A-Train deserved Norris nomination

DON BRENNAN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:07 AM ET

Upon reflection, it should have been realized for what it was. Nothing more, nothing less than an anxious moment.

By now, as Alanis Morissette would say, you oughta know.

The clock was ticking down, and the largest crowd to ever watch a hockey game in Ottawa (20,248) was getting ready to let out a roar of celebration when suddenly the puck found its way to the stick of Patrik Elias.

Merely the leading scorer in New Jersey Devils playoff history, Elias leaned on his shaft and let go a shot toward the Senators net. At the end of the Devils bench, Marty Brodeur was probably starting to raise his arms. Surely Ray Emery wasn't going to stop another one, was he?

Moments earlier, Chris Phillips, who is a pretty good shot blocker himself, had one Devils offering get through his skates.

Elias wouldn't be so lucky. Standing between him and Emery -- and a potential game-tying goal that could very well have led to an even series going back to the Meadowlands -- was Anton Volchenkov. You oughta know the A-Train isn't going to be beaten from the slot by now.

"Where did it hit you?" a reporter asked Volchenkov after the game. "Right here," he said, pointing to his chest.

An eavesdropping Peter Schaefer couldn't help himself. "Right in the heart," Schaefer said emphatically.

Volchenkov sure has enough of it. The save was the 35th of the playoffs for the rugged Russian, moving him one blocked shot ahead of Richard Matvichuk and into his rightful spot as the league leader.

Finishing atop the underrated category in last spring's post-season was Edmonton's Jason Smith who, with 67, had one more than then-teammate Chris Pronger. Both of them played 24 games. Volchenkov, who is well ahead of that pace, has played nine.

"Everybody plays tough now, there's more blocked shots by everybody," said Volchenkov, who had a total of 14 in victorious Games 3 and 4. "(The Elias shot) was pretty hard, but it was not a slap shot. Just a wrist shot. In the last minute of play, you have to be tough. I'm not thinking about feeling sore ... just that we win the game."

The NHL announced its major awards finalists for the 2006-07 season earlier this week.

The James Norris Memorial Trophy, given to the league's most outstanding defenceman, will go to one of Scott Niedermayer, who had 69 points, Nicklas Lidstrom, who had 62, or Pronger, who had 59. It's doubtful the voting members of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association gave even passing consideration to Volchenkov, who had 19.

About none of them would have spent time breaking down film before submitting their choices. About all would have thought about the few games they had seen each candidate play, and their reputations. Then they would have glanced at point totals and made their choice. But that way of doing it is archaic.

Nowadays, with expanded stats, other numbers have and facts have to be digested.

Volchenkov had a league-leading 273 blocked shots, which was 45 more than the second-best blueliner.

Volchenkov registered 205 hits. Only four defenceman had more. And playing against all the opposition's best offensive players in his role as the "shut-down" partner of Phillips, Volchenkov was a plus-37, tying him for the fifth best mark in the league.

Lidstrom, Niedermayer and Pronger are obviously worthy of the recognition. They are outstanding players, and have been for some time. Lidstrom, who was also a plus-40, should win the Norris.

"(Volchenkov) has a chance to be a real top defenceman," said Senators coach Bryan Murray.

He was one this season and because of it he should have been a Norris nominee.

Quick hits

At 11 a.m. Mike Fisher was wearing his Full Contact Fishing ball cap and doing TV interviews outside the Senators dressing room. If it looked like he had just woken up, it's only because he had. "At 10," the scorer of Game 4's winning goal said when asked what time he rolled out of the rack yesterday. "I didn't get to bed until 2 or 2:30. You can't go to sleep for a while after a game." Especially when it's played at playoff-intensity in front of more than 20,000 screaming people ... Sizzling actress Elisha Cuthbert, who was at Wednesday's game, is apparently friends with Senators F Mike Comrie. The star of the movie The Girl Next Door, she looks very much like one in person. She's also quite tiny ... You've reached top-employee status when you can bring your dog to work, right Alfie?


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