It’s early, but through one round of action in the Stanley Cup Playoffs here are the top contenders for the Conn Smythe Trophy, which is given annually to the NHL’s postseason MVP.
1. Claude Giroux, Flyers
The Flyers’ first-round performance against Pittsburgh was awfully impressive, and it was engineered by Giroux. The Hearst, Ontario, native was dominant in the series with a playoff-best 14 points in six games. Also, his +6 rating leads all forwards in the playoffs.
All Conn Smythe winners need to have those memorable moments throughout the postseason in which they made an impact. Giroux set the tone for Game 6, the series-clinching win, when he clobbered Sidney Crosby and scored a big goal – all on the game’s first shift. Giroux’s Conn Smythe stock is helped right now with there being so many good goalies to decipher from.
2a. Pekka Rinne, Predators
It’s really hard to say this goalie was better than that one. All of these goalies were really good in the first round. Rinne was exceptional against rival Detroit, which gives him the slightest of edges here in the Conn Smythe watch.
Out of the four remaining Western Conference starting goalies, Rinne’s .944 save percentage is the worst – or least best – of them. But don’t let that fool you. The Red Wings outplayed the Predators in Games 3 and 4, outshot them 84-39, and Rinne stood tall and carried his team to victory in each game. Rinne was the biggest reason why the Predators finished off Detroit in five games.
2b. Mike Smith, Coyotes
If Rinne wasn’t the best goalie in Round 1, then Smith was. (Luckily we hockey fans will see them go head-to-head here in Round 2.) The Coyotes netminder carried over his late-season success and boasted a .950 save percentage in six games against the Blackhawks, facing 40 shots per game.
Smith’s shining moment of the first round came in Game 6 when he turned away all 39 shots he faced against Chicago, shutting them out to win the series. Without Smith’s clutch play in net, it’s hard to picture the Coyotes winning their first-ever playoff series in the desert.
4a. Henrik Lundqvist, Rangers
On Wednesday afternoon, Lundqvist was nominated for the Vezina Trophy and is viewed as the slight favorite over Jonathan Quick. With his team’s backs against the wall in the first round, Lundqvist played his best. ‘King Henrik’ gave up just three goals in Games 6 and 7 against the eighth-seeded Senators. He was consistent throughout the series, posting a .945 save percentage and coming up big when the Rangers needed him the most.
4b. Jonathan Quick, Kings
Quick is also deserving of Conn Smythe consideration at this time. Despite putting up a .953 save percentage against top-seeded Vancouver, Quick didn’t play as big of a role in the Kings’ upset as some of the other goalies in their respective series. Quick was great, but the Kings played a tremendous team game in eliminating the Canucks. If the Kings get past St. Louis, the Vezina finalist will certainly rise on this list.
Honorable mention: Braden Holtby, Capitals; Andy McDonald, Blues
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