Thursday May 13th, 2010

1. Jaroslav Halak, Canadiens

OK, sure, it's still a little early to be talking Conn Smythe, but it's a safe bet everyone can agree on the leading candidate heading into Round 3. Halak continued his run as the premier player of the postseason, leading the Habs to an improbable berth in the Eastern finals after Wednesday's convincing 5-2 win over the Penguins. The Patrick Roy-nnabe made 37 saves on the night, but saved his best work for the third period when he turned away 18 Pittsburgh shots. He stared down both Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin twice in that final frame, using his preternatural positioning to make it all look easy, as shot after shot hit him square in the chest.

2. Brian Gionta, Canadiens

Almost gave the nod here to Mike Cammalleri, who scored the winner and set a franchise record with his seventh goal of the series; but Gionta ultimately made the bigger impression. The gritty winger silenced the Mellon Arena crowd with his power play goal just 32 seconds into the contest, deflecting a P.K. Subban shot past a baffled Marc-Andre Fleury, then sent them scurrying to beat the traffic when he knocked Cammalleri's pass out of the air and past stand-in Brent Johnson for Montreal's fifth goal midway through the third. The latter might not have had the emotional impact of that stunning opening tally, but it diffused what was building into a furious Pittsburgh comeback in the final frame.

3. Michael Leighton, Flyers

The Bruins solved him in the final, desperate minute with their own goalie pulled, but that was all that Leighton afforded them, as the Flyers found a way to capture their third consecutive must-win game. Leighton was exceptional in his first career playoff start, and first start of any kind since going on the IR with a high ankle sprain back in March. He made 30 saves on the night, none bigger than a chest save on Trent Whitfield's breakaway bid midway through the first with Philly clinging to a 1-0 lead.

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.