- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 14, 2009

PLAYOFF POWER RANKINGS

1. San Jose Sharks (2)

Matchup with Ducks will test playoff mettle for Presidents' Trophy winners.

2. Detroit Red Wings (1)

Will the Chris Osgood from last postseason finally make an appearance?

3. Boston Bruins (3)

Time to exorcise some past playoff demons against scuffling Canadiens.

4. Washington Capitals (5)

Can they shore up the sometimes-leaky defense and goaltending?

5. Pittsburgh Penguins (9)

Plenty of regular-season success against rival Flyers.

6. Vancouver Canucks (8)

Time for Roberto Luongo to prove he is one of the game's greats in net.

7. Philadelphia Flyers (6)

See team No. 4 above - the Flyers have similar concerns with goals allowed.

8. Chicago Blackhawks (10)

Nikolai Khabibulin and the kids could be more dangerous than some would believe.

9. New Jersey Devils (4)

Sure they have slumped, but betting against a refreshed Martin Brodeur is perilous.

10. Carolina Hurricanes (7)

Getting a little rest for Cam Ward might end up going a long way.

11. Calgary Flames (NR)

Just being able to dress a full roster again will be nice.

12. New York Rangers (NR)

Will a big advantage in goal be enough to spring an upset?

13. Columbus Blue Jackets (NR)

See team No. 12 - can Steve Mason continue his magical run?

14. Anaheim Ducks (NR)

Some might overrate them based on memory of past teams.

15. St. Louis Blues (NR)

Just getting here is a fantastic accomplishment for young squad.

16. Montreal Canadiens (NR)

Backed their way in, but history says they can take down the Bruins.

NHL AWARDS

HART (MVP)

Winner: Alex Ovechkin, Capitals

Other finalists: Evgeni Malkin, Penguins; Pavel Datsyuk, Red Wings

After Sidney Crosby and Ovechkin won the past two trophies with little competition, this was supposed to be the year they finally went toe-to-toe. Well, Crosby has been overshadowed by Malkin, and choosing between the players who were the first two picks in the 2004 draft is going to be a difficult decision for many members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association.

Ovechkin was the heavy favorite a couple of months ago, but then Pittsburgh started winning. Another problem was Ovechkin and the Caps had little to play for after the Southeast Division was wrapped up, and there were plenty of games in which he did not dominate.

Malkin's offensive output didn't drastically improve once the team started winning, but he is going to earn some credit for it. So who is the league's Most Valuable Russian?

Ovechkin led the league in goals and scored nearly 18 percent more than any other player. He also led the league in third-period goals and even-strength goals; he finished tied for second in power-play goals and tied for third in game-winning goals. He also put the second-most shots on goal in NHL history and finished ninth in the league with 243 hits.

What Ovechkin didn't do was replicate his 2007-08 season, when he had many more dominant performances. He was also minus-8 during the season's final 30 games.

Malkin led the league in points, even-strength points and road points. His work on the defensive end blossomed to the point that he, not Jordan Staal, is considered to be the team's top forward in his own end.

But Crosby's presence is likely to steal votes, and he doesn't have the signature highlights that will stick in voters' minds like Ovechkin does.

In another year, Datsyuk would deserve serious consideration. He is the best two-way player in the league and finished fourth in the league in scoring.

This award is not given to the best all-around player in the league (Malkin), or the most dynamic offensive player in the league (Ovechkin) - it goes to the player deemed most valuable. It is very close between the two friends/rivals, but it should be Ovechkin in what could be the closest vote since 2002, when Jose Theodore edged Jarome Iginla.

NORRIS (TOP DEFENSEMAN)

Winner: Mike Green, Capitals

Finalists: Zdeno Chara, Bruins; Shea Weber, Predators

Skinny: Chara has been the favorite much of the season, but Green's offensive numbers are off the charts, and his defense is better than most people give him credit for. He kills penalties just like the other good all-around defensemen do, and he has been dominant on the power play (18 goals) and at even strength (plus-24). Expect Chara to win one of these soon (he certainly could win this year), and expect Green and Weber to be in the running for the next decade or so.

VEZINA (TOP GOALIE)

Winner: Tim Thomas, Bruins

Finalists: Steve Mason, Blue Jackets; Cam Ward, Hurricanes

Skinny: Mason is receiving a lot of buzz, but the numbers for Thomas are too great to ignore. He played more in the second half, shedding the only problem with his candidacy. Ward made a late surge, carrying Carolina into the playoffs with his ironman routine.

CALDER (TOP ROOKIE)

Winner: Steve Mason, Blue Jackets

Finalists: Pekka Rinne, Predators; Bobby Ryan, Ducks

Skinny: Picking between Mason and Rinne is tough because their numbers are similar, and Ryan is worthy considering the time he missed at the beginning of the year because of Anaheim's salary cap issues. Still, Mason does not have a great, underrated defense in front of him like Renne does, and those 10 shutouts are tough not to like.

JACK ADAMS (TOP COACH)

Winner: Claude Julien, Bruins

Finalists: Andy Murray, Blues; Brent Sutter, Devils

Skinny: There are more guys who should be on this list (Todd McLellan, Ken Hitchcock, Bruce Boudreau, Joel Quenneville and Paul Maurice among them), but Julien has been at or near the top of the list all season. His team was expected to be a playoff contender, but Boston dominated the East and could reach its first Cup final in 19 years.

SELKE (TOP DEFENSIVE FORWARD)

Winner: Pavel Datsyuk, Red Wings

Finalists: Mike Richards, Flyers; Ryan Kesler, Canucks

Skinny: This likely will be a two-man race between Datsyuk and Richards. Datsyuk has a pretty firm grasp, but Richards pushed this season and should win one pretty soon. The Red Wings have several great two-way players, but Datsyuk stands above everyone.

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