Alright, first I have to apologize to all of you waiting with bated breath for my pick for the 2008 Conn Smythe Trophy winner. Sorry (not really), that I didn't post yesterday when I said I would, but life took a left turn instead of going straight forward and since I'm not getting paid for this, I chose to deal with life as opposed to satisfying your curiosity.
Now on to more pressing matters, like who will win the sacred trophy, and I am not making fun of it, so don't get offended. To me, the Conn Smythe is almost as important as Lord Stanley's Cup.
Who will win this year? I will tell you...at the end of this article. But first I will break it down. I believe it will be one of the Red Wings because, as I have stated before, they are going to win it all. They might not win every trophy available to hockey players or teams, there are a lot of talented players out there and they are not all from Detroit, but the Red Wings will win the Cup.
That drastically narrows the field from 16 playoff teams to just one. I don't believe that any opposing team's player will win because the Red Wings are that good. Someone would have to turn in just a stellar performance and against Detroit, in Hockeytown, c'mon.
Now the breakdown from the Red Wing Locker Room.
Nicklas Lidstrom, The Captain
An obvious choice, and an excellent one. In my book, he is the best all-around player in the NHL today. Yes, there are better players who score more goals, or check harder, or whatever else they do, but Nicklas Lidstrom is the most gifted player in the league. Strong on defense, scores when they need one, and keeps his nose clean on and off the ice. He could very easily win the trophy because all he has to do is play his normal game and he is a shoe-in.
Dominik Hasek/Chris Osgood
The first one-two punch. When one is off, the other one steps in without missing a beat. Let's take them one by one, though.
Hasek is Detroit's primary goalie and trust me when I say this, he still has it. Yes, there are times when he's off his game and watching the finale game of the season, against the Chicago Blackhawks, it seemed like every time he got up, it looked like he was in pain or achy. But standing on your head to stop a goal from one of the leagues leading scorers is what he does. Like what Herb Brooks said about Jim Craig, goalie of the 1980 US Olympic Hockey team, "Have you ever seen him when his game is on?"
And when he's not so on, Chris Osgood steps up. This year, Osgood, with a 2.09 goals against average, is the best in the league. What more can you say about him but he has been consistent all season long for Detroit. If Hasek's game goes to pot, there is no better back-up than Osgood.
Pavel Datsyuk/Henrik Zetterberg
Another one-two combination for the Wings. Both players are capable of scoring goals from almost anywhere on the ice, and given half a chance, they will score with every shot on goal. The talent that these two young players have, is amazing to me. I thought Steve Yzerman and Igor Larinov were spectacles to watch until I saw Datsyuk contort like a gymnast to get around a defenseman and remain in control of the puck the whole time. Zetterberg isn't as fancy but he has unbelievable power, especially on his one-timers. Have you ever seen one? I'll tell you what, it happens so fast that I have to wait for the replay to catch it.
The Grind Line
Alright, so I'm sort of dating myself a little. This line consisting of Kris Draper, Kirk Maltby, and Darren McCarty, was deadly during Detroit's Cup runs in 1997, 1998, and 2002. Any one of these players could have a breakout playoff run and take the Conn Smythe. And they don't call them the "Grind Line" for nothing. These guys will simply "grind" the other team down.
The Rest of the Team
The same goes for the rest of the team. Any one of them has the talent and capability of winning the Conn Smythe. Chris Chelios, even as the oldest player in the league (no offence, Chris) could turn in a spectacular defensive performance followed by scoring a bunch of goals. He's done it before.
Then there's Johan Franzen taking over for the injured Tomas Holmstrom. Many people didn't even realize Holmstrom was hurt until they looked at the back of Franzen's jersey and read his name.
Then there's Holmstrom, himself, blocking the goalie's vision for a tip-in. Then there's Dallas Drake, another defenseman, with soft hands and a thumper attitude on the ice. Then there's Brian Rafalski on defense. Then there's the younger, up and coming players like Juri Hudler, Niklas Kronwall, Brett Lebda, Andreas Lilja, Mark Hartigan, Vallteri Fillpula, Mikael Samuelsson...I'm running out of "then there's", but I think you get the picture.
And the Winner is...
Alright, kiddies, now that I've got you all worked up with this Red Wing hoopla, I shall now cast my vote for the winner. Drum roll, please...And my pick for the 2008 Conn Smythe Trophy, the MVP of the Stanley Cup playoffs is...wait a second, all I get is a T-shirt out of this? I don't get some kind of sports writing contract or some money if I win the grand prize? With the lineup of players that I just described to you, trying to pick a winner would be like, like...pin-pointing the exact day and hour of Jesus' return to take us home. I can't pick a winner for just a t-shirt.
Alright, I'll really pick one this time, promise...
If I have to pick just ONE, it would have to be (oh my, this is harder than I thought)...Nicklas Lidstrom and it would be for the reasons I stated above. He's just plain consistent with his playing ability, character and attitude both on and off the ice. Now, it is Saturday afternoon, 2:00 (1:00 central time) and I'm going to go watch Detroit win their second Stanley Cup playoff game against Nashville at The Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. And if you enjoy this game half as much as I do, well, that just means I enjoyed it twice as much as you did.