ESPN, and more specifically senior writer Scott Burnside, have revealed their top 5 Conn Smythe candidates and the first thing you'll notice about this list is that it doesn't contain any members of the San Jose Sharks.
Burnside list 5 Penguins in all, but only three that we believe have a real shot at claiming the award. The first of what we believe to be his dark horse picks is forward Nick Bonino, who after being acquired from the Vancouver Canucks in a trade has proven to be an exceptionally valuable asset in the playoffs. Bonino is tied for 2nd in team scoring with 17 playoff points.
The second dark horse is defenseman Kris Letang, it goes without saying that he has been a massive part of the Penguins defense so far this post season, but his suspension earlier in the playoffs could work against him, and with so many big performances at other positions, we fill Letang is likely to be overlooked.
Of the three candidates who are more likely to win the award we feel the strongest candidate is the most obvious, Penguins captain Sidney Crosby. Crosby like Bonino is tied for second in team scoring with 17 points, and he is the face of the franchise as well as their captain.
Up next is forward Phil Kessel who has been nothing short of amazing in the post season for Pittsburgh. After a much maligned tenure in Toronto Kessel has dominated the post season with nearly a point a game, 21 points in 22 contests. There seems to be a lot of fan support for a Phill Kessel Conn Smythe award and that could also play in his favor.
Last but certainly not least could arguably be said to be the most deserving of the award. Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Matt Murray went from American Hockey League goaltender, to playoff hero in the space of roughly two months time. To say that he has saved the Penguins from what was a devastating injury to starter Marc-Andre Fleury would be understating it, and in fact appears to have usurped Fleury as the Penguins #1 goaltender as a result.
If the Penguins do win the Stanley Cup, a big performance in that final game, whenever it may come in this series, could be the tipping point for any of these players.