Zetterberg captures Conn Smythe for sparking Wings

Updated: June 5, 2008, 6:36 AM ET
Associated Press

PITTSBURGH -- The Detroit Red Wings are Stanley Cup champions because they excel at both ends of the rink.

None of them does it better than Henrik Zetterberg, whose two-way play earned him the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.

Soaring Wings

Henrik Zetterberg joined the Motown elite on Wednesday when he won the Conn Smythe trophy as the playoffs MVP. Here's the list of Red Wings to win the award:

Player
Year
Henrik Zetterberg 2008
Nicklas Lidstrom 2002
Steve Yzerman 1998
Mike Vernon 1997
Roger Crozier 1966

The Swede's goal midway through the third period proved to be the series winner and he had an assist to lift Detroit to a 3-2 win Wednesday night over the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 6.

He became just the second European to win the award, joining fellow Swede and teammate Nicklas Lidstrom, who won it in 2002.

"It's special to be on there with so many great players -- especially Nick," Zetterberg said as he looked at the trophy during a news conference.

Zetterberg likely sealed the Conn Smythe with his two-point night.

"He certainly deserved it," Penguins coach Michel Therrien said. "There's no doubt he was an important player for that group."

Zetterberg finished the playoffs with a 27 points, matching Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby for the top spot.

Zetterberg had 13 goals, tying teammate Johan Franzen for the league lead.

Zetterberg's series-winning goal at 7:36 of the third was short on style, but long on substance.

The shot trickled through Marc-Andre Fleury's pads and after stalling in the crease, the puck went in off the goalie's backside. Zetterberg assisted on Brian Rafalski's goal that put Detroit ahead 1-0 lead 5 minutes into the game.

But Zetterberg's biggest contribution in the playoffs might've come at the defensive end when he locked down Crosby's stick at the side of the net to prevent him from scoring during Pittsburgh's critical 5-on-3 power play late in the 3-2 win in Game 4.

That win put Detroit ahead 3-1 in the series, a cushion it needed because it lost Game 5 in triple overtime.

Zetterberg also helped kill a 5-on-3 advantage the Penguins had in the series-ending game, keeping them scoreless in the first period.

"It was huge," he said.

Zetterberg was strong in his own end during the regular season, too, making him a finalist for the Selke Trophy that is awarded to the forward who performs the best on defense.

He reminds a lot of people of the player Steve Yzerman became when Hall of Fame coach Scotty Bowman helped the retired Red Wings great become a two-way player.

"Hank and Yzie are very similar in how they play at both ends," Detroit defenseman Chris Chelios said.

Hall of Famer Larry Murphy agreed, adding a comparison to fellow Hall of Famer Ron Francis.

"Yzerman and Francis are the first two names that come to mind, thinking of guys I ever saw play that remind me of Zetterberg," Murphy said. "When I played with those guys, they refused to sacrifice defense for offense. That's a trait Zetterberg has, too."

Yzerman, who now works in Detroit's front office, said the organization can't take credit for the all-around game Zetterberg has had since being drafted with the 210th overall pick in 1999.

"Hank's willingness to backcheck was there from the day we got him," Yzerman said. "The only thing that developed is, he shoots more and he's improved a lot offensively.

"His defense has always been there."

Bowman, who works for the Red Wings as a consultant, agreed.

"Usually it's the other way around, but his defense came first and his offense followed," Bowman said.

Teammate Johan Franzen said Zetterberg's style of play is contagious.

"It's huge to have your best defensive player be your best guy offensively, too," Franzen said. "He's such a smart player and is always in the right spot. He doesn't get too excited. He keep the noise down and just does his job."

"He's one of a kind."


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press