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THN at the NHL Awards: Euros dominate as league celebrates game's best

Alex Ovechkin of the Capitals poses with the hardware he won Tuesday in Toronto at the NHL Awards. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

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Alex Ovechkin of the Capitals poses with the hardware he won Tuesday in Toronto at the NHL Awards. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

TORONTO - Apparently the number 13 is not the bogeyman in Europe that it is here in North America. So it was only fitting that on a night dominated by European players, 13 would be the most prominent number.

Stay with us on this one. Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Lidstrom won the Hart and Norris Trophies by ridiculous voting margins, garnering 1,313 voting points in among members of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association. And Pavel Datsyuk, who wears No. 13 for the Detroit Red Wings, picked up his third Lady Byng Trophy and his first Selke as the league’s top defensive forward.

In fact, the night had such a European bent to it that perhaps the ceremony should have been held in Moscow or Stockholm.

The European invasion was led by none other than Ovechkin, who became the first player in history to win the Hart Trophy as league MVP, the Art Ross as the top scorer, the Rocket Richard as the top goal-scorer and the Pearson as the league’s MVP as voted by the players. There were seasons when Gretzky would have done that had the Rocket Richard existed at the time, but Ovechkin is the first player to actually win all four.

That leaves one more trophy for Ovechkin to win, but it’s a biggie.

“Probably next year is going to be a big one for me and for the Capitals,” Ovechkin said. “I want to win everything. Maybe next year, the Stanley Cup.”

In a result that surprised no one, Lidstrom won his sixth Norris Trophy as the league’s top defenseman in seven years, joining Swedish countryman and fellow Red Wing Henrik Zetterberg, who had already won the Conn Smythe as playoff MVP.

Of the 134 votes cast by members of the PHWA for the Norris Trophy, Lidstrom was the top choice on 127 of them and second choice on five of them. Lidstrom not only moved past Ray Bourque with his sixth Norris in seven years, it puts him in Bobby Orr and Doug Harvey territory. Orr won the Norris eight straight times and Harvey won it seven times in eight years.

“I don’t feel like I belong with those players,” Lidstrom said. “I never watched those guys play, just on tape, but I don’t look at myself as being in the range of those players.”

Lidstrom’s teammate Datsyuk was asked how he has spent his time since winning the Cup with the Red Wings last week and he said things are a little fuzzy.

“I tried to ask my wife because I don’t remember,” Datsyuk said. “I remember coming to the parties, but I don’t remember how I got home, I’ve got to be honest with you.”

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Canada was saved the embarrassment of not winning a player award for the first time in history when Brodeur, perhaps on reputation more than anything else, was chosen by the league’s GMs as the winner of the Vezina Trophy as top goalie.

North America was also represented by Patrick Kane, an American who hails from just outside of Buffalo, who won the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie. Kane, who wasn’t even considered a first-round pick when he started the season with the London Knights two years ago, has taken the hockey world by storm over the past two seasons.

After going first overall in the NHL draft a year ago, Kane justified the Chicago Blackhawks’ faith in him by scoring with 21 goals and 72 points in 82 games.

“I wasn’t expecting to have this kind of success, to be honest with you, especially in the pre-season because I was terrible,” Kane said. “I think the big thing this year was the shootout. I was 7-for-9 and that’s when I realized I had a chance (to win the Calder). After the season when I saw I had those numbers, I thought I had a chance.”

On a night when Ovechkin made history with the four awards, his coach Bruce Boudreau became only the second coach in history to win the award as an in-season replacement. The Capitals were 6-14-1 when Boudreau took over and he led them to a 37-17-7 mark the rest of the way to capture the Southeast Division regular season title.

“Every day I kept preaching to them that they were good,” Boudreau said. “Maybe they didn’t think that after the start they had, but once they started believing, our team just took off.”

Ken Campbell, a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com, was at the NHL Awards in Toronto covering the event. His blog normally appears Tuesdays and Fridays and his column, Campbell's Cuts, appears Mondays.

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