LAS VEGAS -- Anaheim’s Corey Perry is among the three finalists for the Hart Memorial Trophy at Wednesday’s 2011 NHL Awards, earning his nomination on the strength of a finishing kick for the ages.
In his final 16 games of the regular season, Perry potted 19 goals and added 11 assists as he helped carry his Anaheim Ducks into the Stanley Cup Playoffs and a first-round match against the Nashville Predators.
"I think it was one of those things where you get on a roll and things just go your way," Perry said Tuesday at the Palms Casino, the site of Wednesday’s show. "You can’t go out and plan on doing that. You just go out and do your thing, and it was a quite a good roll that that happened in the last month and a half. It was fun."
It was also eye-opening to many that knew little about the 26-year-old Perry, who reached the 50-goal mark for the first time in his six-year career. His previous high was 32 goals, set in 2008-09.
"Sometimes, you're just rolling," said Tampa Bay’s Marty St. Louis, who is also up for the Hart Trophy, along with Vancouver’s Daniel Sedin. "He was a very confident player. I watched some of his games and some of the stuff he did was amazing. Once you start going like that you don’t look back and don’t talk about it and just go.
"I know he was probably asked about it and have to answer questions about the scoring streak every day. It’s the last thing you want to do, is answer those questions. For him to be able to do that is a sign of his mental toughness and his ability to fight through it and just stay the course. He did and he’s a big reason why they were in such a good position for the playoffs."
St. Louis has never reached 50 goals in a season, but he has topped the 30-goal mark six times. He still has trouble believing how easy Perry made things look at times during his epic run.
"It’s hard to do in this League, to score at that rate and at that pace," St. Louis said. "It’s tremendous. Since he’s been in this League, he’s always been a dangerous guy, but he took another step this year."
It wasn’t just fellow goal-hungry forwards that were impressed with Perry’s performance. Detroit’s Nicklas Lidstrom, the best defenseman of his generation, fears few on the ice. But he was happy his Red Wings played the Ducks just before Perry went on his rampage.
For the month of March and into early April, every time Lidstrom saw hockey highlights, he saw a power forward at the top of his game and did not envy the defensemen tasked with shutting Perry down during that stretch.
"He was very hard to defend," Lidstrom said Tuesday. "When he played with that confidence, he probably felt he could score every game, every period. It looked like he took charge -- especially late in the year. He took the team on his shoulders and he played unbelievable. He did that game in and game out at the end, too."
Lidstrom, up for another Norris Trophy as the game’s best defenseman, doesn’t even like defending Perry when he is playing at a normal level, never mind the superhuman performance the hockey world saw at the end of last season.
"He’s very shifty," Lidstrom said. "He’s good at using his speed, but also cutting across the ice and going side-to-side; and he can stickhandle. He’s got a good toe drag and he can stickhandle at full speed. That makes it even harder to defend when he can stickhandle while skating at full speed."
Unfortunately, Perry’s season ended in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, as the Ducks lost a six-game series to the Predators. Once again, it wasn’t for a lack of trying from Perry, who had 2 goals and 8 points in the series.
The early exit from the playoffs has given him almost two months to contemplate what happened this spring. Yet, he is still at a loss to explain it.
"I don’t know if it has really hit me," Perry said. "It was a very special run. You see your numbers and you see what you did in that 15- or 20-game stretch and, like I said, it was a very special time of the season. We were pushing for a playoff spot and things went my way. There’s not much more I can say."
No, there is nothing to say until the next season arrives in October.
Then, Perry can begin proving that the 16-game run to close the season was no fluke, but rather the beginning of a new level for a power forward just reaching his hockey prime.
However, even he admits it will be a long four-month wait to see how it plays out.
"Hopefully I can carry it over to next season," Perry said. "You want to build on what you did the season before. Going into the new season, I’m looking forward to it."