Sunday Insider: Two-man race for NHL MVP

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 9, 2011 - 11:50 PM

Corey Perry pushed Anaheim into playoff contention, giving him the nod over the brilliance of another Sedin.

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Anaheim's Corey Perry, here celebrating with veteran center Saku Koivu, is Michael Russo's pick for the Hart Trophy.

Photo: Chris Schneider, Associated Press

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Should it be Daniel or Corey?

The debate begins every year when the NHL awards ballot hits the inbox, but this year may be the biggest mind twister in years as members of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association cast their votes this week on a variety of NHL hardware.

The nose-to-nose photo finish that nobody could have envisioned a month ago is the race for the Hart Trophy, which goes to the player deemed most valuable to his team.

One year after his twin brother, Henrik, was named MVP, the Vancouver Canucks' Daniel Sedin appeared to have this all sewn up until Anaheim power forward Corey Perry began an incredible offensive tear that has the Ducks headed for the postseason.

Over a 15-game stretch heading into Saturday's games, Perry scored 19 goals and 29 points. Over that run, the Ducks went 11-4. Before the run, the Ducks were 11th in the West and seemingly in trouble with goalie Jonas Hiller sidelined because of vertigo.

Daniel Sedin has arguably been the NHL's most consistent player all season for the NHL's best team, yet without Perry scoring like a madman during the season's most critical juncture, the Ducks would be vacationing with the Wild starting Monday.

And it's not like Perry was some slouch before that. Before Saturday, he led the NHL with 50 goals, was second to Sedin with 97 points, led the NHL with 21 third-period goals and had scored 25 goals to tie the score or put the Ducks ahead.

He has scored 17 goals and 31 points in 23 games against a much tougher Pacific Division than Sedin's 11 goals and 27 points in 24 games against the weakest division in hockey, the Northwest.

But here's my rationale for picking Perry.

The Canucks are the deepest team in the league. There's no glaring weakness. Daniel Sedin has his sidekick brother, Henrik, and he has Ryan Kesler, who in my mind is every bit as valuable as Sedin.

To use a Ken Hitchcock term, Kesler is a "200-foot player."

Yes, Perry has Bobby Ryan and Ryan Getzlaf (missed six weeks this year) on the same line, but even with Teemu Selanne's wonderful season, the Ducks are not the Canucks. And without Perry's surge at the most important stage of the season, the Ducks wouldn't be in the playoffs.

So, along with the rest of my picks, here's my Hart winner -- Perry. Runners-up: Daniel Sedin; Kesler; Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh; Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay.

Norris (best defenseman): Ageless Nicklas Lidstrom may still be the best defenseman in the NHL. Nobody makes it look so easy. But where would Boston be without 6-9 behemoth Zdeno Chara? The immovable wall can dominate a game through his tremendous play and intimidation. He plays half the game, puts up enough points to still be considered offensive and he's a plus-31. Runners-up: Lidstrom; Shea Weber, Nashville; Keith Yandle, Phoenix; Lubomir Visnovsky, Anaheim.

Calder (best rookie): All year long, I was leaning toward San Jose stud rookie Logan Couture. But what Jeff Skinner did for Carolina as the NHL's youngest player was remarkable. The kid scored some sensational goals and helped keep the Hurricanes in the playoff race with a lot less support than Couture. Runners-up: Couture; Michael Grabner, N.Y. Islanders; Corey Crawford, Chicago; John Carlson, Washington.

Selke (best defensive forward): Kesler should win this hands-down. He's an offensive and defensive force, is a penalty-kill stud, uses his size and physicality to nullify opponents in all three zones. In my mind, this guy has developed into Vancouver's most important fixture. Runners-up: Frans Nielsen, N.Y. Islanders; Jonathan Toews, Chicago; Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles; Brooks Laich, Washington.

Lady Byng (most gentlemanly): The Wild's Andrew Brunette is nothing if not a gentleman. Plus, he's remarkably clean with 310 career penalty minutes for a guy who has spent his entire career battling below the goal line. Runners-up: St. Louis, Tampa Bay; Selanne, Anaheim; Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit; Lidstrom, Detroit.

Vezina (best goalie): Picked by the general managers, Boston's Tim Thomas should win it. His 2.02 goals-against average and .938 save percentage are ridiculous. Runners-up: Fleury, Pittsburgh; Roberto Luongo, Vancouver; Pekka Rinne, Nashville; Henrik Lundqvist, N.Y. Rangers.

Jack Adams (best coach): It's picked by the broadcasters, but I'd go with Pittsburgh's Dan Bylsma. A 100-point year despite playing the second half largely without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin? Simply incredible. Runners-up: Alain Vignealt, Vancouver; Barry Trotz, Nashville, Jacques Lemaire, New Jersey; Dave Tippett, Phoenix.

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