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Friday, June 17, 2011

2011 5MFF Playoff Awards

tim thomas bruins conn smythe
On Wednesday night the world saw an ugly side of Vancouver. After losing to the Bruins, a couple hundred people, who the police are now describing as organized anarchists masquerading as Canuck fans, started rioting in the streets of downtown Vancouver. It wasn’t a very good representation of Vancouver, which is a beautiful city. The next day the citizens of Vancouver took to the streets to help the clean-up effort. Those are the real people of Vancouver.

Amidst all the mayhem, there was a celebration occurring in the Bruins’ locker room after their impressive series clinching victory. The shots of Kaberle dousing his teammates in champagne made my heart feel good. The cars on fire outside? Not so much.

Not many people (myself included) gave the Bruins a shot after they fell 2-0 to the Canucks, but they rallied back like they did all post-season and became the only team in Stanley Cup history to win three game 7s.

Well, that’s the season. It was fun. I hope you enjoyed it. I guess we’ll all be on our merry way… But wait, there’s the important matter of handing out some hardware for the deserving few who excelled (and a few that didn’t) during the playoffs.

Without further ado, here’s the second annual Five Minutes For Fighting Playoff Awards.

The Wayne Gretzky AwardMost valuable player

Tim Thomas

Thomas dominated the playoffs with an obscene .940 SV%, matched with a miniscule 1.98 GAA, which are the type of numbers Dominik Hasek was putting up during the middle of the Dead Puck Era. This is even more impressive considering Thomas battled through an Eastern Conference Final that looked like a throw-back to the 80s. Thomas added four shutouts along the way and was a physical presence in the net as well.

Thomas was so confident in net that it didn’t look like he was feeling any pressure. On multiple occasions the cameras caught him with a huge smile on his face. When your goalie plays with such confidence, that positive energy just courses throughout the whole team.

Thomas led the Bruins to six one-goal victories and allowed only four goals in series clinching games.

The Mario Lemieux AwardBest forward

David Krejci

For some bizarre reason, Krejci led the playoffs in both goals and points, yet no one talked about it. He even added four game-winning-goals, more than anyone else. I guess talking about grown men biting each other is more interesting. Krejci only tallied one point in the first round against the Habs, but found his game afterwards, putting up 9, 7, and 6 points in the subsequent rounds.

Krejci played great two-way hockey throughout the entire post-season and was a key piece to the Bruins first Stanley Cup since 1972.

The Bobby Orr AwardBest defenceman

Zdeno Chara

Chara wasn’t overwhelming offensively, scoring only nine points, but he was dominant on defence. Chara led the playoffs with a +14 rating while playing close to 30 minutes a night. He played a large role in shutting down the Sedin twins during the Stanley Cup Final and logged big minutes against the top players each series.

The Martin Brodeur AwardBest goalie

Tim Thomas

When you make more saves than anyone else in the history of the playoffs, I think it’s safe to say you’re the best goalie that year. Oh, and allowing the fewest goals in a seven game series isn’t too shabby either, especially when that series is the Stanley Cup Final.

The Mark Messier AwardBest leader

Tim Thomas

While Thomas was the only goalie in this year's Stanley Cup Final never to have captained a team, he certainly led the Bruins. It’s obviously hard to know what goes on in the dressing room, but it’s clear from watching that the Bruins feed off Thomas.

Plus, Thomas guaranteed a Bruins’ victory in game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final after losing game 4 to Tampa Bay by a 5-4 score. He allowed only one goal in that pivotal game which put the Bruins up 3-2 in the series.

Daniel Sedin made a similar bold prediction, stating that the Canucks were going to win game 7, only to later back-off and say that “if we put our best game on the ice, I like our chances.” That’s the true make-up of a champion right there. We'll give him the Anti-Mark Messier Award.

The NEW Joe Thornton AwardBiggest career transformation

Joe Thornton

Last year the Joe Thornton Award was given to the playoff’s most disappointing player, which was a little unfair to Thornton because he played pretty well last year (although he didn’t actually win the award which bears his name).

