By any measuring stick, this has been a rather remarkable playoff season for Daniel Cleary, who has figured large in a number of key moments during the Red Wings run for Stanley this year.
The Newfoundlander has scored winning goals, tying goals and momentum changing goals during the playoff months, his intensity level and ability to turn to the right play at key times is gaining him a fair amount of notice these days, as Red Wing fans and those just watching at home seem to find him in the thick of the action almost with every shift.
His timely goals, have lifted the Red Wings to their current status as favourites to return to the Stanley Cup finals, for Cleary himself, the playoff run has provided for some well received stats, 6 goals and 6 assists thus far in his thirteen playoff games, a very impressive plus 14 puts him in the top three scoring leaders on the Red Wing roster.
But besides the volume of his points, it is the key moments that he picks them up that has made most of us sit up and take notice.
His points tend to come at the most important moment, that instant when an on ice shift changes the dynamic of the game and in most cases, Cleary has been at the centre of the play either with the goal or the set up pass to lead the Wings on to victory.
So far in the first two games of the Western Final, Cleary has been a one man wrecking crew against the Hawks. Two goals in game one, another in game two, a surge of offense that seems to grow with each shift.
Much has been made of his former first round pick status for the Black Hawks, a selection from 1997 that didn't pan out for the Hawks, but seems to have been ok for their rivals to the east the Wings.
Those that have followed his career over the years, always knew that the talent was there, the key it seems was to finally provide him with the motivation to be more engaged on the ice and more dedicated to a training regimen off of it.
The results as can be seen this post season have been rather positive.
His story makes for the kind of blue print that the Conn Smythe winner usually provides, the trophy is awarded to the player who has made the most impact on a team during the course of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
On a team loaded with stars, Cleary has begun to take his place on the Red Wings depth chart as the go to guy when the time comes to get that all important last goal or the one that keeps the Wings in the hunt.
Should his remarkable play continue and if the Wings end up hoisting Lord Stanley's Mug later next month, we suspect that the odds on favourite to collect the Smythe trophy will be Cleary, and on that there probably won't be much of an argument.
Sun Media-- He can see Cleary nowM Live-- Experience isn't overrated for Red Wings forward Dan Cleary
Chicago Tribune-- Long road to success for Red Wings' Dan Cleary
CBC-- Cleary leads Wings to early advantage