The playoffs aren’t over yet, but they play the regular season All-Star Game halfway through the year, so I feel comfortable nominating the 2008 Playoff All-Star Team just prior to Game 4 of the final.
GOALIE – Martin Biron, Philadelphia
Dallas stopper Marty Turco is a fine choice, too, but he needed a few post-season go-arounds before finally figuring out how to win in the spring. Biron, meanwhile, shone in his first-ever playoff opportunity, leading the Flyers to the Eastern Conference final before hitting the Pittsburgh problem. His best work came against Montreal in Round 2; put Biron in the Canadiens’ crease and rookie Carey Price in Philadelphia’s net, and the Habs win that series in five games.
Chris Osgood, Detroit
He took over from Dominik Hasek after Game 4 in the first round – when Nashville had won two in a row to tie the series 2-2 – and went on to win eight straight contests, then pitched a pair of shutouts in the first two games of the Stanley Cup final. From Wings backup goalie to Conn Smythe Trophy candidate. Not Os-bad.
DEFENSE – Niklas Kronwall, Detroit
The guy who used to be best known for getting hurt is finally doing the hurting, both on the scoreboard and on opposing forwards.
Stephane Robidas, Dallas
He needed a full facemask after a puck to the face broke his nose in the first round, but the undersized Stars defenseman continued to play with fury at both ends. Three goals and 11 points in 18 games, too.
Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit
Don’t know if you’ve heard, but IKEA is going to start mass-producing defensemen. Guess who they’re going to use as the prototype?
Marc Staal, NY Rangers
Hey, it’s not often 21-year-old rookie defensemen see their ice time increase by nearly four minutes per game in the playoffs compared to the regular season. Staal was poised in the post-season, playing a strong 22-plus minutes a night – and he even chipped in a game-winning goal after scoring just twice in 80 regular season games. A plus-4 rating in 10 post-season matches sits well with coaches, too.
FORWARDS – Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh
His two-goal performance in Game 3 against Detroit – which gave the Penguins a much-needed boost of confidence and restored some intrigue into the Stanley Cup final after the Wings’ clinical dominance in the first two games – is almost enough on its own to merit Crosby’s inclusion on the playoff all-star team. Never mind he’s vying for the post-season scoring lead and, should the Pens pull off an improbable comeback, would be a leading Conn Smythe candidate. Win or lose in the final, Crosby is living up to the hype. And that’s saying something.
Henrik Zetterberg, Detroit
He’s Crosby’s competition for the playoff point crown; unlike Crosby, he kills penalties, too. Twelve goals, including three game-winners and two shorthanded; 23 points in 19 games; an NHL-best plus-15 rating…if Detroit wins – which remains very, very likely – Zetterberg should be the playoff MVP.
Brenden Morrow, Dallas
Timely scoring and time-stopping bodychecks vaulted this underrated power forward into prominence this post-season. If you squinted, Morrow looked like Jarome Iginla out there.
Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit
A strong finish in the final, and it might be Datsyuk who skates away with playoff MVP honors. The silky smooth skater – you have to say that when describing Datsyuk; it’s in the NHL Official Guide & Record Book – with sublime offensive instincts has added an unexpected weapon to his arsenal this spring: he hits like a little Kronwall.
Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh
His disappearance in the first three games of the final notwithstanding, Malkin has had a great playoff. Like he did in the regular season, he stepped up whenever Crosby slowed down. A nickel says the pounding the Flyers put on him in Round 3 is the reason he’s been invisible in the final. Not to mention, Game 4 will be his 100th of the season (not including exhibition contests), nearly twice what he played two years ago in his last Russian campaign. Are these excuses? Yes. But without Malkin, the Pens might not be in the final in the first place.
Johan Franzen, Detroit
Thirteen goals, including an NHL-best five game-winners, in 13 games is too much offense to ignore. A physical presence, too.
Sam McCaig’s From The Point appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Have a point to make with Sam McCaig? You can reach him at email@example.com.
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