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The Hockey News

Despite valiant comeback attempts from the Flyers and Stars, the East and West championship series lost luster after both the Penguins and Wings jumped out to near-insurmountable leads before finally advancing.

Thankfully, it appears the 2008 version of the Stanley Cup final has all the makings of a classic, with two teams that aren’t afraid to play an up-tempo skill game.

But before we look forward to Saturday’s Game 1, let’s look back at the top individual performances from the conference finals.

As I did for Rounds 1 and 2, here are my selections for the standout players, based solely on third round play.

Most Valuable Player – Henrik Zetterberg, Detroit

The sweet Swede is a beast at both ends of the ice and ran roughshod over the Stars, racking up four goals and eight points to go along with a plus-5. Another underrated stat: The 27-year-old never dropped below a 58.8 faceoff winning percentage in any game and three times won 70 percent or more of his draws. Take away leading goal-scorer Johan Franzen and the Wings don’t miss a beat; take away Zetterberg and things get messy quickly.

Honorable mentions: Marian Hossa, Pittsburgh; Marty Turco, Dallas

Best Player – Marian Hossa, Pittsburgh

If Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin aren’t enough, here comes Marian Hossa outshining them both in Round 3. The slick Slovak slid in four goals among nine points against the Flyers and looked dangerous every time he was on the ice. If there were still questions about his ability to perform when games matter the most, they’ve been answered. Honorable mentions: Henrik Zetterberg, Detroit; Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh

Best Goalie – Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh

Sometimes my own words taste bitter as hell and I know it all too well as I’ve had to eat a bunch of them after vehemently suggesting all season the Pens would be ill advised not to nab a veteran netminder for their Cup run. The 23-year-old has been phenomenal all playoff long and left the Flyers scratching their heads more often than not. Honorable mentions: Marty Turco, Dallas; Chris Osgood, Detroit

Best Defenseman – Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit

The soon-to-be named Norris Trophy winner simply controls a game like no other, and he’s been the Wings’ second best defender behind Niklas Kronwall at times in these playoffs. Team Canada should be more worried about Sweden than Russia at the 2010 Olympics. Honorable mentions: Sergei Gonchar, Pittsburgh; Niklas Kronwall, Detroit.

Top Rookie – Kristopher Letang, Pittsburgh

The pickings were slim in the third round as no conference finalist had a big name rookie. That’s not to take anything away from Letang, however, who hit the ice for more than 20 shifts in each game against the Flyers and was an impressive plus-6.

Honorable mentions: Nicklas Grossman, Dallas; Darren Helm, Detroit.'s Playoff Blogs, featuring analysis and opinion on the action from the night before, with insight on what happened and what it all means going forward, will appear daily throughout the NHL playoffs. Read more entries HERE.

Edward Fraser is the editor of His blog appears Thursdays.

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