Tuesday, May 31, 2011

{allcanada} Five candidates lead Conn Smythe race for NHL playoffs MVP

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In addition to crowning an NHL champion, the Stanley Cup Final will sort out who wins the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.

A look at some of the early candidates from each team:

Ryan Kesler (FSY)  , Vancouver Canucks: Kesler contributes with faceoff wins, hard checks and defensive work besides offense. Still, it was noticeable when he was held without a goal for the first nine games. Then he erupted for five goals and 11 points in the final five games of the second-round series against the Nashville Predators. Against the San Jose Sharks, he scored in each of the final two games, including the tying goal in the final minute of the clincher.

"He literally put the team on his shoulders and scored huge goals for us," teammate Mason Raymond (FSY)   said of Kesler's performance in the second round. "Last series he was a horse again."

Kesler had scored in Game 5 despite leaving the game for a while with a leg injury. "Ryan has been a warrior all year," Raymond said. "He's been through a lot, and he continues to produce and be a leader for our team."

Henrik Sedin (FSY)  , Canucks: While Kesler was going wild in the second round, Henrik and brother Daniel were relatively quiet. Then Henrik tied a franchise record with 12 points in a series in the Western Conference finals. He reached the mark in five games, while Pavel Bure (FSY)   needed seven in 1995.

Henrik set up six of the seven goals in the final two games of the series to move atop the playoff scoring list with 21 points.

Roberto Luongo (FSY)  , Canucks: He sat out Game 6 of the first round as the Chicago Blackhawks threatened to overcome a 3-0 series deficit. Back in for Game 7, he has yielded two or fewer goals in nine of his last 12 games. He has stopped 108 of 112 shots in the Canucks' three series clinchers.

Tim Thomas (FSY)  , Boston Bruins: Like Luongo, Thomas is a Vezina Trophy finalist. Though he has had a few off games, he has been brilliant in others. He had two shutouts against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference finals and made 33 stops, including a diving stick save on Steve Downie (FSY)  , in another.

"Throughout the playoffs, he's come up with game-saving saves in all of our big games," Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid (FSY)   said. "He has been a big-time player in all those games, and that's probably something you look for in somebody you are going to give the Conn Smythe to, right?

"The competitive part is the biggest thing. It looks like he's all over the place, but it's just his competitive nature that he's not giving up on the play."

Patrice Bergeron (FSY)  , Bruins: Boston saw his value when he missed Games 1 and 2 of the conference finals and it was dominated in the faceoff circle. Bergeron has won 62.3% of his draws and has 15 points in 16 games.

"Bergeron to us is what Kesler is to them," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "He brings the same elements. He shows up, plays hard every game. He's a great faceoff guy. Power play, penalty kill, (he) does it all for us."

Malhotra misses practice

Vancouver's Manny Malhotra (FSY)   (eye) missed practice Tuesday. Though Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said Saturday that Malhotra had been medically cleared to play, general manager Mike Gillis said differently. "This has been a day-to-day thing all along," Gillis said. "He hasn't been cleared to play yet. He was cleared for some contact. He gets monitored every day. Today was a day where they felt it would be best if he stayed away for today."

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