Who will win the Conn Smythe?
A look at five of the top candidates for the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player of the Stanley Cup playoffs:
Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Anaheim - It has been repeated in hockey media over and over: Giguere is the story of the playoffs. The 26-year-old Montreal native has almost single-handedly carried the Ducks to the Stanley Cup final.
After 19 playoff games, Giguere has the NHL's best goals-against average (1.54), the most saves (611) and the best save percentage (.949). And he has already broken two of Patrick Roy's playoff records in overtime - seven wins and the longest shutout stretch (168 minutes 27 seconds).
Giguere could become the first player since Ron Hextall in 1987 to win the Conn Smythe trophy on a losing team. However, his sub-par performance in Game 5, when he let in six goals, may have hurt his chances.
Martin Brodeur, New Jersey - Once again, the NHL's best goalie has been stalwart between the pipes for New Jersey. Brodeur provides that kind of reliability that gives his team the confidence to concentrate on scoring.
Brodeur leads the post-season in shutouts (6) and is second in GAA (1.56), saves (540) and save percentage (.938). The 31-year-old Montreal native has made plenty of highlight reel saves and was particularly effective in the Eastern Conference final against the Ottawa Senators.
Although Brodeur has out-played Giguere in the final, he has looked shaky at times. In Game 3 he let in what was likely one of the most embarrassing goals of his career. On a routine shoot-in by the Ducks' Sandis Ozolinsh, Brodeur dropped his stick. The puck deflected off the stick, trickled through Brodeur's legs and into the net.
Jamie Langenbrunner, New Jersey - Langenbrunner is fast becoming the consummate playoff performer. The 27-year-old Minnesota native leads the playoffs in scoring with 11 goals - four of them game winners - and seven assists in 22 games. He had only 22 goals all season.
The Devils acquired Langenbrunner in a trade with the Dallas Stars in 2002. In the 1999 playoffs when the Stars won the Stanley Cup, Langenbrunner had 10 goals - three of them game winners. He also assisted on four other game winners.
Just when it looks like Langenbrunner has disappeared in a game, he seems to come out of nowhere to score. Example: In Game 5, the Devils were leading 3-2 in the third period but the Ducks were pressing. Langenbrunner, who had been quiet all night, scored two quick goals to put the game out of reach.
John Madden, New Jersey - Madden has been arguably the heart and soul of the Devils this post-season. He is consistently one of the hardest working players on the ice. The speedy centre does it all: he skates, forechecks, hits, shoots, and is not afraid to go into the corners.
Madden's hard work has translated into six goals and nine assists in 22 games, third on the team in scoring and fifth overall. When the 28-year-old Barrie, Ont.-native gets control of the puck and takes off on a rush, he is one of the most dangerous players on the ice.
Madden's heart was on full display in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup final when he suffered a long gash on his cheek in the first period. After getting stitched up, he returned later in the period wearing a visor. By the second period, the visor was gone.
Despite the cut, Madden continued to his characteristic gritty play taking hits, handing them out, and making things happen on the ice.
Scott Niedermayer, New Jersey - One of the smoothest-skating defencemen in the NHL, Niedermayer has been a pillar of strength on the blueline both offensively and defensively for the Devils.
Niedermayer has two goals and 14 assists in 22 playoffs games, good for second on the team in scoring and tied for third overall. He is the top scoring defenceman in the playoffs.
Niedermayer also leads the Devils in ice time playing an average of 26:09 per game. The 29-year-old Cranbrook, B.C.-native plays on both the power play and the penalty-killing units.
Niedermayer displayed his immense talent during a spectacular end-to-end rush that resulted in a goal by Langenbrunner in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup final.