Thursday, May 31, 2007

Conn Smythe Race

With Anaheim up 2-0 in the Stanley Cup finals, it is possible that the finals are half over already and I have not seriously discussed the Conn Smythe race. In fact, I haven't named a single player who is still in the playoffs as the playoff MVP yet. This is largely because the players who have been the best in earlier rounds are now eliminated.

The two best goalies in the playoffs so far have been Roberto Luongo of the Vancouver Canucks and Marty Turco of the Dallas Stars. On defence, nobody has been better than Nicklas Lidstrom of the Detroit Red Wings. There is yet to be a forward who has been as valuable to his team in the playoffs as any of those three. The problem is none are still around for the finals.

In the finals we do have Chris Pronger who has been playing very well for Anaheim despite missing a game to suspension and goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere has played well (though not at Turco or Luongo level) and wasn't played in the first few Anaheim games. They would have to be the Anaheim Conn Smythe leaders, with Pronger leading the way.

In Ottawa, it has been the big three forwards who have been most valuable in Dany Heatley, Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza. It is hard to pick one above the other two and given the way the Anaheim checking line has handled them so far, its probably not a good pick.

If the finals continue to go the way they appear to be going, likely Anaheim will win and Chris Pronger will be Conn Smythe winner. However, at this point in the playoffs it is hard to make the case that he has been the best defender so far. Nicklas Lidstrom may be eliminated, but he has played one more game then Pronger and scored 4 more points. The only people in the playoffs with more points then Lidstrom are Heatley and Spezza (Alfredsson is tied). If it was up to me at this point (and this opinion may change with more games played) I would call Nicklas Lidstrom the playoff MVP. The Conn Smythe Trophy goes to the "player most valuable to his team in the playoffs". Nobody said that team has to go to the finals. Quite likely another few games in the finals could change my mind as Lidstrom won't be playing in them.

Should there be no surprises the rest of the way, I think the Conn Smythe will go to Pronger whether he is better than Lidstrom or not. However, I think Pronger was more deserving of the Conn Smythe last year but didn't win because Edmonton didn't win the cup. Instead it went to Cam Ward of Carolina who was a poor choice.

It is an interesting year when the finals may be half over and the playoff MVP may have not even made it as far as the finals, but that is where we are right now.

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