2011 NHL Playoffs: The Top 10 Candidates for the Conn Smythe Trophy
As the Stanley Cup Finals matchup is almost set, the candidates for the Conn Smythe Trophy are narrowing.
Since we won't know until tonight if the Boston Bruins or Tampa Bay Lightning will represent the Eastern Conference, players from both teams still have a shot at the Conn Smythe.
The Conn Smythe is often awarded to the player who leads the point race at the end, unless another player has given a truly outstanding performance, such as a goaltender.
Here are the top 10 Conn Smythe candidates as of right now.
10. Zdeno Chara
Coming in at 6'9", the Boston Bruins' Zdeno Chara is one of the most physical forces on the ice.
It should come as no surprise then, that teams often find it difficult to score while the Slovakian defenseman is on the ice.
Chara currently leads the NHL in plus/minus rating, at a plus-11.
If the Bruins stop the Tampa Bay Lightning to advance to the Finals, it will be due in large part to their captain.
9. Sean Bergenheim
Sean Bergenheim has really come into his own during the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
During the entire 2010-11 regular season, Bergenheim tallied 14 goals and a total 29 points.
In just 16 games in the playoffs, Bergenheim has tallied nine goals and 11 points. Bergenheim's goal-scoring in the playoffs has helped the Lightning be successful thus far.
Bergenheim is currently day-to-day with an undisclosed injury, so it is uncertain whether or not he will play in Game 7 and in the Finals, if the Lightning advance.
However, if he does and he manages to continue his point-scoring, Bergenheim is a good candidate for the Conn Smythe.
8. David Krejci
David Krejci has gotten hot for the Boston Bruins over the last two series.
Krejci started out slow in the playoffs, with just one point in the series against the Montreal Canadiens. However, he began the four-game sweep of the Philadelphia Flyers with two goals and two assists.
He hasn't stopped since.
In Game 6, Krejci scored a hat trick, putting him at 10 goals, tying him with Martin St. Louis for the lead in playoff goals.
Krejci has a total 16 points in the playoffs. If the Bruins win Game 7, Krejci will likely rack up even more points in the ensuing Finals.
7. Vincent Lecavalier
Vincent Lecavalier is third in playoff scoring, behind Vancouver's Henrik Sedin and fellow Tampa Bay Lightning Martin St. Louis.
This after an up-and-down 2010-11 season that was scattered with injuries for Lecavalier.
Lecavalier has found his groove in the playoffs, with six goals and 13 assists.
If the Lightning win tonight, he will for sure come up big for the Lightning in the Finals.
6. Dwayne Roloson
Coming into the 2010-11 season, there were a lot of questions surrounding the Tampa Bay Lightning's inconsistent goaltending. The acquisition of Dwayne Roloson has helped the Lightning solve that.
Roloson has been dominant in the playoffs, with a .920 save percentage and 2.6 GAA.
Roli ran into some trouble in this series, but after losing his starting job in Game 5, came back and hung on for the win in Game 6.
Expect even more from Roloson to come. Roli has been historically dominant in elimination games and Game 7s. In fact, in his last Game 7, Roloson shut the Penguins out.
5. Tim Thomas
Against the hot-scoring Tampa Bay Lightning, Tim Thomas has had to be on his toes.
During the regular season, Thomas was the hottest goaltender in the NHL.
In the playoffs, he has a .926 save percentage and 2.42 GAA.
If the Bruins defeat the Lightning to face the Vancouver Canucks, Thomas will have to be at his absolute best. When he is, the Bruins are a very difficult team to beat.
4. Roberto Luongo
Roberto Luongo has faced a lot of criticism in his career and this playoffs.
However, any issues that Luongo has had seem to have been settled. He's had his ups and downs, but for now just seems to be on the up.
Which is very dangerous for opponents.
Luongo has a .922 save percentage and 2.29 GAA.
Another scary thing about Luongo and the Canucks is that they have needed one less game per series to clinch. A large part of this has been Luongo stepping up when he most needs to.
3. Ryan Kesler
Ryan Kesler is a difference-maker.
Kesler hadn't scored any goals against Chicago and tallied only four assists in the entire series.
Then, he blew up against the Nashville Predators, scoring 11 points, six assists and five goals.
Kesler scored two goals and one assist against the San Jose Sharks. However, he scored one of the two most important goals in the series: the tying goal forcing overtime in Game 5. This after leaving the game for some time with an injury.
That goal helped the Canucks go on to win the game and clinch the series at home. The series could have ended much differently if the Sharks had gotten the chance to extend the series and return to the Shark Tank.
2. Henrik Sedin
The Sedin twins have often been criticized for not playing as well during the playoffs as they do during the regular season.
They may have started out slowly this year, but Henrik Sedin worked quickly to take the lead in point-scoring, as well as assists.
Sedin has accumulated 21 points, 19 of them assists, in the playoffs and seems to be just getting started.
The captain will for sure play a large role in the Finals.
1. Martin St. Louis
The best word to describe Martin St. Louis is a warrior.
As one of the few remaining players from the Tampa Bay Lightning's 2004 Stanley Cup win, he has helped lead this young team into the Eastern Conference Finals.
St. Louis is tied for first in most playoff goals and is second in the points race.
However, what has helped his team more than the points he scores is his leadership presence. He knows how to help his young teammates along in their development.
If the Tampa Bay Lightning win the Stanley Cup, Marty St. Louis should win the Conn Smythe.