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The Opening Faceoff: Early postseason awards

by Shawn P. Roarke /

If you're wondering why
All the love that you long for eludes you
And people are rude and cruel to you
I'll tell you why
I'll tell you why
I'll tell you why
I'll tell you why
You just haven't earned it yet, baby
You just haven't earned it, son
You just haven't earned it yet, baby
You must suffer and cry for a longer time
You just haven't earned it yet, baby
And I'm telling you now ...
If you're wondering why
When all I wanted from life was to be famous
I have tried for so long, its all gone wrong
I'll tell you why
I'll tell you why
I'll tell you why
I'll tell you why
But you wouldn't believe me

-- You Just Haven't Earned It Yet, Baby, The Smiths

The Smiths' career was short in quantity, but long in quality. So they seemed like the perfect choice to open this week's Crashing the Net. After all, The Smiths put out just four studio albums before imploding, and the Stanley Cup Playoffs are four rounds. Coincidence? CTN thinks not.

Morrissey, the front man of the band, has been accused of penning depressing lyrics, but CTN couldn't disagree more. The Smiths songs were certainly moody and often dark, but there was also a fair bit of humor present. More importantly, they contained a fair amount of unvarnished truth. It is for that reason that the band remains popular 20 years after its breakup.

You Just Haven't Earned It, Baby, off the Louder than Bombs compilation album, is one of those songs. It attacks the sense of entitlement that permeated society then and is even more prevalent now.

Everyone, it seems, wants the good life; but so few are willing to put in the effort required to have the best of anything.

That, however, does not happen in hockey. Hard work, and hard work alone, is the arbiter of success. The eight teams left standing to start Round 2 today are the eight hardest-working teams in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It's as simple as that.

And it is what makes the game – especially in the playoffs -- so beautiful to play and to watch. There may be cruel twists along the way, but in the end, everyone involved knows that effort will be the final arbiter. It truly is a case of who wants it more.

The Smiths provide the perfect cautionary introduction to this week's Opening Faceoff segment, which hands out some first-round playoff hardware. While it's nice to be acknowledged for what was accomplished in Round 1, these players must remember that it is only the first of four increasingly difficult steps needed to reach the ultimate destination.

So remember: You Just Haven't Earned It, Baby

The Opening Faceoff

This week, the NHL has been announcing the finalists for the major end-of-season awards that are put to a vote. It has been really neat to see who has made the cut for awards like the Norris, the Vezina and the Calder.

CTN thought it would be interesting to hand out some similar hardware after the first round of the playoffs, serving as a kind of road map as to where we have been in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and where we are heading in the next couple of weeks.

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 second round. 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 theater in which to flaunt your gentlemanly ways. It is a mean, desperate time that demands a nasty, win-at-most-costs response from those allowed to take part in the process.

Consider these picks as nothing more than guideposts as to who is making impressions after 48 playoffs games. Thing will certainly change when Crashing the Net revisits this topic in a fortnight.

CTN would love to know who you would hand hardware to after the first round. Send in your suggestions to CTN will post the best offerings in next week's Penalty Box. Remember to include your name and hometown on your submission.

Now, on to CTN's choices:

Marc Staal had no bad games in the New York Rangers' five-game ouster of the New Jersey Devils this postseason. Watch Marc Staal highlight video
Best Rookie -- Sure, there will be a lot of sentiment here to give this award to Montreal goalie Carey Price, who had two shutouts in the first-round elimination of Boston. But there is no way around the fact that Price had two bad games in that seven-game series. Rangers defenseman Marc Staal, meanwhile had no bad games in the five-game ouster of the Devils. He skated major minutes and logged more ice time per game – averaging better than 22 minutes an outing – than any other rookie skater. His 17 hits were second among rookies, behind only the blistering pace set by Boston's Milan Lucic (35 in seven games). Staal also blocked six shots and finished with a plus-3 rating. And, oh yeah, his only point of the round was the game-winning goal in the pivotal Game 4.

Runners-up: Price, Montreal; Brandon Dubinsky, Rangers.

Best Defenseman -- It's not easy to stop Alexander Ovechkin for a game, never mind for a seven-game series. But that's exactly what Philadelphia's Kimmo Timonen did in the Flyers' seven-game win against the Capitals. Yes, he did get some help from partner Braydon Coburn and the forwards on the ice at the time, but Timonen was the main man. Plus, Timonen's offensive prowess didn't take a hit. The power-play quarterback had four assists, a plus-2 rating and 14 shots on goal. He also led all Philadelphia defensemen in time on ice, playing more than 25 minutes a game.

Runners-up: Stephane Robidas, Dallas; Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit.

Best Goalie -- Colorado's Jose Theodore knows about stealing hockey games. Remember, he won the Hart Trophy in 2002 when he was still with Montreal. He displayed that 2002 form in Round 1 this time around. In six games, Minnesota managed 200 shots, yet scored just 12 goals. He played to a .940 save percentage and a 1.88 goals-against average in a series that featured five one-goal decisions. That's called making a difference.

Runners-up: Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh; Dan Ellis, Nashville.

Best defensive forward
-- These defensive specialists often get overlooked during the regular season when their consistent, behind-the-scenes contributions are overshadowed by their headline of the day. In the playoffs, though, these checkers tend to find a way to make their presence felt. Such is the case of Dallas center Stu Barnes. The veteran saw just a little more than 15 minutes a game and was the team's most-used forward in penalty killing situations. And did we mention that Anaheim scored just 13 goals in a six-game ousting. Barnes, himself, had two goals and both were game-winners.

Runners-up: Kris Draper, Detroit, Mike Richards, Philadelphia

John Stevens' Flyers shutdown Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals to advance to the second round. Lupul sends Flyers to round 2
Best Coach -- John Stevens made all the right calls in the first round. First, he decided to match defensive pairings, not forward lines, against Ovechkin. The result? AO, the League's top goal scorer and point getter in the regular season, had three even-strength points in seven games and was frustrated at his inability to find open ice for long stretches of the series. Stevens' team blew a three-games-to-one lead, but Stevens never pushed the panic button and his young, inexperienced team turned in a veteran performance in Game 7 – on the road, no less.

Runners-up: Dave Tippett, Dallas; Mike Babcock, Detroit

Most Valuable Player
-- It wasn't easy picking out a first-round winner of the Conn Smythe, but, in the end, CTN has to install Philadelphia's Daniel Briere as the favorite at the first turn. Briere had six goals in the first round and nobody else had more than four. He outscored Ovechkin, 6-3. At 11 points, Briere was the only player to reach double digits in the first round. He also scored the most power-play goals, getting four against Washington. Most importantly, Briere was clutch. Two of his goals tied games and two more put the Flyers ahead. He also assisted on two goals that tied games at the time and had the secondary assist on the series-winning OT goal by Joffrey Lupul.

Runners-up: Jose Theodore, Colorado; Ryane Clowe, San Jose.
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