Early Conn Smythe Trophy candidates

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Early Conn Smythe Trophy candidates

Despite being less than half way through the playoffs, some players have already stood above the rest, earning a possible candidacy for the Conn Smyth Trophy, the award given to the most valuable player in the postseason.

NBC's ProHockeyTalk has named five superstars who they believe already show early promise as their teams fight for the Cup.

Claude Giroux -- Giroux is leading the postseason in points by a mile, recording 15 in his last seven games. With a plus-5 rating, Giroux has been an absolute key to his team's success and truly showed all he's capable of in the 'bloodbath' series against Pittsburgh.

Mike Smith -- Although he's not exactly the most liked person in Chicago right now, Smith is proving he can keep up with the big boys. He's faced the most shots throughout the playoffs (316 in eight games) and has had to play in six overtimes.

Jonathan Quick -- The Kings have been put on the map thanks to this guy right here. Quick has made some nearly impossible saves, earning a .955 save percentage and leading LA to a spot in the postseason, despite being the worst offensive team in the league a good majority of the season. Quick is also one of three goalies battling for the Vezina Trophy.

Henrik Lundqvist -- Another candidate for the Vezina, Lundqvist has recorded a .945 save percentage in his last eight games of the postseason. Many analysts predict he will win the award for top goaltending, but he would have to remain very strong against the Capitals and throughout the remainder of the season to beat Quick and possibly even Pekka Rinne.

Andy McDonald -- McDonald has been the Blues' superstar, earning four goals and four assists in six games. He is currently the third highest scorer in the league throughout the postseason, just behind Giroux and Danny Briere of the Flyers. Now the real test is seeing how many he can score on Quick throught the remainder of the Western Conference semi-finals.

While I agree that these five are strong candidates so far, I think Briere needs to be added to the list. Philadelphia's center has recorded seven goals and three assists in his 2012 playoff run. A 38.9 shooting percentage sure isn't too shabby, and helped elevate the Flyers to dominate the Penguins in the first series.

Who do you think is the best candidate for the Conn Smythe at the point in the postseason?

CSN's Dan Hayes meets the White Sox Dan Hayes

CSN's Dan Hayes meets the White Sox Dan Hayes

Is the White Sox clubhouse big enough for two Dan Hayeses?

We're about to find out this spring training as CSN White Sox Insider Dan Hayes covers the team, which includes first base prospect Danny Hayes.

The Sox prospect Hayes battled .250 with 10 homers and 42 RBIs in 55 games for Charlotte last season.

The big-league hopeful and White Sox beat reporter spoke with CSN's Chuck Garfien about the similarities the two (don't) have.

No word yet on whether they'll battle the two Rougned Odors and Geovani/Geovany Sotos to an Anchoman-style duel.

Check it all out in the hilarious video above.

Ryan Hartman defends teammate, but fight proves to be turning point in Blackhawks loss to Oilers

Ryan Hartman defends teammate, but fight proves to be turning point in Blackhawks loss to Oilers

The NHL implemented the bye week for the first time this season in an effort to give teams a five-day break before the stretch run of the regular season.

Entering Saturday's game, teams were 3-10-3 coming out of those games with many of those losses coming in convincing fashion.

Despite a 3-1 loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday night, the Blackhawks weren't one of those teams. They appeared to be reenergized more than rusty, and it showed in the opening 20 minutes of the game when they fired off 30 shot attempts (12 on goal) compared to the Oilers' 10 (four on goal).

But early in the second period, momentum shifted after Ryan Hartman came to the defense of teammate Tanner Kero, who was leveled by Oilers defenseman Eric Gryba in the neutral zone.

Hartman skated over to Gryba and dropped the gloves near the goal line, afterwards getting tagged with a two-minute penalty for instigating, five minutes for fighting and another 10 for a misconduct.

"It's kind of a no-brainer for me," Hartman said of sticking up for Kero. "I tried waiting long enough so it wasn't an instigator but it's kind of a judgment call I guess, some refs call it different ways. Unfortunately it ended up in a power play for them, but it's something you've got to do."

Hartman said he and the official had a discussion about the instigator penalty for clarity, which was handed to him due to the distance traveled after the hit.

Hartman said after the game that he respects the decision, but teammates and coaches didn't necessarily agree with the call.

"Thought they both had an agreement," Jonathan Toews said of the fight. "It looked like they were both going to go at it. Don’t think Hartsy jumped him by any means. But I guess just because there’s a previous hit immediately before that, then he got the instigator there."

Said Joel Quenneville: "I don't necessarily know that he was going to start the fight. I think he went over there to talk to the guy, so you lose Hartsy there."

And it proved to be the turning point.

Less than two minutes later, the Oilers capitalized on the power play after Matt Benning's shot ricocheted off Blackhawks defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk's skate and into the net, putting Edmonton out in front first.

They wouldn't look back, hanging on to beat the Blackhawks 3-1, and getting revenge on a team that beat them last week 5-1 in their first game out of the bye.

While it may not have been an opportune time to do it, the Blackhawks appreciate Hartman's game and know more times than not, his energy will result in a positive outcome.

"We haven’t seen a lot of fights this year so, no matter what, it always gets us going, especially in our own building," Toews said. "I think the fans love that sort of thing, too, and Hartsy’s been going after guys who are a lot bigger than him this year. We love that fearless play and definitely helps our guys feed off it."

"Hartsy's a competitive guy," Quenneville said. "We like him to have that a little bit of abrasiveness and unpredictably so there's nothing wrong with that. We like the way he competes and what he brings us."