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The Opening Faceoff: Brass in Pocket

by Shawn P. Roarke / NHL.com

Got brass in pocket
Got bottle, I'm gonna use it
Intention, I feel inventive
Gonna make you, make you, make you notice
Got motion, restrained emotion
Been driving, Detroit leaning
No reason, just seems so pleasing
Gonna make you, make you, make you notice
Gonna use my arms
Gonna use my legs
Gonna use my style
Gonna use my sidestep
Gonna use my fingers
Gonna use my, my, my imagination
'Cause I'm gonna make you see
There's nobody else here
No one like me
I'm special, so special
I gotta have some of your attention, give it to me
Got rhythm, I can't miss a beat
Got new ne skank, it's so reet
Got something, I'm winking at you
Gonna make you, make you, make you notice


--Brass in Pocket, The Pretenders


The Stanley Cup Playoffs are all about seizing the biggest stage the sport has to offer. Careers are both made, and broken, by what happens during the annual two-month quest for the Stanley Cup.

With the eyes of the hockey world trained firmly on every night’s action, players are put under a microscope that they will not encounter anywhere else in their hockey careers. Every move is dissected, every triumph celebrated and every mistake scrutinized.

For some, the intensity is paralyzing. For others, the pressure is invigorating. It is the latter group of players who tend to occupy the spotlight as the tournament progresses. For these are the players who embrace the opportunity to show the world just what they have, players who are “Gonna make you, make you, make you notice” them.

Or, as eloquently as Chrissie Hynde -- one of the three best female singers in the history of rock ‘n roll in CTN’s humble opinion -- put it in one of The Pretenders' first hits, these players have “bottle,” which is a British slang term for courage or confidence. They have to have your attention and demand, through their on-ice excellence, that you, the viewer, direct that desired attention to them, and them alone.

And for those conspiracy theorists out there, don’t take the “Detroit leaning” reference in the lyrics as a hint that CTN has already hitched the wagon to the Stanley Cup winner. According to several sources, “Detroit leaning” is nothing more than a style of driving in which the driver leans back and uses just one hand on the steering wheel.

The other slang in this song, for those that like to learn new things, involves this line, “I got new ne skank, it’s so reet.” Again, an English influence at play here. Skank is moving your body side-to-side, as in dance and reet is a slang form of righteous.

Now, back to hockey. CTN picked Brass in Pocket because it is the perfect soundtrack for handing out the hardware after two rounds of the Stanley Cup. The players that win the below awards are “special, so special” and there is no one else in the Stanley Cup Playoffs like them.

CTN handed out these same trophies after the conclusion of the first round, which can be found in the April 25th edition of the Opening Faceoff. So, you can also see how the trophy picture has changed in just two weeks of the eight week tournament.

As always, CTN wants to hear your thoughts about these awards and candidates you believe deserve attention. Send your thoughts to roarkeblog@nhl.com and remember to include your name and hometown if you would like to see your submission in a future edition of the Penalty Box.


The Opening Faceoff

As CTN explained in the initial awards exercise two weeks ago, CTN took the six major awards -- Calder (rookie), Norris (defenseman), Vezina (goalie), Selke (defensive forward), Adams (coach) and Hart (MVP, which becomes the Conn Smythe in the playoffs) -- and found appropriate winners as we head into the conference finals. CTN also picked two runners-up.

CTN didn't include the Lady Byng (gentlemanly play) in this exercise, because the Stanley Cup Playoffs are not the venue for gentlemanly ways. It is a mean, desperate time that demands a nasty, win-at-most-costs response from those privileged enough to still be around.

Consider these picks as nothing more than guideposts as to what players have Brass in Pocket after 68 games of the Stanley Cup marathon. Things could, and probably will, change dramatically when we revisit this topic in two weeks' time, at the eve of the Stanley Cup Final.

Stars rookie Nicklas Grossman holds a cumulative plus-3 ranking.
Watch Nicklas Grossman highlight video
Best Rookie – There aren’t too many rookies remaining who are taking a regular shift. Most of the impact rookies were bounced in the second round. Is that coincidence or a reflection of the fact that this time of year requires the nerves of steel that are usually only possessed by more experienced players? CTN goes with the latter. But with such a small field to chose from, CTN has to go with Dallas defenseman Nicklas Grossman as the winner here. He has played in every postseason game for Dallas and is averaging almost 20 minutes per game. He has only been a minus twice so far in the postseason and holds a cumulative plus-3 ranking.

