It's the best time of year!
1. Jonathan Toews
There honestly can’t be much else said about how great Captain Toews has been this postseason. He leads the league with 26 points and owns a 13-game point streak… but it goes beyond that. His defensive game has been stellar, as he shutdown San Jose’s Joe Pavelski last round; a blocked shot of his directly turned into a primary assist, too. He has also won 57.9 percent of his draws, good for fourth overall in these playoffs. Toews has established himself as one of the best all-around forwards in the entire league, and should be considered the favorite for the Conn Smythe at this time.
2. Chris Pronger
If Philadelphia ends up winning the Cup, trading two first-rounders and Joffrey Lupul to Anaheim will have been worth it! Pronger has been great on both endsof the ice, providing the piece Philly has been missing in recent postseasons. He leads all defensemen in points (14), and has also been his dominant-self on the back end. ‘Prongs’ leads the league in ice-time this postseason, averaging almost 29 minutes a night. You can’t put a price on Pronger’s value in the playoffs, and he just might claim the Conn Smythe if the Flyers prevail.
3. Dustin Byfuglien
‘Big Buff’ has made a big impact ever since joining the top line alongside Toews and Patrick Kane. Four of his eight goals stand as game-winners, and he has successfully gotten under his opponent’s skin – just ask Roberto Luongo. The (should-be linebacker) defenseman-turned-forward-turned-defenseman-turned-forward has finally found his niche in front of the net. Byfuglien may not have the numbers in the end to surpass Toews, but his impact cannot be ignored.
4. Mike Richards
The Flyers’ captain has taken his game up a notch as these playoffs have moved along. Richards leads the team in points, and is just second behind Toews in the NHL. His two-way game was phenomenal against the Habs with his shorthanded prowess and ferocious forecheck. The hard work paid off as his will to win came through on the Flyers’ first and fourth goals in last night’s game. Some questioned Richards’ leadership earlier in the year. Not now! He and Toews have elevated into elite status as far as all-around forwards go.
5. Antti Niemi
Coming into the postseason, the reason why many thought the ‘Hawks wouldn’t be where they are today was Niemi. The Finnish netminder has proved his doubters wrong, though, in the last couple weeks. Niemi compiled two separate 44-save performances to take down San Jose, making clutch save after clutch save. I never thought he would be the reason why they wouldn’t win the Cup, since he doesn’t have to be lights-out in net every night. All he has to do is be solid – which he has been all postseason long.
Photo credit: Getty Images
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