LAS VEGAS -- The best was saved for last at the 2011 NHL Awards.
The final two awards in Wednesday’s show at the Pearl Theater at the Palms Casino – the Vezina Trophy and the Hart Trophy – were what everyone came to see.
As expected, Boston’s Tim Thomas, who put up a shutout in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final against Vancouver exactly one week ago today, took home the Vezina. It's the second time in three years that Thomas has won the award.
Thomas was named on 26 of 30 ballots and was the top selection on 17 for 104 points, topping Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators (84). Thomas finished the season with a 35-11-9 record and League-record .938 save percentage, eclipsing Dominik Hasek's .937 with Buffalo in 1998-99 as the best since the statistic was introduced in 1982. Thomas also led all goaltenders in goals-against average (2.00).
Perry, who also won the Maurice Richard Trophy as the NHL's goal-scoring leader, likely won the Hart with his finishing kick. He had a late surge of 19 goals in his final 16 games to reach the 50-goal mark and lift his Ducks into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He shared the League lead in game-winning goals with Washington's Alex Ovechkin (11) and had 21 third-period goals. Half of his 50 goals tied the score or put the Ducks ahead.
Detroit’s Nicklas Lidstrom highlighted the early portion of the evening by claiming his seventh James Norris Memorial Trophy, which is awarded to the defenseman demonstrating "the greatest all-around ability in the position," as selected by the Professional Hockey Writers Association.
Despite the fact that Lidstrom is the greatest defenseman of his generation – his seven Norris trophies trail only the eight won by Bobby Orr – this year’s race was one of the closest in the history of the voting as Lidstrom edged Nashville’s Shea Weber by just five points, the closest margin since 1996.
Zdeno Chara, the captain of the Cup-winning Boston Bruins, finished third in the Norris voting, just 48 points behind Lidstrom. Chara didn't go home empty-handed -- he was named the recipient of the Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award presented by Bridgestone, which is awarded to a player “in recognition of his commitment and service to charities in his community.”
In another highly followed – and extremely tight -- race, Carolina’s Jeff Skinner won the Calder Trophy as the League’s best rookie. Skinner received 94 of 127 first-place votes and 1,055 points to edge San Jose Sharks forward Logan Couture, who was named first on 41 ballots and polled 908 points.
The 18-year-old Skinner, selected No. 7 last June, led all rookies in scoring as the League's youngest player, putting up 63 points, including 31 goals.
The Stanley Cup runners-up, the Vancouver Canucks, went home with plenty of individual hardware.
Center Ryan Kesler headlined the haul, winning the Frank J. Selke Trophy as the League’s best defensive forward. This was Kesler’s third straight nomination; this time, he won in a landslide against Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk and Chicago’s Jonathon Toews.
GM Mike Gillis won the General Manager of the Year Award, edging David Poile of Nashville and Steve Yzerman of Tampa Bay.
Daniel Sedin received the Art Ross Trophy as the League’s top point-getter after finishing with 104. He also was named the winner of the Ted Lindsay Award, the MVP award as voted on by the members of the NHL Players’ Association. He beat out Perry and Steven Stamkos, who was named EA Sports NHL12 cover athlete during Wednesday’s award show.
Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma won the Jack Adams Award as "the NHL coach adjudged to have contributed the most to his team's success," as selected by the NHL Broadcasters’ Association. Bylsma beat out Vancouver’s Alain Vigneault by just 17 points.
Tampa Bay forward Martin St. Louis captured his second consecutive Lady Byng Memorial Trophy, awarded "to the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability." St. Louis was a runaway winner for the second consecutive season, earning 70 first-place votes.
Philadelphia Flyers forward Ian Laperriere took home the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, awarded annually to the NHL player who "best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey." Laperriere sustained a severe injury during the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs when he blocked a shot with his face against New Jersey and suffered a concussion and fractured orbital bone. He returned a little more than a month later to finish the Flyers' playoff run that ended two games short of a championship. Laperriere could not return this season because of concussion-related symptoms.
New York Islanders center Doug Weight was awarded the King Clancy Memorial Trophy, awarded "to the player who best exemplifies leadership on and off the ice and who has made a noteworthy humanitarian contribution to his community."
In the same charitable vein, the National Hockey League Foundation named Los Angeles forward Dustin Brown as the recipient of the 13th annual NHL Foundation Player Award. This award recognizes a player who applies the core values of hockey – commitment, perseverance and teamwork – to enrich the lives of people in his community.