It's been a long seven years, but Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby is once again at the individual pinnacle of his sport.
Crosby came away the big winner of Tuesday night's NHL Awards ceremony, taking home the Hart Trophy and Ted Lindsay Award. Both trophies are given to the most outstanding player in the sport. The Lindsay is voted on by the NHLPA, while the Hart Trophy, typically considered the NHL's equivalent of an MVP, is awarded by the media.
Tuesday marked Crosby second straight Lindsay Award (third overall) and his second Hard Trophy. The Penguins star won his first MVP in just his second NHL season, an honor many expected would begin a reign of dominance. A combination of injuries and other factors have kept the trophy at an arm's length the past seven years, but nothing could stop Crosby from re-establishing his dominance this past season.
Crosby scored an NHL-high 104 points, 17 better than any other player, while leading the Penguins to a Metropolitan Division win despite injuries to almost his entire supporting cast. It was the first time since the 2009-10 season that Crosby did not miss significant time. Despite their star's health, Pittsburgh was eliminated in the second round of the playoffs.
“I don’t think there’s any question,” Dan Bylsma, who the Penguins fired as head coach after the playoff exit, told reporters when asked whether Crosby was the MVP in March. “I’m not sure there was last year. He didn’t play as many games as he would have liked. I still thought he distinguished himself as the MVP last season.”
Ryan Getzlaf of the Anaheim Ducks and Claude Giroux of the Philadelphia Flyers were the two other finalists for the Hart and Lindsay trophies. Getzlaf's 87 points helped lead Anaheim to the top overall seed in the Western Conference. Giroux finished with 86 points, becoming the heart and soul of a Flyers team that made a surprising playoff run after numerous offseason moves.
|2014 NHL Award Winners|
|Hart Memorial Trophy||Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh Penguins)|
|James Norris Memorial Trophy||Duncan Keith (Chicago Blackhawks)|
|Vezina Trophy||Tuukka Rask (Boston Bruins)|
|Jack Adams Award||Patrick Roy (Colorado Avalanche)|
|Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy||Dominic Moore (New York Rangers)|
|Calder Memorial Trophy||Nathan MacKinnon (Colorado Avalanche)|
|Frank J. Selke Trophy||Patrice Bergeron (Boston Bruins)|
|Lady Byng Memorial Trophy||Ryan O'Reilly (Colorado Avalanche)|
|Ted Lindsay Award||Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh Penguins)|
|Mark Messier Leadership Award||Dustin Brown (Los Angeles Kings)|
|NHL Foundation Player Award||Patrice Bergeron (Boston Bruins)|
|NHL General Manager of the Year Award||Bob Murray (Anaheim Ducks)|
Terry Koshan of the Toronto Sun provided the entire first all-star team list:
Joining Crosby in the winner's circle is a group of the year's best, with most awards seeming pre-determined before the ceremony. Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask took home the Vezina Trophy, Colorado Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon ran away with the Calder Trophy for the year's best rookie and the Norris Trophy for the NHL's top defenseman went to the Chicago Blackhawks' Duncan Keith.
Rask, 27, went 36-15-6 with a 2.04 goals against average during the regular season. His GAA was the best among goalies who made at least 50 starts. Boston led the NHL with 117 points in large part because of its defensive dominance, though Rask was less than enthused with his team's inability to get back to the Stanley Cup Final.
“If you get nominated, it means you had a good year,” Rask told Amalie Benjamin of The Boston Globe on Monday. “I had a good year, no secret to that. But again it’s disappointing that you lose as a team. It’s really, there’s two sides to look at.”
Ben Bishop of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Colorado's Semyon Varlamov were the other Vezina finalists.
MacKinnon, the 2013 No. 1 overall pick who burst onto the scene this season at just 18 years old, was a no-brainer choice for the year's top rookie. The Avalanche center has one of the finest rookie seasons in recent memory—among the best ever for someone in his age group. He broke Wayne Gretzky's point streak for an 18-year-old and finished with a solid 63 points overall.
Tim Wharnsby of CBC provided the entire all-rookie team:
MacKinnon's coach, Patrick Roy, had quite the rookie year himself. In his first season on the Avalanche bench, the Hall of Fame goaltender pushed his team to 112 points and its first division championship since he was minding the pipes. Roy won the Jack Adams Award for his effort Tuesday, defeating Detroit's Mike Babcock and Tampa Bay's John Cooper.
The Avalanche were the only team with three award winners during the televised event. (There were other awards, including Crosby's Art Ross Trophy, previously handed out for time purposes.)
One of the night's more supposedly suspenseful votes wound up being anything but. Keith won his second Norris Trophy in semi-dominant fashion over Boston's Zdeno Chara and Nashville's Shea Weber. According to Yahoo! Sports' Greg Wyshinski, Keith won by nearly 400 points over second-place Chara.
Keith scored 61 points during the regular season and is considered one of the best—if not the best—offensive defenseman in the league. He previously won the award in 2010.
Though they were both less widely recognized trophies, Bruins center Patrice Bergeron might have been the only player whose night rivaled that of Crosby. Bergeron won the Frank J. Selke Trophy for the NHL's top defenseman in a landslide and was honored with the NHL Foundation Award for his work in the community with Patrice's Pals. He was also named the cover athlete for EA Sports NHL 15 at a live reading of the fan voting results.
"Being featured on the cover of NHL 15 is a dream come true," Bergeron said in a press release. "The fact that the cover is selected entirely by fans is an incredible feeling. The passion and support from hockey fans, especially Bruins fans, is unlike any other sport and I'm so grateful to everyone who voted for me."
While Crosby has not been the cover athlete for a video game, even Bergeron would admit this was his night. There has never been any doubt around the league of Crosby's talent, or that he's the game's best goal-creator when healthy.
Staying on the ice, though, is no small factor. He was able to do so in 2013-14, regained his status as the game's best player and was an easy Hart Trophy choice. Still in the prime of his career, there is little reason that Crosby shouldn't walk away with at least a couple more award ceremonies like the one he attended Tuesday.
Then again, we were saying the same thing seven years ago.
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