x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Kesler and Thomas lead the NHL play-off MVP pack

The play-offs MVP debate can now begin in earnest but we can safely assume that the 2011 winner will be a Bruin or a Canuck.

The play-offs MVP debate can now begin in earnest. The Conn Smythe Trophy, awarded to the best player of the post-season, has never been given to a player whose team did not make it to the Stanley Cup finals. So we can safely assume that the 2011 play-off MVP will be a Bruin or a Canuck.

There are a number of them are in the running, but Vancouver's Ryan Kesler is the leading candidate. He shut down Chicago star Jonathan Toews in Round 1, then scored or assisted on 11 of the Canucks' 14 goals against Nashville in Round 2. In Game 5 of Round 3, he returned from a leg injury to score the tying goal with 14 seconds left, and Vancouver went to clinch the series in overtime.

Kesler once was known as an on-ice yapper, but he has become an inspirational leader who now lets his play do the talking.

Boston's best player has been the goalie, Tim Thomas.

He allows his team to play with the confidence that their goalie will keep them in games with clutch saves. He will have to be a difference-maker for the Bruins to win the cup.

If they do he likely will be named MVP.

The second tier of candidates includes the Sedin twins, Henrik and Daniel, who could break from the pack with one more scoring outburst; Boston's big defenceman, Zdeno Chara; the Canucks' goalie, Roberto Luongo, who might be a victim, in the MVP race, of the talented team in front of him; and the Bruins' centre, Patrice Bergeron, who is effective at both ends of the ice.