LAS VEGAS, Nev. - The Vancouver Canucks and Boston Bruins can't get away from one another.
No sooner had Roberto Luongo arrived at The Palms hotel ahead of the NHL awards than he was faced with the prospect of running in to some of his new rivals. The Canucks goaltender is up for the Vezina Trophy against—who else?—Boston's Tim Thomas and didn't exactly sound thrilled about the prospect of seeing him or Bruins defenceman Zdeno Chara so soon after the Stanley Cup.
"Obviously, we didn't really have time to digest what happened last week yet so it is a bit touchy to probably see those guys and them holding the Cup and stuff like that," Luongo said Tuesday. "I haven't really watched any TV in a week except for maybe CNN, so yeah it's not easy.
"It's a tough loss but it's something that's going to heal with time."
When the NHL hands out its hardware on Wednesday night, just one week will have passed since Boston beat Vancouver 4-0 in Game 7 and lifted the Stanley Cup on the ice at Vancouver's Rogers Arena.
Both franchises are well-represented at the annual awards banquet. Canucks forward Daniel Sedin is up for the Hart Trophy and Ted Lindsay Award, teammate Ryan Kesler is a finalist for the Selke Trophy, coach Alain Vigneault is in the running for the Jack Adams Award and Mike Gillis is a finalist for general manager of the year.
Luongo and backup Cory Schneider will also accept the Jennings Trophy after allowing the fewest goals against during the regular season.
"A lot of guys had really great seasons and career seasons," said Vigneault. "You've got to give them full marks for that."
The Bruins are still riding the Stanley Cup high and would consider any individual trophy as a bonus to a dream season. Thomas is looking to capture his second career Vezina while Chara is after his second Norris Trophy.
The only thing that has bothered the towering defenceman in the last week are reports that Boston racked up a bar tab in excess of US$156,000—including a $100,000 bottle of champagne—after their Stanley Cup parade over the weekend. Chara insists the actual total was much lower and that Foxwoods Casino had actually given the team the champagne for free.
"We had been given as a gift the bottle of champagne from Foxwoods and we knew after when we finished with it we would sign it and Foxwoods would auction it off," said Chara. "That number that is posted up is nowhere near what the actual price of the bill was. All I have to say is we are very disappointed that something like this is coming out that is not true."
There will be some partying done by the players here this week. It's now been three years since the NHL awards was moved from Toronto to Sin City and there haven't been many complaints from the attendees—virtually every finalist is expected to be here for Wednesday's show.
This marks the end of a three-year agreement between The Palms and the NHL, which could lead to a change of venue in 2012. While the league remains open to staying in Las Vegas, a league source said New York and Los Angeles are also possibilities.
A display of all the trophies up for grabs drew a crowd inside the lobby at The Palms on Tuesday and the arrival of the Stanley Cup caused a stir. A small roar went up and flashbulbs went off when Cup keeper Mike Bolt lifted it out of its case.
The Canucks would just as soon not be anywhere near the trophy—or the Bruins for that matter. Kesler referred to an inevitable run-in with Thomas or Chara as "awkward."
Some of the other award nominees could identify.
"I can tell you that it's a lot easier for the Bruins than it is for the Canucks," said Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma, a finalist for the Jack Adams. "Nothing can bring out the fight in a player and the feelings in a player like a seven-game series and that doesn't go away very easily."
Much of the focus during the Stanley Cup final was on Thomas and Luongo, who delivered vastly different performances. They'll have one final showdown over the Vezina—Nashville's Pekka Rinne is the other finalist—and Luongo has come here thinking he'll be beaten again.
"It's an honour to be nominated for sure, but to be quite honest with you I don't expect to win," said Luongo.