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2010 Stanley Cup Finals: Who’s the Conn Smythe favorite?

As we gear up for the Stanley Cup finals, we start the incredibly premature breakdowns looking at which players might be the early favorites for the Conn Smythe.

The Chicago Blackhawks and the Philadelphia Flyers have each had players step it up and take their game to the next level, providing the edge each team needed to advance to the Stanley Cup finals.

I know that we focus a lot on what happens in the finals, but the Conn Smyth is an award given to the MVP of the entire playoffs. Of course, a player can’t go super cold in the Cup finals and be expected to win, so I guess all of this is dependent on what happens in the Stanley Cup finals anyway.

Here’s the top three MVP candidates for both teams:

Philadelphia Flyers

Mike Richards; 6 goals, 15 assists, plus-6

The captain of the Flyers is leading his team in points and assists and early in the postseason his leadership helped to give this team the confidence needed to take out the Devils and the Bruins. He set the tone early for the Flyers and the path they would take in the playoffs, and his leadership has continued to be invaluable.

Yet he has just four points in the past five games, and only scored once in the series win against Montreal. He had a monster game in Game 5, but was far from the offensive powerhouse he looked like he might become to start the postseason.

Danny Briere; 9 goals, 9 assists, plus-4

Briere leads his team in playoff goals and in game-winning goals (4) and is the leading goal-scorer among all remaining players in the playoffs. Something just seemed to click with Briere in the playoffs, despite being what many considered perhaps the most frustrating player on the Flyers in the regular season.

Like Richards, Briere went a bit cold against Montreal and that could be held against him. Despite going cold, that he’s still the leading scorer between these two teams (and is tied for the lead in game-winning goals) just goes to show exactly how good he was in the first two rounds.

Claude Giroux; 8 goals, 9 assists, plus-10

Giroux has been instrumental in the Flyers’ success and has quietly racked up some great numbers. Leads all remaining players in plus/minus, leads the Flyers in shot percentage and has just four penalty minutes in 17 games.


He’s a smart, yet physical and defensive player on a team known for it’s physicality and dumbness from time to time. That’s what is most important on a long playoff run like this one, a player to keep the team grounded. That’s what Giroux has been for the Flyers.

Just missed: Chris Pronger, Brian Boucher, Michael Leighton

Chicago Blackhawks

Jonathan Toews, 7 goals, 19 assists, plus-4

The player that was denied a Selke this past season is leading all players in the playoffs with 19 asists and 26 points, with just four penalty minutes in 16 games. He has a point in 13 straight playoff games, including one monster performance against Vancouver with a hat trick and five points.

While he doesn’t have a ton of goals, he’s been instrumental in nearly every major goal scored by the Hawks this postseason. Forget the stats, just watching Toews on the ice you can easily see just how well he’s playing. He dominates nearly every shift, and has been able to not only be a defensive shutdown specialist but also become the best playmaking center in the playoffs. Better than Henrik Sedin, Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin and every other star that’s no longer in the playoffs.

Dustin Byfuglien; 8 goals, 2 assists, minus-3

Big Buff leads the Hawks in goals and game-winning goals, but has just two assists and doesn’t have the best plus/minus you’d want from an MVP candidate. Yet there’s no doubting just how much he’s done for the Hawks, not just in scoring some tremendous goals but with his attitude and approach as well.

Byfuglien has used his combination of size and skill to frustrate the opposition all postseason, getting Roberto Luongo and then Evgeni Nabokov off their game, crashing the net and wreaking havoc at every turn. The Blackhawks were talented last season but were disappointed against the Red Wings. This is generally the same team as last year, but Byfuglien’s is the the performance that has put the Hawks over the top this season.

Antti Niemi; 12-4-0, 2.33 GAA, .921 save %, 2 shutouts

He’s been incredible. He’s playing the best he ever has for the Chicago Blackhawks, and while it’s tough to say “they wouldn’t be here without him” he certainly gave the Hawks the confidence they would need he can be relied upon to steal some wins in the postseason.

The Blackhawks’ normally solid defense fell apart a bit against the Sharks, allowing 91 shots in two games; Niemi allowed just three goals in those two games and lead his team to two closely played one-goal games. He’s been the difference in net that the Hawks were hoping they’d have for a long postseason run.

Just missed: Patrick Kane, Dave Bolland, Brent Seabrook

The favorite:

Unfortunately for the Flyers, right now this award comes down to two of the Blackhawks players. The Flyers have been able to win with incredible team efforts and big performances up and down the roster, but the Blackhawks have two players that have outperformed not just their own teammates, but the rest of the playoff field as well.

Of course, the decision won’t be made until after the Stanley Cup finals. Projecting Jonathan Toews and Antti Niemi forward, you have to think that right now this is Toews’ award to lose. There is no doubt just how dominant he has been at times, as he’s perfectly balanced his game between penalty killing specialist and other-worldly playmaking center. He’s riding a 13-game point streak and it doesn’t seem like there’s going to be anything to slow him down anytime soon.