TORONTO - The NHL announces its award winners Thursday night at its annual gala. The Canadian Press gives hockey fans a sneak peak by trying to predict the winners:
Hart Memorial Trophy (most valuable player to his team) - Jarome Iginla of the Calgary Flames was dynamite and Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins saved his team's season when Sidney Crosby was out. But this is a no-brainer. Alex Ovechkin's NHL-leading 65 goals, the most in 12 years, is the single-biggest reason the Washington Capitals made the playoffs. His year typified what the award is about - most valuable to his team.
Lester B. Pearson Award (most outstanding player as voted by fellow players) - Same finalists as the Hart. The players don't always see it the same way as the writers, often because the voting begins in mid-March for the NHLPA while the writers mostly wait until the end of the regular season. Still, it seems pretty obvious this year.
Calder Memorial Trophy (outstanding rookie) - The Chicago Blackhawks have a 66 per cent chance of winning it. Hawks centre Patrick Kane led all rookies with 72 points (21-51) in 82 games while linemate Jonathan Toews led rookies with 24 goals despite missing more than a month with a knee injury. Washington's Nicklas Backstrom was second in rookie scoring with 69 points in 82 games, his 55 assists leading all rookies. This is the toughest of them all to call, with all three fully deserving of the award. But it should be noted that Backstrom had a huge second half while helping his team make the playoffs.
James Norris Memorial Trophy (outstanding all-around defenceman) - Zdeno Chara of the Boston Bruins gets a well-deserved second career nomination while Dion Phaneuf of the Flames is a finalist for the first of what will surely be many. But let's not kid ourselves. This is the slam dunk of the night. Nicklas Lidstrom of the Detroit Red Wings had another gem of a season, leading all blue-liners with 70 points (10-60) and posting a plus-40 rating, also best among NHL defencemen. He's the main reason the Wings posted a league-low 2.16 goals-against average. He needs to make room for a sixth career Norris Trophy.
Vezina Trophy (outstanding goaltender) - Will the king be dethroned? Martin Brodeur of the New Jersey Devils is looking for his fourth career Vezina. He went 44-27-6 this past season with a 2.17 goals-against average, .920 save percentage and four shutouts - stellar numbers yet again. But he's got serious competition from Evgeni Nabokov of the San Jose Sharks. The first-time finalist led the NHL in victories (46), ranked second among goalies in minutes played (4,561), third in GAA (2.14) and had six shutouts. He also posted a 43-game consecutive-start streak to begin the season. Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers was terrific this season but he's clearly No. 3 in this race. The GMs decide this award and we smell an upset.
Jack Adams Award (outstanding coach) - Detroit's Mike Babcock posted his third consecutive 50-win season with the Wings, leading his team to the best record in the NHL. Bruce Boudreau stepped behind the Washington bench in late November and led his club to a 37-17-7 record the rest of the way while winning the Southeast Division. Guy Carbonneau of the Montreal Canadiens coached a young and rising team to the Eastern Confererence title. There is no wrong choice here.
Frank J. Selke Trophy (outstanding defensive forward) - It only stands to reason that the NHL's stingiest team have a pair of nominees. Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg of the Red Wings are up for the award, indicative of the two-way games both star forwards play. Datsyuk led the NHL with a plus-40 rating and led all forwards with 144 takeaways. Zetterberg had a plus-30 rating and topped Wings forwards in ice time at 22:04 per game. John Madden of the Devils is a fourth-time finalist and won it in 2001. He's one the NHL's top penalty killers.