A couple of weeks ago when I wrote my article on the top 10 Conn Smythe Trophy favorites, Chicago’s Jonathan Toews didn’t appear anywhere on the list. However, in the intervening time he has arguably leap-frogged every other play other the list, including playoff standouts like Joe Pavelski and Jaroslav Halak, both of whom have seen their stock drop in the third round.
Other early favorites like Sidney Crosby, Mikael Samuelsson, and Tuukka Rask have all been sent packing, and thus are out of contention altogether. Of the remaining players the Montreal Canadiens’ Halak and Mike Cammalleri, and the Philadelphia Flyers’ Mike Richards remain the only legitimate threats to deny Toews the Conn Smythe this year.
Though he had a relatively slow start against the Nashville Predators in round one of the playoffs, Toews has been on a tear ever since. His dominating performance in the Chicago Blackhawks’ series against the Vancouver Canucks is the single biggest reason his team is still competing in this year’s playoffs. Forget Dustin Byfuglien, forget Niemi, if not for Toews and his performance, particularly in the hostile environment of GM Place, the Blackhawks would be golfing right now.
In the first two games of the series with the San Jose Sharks Toews has continued to wield a hot stick, and again proved himself the ultimate road warrior of this year’s playoffs. In two games against the Sharks so far Toews has three more points, giving him 23 overall, good enough for the league lead in that category. His 11 powerplay points are also first among playoff skaters and his 17 road points have helped his Blackhawks win a record-tying 7 straight road playoff games.
Yes, there is still a lot of hockey left to play, and a lot can happen in between now and the time Gary Bettman hands the Stanley Cup to the captain of the 2010 champions, but if Toews continues to play as well as he has been to date it is hard to imagine anyone but him as the favorite to take home the Conn Smythe this year.