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Seven early Conn Smythe Trophy candidates

by Dan Rosen / Chicago Blackhawks
Bill Smith / Chicago Blackhawks

The First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs is over. Eight teams have advanced, the second round begins Thursday, and several players have emerged as potential MVP candidates.

It might be too early to crown a champion, way too early in fact, but it's never too early to look at some possible Conn Smythe Trophy candidates.

Here are seven players who emerged in the first round, listed in no particular order:

Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins

Rask, the Bruins goalie, gave up only six goals in Boston's five-game series win against the Detroit Red Wings. He leads the NHL after the first round with a 1.16 goals-against average and .961 save percentage.

Rask had a shutout streak of 88:33 from 2:27 of Game 2 until Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall scored at 11:00 of the first period in Game 4. He had a 23-save shutout in Game 3.

Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks

Toews didn't just score goals for the Blackhawks in their six-game series win against the St. Louis Blues; he scored game-winning goals.

Toews' three goals against the Blues were all game-winners, including his overtime goal in Game 5. He leads the League in game-winning goals after the first round. Toews also had four assists and won 61.9 percent of his faceoffs (99 of 160).

Paul Martin, Pittsburgh Penguins

On a team that has Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, Martin was still the Penguins' best player in their six-game series win against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Martin had eight points, all assists, including three on the power play and two in shorthanded situations, and averaged a team-high 27:19 of ice time. He played on Pittsburgh's top defense pair with Brooks Orpik, on its top penalty-killing unit and was eventually moved to the top power-play unit as well.

Zach Parise, Minnesota Wild

Parise's virtuoso performance in Game 6 against the Colorado Avalanche gave the Wild a chance to play and eventually win Game 7. He had two goals, including the game-winner, and two assists in a 5-2 Minnesota victory at Xcel Energy Center in Game 6.

Parise finished the first-round tied for the League lead with 10 points on three goals and seven assists. He played more than 21 minutes per game, in all situations, and had 27 shots on goal, which is tied for fourth in the playoffs.

Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings

The Kings wouldn't have made their historic comeback from a 3-0 series deficit against the San Jose Sharks without Doughty leading the way. He was brilliant in all areas of the ice, and capped his first round, and the Kings' comeback, with a goal in Los Angeles' 5-1 win in Game 7.

Doughty had seven points, including six assists, and averaged more than 26 minutes of ice time per game. He played against the Sharks' top players for the entire series and was in the offensive zone seemingly on every shift.

He drove possession and he drove the Kings to a historic comeback.

Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings

Kopitar finished the first round tied for the League lead with 10 points, including five over the last two games and seven during L.A.'s four-game winning streak to close to series against the Sharks.

Kopitar scored four goals over the last three games. He had two in Game 6 and the winning goal in Game 7.

Just as he did in the regular season, the Selke Trophy candidate consistently matched up against the Sharks' top forwards and was still the Kings' best forward in all three zones.

Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks

The Ducks captain missed a game in the series against the Dallas Stars because of injury and still put up seven points in five games. He was in the lineup for Anaheim's four wins, and had three points in its 6-2 victory in Game 5 after sitting out Game 4.

Getzlaf fought through a facial injury that likely kept him out of Game 4. His wife Paige also gave birth to the couple's third child during the series, a girl named Willa. He managed to stay focused through it all to have a major impact on the Ducks' six-game series victory.

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