Thursday, June 10, 2010

2010 5MFF Playoff Awards

chicago blackhawks stanley cup
The Conn Smythe Award is by far the coolest looking award in all of sports. That might just be the Canadiana in me talking because it rocks the giant maple leaf, but I’m sticking with that statement.

I don’t really understand why the NHL doesn’t give out any other playoff awards. Those awards would be more impressive than the regular season ones. Although maybe the thinking is that the only trophy that matters during the playoffs is the Stanley Cup. Amen to that.

However, I’m all about fun. And what’s more fun than giving out a bunch of awards. If the NHL isn’t going to do it, then I will.

The Wayne Gretzky AwardMost valuable player

Duncan Keith

I can’t just pick Jonathan Toews for this award because he already won the Conn Smythe and I don’t want to over burden his trophy shelf. Plus, I think Keith was actually a more valuable player to the Hawks throughout the entire playoffs.

Keith logged a ton of minutes, 28:11 per game, which was second only to Chris Pronger. He and Seabrook were able to shut down the top forwards of each team throughout the playoffs. He also notched 17 points, which placed him just outside the top-10 in playoff scoring.

More importantly, Keith had such a calming influence on the Hawks. He has an almost unnatural ability to slow the game down, even when forechecked by multiple players, and can wait that extra second or two in order to make a crisp breakout pass. Without Keith the Chicago defence is pedestrian. He basically looks like a young Scott Niedermayer.

The Mario Lemieux AwardBest forward

Danny Briere

It’s really hard to shut Jonathan Toews out of the two top awards, but I just couldn’t deny Danny Briere.

Toews played phenomenally for the first three rounds of the playoffs, but got shut down in the Stanley Cup Final by Chris Pronger for the first four games. He only registered 3 points in the final and it wasn’t until games 5 and 6 that Toews started to really play well again.

Briere finished with 30 points to lead the playoffs in scoring and finished second in goals with 12 – four of which were game winners. 12 of his 30 points were scored in the Final and 10 were scored in the second round against the Bruins (you know, when the Flyers erased a 3-0 deficit). Briere was easily the most dangerous forward on either team and if there was a big goal you could be sure that Briere was in on it. He was even a +9.

The line of Hartnell-Briere-Leino was absolutely insane. Without that line the Final would have been a Chicago sweep.

The Bobby Orr AwardBest defenceman

Chris Pronger

Pronger led all defenceman in scoring with 18 points and was second in goals with four. He blocked a playoff high 71 shots and logged 29:03 minutes per game. All of this while routinely squaring off against the best players on each team.

He shut down Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Dustin Byfuglien for four games before Joel Quennville split up the top-line. That’s impressive considering Toews was leading the scoring race and Byfuglien dominated both Vancouver and San Jose.

The Martin Brodeur AwardBest goalie

Jaroslav Halak

I avoided calling this the Patrick Roy Award, but there was no way I could avoid giving the award to another Hab.

Halak was by far the best goalie in the playoffs. He had a .923% and saved more shots than every goalie except Niemi (who played four more games). He almost single-handedly defeated the heavily favoured Washington Capitals in the first round and followed that up by playing superbly against the defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins.

Without Halak it is unlikely that the Canadiens would have even made the playoffs, let alone upset two of the favourites.

The Mark Messier AwardBest leader

Chris Pronger

It’s hard for me to accurately say who the best leader was during the playoffs since I wasn’t actually in any of the locker rooms, so we’ll have to go off information readily known.

After losing the first two games on the road in Chicago the Flyers were in a deep hole. But the media didn't focus on players like Richards and Carter, who didn’t play their best, or the goaltending situation. Instead, they were primarily talking about Pronger’s puck thievery. Pronger was able to deflect the attention away from his relatively young team and took the spotlight for himself. This allowed the Flyers to effectively re-group and win the next two games in Philadelphia.

Also, there's clearly a reason why teams led by Chris Pronger have made three of the past five Cup Finals.

The Joe Thornton Award - Biggest disappearing act of the playoffs

Alexander Semin

I suppose it’s more than a little insulting to name this award after Joe Thornton, not only because he’s still playing, but also because he just had the best playoffs of his career. And I did also say I’d give him a free pass after the Olympics, but his body of work speaks volumes. Plus, I’m not giving him the award this year, so I’m not completely trashing him.

One of the main reasons the Capitals were upset by the Canadiens was the absolute disappearance of Alexander Semin. Semin only registered one assist in seven games and looked even worse than his numbers suggest. There were entire games where I didn’t even notice him on the ice. That’s not good for a player who scored 40 goals and 84 points during the regular season.

The Butch Goring AwardBest late season pickup

Ville Leino

Goring was traded to the Islanders in 1980 and is widely credited as being the key piece that put New York over the top, allowing them to win their first Stanley Cup. He scored 19 points in 21 playoff games that year and improved upon his totals the next year by scoring 10 goals and 10 assists while earning the Conn Smythe trophy. Not bad for a deadline pickup.

The Wings traded Leino to the Flyers for Ole-Kristian Tollefsen and a 5th round pick in the 2011 draft. It was basically a cash dump by the Wings who needed to free up space for Andreas Lilja’s return from injury.

