Roberto Luongo was sensational against the Blues in Round 1. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)
It’s a little early to talk Conn Smythe Trophy for the playoff MVP, but the timing is just about right to take a look at the team-by-team MVPs in Round 1:
Anaheim Ducks – Ryan Getzlaf
Jonas Hiller was a revelation and the Ducks don’t upset San Jose without Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger playing big minutes and big-time, but Getzlaf’s decisive victory in the head-to-head battle against Joe Thornton, San Jose’s No. 1 center, was the telltale story of the series.
Boston Bruins – Michael Ryder
Ryder enjoyed a poetic four games against his old team, piling up four goals and seven points and rubbing salt in the open wounds of the flailing Canadiens. Phil Kessel, also with four goals; Zdeno Chara, an all-around force as usual; and, mauler Milan Lucic deserve kudos, too.
Calgary Flames – David Moss
One of the few Flames who overachieved against Chicago, Moss contributed three goals and managed an even plus/minus rating. Unfortunately for the Flames, that made him one of the team’s very best players in the six-games-and-out against the Hawks.
Carolina Hurricanes – Eric Staal
With four goals – and speed to burn – in the first six games, Staal has clearly taken over as the Hurricanes’ on-ice leader. Two goals in the critical Game 6 to keep the Canes alive speaks volumes to Staal’s crunch-time value. Goalie Cam Ward – continuing his flawless play down the stretch – and timely sniper Jussi Jokinen get special mention.
Chicago Blackhawks – Nikolai Khabibulin
The Flames got to him in Games 3 (four goals) and 4 (five goals, plus an empty-netter), but Khabibulin was a major reason the Hawks skated away with wins in Games 1 and 2 and then he limited Calgary to one goal in Games 5 and 6. His biggest contribution was playing big early in the series, giving the young Hawks confidence in their defense and freeing them up to play their high-speed offensive style. Captain Jonathan Toews, burgeoning power forward Dustin Byfuglien, rookie Kris Versteeg and the defense tandem of Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook also stepped up for the Hawks.
Columbus Blue Jackets – R.J. Umberger
Three goals and an even plus-minus rating for the summertime free agent signee. On a roster full of minus-4s and minus-5s – defenseman Mike Commodore, another summertime free agent signee, was minus-7 in the four games against Detroit – that’s all it takes to cop Columbus MVP honors.
Detroit Red Wings – Dan Cleary
Hey, why not? Two goals, five points and plus-6 in four games for the checker who can score. Any of Detroit’s top forwards – Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen, Marian Hossa – could’ve been considered. Heck, Chris Osgood made a good case for himself before surrendering five goals in Game 4.
Montreal Canadiens – Chris Higgins
Two goals and an honest effort from one of the Canadiens’ hardest working forwards – and busiest (17:34 in ice time, third among Montreal forwards) – was all it took to be named Best Swept Hab.
New Jersey – Martin Brodeur
He gets the nod for his 44-save shutout in Game 5 alone, a champion response to that last-second goal against to lose Game 4. They don’t come any more bona fide than Brodeur.
New York Rangers – Henrik Lundqvist
Don’t know if you heard this before, but the Rangers would be sink, sank, sunk without Lundqvist in net this series.
Philadelphia Flyers – Claude Giroux
With just 44 NHL games under his belt, the rookie led the Flyers in scoring with two goals and five points in six games. Mike Richards was a whirlwind, but a minus-4 rating offsets some of his impact.
Pittsburgh Penguins – Sidney Crosby
Evgeni Malkin, the NHL’s leading scorer in the regular season, continued his league-leading ways in the playoffs (four goals, nine points), but Crosby was right on his heels (four goals, eight points). And Crosby had a better plus/minus (plus-2 vs. even); was playing more (21:23 vs. 20:29); and was doing significantly better in the faceoff circle (63.5 percent vs. 43.2).
St. Louis Blues – Chris Mason
An old Blues forward, Andy McDonald, and several young ones, most notably David Backes, T.J. Oshie and David Perron, did everything they could – but score – against Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo. However, Mason was nearly equal to Luongo’s superb play; not quite, but he kept the Blues in every game (they were within a goal in the third period of all four games). Plus, that beard…
San Jose Sharks – Dan Boyle
So the Sharks go down again, this time against state-rival Anaheim. Ouch. But don’t blame Boyle. He was all over the ice, carrying the puck, creating chances, getting physically involved. He led by example, as did Rob Blake, which was the plan when San Jose obtained the veteran defensemen last summer. Unfortunately, not enough Sharks followed suit and the questions begin again. Ryane Clowe, Torrey Mitchell and Jonathan Cheechoo battled gamely, but top-liners Patrick Marleau – despite two game-winning goals – and Devin Setoguchi barely registered. Joe Thornton started slowly in the series, but give him credit for giving it his all in Games 5 and 6. In the end, it wasn’t enough, but he finally showed up.
Vancouver Canucks – Roberto Luongo
The Sedin twins, with linemate Alexandre Burrows, were great. Ryan Kesler is a joy to behold. Sami Salo, Alex Edler and Mattias Ohlund ruled the blueline. But it was all about Luongo, who absolutely robbed St. Louis of at least one win in the series and probably a couple. As good as you’ve seen Luongo, he might’ve been in his best form yet in Round 1.
Washington Capitals – Alex Ovechkin
Heap the praise on Simeon Varlamov for coming in and stabilizing the Caps’ crease. But save the most deserving compliments for Ovechkin, who stared down a TV reporter after Washington fell behind 3-1 in the series following Game 4. “You think season is over?” he asked, completely stone-faced. Not to mention, Ovechkin was shooting like the Spanish Armada (before it sank).
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