Bears

Early Conn Smythe Trophy candidates

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Early Conn Smythe Trophy candidates

Despite being less than half way through the playoffs, some players have already stood above the rest, earning a possible candidacy for the Conn Smyth Trophy, the award given to the most valuable player in the postseason.

NBC's ProHockeyTalk has named five superstars who they believe already show early promise as their teams fight for the Cup.

Claude Giroux -- Giroux is leading the postseason in points by a mile, recording 15 in his last seven games. With a plus-5 rating, Giroux has been an absolute key to his team's success and truly showed all he's capable of in the 'bloodbath' series against Pittsburgh.

Mike Smith -- Although he's not exactly the most liked person in Chicago right now, Smith is proving he can keep up with the big boys. He's faced the most shots throughout the playoffs (316 in eight games) and has had to play in six overtimes.

Jonathan Quick -- The Kings have been put on the map thanks to this guy right here. Quick has made some nearly impossible saves, earning a .955 save percentage and leading LA to a spot in the postseason, despite being the worst offensive team in the league a good majority of the season. Quick is also one of three goalies battling for the Vezina Trophy.

Henrik Lundqvist -- Another candidate for the Vezina, Lundqvist has recorded a .945 save percentage in his last eight games of the postseason. Many analysts predict he will win the award for top goaltending, but he would have to remain very strong against the Capitals and throughout the remainder of the season to beat Quick and possibly even Pekka Rinne.

Andy McDonald -- McDonald has been the Blues' superstar, earning four goals and four assists in six games. He is currently the third highest scorer in the league throughout the postseason, just behind Giroux and Danny Briere of the Flyers. Now the real test is seeing how many he can score on Quick throught the remainder of the Western Conference semi-finals.

While I agree that these five are strong candidates so far, I think Briere needs to be added to the list. Philadelphia's center has recorded seven goals and three assists in his 2012 playoff run. A 38.9 shooting percentage sure isn't too shabby, and helped elevate the Flyers to dominate the Penguins in the first series.

Who do you think is the best candidate for the Conn Smythe at the point in the postseason?

Matt Nagy calls Kevin White a 'great weapon' with a new future

Matt Nagy calls Kevin White a 'great weapon' with a new future

Former first-round pick Kevin White hasn't caught a break -- or a touchdown -- through the first three years of his career. He has more season-ending injuries than 100-yard games and after an offseason focused on upgrades at wide receiver, White's future in Chicago beyond 2018 is very much in doubt.

Ryan Pace declined the fifth-year option in White's rookie contract, making this a prove-it year for the pass-catcher who once resembled a blend of Larry Fitzgerald and Dez Bryant during his time at West Virginia.

He's getting a fresh start by new coach Matt Nagy.

"He is healthy and he's really doing well," Nagy told Danny Kanell and Steve Torre Friday on SiriusXM's Dog Days Sports. "We're trying to keep him at one position right now so he can focus in on that."

White can't take all the blame for his 21 catches, 193 yards and zero scores through 48 possible games. He's only suited up for five. Whether it's bad luck or bad bone density, White hasn't had a legitimate chance to prove, on the field, that he belongs.

Nagy's looking forward, not backward, when it comes to 2015's seventh pick overall.

"That's gone, that's in the past," Nagy said of White's first three years. "This kid has a new future with us."

White won't be handed a job, however.

"He's gotta work for it, he's gotta put in the time and effort to do it," Nagy said. "But he will do that, he's been doing it. He's a great weapon, he's worked really hard. He has great size, good speed. We just want him to play football and not worry about anything else."

Nagy on Trubisky: 'He wants to be the best'

Nagy on Trubisky: 'He wants to be the best'

The Bears concluded their second round of OTAs on Thursday with the third and final set of voluntary sessions scheduled for May 29-June 1. Coach Matt Nagy is bringing a new and complicated system to Chicago, so the time spent on the practice field with the offense and quarterback Mitch Trubisky has been invaluable.

"We’ve thrown a lot at Mitch in the last 2 ½ months,” Nagy told Dog Days Sports’ Danny Kanell and Steve Torre on Friday. “He’s digested it really well.”

Nagy’s implementing the same system he operated with the Chiefs, an offense that brought the best out of Redskins quarterback Alex Smith. The former first-overall pick went from potential draft bust to MVP candidate under Andy Reid and Nagy’s watch.

Nagy admitted he and his staff may have been a little too aggressive with the amount of information thrust upon Trubisky so far.  It took five years to master the offense in Kansas City, he said, but the first-year head coach sees a lot of similarities between his current and past quarterbacks.

"These guys are just wired differently,” Nagy said when comparing Trubisky to Smith. “With Mitch, the one thing that you notice each and every day is this kid is so hungry. He wants to be the best. And he’s going to do whatever he needs to do. He’s so focused.”

Smith had the best year of his career in 2017 and much of the credit belongs to Nagy, who served as Smith’s position coach in each season of his tenure in Kansas City. He threw for eight touchdowns and only two interceptions during the five regular season games that Nagy took over play-calling duties last year.

Nagy said Trubisky has a similar attention to detail that Smith brought to the Chiefs’ quarterback room.

"Each and every detail that we give him means something. It’s not just something he writes down in a book. He wants to know the why,” Nagy said of Trubisky. “He’s a good person that is in this for the right reason. His teammates absolutely love him. It was the same thing with Alex [Smith] in Kansas City.”

A locker room that believes in its quarterback is a critically important variable for success, one that Nagy already sees exists in Chicago.

"When you have that as a coach and when you have that as being a quarterback, not everybody has that, and when you have that you’re in a good spot.”