After finishing as the runner-up for three consecutive seasons, Tampa Bay Lightning
forward Martin St. Louis
finally won the Lady Byng Trophy -- awarded for "skillful and gentlemanly play" -- last June.
Don't be surprised if he goes home with the same hardware again this spring.
"When you get in your 30s, you have to prove you can still play," the 35-year-old former undrafted free agent said.
Here's how the Lady Byng race is shaping up with about 20 games left in the regular season:
Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay --
St. Louis is among the NHL's top-five scorers with 69 points in the Tampa Bay Lightning
's first 59 games, and he's a big reason the surprising Lightning are heading into the homestretch on top of the Southeast Division. He's also a big part of why 2008 No. 1 pick Steven Stamkos
is leading the NHL with 40 goals -- most of them have come on feeds from St. Louis.
One of the first things new GM Steve Yzerman
did was sign the 35-year-old to a contract extension that figures to keep him with the Lightning for the rest of his career. St. Louis has more than justified Yzerman's faith in him.
"He's one of those guys who doesn't want to be denied," coach Guy Boucher
said. "He won't be denied."
Jonathan Toews, Chicago --
With 20 goals and 55 points through 59 games, "Captain Serious" is on pace for the best offensive numbers of his career. He's also on track for the best plus-minus rating in his four NHL seasons -- and, for good measure, is also in the top-five in the League in faceoff percentage. Toews has done all that while taking just eight minor penalties.
He's also more than willing to speak his piece, as he did Monday after a poor first period against St. Louis -- a game that saw the Blackhawks rally from a 2-0 deficit for a 5-3 win.
"It's been a big challenge for him," assistant coach Mike Haviland said. "He's had to do a lot more talking and maybe put his arm around guys to push guys a little bit more to stand up. He's one of the best leaders in the whole game."
Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit --
The Lady Byng traditionally has gone to a skilled forward. But Lidstrom is doing his best to become the first defenseman since Hall of Famer Red Kelly
in 1954 to win the trophy. At age 40, Lidstrom has been playing some of the best hockey of his career. His 12 goals and 48 points in 60 games have him on course for his best season since he had 80 points in 2005-06. Amazingly, he's done all this while taking just seven minor penalties all season.
"This is supposed to be a young man's league," Wings GM Ken Holland said, "but at the age of 40, I still think he's the best two-way defenseman in the world. Among all-time defenseman, I'd put him second behind only Bobby Orr