LAS VEGAS -- One of the prominent back stories to the Stanley Cup finals was the back and forth between Vancouver's Roberto Luongo and Boston's Tim Thomas. How do the kids say it these days? Awwwkwwaaard.
With so much discussion during the series focused on Luongo's comments about Thomas after Game 5 of the finals, the NHL awards might make for some uncomfortable moments with both Luongo and Thomas nominated for the Vezina Trophy as the league's top goaltender.
Luongo suggested that Thomas' style of play may allow him to make some stops that Luongo wouldn't but that the lone goal Thomas allowed in a Game 5 loss would have been an easy stop for Luongo.
The curious decision to offer a critique of an opposing goalie's style was then followed up by Luongo's equally curious complaint that Thomas, who ultimately was named playoff MVP, had said nothing nice about Luongo during the series. Luongo then had a disastrous performance in Game 6, getting pulled before the midpoint of the first period, and an ordinary performance in Game 7.
Thomas, who offered perhaps the best line of the playoffs when he said before Game 6 that he didn't know it was his job to pump Luongo's tires, said Tuesday that he told Luongo while the two sides were shaking hands after Game 7 that he really did think Luongo was a terrific goaltender.
"I remember one of the things I told him going through the line is I said 'for the record, I think you're a great goalie and you had a great season.' Whether [Luongo's comments] were taken out of context or whether it was just part of a mental game that was trying to be played, it doesn't really matter. It's something that happened," Thomas said Tuesday during a pre-awards media availability.
"We compete as hard as we can on the ice, and when we're in the middle of that game or the middle of that series, sometimes emotions get the better of you. When it's all said and done, it's over. I respect everyone that I play against and every team that I play against."
Luongo said he doesn't feel he needs to say anything further to Thomas here at the awards.
"I think everything's cool," Luongo added as he greeted reporters long after Thomas had vacated the media area.
"We had a few words after the series was over, and you know, I've always had a lot of respect for him and I've always said that from the start. Wish him all the best tomorrow and hope he enjoys the Vezina because he's probably going to win it."
Luongo won't go away empty-handed if he does come up short in the Vezina voting as he and partner Cory Schneider won the Jennings Trophy for turning in the lowest team goals-against average in the league.
Facing your enemy
Less than a week after suffering a 4-0 thrashing on home ice in the deciding game of the finals, Hart Trophy nominee (and Art Ross Trophy winner as the league's regular-season scoring champ) Daniel Sedin, Frank J. Selke Trophy nominee Ryan Kesler, Jack Adams nominee Alain Vigneault, GM of the year nominee Mike Gillis and Luongo were once again forced to come to grips with an inglorious end to what had looked like a season for the ages.
Not only did they have to share space during a pre-awards media gathering with Boston's Thomas and Zdeno Chara, nominated for the Norris Trophy, but they did so knowing the Stanley Cup was in the Palms Casino, too.
"Yeah it does. Obviously, we didn't really have time to digest what happened last week yet, so it is a bit touchy to probably see those guys and them holding the Cup and stuff like that," Luongo said.
"Haven't really watched any TV in a week except for maybe CNN, so yeah, it's not easy. It's a tough loss, but it's something that's going to heal with time."
Kesler initially bypassed the issue, saying he hadn't run into any of the Bruins players.
"I haven't seen any yet; I'll let you know how I feel when I see them," Kesler said.
But if he did?
"It would be awkward, yeah," Kesler said.
Still, the fact so many Canucks have been recognized for special accomplishments during the regular season should help put all of this in some perspective.
"Of course. We're all disappointed that we fell just short of our goal. I mean that was our main goal. Every player in the league, that's what they play for. They were all disappointed like you just said, but when you look at the big picture, I think we set a lot of franchise records, and we did a lot of good things during the regular season and the playoffs as well. There's a lot of our guys from our team represented here, and it's going to be nice to see hopefully a few guys take something home," Luongo said.
St. Louis rooting for Thomas
Lightning veteran Martin St. Louis, who is nominated for the Hart Trophy and the Lady Byng, spoke of the emotion of watching the Bruins capture their first Cup since 1972.
St. Louis played college hockey with Thomas at Vermont, and the two are good friends. Thomas shut out the Lightning 1-0 in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals to advance to the Cup finals.
"I couldn't be happier for him. Obviously, it was tough shaking his hand knowing that we were done and they were moving on. The reality is that once we were done, I wanted him to go win it, because he's a good friend of mine. He's had a tough time being where he is and staying where he is. So everything that he's done, he's earned. I'm proud of what he's done, and I'm happy he got his Cup," St. Louis said.
The 2004 Hart Trophy winner said he watched the final series but wasn't too keen on watching the Bruins' celebrate at Rogers Arena in Vancouver.
"Find it difficult to watch when it's over and they're raising the Cup. I think only people that have been through, raised that Cup, can understand what they're going through. But it's tough because you know you're so close to do it," St. Louis said.
"I was happy for Boston, for Timmy, but at the same time, it got me hungry for next year."