Scott Niedermayer named NHL playoff MVP
Defenceman Scott Niedermayer has something else to add to his impressive hockey resume besides a fourth Stanley Cup: the Conn Smythe Trophy.
The Anaheim Ducks' captain was named the most valuable player of the 2007 playoffs following a 6-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators in Game 5 of the Cup final on Wednesday. It was his first MVP award.
"I was a little surprised," said Niedermayer. "We had a handful of [Conn Smythe] candidates I think. I was out there trying to do my thing. To be recognized like that, I'm thankful."
Niedermayer, 33, has also won world junior gold, a Memorial Cup title, men's world championship gold, Olympic gold and World Cup of Hockey title — the only player in hockey history to have won all six titles.
"I've done more than I ever thought," said Niedermayer. "I've been very fortunate to play with a lot of really good players, good teammates, good friends, and that's how you have success in the playoffs is by trusting each other and wanting to play hard for each other."
On Wednesday, he picked up an assist on Travis Moen's second goal of the night to give him three goals and 11 points in 21 games in this post-season.
If that wasn't enough to capture Conn Smythe honours, perhaps the voters also looked at Niedermayer's two game-winning goals and quiet leadership.
When fellow defenceman Chris Pronger was suspended for one game in each of the Western Conference and Cup finals, it was Niedermayer who stepped up and averaged more than 31 minutes in those games.
"He's our leader, he's the lead dog here," said Anaheim general manager Brian Burke of Niedermayer. "You run out of adjectives when you talk about Scotty."
Niedermayer, who hails from Cranbrook, B.C.,may have shown his true colours following a come-from-behind 3-2 victory in Game 4 in Ottawa.
A 14-year NHLer, the classy Niedermayer kept his cool on and off the ice after Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson rifled a shot off his head at the end of the second period.
Following Wednesday's contest, Alfredsson and Niedermayer shook hands and exchanged words.
"[I told him] congratulations. He's one heck of a defenceman," said Alfredsson, who had both Ottawa goals in Game 5. "Very tough to forecheck [against]. I think he broke our forecheck down numerous times by just beating the first guy and relieving them of pressure. He kind of carried their team I think."
Ducks coach Randy Carlyle told reportersthe Alfredsson-Niedermayerincident struck a chord with the rest of the team.
"The thing that surprised me the most about it all was that Niedermayer took it upon himself to tell the team to turn the page on it. That's a leadership statement," said Carlyle.
Ducks left-winger Chris Kunitz praised Niedermayer for his poise.
"It doesn't matter if you're up four goals, he's going out and playing every shift," said Kunitz, who returned Wednesday after missing Game 4 with an abdominal problem.
"Between the second and third [periods] he told us, 'Guys, we've got to play better defence.' He's always giving a lesson, always teaching us something better."
Joined his brother
In August 2005, Niedermayer turned down more money from the New Jersey Devils to join his brother Rob in Anaheim, signing a four-year free-agent contract.
Burke aggressively pursued Scott and he had the ultimate card that no other GM in the league had in their deck.
"I met with Scott and I said, 'What's your list?' And he said, 'I want to play in the West [Conference], I want to play on a team that has a chance to win, I want some privacy away from the rink, and I want to play with my brother,"' Burke recalled.
"There's only one GM that can check off everything on your list. You're sitting with him. Let's get this done. So we did."
The signing instantly transformed the Ducks into a playoff team and they reached theconference final in Niedermayer's first season last year before bowing out to Edmonton.
A year later and Burke got an amazing return on the $6.75-million US salary he's paying out to Niedermayer.
With files from the Canadian Press