However, Thornton completed his transformation this year from a perennial underachiever to a dominant force. Thornton willed the Sharks to win on multiple occasions and was a force in both ends of the ice. He played physically and had an edge to his game people didn’t really think he had. Jumbo Joe scored 17 points in 18 games and two of his three goals were game winners.

Thornton silenced his critics with stellar play and may have finally shed the label of playoff choke artist. There's no way that I can continue to call the biggest disappearing act of the playoffs after Thornton.

The OLD Joe Thornton Award - Biggest disappearing act of the playoffs

Nicklas Backstrom

And when someone sheds the choker label, someone else picks it up. Backstrom scored two points in two full playoff series. That isn’t a typo. For someone who has scored over 250 points the last three seasons, that’s terrible. He scored as many points as series he played in. Woof!

It’s not surprising that the Capitals as a team are perennial disappointments when each year there is a new superstar looking lost on the ice. Looking lost is the wrong phrase: Backstrom was non-existent. I still think they’re looking for him in D.C.

At this point I haven’t decided who to name this award after. I’ll take a year off and listen to suggestions and come back with a strong candidate next year.

The Butch Goring AwardBest late season pickup

Dwayne Roloson

The Lightning’s goaltending situation was Toskalean before Roloson showed up. Both Mike Smith and Dan Ellis had save percentages well below .900. After coming over from the Islanders, Roloson stabilized the Lightning and turned them into a team to fear.

During the playoffs, Roloson led the Lightning to within one game of the Stanley Cup Final. He had a 2.51 GAA and .924 SV% with one shutout.

Mike Smith played very well in two appearances during the playoffs, but it’s very hard to argue the Lightning would advance as far as they did with anyone but Roloson in net.

The Teemu Selanne AwardBiggest career resurrection

Vincent Lecavalier

After signing a massive contract a few years ago, Lecavalier has taken a lot of heat. Since signing the deal he has yet to surpass 70 points in three seasons and had a disappointing 54 point campaign during an injury shortened season this year.

Lecavalier hasn’t played terribly, but he’s making the seventh most in the entire league and his production certainly does not reflect that.

However, Lecavalier came alive this post-season and scored 19 points in 18 games, including three game winners.

The Ken Dryden AwardBiggest breakout star

Brad Marchand

When Marchand wasn’t punching one of the Sedin twins in the face, he’s was out scoring timely goals and making life miserable for his opponents. The pesky forward notched 19 points in 25 games for the Bruins, three of which came in game seven of the Stanley Cup Final.

Marchand scored five goals and seven points in the Stanley Cup Final and out ratted both Alex Burrows (who bit someone) and Ryan Kesler; that says a lot. He was a great two-way player and was the exact player you hate to play against, but would love to have on your team.

The Marian Hossa AwardLeast clutch player

Ryan Kesler

I’m sure there will be a lot of pressure to give this award to Luongo, but I’m not going to pile on the poor guy. Plus, Luongo at least showed up for three games against the Bruins (sure he was brutal in the four losses); Kesler was absent for the entire series.

Kesler absolutely dominated the Nashville Predators in the second round, scoring 11 points en route to a six game series victory, but the points started to slowly dry in the Western Conference Final as the Sharks held Kesler to three points. His production absolutely halted in the Stanley Cup Final and he managed to end up with only one assist.

What was more concerning was that Kesler wanted to skate through the Bruins all series, which is the same tactic that has proved terribly unsuccessful for Alex Ovechkin in his playoff career. It was painful to watch.

The Bobby Baun AwardToughest player

Steven Stamkos

The former first overall pick took a Johnny Boychuk slap-shot off the face in game seven on the Eastern Conference Final and was back on the ice in a couple of minutes. That’s nails.

The Fernando Pisani AwardBiggest surprise

Teddy Purcell

Purcell signed as an undrafted free agent with the LA Kings in 2007 and hasn’t shown much in the NHL before this season (his previous career high was 16 points). He did score 83 points in 67 AHL games in 2007-2008, so maybe it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that Purcell broke out this year for 51 points during this year's regular season.

Purcell really started to turn heads during the playoffs when he scored 17 points, behind only Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier among Tampa players.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

No honorable mention to St Louis for the Bobby Baun award?

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