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2015 Stanley Cup Final: Blackhawks, Lightning Conn Smythe frontrunners

Who are the top candidates to win playoff MVP?

Scott Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

And then there were two. A battle-tested team in the Chicago Blackhawks is set to face off against the fresh-face Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2015 Stanley Cup Final starting Wednesday night.

With the matchup set, it's time to narrow the focus on who might be leading the pack for the Conn Smythe Trophy, awarded to the playoff MVP. With seven exceptions, the winners have all been Canadian. The seven non-Canadian winners include Patrick Kane (2013). Only five times has the winner been a member of the defeated team in the Final.

Jonathan Toews (2010) and Kane are the only two Hawks to have won the award. Hawks center Brad Richards won the award with the Lightning in 2004. Here are the top contenders for both teams:


  1. Patrick Kane, right wing: Entering the playoffs, many questioned whether Kane was 100 percent after missing seven weeks with a broken clavicle. But 10 goals (second-best in the league) and 20 points (tied for second-best) in 17 games; there's no sign of rust.
  2. Duncan Keith, defenseman: His 18 points lead all defenseman this postseason. Both of his goals were game-winners, including a crucial double-overtime score against the Nashville Predators in the first-round. Keith was the star of the Western Conference final with the Hawks shorthanded on the blue line, and playing in so many overtime games, he is averaging an incredible 31 minutes a night. And he's shows no sign of slowing down.
  3. Jonathan Toews, center: The Hawks captain set the tone with the first two goals in Game 7 on Saturday and remains tied with Keith for the Hawks playoff point total lead at 18. Toews has found the back of the net nine times this postseason, trailing only Kane among Hawks players. Toews became the first player in NHL history to collect multiple goals on the road in Game 5 and 7 in the conference final, according to Elias. What has also set Toews apart is his dominance at the faceoff circle: He has won 218 of 403 draws (54 percent).


  1. Ben Bishop, goaltender: In his first postseason, Bishop had a few bumps in the road, including being pulled in one game each of the past two rounds. But he has stood tall when it matters the most -- facing elimination. In the first round against the Red Wings and Friday against the Rangers, he stopped all 53 shots he faced. Bishop posted two shutouts the Eastern Conference final against the Rangers, and he holds the league-lead with three. He holds a 2.15 goals-against average for fifth best in the league, and a .920 save percentage for eighth. He has been in net for 12 of Tampa Bay's wins.
  2. Tyler Johnson, center: Step aside, captain Steven Stamkos this has been Johnson's team this postseason. He has delivered one clutch performance after another, scoring a league-best 12 goals, including four game-winners, and 21 points. He also has seven multi-point games, including three against the Rangers. Not bad for a guy who went undrafted.
  3. Nikita Kucherov, right wing: The 21-year-old Russian only played in two NHL playoff games before this year, but his performance certainly doesn't reflect it. In the first round, he posted three assists in Game 6 against Detroit and has tallied 15 points in his next 14 games. Three of Kucherov's nine goals (fourth-best in the league) are game-winners.
*Players are listed in alphabetical order.

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