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No clear favourite in assessing who'll win NHL's playoff MVP award

"That's great," says Anaheim goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere. "That means we have a good team with a lot of guys contributing every night. "Quite frankly, that's the way it should be if you want to win the Stanley Cup." Skating into position to hoist the prized silver trophy has been the Ducks' mission. To them, who wins the Conn Smythe Trophy is irrelevant.

"To be honest, nobody cares," Giguere said after practice Tuesday.

Here's a look at the leading candidates for MVP honours:

Giguere: The positional play of the goalie with the big pads is so sound, opponents often can't see net at which to shoot. Giguere has a 1.97 goals-against average and .925 save percentage with one shutout.

He could become the sixth player in league history to be named MVP a second time, yet, most of the selected members of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association who will cast the ballots aren't talking him up to the extent they were four years ago when he took home the Smythe. When the then-Mighty Ducks lost to New Jersey in a seven-game final in 2003, the native of Montreal had numbers - 1.62 GAA and a .958 save percentage with five shutouts-that made him an obvious pick. His stats aren't as good this time, and voters are looking around for an alternative.

Samuel Pahlsson: The Ducks have limited the effectiveness of Ottawa's top line of Jason Spezza between Daniel Alfredsson and Dany Heatley, and the line of Pahlsson with Rob Niedermayer and Travis Moen gets the credit. Pahlsson, in particular, has been an all-around threat. Besides his pesky checking job, he has three goals including two game-winners, and he's picked up eight assists. He's an impressive plus-seven on the plus-minus chart. The Swede also been dominant on faceoffs to give the Ducks puck possession at critical times. He had an equally effective presence against Anaheim's previous opponents.

Andy McDonald: The nifty Ducks centre from Strathroy, Ont., shot into Smythe contention with a two-goal effort in Game 4 that increased his post-season total to a team-best nine goals. Four of McDonald's goals have been scored on power plays. He's taken a team-high 62 shots on goal. It is hard to believe he was ignored by every team in his NHL draft year. He's finally getting the prime-time recognition he deserves.

Chris Pronger: The towering defenceman from Dryden, Ont., has been such a big factor for the Ducks that he'll get consideration despite twice receiving one-game suspensions for high hits on Tomas Holmstrom and Dean McAmmond in the post-season. His plus-nine is best on his team, his average ice time per game of 30 minutes 44 seconds is tops among Ducks skaters, and his intimidating swagger has caused opponents to shrink. He's been dirty at times, which is why he might not get enough votes to win the Smythe, but he's got three goals and 11 assists and has been a blue-line standout.

Scott Niedermayer: There was some surprise when Niedermayer wasn't named MVP four years ago when he led the Devils to their third title. The Ducks' captain has been a steadying influence on a sometimes erratic team. The wear and tear of so many long seasons might be showing a bit, but the native of Cranbrook, B.C., makes so seldom errs that he's oft been described as the closest thing to perfect that an NHL defenceman can be.

Daniel Alfredsson: Ottawa's captain leads all playoff goal scorers with 12. Trouble is, the Senators are down 3-1 and he's not had the same impact in the championship series as he had in previous rounds. Adding to the declining numbers of the Alfredsson lobby was his slap shot at Niedermayer at the end of the second period of Game 4. The Swede is left with little support among Smythe selectors.

Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza: The two Senators are tied for the league playoff points lead with 22 each, but their ineffectiveness in the final - give Pahlsson's line the credit - renders their MVP chances to microscopically tiny proportions. Heatley got a big goal in a losing effort Monday but the Calgarian's weak efforts along the boards have been noted. As for Spezza, the vanishing act by the native of Mississauga, Ont., has not done any good for his reputation.


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