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A real Conn artist

Zetterberg's stellar two-way play earns him playoff MVP award

Thursday, 06.05.2008 / 12:38 AM / News
By Lindsey Ungar  - DetroitRedWings.com Special Writer
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A real Conn artist
PITTSBURGH — Amidst the end-of-game hysteria, Henrik Zetterberg didn’t even hear the PA announcer call him the winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy.

“The guys pushed me to it. It was a great feeling,” Zetterberg said. “It’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”

Zetterberg skated around a bit before taking the trophy back to his teammates.

“I wasn’t sure what to do with it,” Zetterberg admitted. “I play among really good players and they make it a lot easier for me to play good.”

He joins Nicklas Lidstrom as the only European-born players to earn the playoff MVP award.

In the Cup-clincher, Zetterberg delivered the final blow to the Penguins when his wrist shot trickled through the legs of goalie Marc-Andre Fleury at 7:36 of the third period.

Zetterberg’s tremendous two-way play silenced the Pens’ dreams of a miracle comeback. His goal put the Pens in a two-goal hole, which eventually led to the Red Wings’ 3-2 victory. He also assisted on Brian Rafalski’s goal, and again was stellar in his back-checking role, clearing Pittsburgh’s best chance on a long 5-on-3 in the first period.

“Yeah, it’s a pretty good night,” Zetterberg said, smiling. “It’s gonna take a while before it can sink in and you really enjoy it. Right now it’s just a nice feeling inside that you won the Cup and that’s been the goal for many years now.”

Zetterberg’s 27 points set a new franchise postseason record, surpassing Sergei Fedorov and Steve Yzerman. And that was while shutting down the top guns from Pittsburgh, Dallas and Nashville.

“You can talk about this game, you can talk about every game of the playoffs — he’s been unbelievable,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “So well deserved.”

In the end, a case could have been made for Lidstrom, Chris Osgood, or even Johan Franzen. There was no clear-cut winner on a team where every skater got at least a point in the postseason.

But while those players have a specialty, Zetterberg is the all-around superstar.

“One of the best two-way players I’ve ever seen,” general manager Ken Holland said. “When your top player is your top defensive player, and he can play in all different types of situations — power play, penalty kill, on a regular shift — you’re going to have a good team.”

Zetterberg made his team great this postseason. He was consistent, with a nine-game point streak midway through the postseason. And he saved his best for last — none better than killing almost the entire 5-on-3 late in Game 3.

NBC broadcaster Doc Emrick called it a “Conn-Smythe worthy shift.”

And it was. That shift tipped the series to Detroit — for good. The Wings won the game off that kill, and they weren’t going to blow three chances to win the Cup.

Zetterberg blocked a Sergei Gonchar point shot, prevented Sidney Crosby from a doorstep dump-in, and stole the puck away from Evgeni Malkin to get a solid scoring chance.

That was the only shot of the 5-on-3, as Pittsburgh fired blanks in the most important 1:26 minutes of the season — courtesy of the man know throughout Hockeytown simply as Z.

Offense, defense? There’s never been a line to cross for Zetterberg, a rare offensive superstar that kills penalties for kicks. And he led the playoffs in shorthand points (five) for some extra pizzazz. He was a plus-16 — best in the postseason and a testament to his diverse game.

“A lot of players don’t get it until later on in their career,” said former Detroit coach Scotty Bowman, who gets credit for morphing Yzerman into a double threat.

Zetterberg’s got it. And he’s 27-years-old, playing just his fifth NHL season.

Hard to believe he was passed over 209 times before being selected by the Red Wings in the seventh round of the 1999 draft.

Now, he’s a Conn Smythe and Stanley Cup winner, and likely a Selke winner, too.

Zetterberg’s got everything now. But it’s only the beginning.

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