A shiny red carpet covers the floor. Legions of fans stand in line to merely catch a glimpse at larger-than-life individuals who sashay across the crimson canvas. Cameras lined up as far as the eye can see, flashing at a rapid pace. You would think it was some sort of Hollywood movie premiere.
Under the bright lights of Sin City, the NHL's biggest stars gathered for their yearly foray into the life of a cinema star, the NHL Awards.
Awards night is more than just a night of celebration, it marks the divide between the old and the new, as it is the final event that peers back at the season that was, just days before the NHL Draft unofficially rings in a new hockey year.
In the shocker of the night, Sidney Crosby took home his second Hart Memorial Trophy as the league's most valuable player, an award he appreciated more the second time around.
"I think back at 19, I probably took it for granted a little bit," Crosby said. "When you win it that young, you might think it's a little bit easier (to win it) than it actually is."
Often this award boils down to the debate of most outstanding player vs. most valuable player. Fortunately, this season, Crosby fits into both of those categories. He ran away with the league's scoring title with 104 points, 17 more than his closest competition. The 26-year-old is a solid possession player (53% Corsi for) with fairly neutral zone starts while playing against very good competition.
Crosby led the league in assists (68), was seventh in the league in goals (36) and led all forwards in ice time per game (21:58). He drew 10 more penalties than he took and captained an injury-riddled Pittsburgh Penguins team to 51 wins.
He is the best player in the world and his play this season did nothing to assuage that belief.
Crosby also won the Ted Lindsay award for most valuable player as judged by the player's association.
Duncan Keith won his second Norris Trophy with 68 first place votes.
"It's a pretty surreal feeling," Keith said. "There's so many good defensemen in the league and I'm just proud to represent all the defensemen."
Keith led all blueliners in assists (55) and was second in points (61) only behind Erik Karlsson. The 30-year-old is a very good possession player (56.6% Corsi for) who plays against significantly above average competition on a nightly basis. While he is the beneficiary of favorable zone starts (57.4% O/D), he still plays a ton of PK time and is an all-situations type of defensemen.
Tuukka Rask snuck past Semyon Varlamov to win his first Vezina Trophy. Rask led the NHL (minimum 40 games played) in save percentage (.930) and shutouts (7) while finishing second in GAA (2.04). The 27-year-old has been sensational since taking over for Tim Thomas two seasons ago.
"It's a great honor...I'm still kind of shocked," Rask said. "There's so many good goalies in the league that 10 guys could have easily won it."
Nathan MacKinnon became the youngest player to win the Calder Trophy for rookie of the year at the age of 18. MacKinnon had a sensational season in his debut, carrying over the same skill he displayed as a Halifax Moosehead. He led all rookies in goals (24), assists (39) and points (63). He also drew 19 more penalties than he took.
"I just wanted to make an immediate impact and try to help the team every night," MacKinnon said. "I was very fortunate to be brought into a good team."
Another award winner from Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia took notice of the young forward.
"It's amazing to see, even through the second half of the season, how confident he got and how well he played," Crosby said. "Training with him is a bit of a chore -- got chased around a bit. He's got young legs and he's fast."
Patrice Bergeron took home his second Selke Trophy in three years after earning 112 out of 137 first place votes. Bergeron led all eligible payers in Corsi for percentage despite having unfavorable zone stars (45.7 percent). The 28-year-old center finished third in the league in faceoff percentage, winning 58.6 percent of his draws.
He also won the NHL15 cover vote, beating out P.K. Subban.
Ryan O'Reilly ran away with the Lady Byng, receiving a whopping 110 first place votes out of 137 ballots.
He took one penalty last season. One. That's it.
"My dad always said, 'you can't score a goal from the penalty box,'" O'Reilly said.
O'Reilly combines a high level of skill with the ability to stay out of the penalty box and avoid controversial hits. Impressive for a 23-year-old that jokes that his parents tell him he has the worst temper in the family.
While he may not handle penalty shots all that well, Patrick Roy has done a masterful job as coach of the Colorado Avalanche in his first season behind an NHL bench. He took a team that finished no higher than 11th in the Western Conference the past three seasons and helped turn them into Central Division Champions with the third best record in the league.
"I have a group of players that have made a commitment and bought into what we wanted to do and they had it in mind to surprise the world of hockey and that's exactly what they've done by winning the Central Division."
The quick turnaround is due in large part to a lot of young guys clicking at the same time and Roy had a lot to do with that.
"He has respect for everyone and treats everyone the same, which is something that I think (makes) guys tend to play a bit harder for him and they respect that more," O'Reilly said. "It's a great quality not a lot of coaches have."
GM OF THE YEAR
Bob Murray was the architect of the most outstanding regular season in Ducks history, winning the Pacific Division for the second consecutive season and the Western Conference for the first time. Murray has helped develop a pair of young goalies (Frederik Andersen and John Gibson) as well as trading for players like Jakob Silfverberg and Mathieu Perreault .
Dominic Moore returned to the NHL after leaving in the spring of 2012 to care for his wife who was diagnosed with a rare form of liver cancer. Unfortunately, Moore's wife Katie passed in January 2013. Dominic established the Katie Moore Foundation, dedicated to helping patients who have rare forms of cancer and their families. Moore had 18 points in 73 games with the Eastern Conference Champion New York Rangers.
"I'm just thankful for all the support and encouragement that I've personally gotten," Moore said.
Andrew Ference and Dustin Brown won the King Clancy Memorial Trophy for leadership and humanitarian contributions to the community and the Mark Messier Leadership Award respectively.
Some awards were already decided before Tuesday's event. Crosby locked up the Art Ross Trophy with his 104-point season and Alex Ovechkin won the Rocket Richard trophy for the second year in a row and an NHL record fourth time after scoring 51 goals last season.