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Khabibulin misses out on MVP

Despite a third-period shutout, the timing of the vote for the award takes its toll.

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 3, 2002

LOS ANGELES -- The NHL really could not do anything about the vote that gave the All-Star MVP award to Chicago's Eric Daze instead of Lightning goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin.

The Professional Hockey Writers Association probably could have, but did not.

The PHWA votes for the award. The NHL counts the ballots and announces the winner. But because the ballots were picked up with between five and 10 minutes remaining, and the game changed so dramatically in the last three minutes, the MVP went to a player from the losing team.

Daze had two goals and an assist for North America.

"The issue then becomes one of disavowing an election process," said Frank Brown, NHL vice president of media relations, "With due respect to common sense, is that the way to go?"

The rub was the PHWA could have changed the vote.

David Neal, who covers the Panthers for the Miami Herald and is a PHWA vice president, said it was done by a three-person panel in 1996, when Ray Bourque scored a late goal to give the East a 5-4 victory against the West.

Neal said as the highest-ranking PHWA official at Saturday's game at the Staples Center, which went from a 5-4 North American lead to an 8-5 World victory behind Khabibulin's 20 third-period saves, he could have acted.

"I could have pulled a Castro and overruled the vote," he said.

Neal said he spoke to an NHL official about changing his vote.

"She said, "Are you speaking for yourself or are you speaking for other people?"' Neal said. "That's when I should have, as I said, pulled a Castro. Basically, I blew it."

Neal said he spoke to Brown about better defining a system for next season that will accommodate late-game changes.

In the meantime, Neal said, "I feel (terrible). "I should have done this. I did not."

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