Leino never fit with the Wings, but flourished with the Flyers. He finished seventh in playoff scoring with 21 points in 19 games and was +10 (only worse than Zetterberg and Campbell).

Leino played tremendously with Briere and Hartnell and was a terror with the puck.

The Teemu Selanne Award - Biggest career resurrection

Danny Briere

After the lockout Selanne produced an awful 32 point season in Colorado and hadn’t topped 65 points since 2000-2001. People began to openly declare the end of the Finnish Flash. After the lockout he signed with the Ducks and proved to everyone that he was far from done. He led the Ducks in scoring that year with 90 points and has compiled 309 points (over 1.00 PPG) since he was allegedly done.

Briere has been maligned ever since he signed a $6.5 million deal with the Flyers. Even when he scored 72 points in the first year of the deal people were less than pleased (even though this was Briere’s second highest point total ever). This is mainly because $6.5 million is a lot of money and 72 points was a 23 point drop from the year previous. Also being a -22 as the second line centre when Mike Richards was a +14 didn’t help.

Briere was injured for most of last season, which did him no favours, and only put up 52 points in 75 games this season.

However, he has been on fire this post-season, which isn’t entirely surprising considering his career point total in the playoffs is over a point-per-game. Briere led the playoffs in scoring as previously mentioned and has certainly changed his perception in Philadelphia. Huge bounce back.

The Ken Dryden Award - Biggest breakout star

Claude Giroux

In 1971, Ken Dryden was called up to the Canadiens for the last six regular season games and sported a miniscule 1.65 GAA, which earned him the starter’s job for the playoffs. Dryden led the Canadiens to a Stanley Cup, even more impressive considering the Habs defeated the power-house Bruins in the first round.

Dryden would become a superstar in the league and led the Habs to five more Stanley Cups before retiring at the age of 31.

Giroux is a former first round pick who has steadily improved in his first two seasons in the NHL. In a mid-season call-up last year he scored 27 points in 42 games. This year he scored 47 points while playing in all 82 games.

Those are fine numbers for a young player, but Giroux really took off during the playoffs and made everyone realize he will soon be a superstar.

Giroux scored 10 goals and added 11 assists in 23 games, which placed him sixth in league scoring. Two of his goals were game winners, one of which was in overtime in game 3 and put the Flyers right back into the series.

The Marian Hossa AwardLeast clutch player

Marian Hossa

Everyone was raving about how well Marian Hossa played in game 6. Well, I’m not one of them. Sure he made some great moves, but he had absolutely no finish. He never looked dangerous and whenever he got an open look he shot it right in the goalie’s chest. That describes his entire post-season.

This isn’t even mentioning his measly four points in the Finals and grand total of 3 goals (10th on team) and 15 points (7th on team) in the entire playoffs.

Sure he played great defensively and killed penalties effectively, but are we seriously going to say Marian Hossa played tremendously when that’s all he did? That’s what you say about third line players.

Sorry, Hoss. Whatever, he got his ring. Third time's the charm.

The Bobby Baun Award - Toughest player

Duncan Keith

Down 3 games to 2 in game 6 of the 1964 Stanley Cup Final against Detroit, Baun broke his ankle, but returned in overtime to score the winning goal for Toronto. The Leafs won the seventh game 4-0 to secure their third straight Stanley Cup. Nails.

In game 4 of the Western Conference Final, Keith lost seven teeth, three on the top and four on the bottom, when a Patrick Marleau shot hit him in the mouth. A few of the teeth fell out of his mouth, while Keith had to cough out another one that lodged in his throat.

Keith only missed seven minutes of action and returned to assist on Dave Bolland’s game tying goal. Despite missing some time for a trip to the dentist Keith still ended up with a game high 29:02 minutes of ice time, which included 12 in the third period.

When asked about the teeth Keith’s reply was, “It’s just missing teeth. It’s a long way from the heart.” Nails!

The Fernando Pisani AwardBiggest surprise

Ville Leino

In Edmonton’s surprising 2006 run to the Cup Final, Pisani turned in an astonishing 14 goals and 4 assists in 24 games. What’s even more impressive is that 5 of his goals were game winners. This was out of nowhere considering Pisani had never scored over 20 goals or 40 points in a single season.

Nothing suggested that Leino would play as well as he did during the playoffs. He only scored 7 points in 42 games with the Red Wings before being traded to the Flyers. In Philadelphia, he only added 4 points in 13 games.

But once the playoffs hit Leino seemed to find his place on the team and seemingly scored at will. He found instant chemistry with Briere and Hartnell and paced the Flyers throughout the playoffs.

If I was a Flyers’ fan I wouldn’t count on him duplicating this type of production next season, but I don’t think he’s as bad as he was in Detroit either.


Bo Dangles said...

Semin also had 44 shots on net in those 7 games. And he couldn't even score ONE goal?!? I'm pretty sure Colton Orr would score at least once on 44 shots...

I remember CBC talking to Laviolette about the fact that Leino was also a healthy scratch for most of the games towards the end of the season. Pretty impressive post-sesason for a guy who was essentially a spare part before the playoffs started.

Ted Rigby said...

I can't disagree with any of your picks, but the goalie award could easily have gone to Niemi, as could the biggest surprise. I know it has happened a few times in recent memory, but Niemi was the man all the way through, and was an undrafted rookie. Not too shabby.

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