It’s a day of mixed emotions. On one hand, we could see the Stanley Cup awarded tonight; but on the other, tonight could be the last NHL game until the fall. If the cup is won tonight, that means one more award will be given out as well, the trophy for playoff MVP.
The Conn Smythe Trophy almost always goes to a member of the winning team, and if it’s awarded tonight, it will be kissed by a Blackhawk. If you ask me, the winner is obvious. It has to go to Antti Niemi.
Niemi has been solid in net for Chicago all throughout the playoffs and has been everything they could have asked for. While Michael Leighton was the hottest of goalies at one point in the post-season, Neimi has been the most consistent, start to finish.
He boasts a .911 save percentage through 21 games, and owns a GAA of 2.62. While those numbers are only (only) 5th and 6th, respectively, Neimi has done enough to win games for his team—a category he ranks first in.
Some will argue that the award should go to Jonathan Toews, the playoff points leader with 28. But 21 of those are assists, only seven of them are goals. Don’t get me wrong, assists are important, but come playoff time it’s all about goals—or in this case, stopping them. Toews’ production has also slumped in the finals: no goals, two assists, and a minus-4 rating.
Toews has three game-winning goals in the playoffs, but you have to believe Neimi has won more games for Chicago than that.
Other players on Chicago that have a shot (a long one, but a shot nonetheless) are, in my opinion, Patrick Sharp, Duncan Keith and Dustin Byfuglien.
Sharp has been playing out of his mind and is a bona-fide sniper. Keith is quickly becoming one of the most talented and feared defensemen in the game, and Byfuglien leads the league with five game-winners.
I doubt the award would go to a Flyer if they lose the series, but worthy candidates include Danny Briere and Chris Pronger. Michael Leighton gets an honorable mention, but he has been too shaky in the finals to warrant the award. Claude Giroux and Ville Leino have also been very impressive in the playoffs, but they’re not quite at Conn Smythe Award level.