There are always heroes in the NHL playoffs, but some stand out more than others. Here's a look at the favorites for this season's Conn Smythe Trophy (playoff MVP). Our experts rank them after each finals game until someone hoists the hardware. (Updated through Game 5.)
1. HENRIK ZETTERBERG
• Stats -- Games: 21; PTS: 25; +/-: 15; PIM: 16; SOG: 110; ATOI: 22:33.
• Summary: The Wings scored twice in 2½ minutes in the third period to turn a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 lead. If that was going to be good enough to earn the Wings a Stanley Cup, it was Zetterberg's doing as he assisted on both goals and was tied with a game-high seven shots on goal.
Trend: How will Zetterberg and Co. respond in Game 6?
2. MARC-ANDRE FLEURY
• Stats -- Record: 14-5; GAA: 1.91; SV %: .934; SO: 3.
• Summary: The Pittsburgh netminder makes a big jump up the Conn Smythe list with his 55-save performance. He stopped 24 in the extra sessions, including 13 in the first overtime when the Red Wings dominated play. The Penguins are still thinking Stanley Cup because of Fleury's efforts.
Trend: Can someone say clutch?
3. NICKLAS LIDSTROM
• Stats -- Games: 21; PTS: 13; +/-: 8; PIM: 14; SOG: 37; ATOI: 26:44.
• Summary: The stylish defenseman led all Red Wings with 45:24 in ice time and was once again the engine driving the high-powered Detroit offense.
Trend: The Norris Trophy finalist won't let this loss get to his head.
4. CHRIS OSGOOD
• Stats -- Record: 13-4; GAA: 1.53; SV %: .931; SO: 3.
• Summary: Although he gave up a playoff-high four goals, Osgood could hardly be faulted on any of the goals. He stopped 28 of 32 Penguins shots.
Trend: The Zen master in net will look to close things out Wednesday.
5. SIDNEY CROSBY
• Stats -- Games: 19; PTS: 26; +/-: 7; PIM: 12; SOG: 57; ATOI: 20:39.
• Summary: Not a particularly strong night for Crosby, even if he did add two assists, including the Penguins' first goal by Marian Hossa. Only Zetterberg played more than Crosby's 34:37 among the game's forwards.
Trend: Crosby will look for more chances, and better matchups, in Game 6.
6. MARIAN HOSSA
• Stats -- Games: 19; PTS: 24; +/-: 8; PIM: 12; SOG: 75; ATOI: 20:52.
• Summary: A newcomer to the Conn Smythe Watch, Hossa enjoyed his best game of the finals in Game 4 in Pittsburgh and followed that up with a strong performance in Game 5. He led the Penguins with six shots and made a nice backhand-to-forehand move on the game's first goal.
Trend: The Penguins will need Hossa's continued efforts if they want to force Game 7.
Dropping out of the top six: Evgeni Malkin.
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STANLEY CUP FINALS -- GAME 5
READ• One for the ages: Petr Sykora scored in triple OT to give the Penguins a 4-3 win over the Wings. No matter how this series ends, we'll remember this game for years to come. Burnside
• Game 5's defining moment: Max Talbot's tying goal with 34.3 seconds left in regulation gave the Penguins life in Game 5. Notebook
• Conn Smythe Watch: Who are the front-runners for playoff MVP? Here's how things stand after Game 5 of the Cup finals. Story
• The Crosby File: How did Sidney Crosby fare in his fifth Cup finals game? Check out our game-by-game report for the Pens' captain. Story
• Hradek's instant analysis: Yesterday's hero is today's goat. Jiri Hudler, who scored the Game 4 winner, was careless in Game 5. Blog
WATCH• Cherry and Melrose break down Game 5
• Crosby, Sykora weigh in on marathon win
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