It’s finally time for Patrice Bergeron to have the spotlight to himself.
He won’t want it, mind you.
Bergeron shared the glory with his teammates during their run to the 2011 Stanley Cup championship and the Bruins’ solid 2011-12 regular season. He shies away from individual attention and hates to talk about himself to the point where he often just will answer a question about him with a response about his teammates.
But the 2012 NHL Awards are in Las Vegas tonight, and when they announce the winner of the Selke Trophy as the league’s best defensive forward, Bergeron should have to head to the microphone and make an acceptance speech all by his lonesome.
He’ll probably talk all about the award as a credit to his teammates, his coaches, the Bruins’ organization and his family. However, we all know that – especially considering the injuries he went through early in his career – Bergeron did the most to make himself one of the best all-around players in the game.
Here is my breakdown of the Selke and most of the other major individual awards that will be handed out tonight:
Finalists: David Backes (St. Louis), Patrice Bergeron (Boston), Pavel Datsyuk (Detroit)
My pick: Bergeron led the league with a plus-36 rating and just lost out on the faceoff-percentage title to Jonathan Toews because Toews missed so many games down the stretch. Add in that Bergeron led the Bruins in shorthanded ice time and still managed to record 64 points.
Will win: Although there was some late-season sentiment for Backes from many media types, Bergeron should be boosted by the attention he grabbed all the way back in the 2011 playoffs and finally get the hardware he deserves.
Finalists: Zdeno Chara (Boston), Erik Karlsson (Ottawa), Shea Weber (Nashville)
My pick: Although this is going to sound like a homer pick, Chara finished with a plus-33 rating while hardly skating a single shift against any line that didn’t feature at least one of the league’s best scorers. Chara’s impact is evident not only in his own play but by the development of Johnny Boychuk and Dennis Seidenberg into legit top-pair defensemen while skating alongside Boston’s captain.
Will win: This is Weber’s year. The media always falls in love with offense, and Karlsson had a lot of backers as the regular season came to a close. But Weber possesses the best of both worlds (just like Chara) and his goal total probably wooed enough voters to prevail for his first Norris.
Finalists: Adam Henrique (New Jersey), Gabriel Landeskog (Colorado), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
Should win: Landeskog played in all 82 games and posted 22-30-52 totals while he helped keep the Avalanche within striking distance of the playoffs all season. Few could see that one coming.
Will win: While the media love affair with Nugent-Hopkins was all a twitter in the fall, the 2011 No. 1 overall pick’s injury trouble kept him from running away with this award. That he played on a losing team also should cost The Nuge. With the Avs in the thick of the playoff race, Landeskog received plenty of media attention down the stretch.
Finalists: Ken Hitchcock (St. Louis), Paul MacLean (Ottawa), John Tortorella (NY Rangers)
My pick: The Ottawa Senators came to Boston for a preseason game in September, and I couldn’t see then winning more than 15 games. They won 41 and made the playoffs. All the while, they dealt with the same amount of injuries other teams did and played with confidence and structure that MacLean gets a lot of credit for.
Will win: I’m not downplaying what Hitchcock did after taking over the Blues. But people had high expectations for St. Louis and they only exceeded those slightly. Nonetheless, I think the broadcasters were probably impressed enough to give it to Hitchcock.
Finalists: Henrik Lundqvist (NY Rangers), Pekka Rinne (Nashville), Jonathan Quick (Los Angeles)
My pick: While blocking out everything he accomplished in the Kings’ run to the Cup, I still have to go with Quick. All things being equal statistically between him and Lundqvist (and they almost are), I have to go with the guy that played in front of an almost historically horrible offense. If you stayed up late to watch Quick during the season, and the Kings offense didn’t bore you to death, you saw some spectacular goaltending.
Will win: This is Lundqvist’s year, and the GMs won’t miss a chance to give the Swedish star his consolation prize after he failed to get to the Cup Final. Really, the GMs can’t go wrong with any of the puck-stoppers in this category.
Finalists: Henrik Lundqvist (NY Rangers), Evgeni Malkin (Pittsburgh), Steve Stamkos (Tampa Bay)
My pick: Although he didn’t get the Lightning into the postseason, Stamkos nearly willed his team there, even after general manager Steve Yzerman began trading off parts and looking to the future. I think that he scored 60 goals makes up for his team’s failures. If value is what you’re looking for, imagine how bad the Lightning would’ve been without Stamkos or how great they would’ve been with anyone able to stop a NHL shot playing in their net.
Will win: Malkin’s great season making up for the absence of Sidney Crosby was astounding nearly wire to wire during the season. The Art Ross Trophy winner has the type of numbers and plays on the type of winning team that woos voters. Lundqvist’s numbers probably didn’t do enough to turn the rare trick of luring voters away from highly productive skaters.