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Hart candidate Perry enjoyed 'fun second half'

Thursday, 04.28.2011 / 4:41 PM / 2011 NHL Awards

By Curtis Zupke - NHL.com Correspondent

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Hart candidate Perry enjoyed 'fun second half'
A white-hot final month of the season and strong overall second half resulted in Corey Perry leading the NHL with 50 goals and making himself a prime candidate for the Hart Trophy as MVP.
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Corey Perry heard so much chatter about his Hart Trophy candidacy these past few weeks that his nomination Thursday wasn't too surprising.

But when he was officially named a finalist it brought his season into full focus, especially considering nobody tabbed him as a candidate in the beginning, including himself.

"It's something you don't really think about," Perry said. "You don't plan on it. But at the end of the day, it happened and it's exciting and it's a new chapter."

Perry is only the third Anaheim player to be a finalist for the award. Teemu Selanne was third in voting in 1997-98 and Paul Kariya was runner-up in 1996-97.

Perry became a favorite late in the season with 19 goals and 29 points over a 14-game stretch in March and April. He scored two goals each in road games against Calgary, Nashville and Chicago in late March and emphatically made his case with a hat trick against San Jose on April 6 that brought him to 50 goals.

"I don't know what happened," Perry said. "You go into every game and try to do the best you can. Things happen. It was a fun second half, that's for sure. You never expect to score 50 goals in a season. At the end of the day, when you hit 50, it was a pretty tremendous feat."

A 6-foot-3, 212-pound winger, Perry's season represented his progression from agitator to pure goal scorer. Almost all of his goals are scored within 10 feet of the net, and a common sight in Anaheim highlights is Perry backing into the crease area like a basketball power forward in the paint.

Perry's father, Geoff, said in February that the main difference he noticed in his son this season was his transition away from the pest role.

"He hasn't had to do the real part of the agitation," Geoff told the Orange County Register. "He's got the respect now that, ‘You leave me alone and I'm going to score a goal.' They don't try to get him going. They kind of leave him alone now."

Perry said that aspect of his game hasn't changed, though.

"That's my game," he said. "I can't change it. But trying to stay out of the penalty box as much as I can is huge, huge benefit in the second half of the season. It was something that I was thinking about, for sure."

While Hart winners are typically known for offense, Perry played on both special teams units. His 22:18 average time-on-ice ranked second among NHL forwards.

"I've got to give a lot of praise to my teammates and my linemates," Perry said. "The coaching staff helped me. They put me in different roles this year where I could succeed. It was a lot of fun to be a part of."

Hart candidates are also often the best players on first-place teams, but Perry played on an Anaheim team that didn't make the postseason until the final weekend of the regular season.

His League leading 21 third-period goals and co-leading 11 game winners had a lot to do with that. If he wins the Hart, it will have to be consolation for a Ducks season that ended in the first round.

Asked what it would mean to him, Perry said, "That would be something I'm definitely thinking about. It would be an honor. Just to be in that category is an honor."