Thursday, June 2, 2011

Final Conn Smythe Update: Timmy at the Top

Hey out there folks! Here’s my breakdown of the top-fifteen candidates for the playoff MVP award, the Conn Smythe. With only two teams remaining, it will be a race to the finish. Both starting goaltenders will be contenders, but this debate has no undeniable leader and it’s anyone’s game. Good luck to all, and I hope to see an amazing final!

15. Tyler Seguin, BOS – After his outstanding outburst and beginning to his NHL playoff career, Bruins’ phenom, Tyler Seguin has cooled off, not registering a point since game two of the Eastern Conference Finals. He has the explosive potential to put himself into the discussion, but it would take a staggering performance to really make him a contender for the Conn Smythe.

14. Brad Marchand, BOS – After scoring eleven points in his first eleven playoff games, the Bruins’ feisty agitating rookie has cooled off significantly, tallying only one point in the series versus Tampa . With Patrice Bergeron looking fully recovered from the concussion which undoubtedly stunted his linesmates’ production, expect Marchand to return to the form he showed earlier, just not enough to win the Conn Smythe.

13. Alexandre Burrows, VAN – The “Robin” to the Sedins’ “Batman 1 & 2”, Burrows has produced a respectable 7-7-14 line through three rounds. He’ll need to visibly pass Henrik and Daniel while scoring some heroic and timely goals to garner the attention needed to win the Conn Smythe.

12. Dennis Seidenberg, BOS (PR-10) – The Bruins highest scorer on defense (tied with Tomas Kaberle), Seidenberg also leads the NHL in minutes played at over 510 minutes. He’ll need to up his scoring as well as helping defensive partner, Zdeno Chara, shut down the Vancouver first line.

11. Christian Ehrhoff, VAN – As one of the leaders in postseason defenseman scoring, (2-9-11), Ehrhoff has to be considered when discussing potential candidates. However, missing two games in the San Jose series hurt his chances, as does his -6 rating in plus/minus.

10. Daniel Sedin, VAN – Daniel is one of the playoff leaders in points and goals (with 15 and 8 respectively). He should have a difficult time (as will his brother) with the at the 6’9” shadow they’ll receive from Boston’s captain. If either he or his brother is more than infrequently successful, the Bruins will be in trouble.

9. Patrice Bergeron, BOS (PR-9) – This pivot has come back from a concussion to be one of the postseason leaders in points and continue to be one of the dominant leaders in faceoffs at a percentage north of 60. Bergeron is in the top five in on-ice +/- per 60, at 2.5, is second in the NHL in points per 60 in 5-on-5 play (at 3.5) for players with more than 7 GP.

8. Henrik Sedin, VAN – As the league’s leading playoff point producer, you might think I have last year’s Hart Trophy winner more than a bit low on my list. But considering his 21 points include only 2 goals and he’s +/- is a bit shocking at -4, I believe he’s if anything I’ve overrated the Swedish playmaker.

7. Zdeno Chara, BOS – Chara may not have the most striking offensive statistics, with a 2-3-5 line, but his leading plus-minus (+11) , incredible time-on-ice (28:18 per game) and excellent shut-down play can make the case for Big Z’s consideration. His GAON/60 (5v5) is the lowest on the Bruins and one of the lowest in this postseason. His relative Corsi (net shots produced relative to his teams’ off-ice net shots) is among the tops in the league. He’s got a tough task ahead in trying to shut down the Sedin twins, but expect Chara to be the stopper that few in this league can match.

6. Kevin Bieksa, VAN – With his four-goal outburst in the Conference Final versus San Jose which included the conference-clinching goal in the overtime of game five, Bieksa put himself into the minds of Conn-Smythe voters. He’s allowed fewer goals per minute on-ice than any other top-pair defenseman in these playoffs. Since the Conn Smythe was first handed out in 1965, only eight defenders have won the award a total of nine times (the great Bobby Orr won twice in 1970 and 1972) – and all of them are Hall-of-Famers or Hall worthy. While Bieksa is good, he’s not widely-regarded as Hall-Worthy.

5. Nathan Horton, BOS – The first player in NHL history to score two game-winning goals in game sevens in a single postseason, Nathan Horton is one of Boston’s leading contenders for the playoff MVP award. With a statline of 8-9-17, Horton can’t but be considered a challenger for the Conn Smythe and his visibile joy and the palpable glee he exudes from his first ever NHL postseason, my guess is he might get some votes.

4. David Krejci, BOS – After a disastrous first round where he only tallied one point, Krejci stepped up and has been the Bruins’ scoring leader with sixteen points (and nine goals) in eleven games. He will have to be just as good if the Bruins have hopes of raising the Stanley Cup this year.

3. Roberto Luongo, VAN (PR-8) – Roberto Luongo’s playoff performance has improved since the Canucks’ opening series with Chicago. Against Chicago, Luongo was pulled from two games and was relplaced as starter in another. Since those seven games, Roberto has produced a save percentage north of .930 and a goals-against average under two in eleven games. If he’s playing like that against the Bruins, he could be looking at the Conn Smythe and Vancouver could be holding the Cup.

2. Ryan Kesler, VAN (PR-4)– Kesler has performed excellently. With a stat-line of 7-11-18, and has been solid at the dot and in the defensive zone. However, his productivity was most noticeable in their second-round series with Nashville, and only produced at a 2-5-7 clip in twelve games in the other two series. With Boston likely clamping down on the Sedins, Kesler’s production may make or break their Stanley Cup bid. He’s received a bit of luck, garnering thrice as many secondary assists on the powerplay as primary assists, which has helped his point totals undeniably.

1. Tim Thomas, BOS (PR-2) – As many said at the start of the 2011 postseason, for Boston to succeed, Tim Thomas would need to be good and, at times – superhuman. Well, to this point, he’s been good if inconsistent, and he’s been superhuman when it required it. In the Bruins last three wins of the series, he allowed one goal on 89 (.989 Sv%)shots. In their other four games, he managed to allow 18 goals on 136 shots (.883 Sv%). The Bruins have lost only one game where they’ve scored more than three goals, and much of the credit is due to Timmy T’s play.

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