was his typical, composed self and played close to or more than 25 minutes in each game of the final, including nearly 28 in Game 7. The super Swede has one year left on his current contract, but it looks like he still has three or four good years left in the tank should he choose to prolong his Hall of Fame career.
Honorable mentions: Sergei Gonchar, Pittsburgh; Rob Scuderi, Pittsburgh
Top Rookie – Darren Helm, Detroit
My Round 3 winner takes the “hardware” again for the final. The Wings playoff specialist – the 22-year-old has played 41 playoff games compared to only 23 regular season games in his career – finished the series against the Penguins with only a single goal, but his energy stood out, especially when it appeared to wane with his teammates later in the series. Helm will have a full-time role with the cap-strapped Red Wings in 2009-10.
Honorable mentions: Jonathan Ericsson, Detroit
Top Coach – Dan Bylsma, Pittsburgh
Another honor that could go either way, but to the victor goes the spoils. The rookie bench boss, who took over the Penguins midway through the season when the team looked perilously like missing the playoffs, found the right buttons to push with a young Pittsburgh squad and, most importantly, kept his team focused after going down 2-0 and 3-2.
Honorable mention: Mike Babcock, Detroit
From the road in Detroit, host Ken Campbell, web editor Edward Fraser and THN contributor Mike Mouat discuss... Detroit's inability to generate offence in Games 6 and 7… Pittsburgh's resiliency… The stellar play of Marc-Andre Fleury… The quality of hockey throughout the series… And the likelihood of the Pens and Wings competing for the Stanley Cup again in the future. PRODUCER: Ted Cooper
Edward Fraser is the editor of thehockeynews.com. His blog normally appears Thursdays.
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