Vanbiesbrouck destined for MVP?

ON THE NHL

April 12, 1994|By SANDRA MCKEE

The Hart Trophy ballot is here, which means the question must be answered: Which NHL player is the most valuable to his team?

Only four names come to mind: Florida Panthers goalie John Vanbiesbrouck, Buffalo Sabres goalie Dominik Hasek, Detroit Red Wings center Sergei Fedorov and Boston Bruins defenseman Ray Bourque.

The NHL Hockey Writers Association ballot says vote for three.

Vanbiesbrouck, with his .925 save percentage (second in the league) and his 2.53 goals-against average for the expansion Panthers, seems a clear choice, especially if he gets Florida into the playoffs.

But Hasek, Fedorov and Bourque also present strong cases.

Hasek's goals-against average is an astounding 1.93, his .930 save percentage is tops in the NHL and he has been the Sabres' LTC mainstay, producing a 30-19-6 record, despite the loss of Buffalo's biggest scoring threat, Pat LaFontaine, last November.

Fedorov has chased Wayne Gretzky all season for the scoring title, and his 118 points keep him in second place in that race and his team in first place in the Western Conference.

As for Bourque, he is the defensive glue and Boston's second-leading point scorer.

How would you vote?

If either of the goaltenders won, it would be the first time since 1962, when Jacques Plante won with the Montreal Canadiens. It also would be the first time an expansion team had the league's MVP.

A goalie has won the Hart Trophy four times in 70 years. Besides Plante, the others are: Al Rollins, Chicago Blackhawks, 1954; Chuck Rayner, New York Rangers, 1950; and Roy Worters, New York Americans, 1929.

The ballot from here will vote for goalies 1-2 and Fedorov third.

Caps don't vote

Most teams in the NHL vote for a team MVP, but not the Washington Capitals. With the ups and downs of this season, some might consider that a blessing. But who would be the Caps' MVP?

Two possibilities jump to mind: left wing Craig Berube and defenseman Sylvain Cote.

Berube may appear to be nothing more than an enforcer but he has played his role with consistency, been brave in the face of adversity and been willing to challenge his teammates when they don't play up to their abilities.

Cote could win the vote, too. He has been a consistent defensive performer while those around him -- at one time or another -- were in disarray. He leads the team in the plus-minus ratings with plus-30 and has produced 16 goals and 34 assists for 50 points in the 82 games to date.

Craziness with Mario

Raise your hand if you got a few good laughs or at least recognized the ridiculousness of last week's flap between the Pittsburgh Penguins' Mario Lemieux, a game official and the NHL office.

First, there was Lemieux charging out of the penalty box looking for a piece of referee Kerry Fraser, a move that should have drawn an automatic suspension.

It didn't. Despite NHL vice president Brian Burke's saying intimidation of officials won't be tolerated, the only penalty was a $500 fine, the maximum allowed. Given that Lemieux is making $3 million this year, one wonders why they bothered.

Portland update

The American Hockey League's regular season came to an end with the Portland Pirates (43-27-10) holding second place in the Northern Division behind Adirondack (45-27-8). The Pirates open the playoffs at home Friday against Albany and expect a crowd of nearly 7,000.

Goalies Byron Dafoe (24-16-4, 3.34 GAA) and Olie Kolzig (16-8-5, 3.06 GAA) were named the AHL co-winners of the Hap Holmes Award that goes to the league's best goaltender. Dafoe has been recalled by the Capitals, leaving the Pirates to start the playoffs with Kolzig and backup Mike Parson (0-2-1, 3.12).

Poile takes easy route

With Capitals general manager David Poile coming to the end of his contract and team owner Abe Pollin saying contract discussions won't begin until Washington's season is over, several questions arise.

Will Poile test the waters to see what other opportunities are out there, or does he want to come back to the Capitals?

"The easiest thing to say is I'm looking to remain with the Capitals," Poile said.

Is the rumor in Boston that he is being considered for the GM's job there true?

"We just better leave it that I'm looking to come back here," Poile said.

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