Get on your tux and put your best girl on your arm Ė itís time for the Ferris Wheel 2007-08 Awards, more commonly known as the ďWheelies.Ē
Hart: Alexander Ovechkin was getting my pick either way, but itís nice that the Caps clinched the playoff spot Ė now the voters canít screw this up. Second: Evgeni Malkin.
Vezina: Evgeni Nabokov seems to be gathering steam here, but why not Martin Brodeur? Heís just about a dead heat with Nabby in starts (tied), wins (two less) and goals-against (three points apart), and Brodeur fashioned a .920 save percentage against Nabokovís .910. Iíd vote for Brodeur, though I fully expect Nabokov to win.
Norris: Itís such a joy to watch Nicklas Lidstrom on a nightly basis, a skating testament to the fact that being smart on the ice is more important than being a giant. No one did enough to take it away from the Detroit captain, even when he missed three weeks late in the year. Close calls to Brian Campbell (who fit like a glove with the Sharks) and Dion Phaneuf (who will win multiple statues before his career ends).
Calder: You could say Patrick Kane or Peter Mueller or Nicklas Backstrom and Iíd be fine with it, but I canít ignore what Carey Price did after the Habs handed him the keys to the car. The kid backstopped the Habs into the top spot in the east, and with all due respect to the defenders in front of him, itís not a Robinson-Savard-Langway group.
Adams: Youíre in a canít-win position when you coach a team like the Red Wings Ė the casual fan says all you have to do is roll out the pucks and watch your team crush everything in its path. Thatís not fair to Babcock, whoís done one of his best jobs this year, guiding Detroit to the best record despite a massive amount of injuries to the entire defense (their top five defensemen have all been hurt at one point or another, not to mention Dominik Hasek). Iíll be fine if Bruce Boudreau or Guy Carbonneau wins, but Babcockís as good at his job as anyone is in the game. Detroit GM Ken Holland will sleep better when Babcockís contract extension gets done over the summer.
Lady Byng: Score a lot of points, stay out of the box, thatís how you win the Lady Byng. Itís close to my heart because thatís how I played Ė I hit someone about as often as Deion Sanders. Pavel Datsyuk is always a good pick but thereís no reason to give it to him three years in a row; how about Daniel Alfredsson?
Best Performance from a Journeyman in a Brief Starring Role: I just want to thank Johan Franzen for his ballistic run (15 goals in 15 games) down the stretch. When youíre ready to sip from the THL Cup you helped win, give me a ring.
Playoff Predictions: Have a short memory on these, as my unbearded guesses have not traditionally held up very well (Oiler fans remember their run to the Cup finals a few years back, a month or so after I mocked them in this space).
Eastern Conference: Montreal and Pittsburgh should cruise in Round 1, but the other two series should be slug-it-out bloodbaths. I want to see the Washington advance because I like how this club is constructed, but Iím afraid that even if the Caps beat the Flyers, itís going to take seven games and itís going to be physically draining. I like how New Jersey matches up with the Rangers, but Iíll be surprised if Brodeur can get them past the second round.
Montreal has a sizzling power-play and a hot goalie, but is there an alpha dog somewhere else on the roster? I donít see it. The Habs get to the finals and lose to the Crosby Show in six.
Western Conference: Itís standing-room-only on the Sharks bandwagon these days. Mike Milbury, Don Cherry, Pierre McGuire and Barry Melrose all picked San Jose for the Cup, not to mention 80 percent of the Rotowire staff.
And kick those percentages up, because Iím there too. The Sharks have everything you want to see on the form: momentum entering the playoffs; a dangerous power play; a star goalie; a stud on the blue line, backed by a host of steady veterans; and a magnetic, versatile, physical captain who wonít let the team lose its course.
It certainly helps that thereís no other major contender in the west to be afraid of. Detroit has the fancy record and all those stars, but the goaltending can be suspect (the pretty GAA numbers came from the blue line, not the crease), and thereís too much age at key positions. Minnesota? Not versatile enough. Dallas? Needs one more scoring threat, and Turco doesnít steal enough games on his own. Anaheim? Somethingís missing here, canít put my finger on it.
Add it all up and Iíll go with the Sharks winning the conference in surprising fashion Ė no one pushes them to a seventh game until the finals, where they sneak by Pittsburgh in a compelling match that the game desperately needs.
Agree, disagree? Iím all ears. Toss the razor in the garbage (not intended as a Toronto joke) and letís bunker down for the next two months.
Posted by David Ferris at 4/9/2008 2:33:00 PM