NHL Conn Smythe Race: Avery's Aces

Andrew CastanedaAnalyst IApril 14, 2008

I'm not sure whether or not the 'free t-shirt' contest is still in effect, but nonetheless, I felt it was necessary to throw out two pennies from my pocket on this subject.

Firstly, I think the premise is a tad ridiculous for the simple fact that the playoffs aren't even three games old yet. 

Any hockey fan understands that the playoffs are the time where every player has the heart of a warrior, and the possibility of taking their game to a new level lies within them. 

For the sake of argument, and for the fact that I can't stand to hear the name's Ovechkin, Crosby, Alfredsson, Lidstrom, and Hasek bandied about without any real insight beyond name recognition.  Here's my thinking.

Sean Avery, LW, New York Rangers

I don't care what anyone has to say about his chirping or his past, this guy is standing out as a playoff stud.

His time in New York has seen his oft volatile behavior, stop sharing time between his own team and the opposition, and focus solely on getting under the skin of the other team. After coming to the Rangers from the Kings, he has proven himself even more valuable than big ticket signings Briere and Gomez.

And, as I predicted in my last installment of 'Five For Chirping', he has done what might have previously been considered impossible, gotten under the skin of Martin Brodeur with the stick waving antics that have stirred up controversy league wide. Don't like the play? Get over it, he does what other guys are too timid to at the expense of his own safety (he caught a shot off the back of the leg while turned) and plays with one of the biggest hearts on the ice today.

Right now, he is tied for first in goals and third in points, and on a lineup consisting of Jaromir Jagr, Chris Drury, Scott Gomez, Marc Staal, and Henrik Lundqvist, he is at the top of the Devils (and their potential second round dance partners) watch lists.

Evgeni Malkin, C, Pittsburgh Penguins

After all but disappearing into the crowd during the five game first round and walloping at the hands of the Senators last year, Malkin has added even more evidence to the argument that he could prove to be as (if not potentially more) valuable than Sidney Crosby.

Malkin has made his presence felt on and off on the score sheet with a goal and five assists, giving him sole possession of the points scoring race in the playoffs. 

Also, he has been given responsible defensive play, maturity and poise that are completely uncharacteristic of his age.

The kid is the real deal and could potentially be joining Sid at the head of the line in the March of the Penguins.

Carey Price, G, Montreal Canadiens

At the ripe old age of 20-years-old, Carey Price has managed to gain the confidence of Habs management, coaching, fans, and teammates with a stellar 24-12-3 with three shutouts in his first partial NHL season. 

He has shown composure that would rival a goaltender 12-years-older.

How do you improve on that? You win two of your first three career playoff starts and post a 1.57 GAA and a .943 save percentage.

Too bad, Montreal has never had any luck with 20-year-old rookie goaltenders who play 40+ starts, earned 20+ wins, and stole the starting role from an established goaltender to lead the team on a miraculous playoff tear in the past...

And My Three Dark Horse Candidates, in no particular order.

1.Marty Turco, G, Dallas Stars- He has finally coming out of his shell.

2.Brian Rolston, F, Minnesota Wild- He has become the most complete player during the regular season and is showing that he can become the ice general for the Wild in the second season.

3. Henrik Lundqvist, G, New York Rangers-This guy gets better with every game, and the playoffs are no exception. He has an Olympic gold medal to prove he can handle pressure.  Now if he can get the Rangers to the 'Silver' round on the big stage, he's golden.

On the Bleacher Report, I'm Andrew Castaneda.


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