Published June 20, 2012
| Sports Network
Las Vegas, NV – The National Hockey League announced its season-ending awards on Wednesday night, and the top performers carried a distinctly European -- specifically Swedish -- flair.
Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin took home the Hart Trophy as the NHL's Most Valuable Player, New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist won his first Vezina Trophy, Colorado rookie Gabriel Landeskog was voted the Calder Trophy as the league's best freshman and Ottawa's Erik Karlsson took home the Norris Trophy as the NHL's top defenseman.
"A special day to me," said the reluctant media star Malkin, still working through a language barrier. "You know, it's my friends here. I hope it's not the last one, but I try work every year and I hope (to win) again."
Malkin, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP in the Penguins' last Cup year of 2009, was also the recipient of the Art Ross Trophy for the second time in his six-year pro tenure.
He finished with a league-best 109 points along with a career-best 50 goals, recording five points in one contest on four occasions, the first player to do so since 1995-96.
The 25-year-old Russian center was the first player to win a scoring title by a double-digit margin since Jaromir Jagr bested Teemu Selanne by 20 points back in 1998-99. He was a Hart finalist for the third time, after finishing second to Capitals star forward Alex Ovechkin in both 2008 and '09.
"I remember six years before when I came over and it's a different life and a different game. I spoke no English and they take care of me," Malkin said of former teammate Sergei Gonchar. "Sergei is a great guy, unbelievable player and he taught me how (to approach) life -- how hard to play, and it's my best friend here and thanks to him and family. He always support me."
Malkin was the first Penguins skater to be selected best in the NHL since Sidney Crosby in 2007, and became the fourth in franchise history (Mario Lemieux, 1988, 1993, 1996; Jagr, 1999) to be so honored.
It was no surprise, then, that Malkin also snagged the Ted Lindsay Award as the best player in the NHL as voted by his peers in the NHL Players Association.
Lundqvist helped the Rangers to an Atlantic Division title, the top seed in the Eastern Conference, and was a finalist for the fourth time in his seven-year NHL career, having finished third in the balloting from 2006-08.
He became only the second Swedish goaltender to be voted best netminder, after Pelle Lindbergh won for Philadelphia in 1985. In addition, Lundqvist was the first Blueshirt backstop to be honored since John Vanbiesbrouck in 1986.
The 30-year-old posted a record of 39-18-5 in 62 appearances, setting a career high for wins and becoming the first NHL netminder with 30-plus wins in each of his first seven seasons. He ranked fourth in goals-against average at 1.97, fourth in save percentage at .930 and tied for third with eight shutouts.
"We don't really take any pride in Europe against U.S. or Canada," Lundqvist said when pressed on the issue of national pride. "I mean, we're in this together. And we just try to promote the sport I think, especially this week. It's all about having fun and meet the guys. And like I said, to get the sport out there as much as possible."
Landeskog's 52 points tied for the most among first-year players. He played in all 82 regular-season games for the Avalanche and finished with 22 goals and 30 assists, becoming the only rookie among the top three in goals, assists and points.
The 19-year-old winger became the first Swede to be named the best rookie since Ottawa's Daniel Alfredsson in 1996, and was the first Avalanche player selected since Chris Drury in 1999.
"It's an honor to just be in the group of all the great players that have won this award previously," Landeskog admitted. "Peter Forsberg, Alfredsson are two of the Swedish guys, and it's a pretty special feeling."
Karlsson led all blueliners in scoring with 78 points, posting 19 goals and 59 assists in 81 games. He registered 25 points more than the second-leading scorer among blueliners, the widest margin since Pittsburgh's Paul Coffey had a 38-point differential in 1988-89.
The 22-year-old Swede helped Ottawa to the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. He posted a plus-16 rating and became the youngest defenseman with at least 78 points since Coffey scored 96 with Edmonton in 1982-83.
"He's been so good for so many years and he's a role model to a lot of players," Karlsson said in tribute to the recently-retired Nicklas Lidstrom of Detroit, who won seven times. "He really took the game to another level and showed a lot of people how he played fun hockey."
After coming up short on three separate occasions with the Dallas Stars, Ken Hitchcock finally won the Jack Adams as the league's best head coach.
The 60-year-old Edmonton native took over for Davis Payne in early November and turned a team languishing with a 6-7-0 record into a Presidents' Trophy contender. The Blues finished the year tied for second in the league with 109 points (49-22-11) and wrested the Central Division away from the rival Red Wings for the first time since 2000.
"To me it's all in the march...it's learning about the composite of the group and understanding what makes certain players tick and understanding how you better be prepared to change," Hitchcock said of his path to success. "Five years ago, if you dealt with the players the same way you do now, you would have no success. They've changed. They've changed a lot and you've got to adapt. So I really pride myself on that."
Hitchcock's goaltenders, the tandem of Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott shared the Jennings Trophy for allowing the fewest total goals with 165. Elliott set a modern-day record for lowest goals-against average at 1.56, while both goaltenders combined for 15 shutouts.
Patrice Bergeron was the first Bruin to win the Selke Trophy as the best defensive forward since Steve Kasper in 1982, while Montreal's Max Pacioretty garnered the Masterton Trophy more than a year removed from a season-ending neck injury and concussion.
Florida's Brian Campbell was a surprise winner of the Lady Byng, the first defenseman to claim it since Red Kelly in 1954 and the first Panthers player to be voted a major award since the franchise's inception.
Phoenix Coyotes captain Shane Doan won the Mark Messier Leadership Award, while Stamkos was officially presented with the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy for recording the most goals in the NHL with 60.
Finally, the King Clancy Memorial Trophy for humanitarian efforts beyond the rink was taken by Ottawa captain and franchise icon Daniel Alfredsson.