David Backes of the St. Louis Blues, Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins and Pavel Datsyuk of the Detroit Red Wings are the three finalists for the Frank J. Selke Trophy as the NHL's top defensive forward, the league announced Monday.
Backes had the highest average ice time per game among forwards (19 minutes 59 seconds) on a Blues club that allowed the fewest goals in the NHL by a wide margin. The six-foot-three, 225-pound centre was a punishing physical presence, doling out a team-leading 226 hits to join Los Angeles forward Dustin Brown as the only players to record 200 hits or more in each of the past five seasons.
Backes led the Blues in faceoffs, blocked shots and posted a plus-15 rating. The Blues captain is an NHL trophy finalist for first time in his seven-year career and is the first Blues player up for the Selke since Michal Handzus finished second in 2000.
Bergeron led the NHL in plus-minus (plus-36) and posted a plus-18 rating both at home and on the road in helping the Bruins rank second in the Eastern Conference in team defence (2.39 goals-against average).
He appeared in a career-high 81 games and topped all Bruins forwards in short-handed time on ice (1:48 per game). Bergeron was also dominant in the faceoff circle, posting a 59.2 winning percentage to rank second in the league behind Chicago's Jonathan Toews (59.4 per cent). Bergeron is an NHL trophy finalist for the first time and could become just the second Bruins player to capture Selke honours, joining Steve Kasper (1982).
Datsyuk continued his mastery of separating opponents from the puck in 2011-12 by ranking third in takeaways with 97. He posted a plus-21 rating and was the club's top faceoff man at 56.2 per cent — his eighth consecutive season posting a win rate above 53 per cent.
It's the fifth consecutive year Datsyuk has been voted as a Selke finalist, matching the streaks of Montreal's Guy Carbonneau (1986-1990) and Bob Gainey (1978-1982) as the longest since the award was introduced in 1978.
Datsyuk won the Selke Trophy three straight years before Vancouver's Ryan Kesler took the honour last season.
Members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association submitted ballots for the Selke Trophy at the conclusion of the regular season, with the top three vote-getters designated as finalists.
The winner will be announced June 20 at the 2012 NHL Awards in Las Vegas.