Runners-up - Matt Niskanen, Dallas; Brandon Dubinsky, Rangers

Best Defenseman – The obvious candidate, Nicklas Lidstrom, is hanging around the fringes of this debate, waiting for the necessary circumstances to elevate his game to the Norris Trophy level we have become accustomed to. But right now, Dallas defender Stephane Robidas is the best defenseman in the tournament. He is doing it all for the Stars, handling the heaviest workload of the team’s defenders. He is tied for the tournament scoring lead among defenders with eight points, is a plus-3 and has fired off 31 shots. And, he has played the last seven games with a full cage protecting a broken nose.

Runners-upNicklas Lidstrom , Red Wings; Kimmo Timonen, Flyers

Best Goalie – All season, the Pittsburgh Penguins have been known for their offensive firepower, but after two rounds of the playoffs Pittsburgh has its goalie, Marc-Andre Fleury, to thank for still being around. In the past round, he out-dueled Vezina Trophy finalist Henrik Lundqvist of the Rangers. He has won eight of nine starts and has allowed just 16 goals. His .938 save percentage is best among the remaining goalies, and he is one of only two goalies in the tournament to record two shutouts. Yet that impressive track record is only good enough to barely edge Dallas' Marty Turco in what is properly the most-contested of the trophy races.

Runners-upMarty Turco, Dallas; Chris Osgood, Detroit

Best Defensive Forward – Philadelphia’s Mike Richards has always been predicted to be an elite two-way forward. Well, the wait is clearly done. Richards has been dominant on both sides of the puck in this tournament. Offensively, he has 11 points in 12 games. But it is on the other side of the puck that Richards has been exemplary. He is a primary penalty killer for a team that has taken a tournament-high number of penalties and he has a shorthanded goal. He’s blocked 14 shots and recorded 25 hits and 13 takeaways. He is also second option for the Flyers in the faceoff circle, taking 228 draws and winning 50.4 percent of them.

Runners-up
Jordan Staal, Pittsburgh; Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit

John Stevens' decision to use a defensive pairing helped stop Alex Ovechkin in the first round of the playoffs. Flyers shut down Caps
Best Coach – Mike Babcock was supposed to make it this far -- he had the best team in the tournament. Michel Therrien also was supposed to make the Final Four, as his team was seeded No. 2 in the East. Dallas’ Dave Tippett and Philadelphia’s John Stevens, however, have surprised the hockey world by getting their teams to the third round. But Stevens has done the more shocking job of the two. His team was the worst in hockey last year and, even with the free-agent pickups and trade acquisitions, remains one of the youngest in hockey. His decision to use a defensive pairing instead of line matching to neutralize Alex Ovechkin in the first round was a brilliant decision, and his ability to lead his team through the cauldron of a series against a heavily favored Montreal team without getting distracted is amazing. And, oh yeah, he has done all this with a goalie that had not played a playoff game before this spring.

Runners-upDave Tippett, Dallas; Mike Babcock, Detroit
 
Most Valuable Player – This should be a far harder decision than it is. But, for CTN’s money, there has been nobody more valuable so far in the 2008 Stanley Cup Playoffs than Brenden Morrow of the Dallas Stars. Yes, there are players that have more points than Morrow and players that have more goals, but no player has had more of an impact on his team. First of all, no forward left in the tournament has seen as much ice time as Morrow, whose TOI numbers are admittedly boosted by all the OT games the Stars have played. His seven goals lead his team, and his 11 points are second on the Stars. He has two game-winning goals and both have come in OT. Eight of his 11 points and four of his seven goals have come on the road. He has been as successful on the power play as he is at even strength. And, he has delivered a tournament-leading 66 hits, 25 more than any player from the other three semifinalists. Simply put, he sets the tone that has helped Dallas become a very dangerous team.

Runners-upJohan Franzen, Detroit; Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh
 


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