USATSI_8599680_154158418_lowresThe NHL may well be awarding the Stanley Cup in just a few short hours in Chicago. The Blackhawks will have to defeat the Tampa Bay Lightning in order to do it and that won’t be easy, but the ultimate prize in sports will be in the United Center.

A less significant but certainly important prize will also be dished out when the Conn Smythe is awarded for playoff MVP and most sportswriters and fans are leaning toward the one and only Duncan Keith to win this one.

The argument is easy to make, as I discussed just a little while ago. Keith is logging major minutes (over a half hour a night) and putting up major possession numbers. He’s found the scoreboard and he contributes at both ends of the ice with equal skill. He’s tied for the NHL lead in playoff points at even strength, too.

If there’s a downside to the Keith pick, it’s that he hasn’t been as overwhelming against Tampa as he was over the first several rounds of the playoffs. Will that matter?

If Chicago wins it tonight, Keith will likely win the Conn Smythe and that will be that. But if Tampa can pull it out and force a Game Seven, we could be looking at a different picture in the paper.

Victor Hedman comes into the argument if play returns to Florida. He was dominant early in the Final, some might argue even more dominant than Keith, but he was involved in that fracas in Game Five and that could remove just a few brownie points for the voters. Hedman drove possession throughout the regular season for Tampa and those efforts continues in the post-season.

And considering the high level of competition he’s been playing against, Hedman certainly deserves another nod not just for hanging in against Chicago but for shutting them down.

Hedman is Tampa’s top choice for the Conn Smythe, easily. Ben Bishop has had too many poor showings and Tyler Johnson, despite the success of the Triplets line, has to be a long shot.

Which puts the focus back on Chicago and to the likes of Jonathan Toews and Corey Crawford, two possible winners. Toews has been stellar at times, but he’s been a little more contained in the Final and that may not bode well for the voters. And Crawford has put up good numbers against Tampa and may be the THE reason they’re looking to lock it up tonight.

So much of this hinges on who wins Game Six, of course, but there are some solid arguments to be made for several players winning the Conn Smythe. Who’s your pick?

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