Sit down, bring out the critic, and let's get down to it:
The 2008 Conn Smythe Trophy winner.
Only a player who has exemplified the hard work it takes to win those 16 games needed to achieve the ultimate goal can win this trophy, yet those in the running are many.
Since its inception in the 1965 Stanley Cup Finals, a netminder has won it fourteen times, a defenseman has won it nine times, and a forward has won it the remaining nineteen times.
Patrick Roy captured it three times in his illustrious career, while Mario Lemieux, Wayne Gretzky, Bernie Parent, and Bobby Orr all won the Conn Smythe two times.
Five times a member of the losing team has been awarded the Conn Smythe - Roger Crozier in 1966, Glen Hall in 1968, Reggie Leach in 1976, Ron Hextall in 1987, and JS Giguere in 2003.
Let's now take a look at the possible candidates for the 2008 Conn Smythe.
Defense wins championships, and in most cases goaltending can carry you a long way. Such examples can be seen in the 1993 play of Patrick Roy leading an underdog Canadiens to the Cup or JS Giguere carrying the Ducks all the way to the 2003 Stanley Cup Finals.
Fleury has posted great numbers and appears to be coming into his own in these playoffs. He's gone 12-2 down the stretch with a 1.70 GAA and a .938 SV% through the first three rounds.
Osgood has been impressive after taking over for Dominink Hasek in Game 5 of the Quarterfinals. Osgood, already a Stanley Cup champion with Detroit, has gone 10-2 down the stretch with a 1.60 GAA and a .931 SV% for the Red Wings.
Impressive numbers in goal always catch the eye of those choosing the winner.
Zetterberg is having a great playoff run. He shares the post-season lead in scoring, is second in goals with 11 and game-winning goals with three. Zetterberg also leads the playoffs in plus-minus rating with a plus-15 rating.
Crosby has the other half of the post-season lead in scoring. Despite only netting four goals this post-season, Crosby has stepped up his play as a playmaker, leading the playoffs with 17 assists in the first three rounds. As the captain, Crosby is leading his team by example.
A Selke finalist this season, Datsyuk is lighting up the playoffs alongside Zetterberg. It also appears Datsyuk likes playing in other teams' barns more than the Joe Louis Arena. In playoff road games, Datsyuk has notched 14 of his 19 playoff points (nine goals, five assists). Always a dangler, Datsyuk is always a threat.
Malkin is big and he can score. Having helped bring the Penguins into the playoffs without Crosby, Malkin is a big part of this Pittsburgh team. Malkin also has a good chance in becoming the fourth player to win both the Conn Smythe and Hart Trophy in the same year. So far, Malkin has put up impressive numbers with 19 points in 14 games.
Lidstrom is a gem on defense and has already won the Conn Smythe once in 2002. Now, he is on the verge of becoming the first European captain to win the Stanley Cup if Detroit wins. Lidstrom has been solid once again on defense for Detroit this post-season, with 10 points in 16 games with a +10 plus/ominus rating on defense.
Marian Hossa is finally where he wants to be: On a winning team. After a deadline deal brought Hossa to Pittsburgh, he has finally found his groove on this offensive juggernaut in Pittsburgh. Hossa has notched 11 points in his last six playoff games leading into the Finals.
"The Mule" has been an impact player so far this post-season. Despite a late injury in the third round, Franzen's 12 goals in 11 games leads all post-season goal scoring