Conn men

TODD SAELHOF -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 11:22 AM ET

 Jarome Iginla or Brad Richards? Martin Gelinas or Martin St. Louis?

 Miikka Kiprusoff or Nikolai Khabibulin?

  Who should win the Conn Smythe Trophy?

 Cast your vote now because polling for this spring's MVP could close as early as tonight.

 If polling indeed does close tonight, that means the Calgary Flames have won the Stanley Cup.

 Then, it'll no doubt be one of the three Flames who takes home the hardware as the most valuable player in the 2004 NHL playoffs.

 "There's lots of guys -- there's a whole slew," said Flames right-winger Shean Donovan, when asked yesterday to disclose his Conn Smythe selection. "I like both our leaders -- Iggy and Kipper. Those are the guys I watch every night and watch through the playoffs."

 No doubt they are the two front-runners.

 The captain and the Kipper have been in the media spotlight throughout the Flames' run. And it will be the media voting on the prestigious award.

 "I think we're very premature," said Flames GM-head coach Darryl Sutter in a response to the speculation.

 Truly, though, it's never too early to talk volumes about the contributions of Iginla.

 In raising himself to the status of playoff legend, the Flames captain leads all playoff snipers with 13 goals and, with 22 points, Iginla shares the playoff lead with Richards and St. Louis.

 He has three game-winners, including two in critical Game 5 triumphs -- against Vancouver and San Jose. And in Calgary's other two Game 5 wins -- against Detroit and Tampa -- Iginla assisted on both deciding goals.

 That said, however, his linemate Gelinas has put himself in the history books these playoffs. With the series-deciding goals in all three rounds, Gelinas has ignited the Flames' drive to the final.

 And he has provided plenty of drama -- in the first and second rounds, Gelinas' winners came in overtime to send the Flames onward in thrilling fashion.

 Speaking of game-winners, nobody's clicked more often in that regard than Richards. His seven winners -- an NHL record -- make him a leading Conn Smythe candidate.

 The phenom could still have two more in him.

 Maybe he needs to have two more in him for the Lightning to salvage the Stanley Cup.

 But nobody powers the Lightning quite like St. Louis.

 The Flames cast-off sparks the high-powered Tampa offence with his shifty creativity and slippery presence. As St. Louis goes, so goes the Lightning.

 And then there's the two goalies -- Kiprusoff and Khabibulin.

 Both have five shutouts and have rebounded when they've been called upon.

 Kiprusoff sports a 15-9 record with a 1.82 goals-against average and a .931 save percentage, while Khabibulin boasts a 14-7 record with a 1.76 GAA and a .932 save percentage.

 And, as is always the case in the playoffs, the goalies garner strong consideration.

 "That's your call, guys," said Flames enforcer Krzysztof Oliwa, when asked for his insight on the subject. "Iggy's been great, obviously. And I think a lot of other guys have been great, as well.

 "But we're right now focusing on winning it rather than who's going to be the MVP."


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