So, two rounds in
the books and despite some interesting twists, it should come as no surprise at
who the final four contestants will be.
All four teams have been there and won it and are looking for their 2nd
go at the Cup in 5 years.
Despite the presence
of four worthy teams, I'd have to go out of my way not to recognize that the
Penguins are still heavy favorites here.
And from those Penguins come at least 7 worthy candidates for the title
of Playoff MVP. Normally, at this time
of year, I present the top 10 contenders for the Conn Smythe, drawing a few
from each squad; however, given my belief that Pittsburgh will likely wrap this
thing up with relative ease, it's pointless to go through that exercise. Instead, I will focus on the most likely
scenario: Who should get the trophy when the Penguins win the Cup.
1. Thomas Vokoun
It's hard to fathom
now, but the Penguins truly were in trouble in that opening round series with
Fleury between the pipes. Thanks to
off-season Shero brilliance, Coach Bylsma had an obvious answer. And it worked. With so much fire power up front, what this
team needed more than anything was for someone to just stop the bleeding. Vokoun did that and more. He has arguably been the best goalie in the
playoffs, and the one indispensable piece in this Penguin lineup. He's going to have to be good versus the Bruins,
and potentially great against the Hawks (should that happen), but that just
means he'll have to keep doing what he's been doing his whole career.
2. Kris Letang
Letang is currently
one point away from leading the league in points this post-season. Should that hold true through the end of
June, it may be an easy choice. To have
a team this loaded with talent be led in scoring by a defensemen speaks volumes
of Letang's presence, yet it just scratches the surface of what he brings to
this team. It didn't always show in
Round 1, but nobody was better in Round 2 than Letang.
3. Sidney Crosby
Had he suited up to
start the playoffs, he would likely be at the top of the scoring. Having only played 10 games, he trails by a
few points. But that will change, should
he stay healthy. Crosby is the heart of
this team and undisputed best player in the world. It's almost too easy to give him this trophy.
4. Evgeni Malkin
The last time the
Pens won the Cup it was Malkin, not Crosby, that held this honor. Through 2 rounds, he's certainly making a
good case for a repeat. Provided you
don't consider the blind passes to no-one, dumb penalties, and other mental
lapses at all areas of the rink, his every-other-shift offensive brilliance may
be enough to make up for his shortcomings.
5. Jarome Iginla
It feels like Iginla
is just building momentum with each round, to the point where he may
single-handedly dominate the Finals.
Should they face any serious adversity in the final two rounds, it just
may be the new guy that bails them out.
6. James Neal
Before the playoffs,
I picked the Real Deal to hold this trophy.
He made me look silly for a while there, as the goals just wouldn't
come. But alas, the sniper has awoken. 5 goals in the last 2 games. If the pace continues, he'll climb this list
7. Pascal Dupuis
For most of the
post-season thus far, it's been the underrated winger Dupuis that led the team,
and the league in goals. He now stands
tied with Crosby and Patrick Sharp with 7 for tops. Aside from Crosby, Dupuis has been the best
all-around player for the Pens this spring.
Seems a long-shot, but he deserves consideration.
8. Kris Kunitz
A sane argument
could be made that Kunitz is the one piece to the offense that this team cannot
afford to lose. Simply put, he makes
things happen for the stars. He's the
enabler. That's why both Malkin and
Crosby have been vocal in stating they prefer to play with Kunitz. He opens space. He lets them do their magic. And he has shown plenty of magic of his
own. He would have to go on a pretty
good goal scoring tear to leapfrog the big guns, but it could be done.
9/10. Jonathan Quick or Corey Crawford
vote. Truth is, with the top 6 forwards
on this team going at equal pace, they just may split the vote. That leaves open the odd scenario where the
losing team gets the trophy. Should that
happen, it typically only goes to a goalie.