MVPs Going, Going. . .
First went Sidney Crosby, followed soon after by Vincent Lecavalier.
Then Roberto Luongo waved farewell, with Martin Brodeur going next and, finally, Joe Thornton last night.
With two rounds still remaining in the 2007 Stanley Cup playoffs, it is indeed noteworthy that the three finalists for the Hart Trophy this season - Crosby, Luongo and Brodeur - and the two others believed to have received serious consideration - Lecavalier and Thornton - are all officially now on summer vacation.
Thornton was the last to depart, and in so doing once again cemented his growing reputation (one that has been transferred from Boston to San Jose) as a non-playoff performer. This spring, he scored one goal in 11 playoff games, and went pointless in his last two outings as the Sharks blew a 2-1 series lead to the Red Wings and bowed out in six.
Lecavalier and Luongo, at least, were standouts for Tampa Bay and Vancouver, respectively, as long as those teams were alive. Both players were ridden hard, and by the end may have run out of gas.
Crosby's first exposure to Stanley Cup tournament competition delivered mixed results, but bigger and better things are expected of him and the Penguins in the near future.
The same cannot necessarily be said for the Devils, and Brodeur suffered more criticism of his play in these playoffs that in any spring of recent memory. Forget the fact that he would have had to shut out the Senators most nights for Jersey to have a chance; he's the man in the Meadowlands, and when the Devils go down, it's on his shoulders.
Given that the top five MVP candidates are all gone, it's certainly a lesson of sorts about hockey as a team game. Indeed, the four teams that remain - Buffalo, Ottawa, Anaheim and Detroit - are arguably the four teams that are least reliant on a single player than any other NHL club.
The Red Wings, a remarkable conference finalist in a year that initially shaped up to be a rebuilding campaign after the loss of Steve Yzerman and Brendan Shanahan, proved their team concept last night by finishing off the Sharks without standout defenceman Mathieu Schneider available for action.
The Sabres, Senators, Ducks and Wings are also four teams that didn't go wild and pick up an impact player at the trade deadline, although Anaheim and Detroit certainly tried.
Buffalo added Dainius Zubrus and Detroit added Todd Bertuzzi, but in the schemes of those two teams those two players are support players. Ottawa added only Oleg Saprykin, while the Ducks picked up truculent winger Brad May.
It's a Final Four made up of the four best teams. The MVPs have all gone home.