Through (almost) two rounds 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. Mike Smith, Coyotes
It’s really hard to decipher between Mike Smith and Jonathan Quick. However, one thing that does make a difference in this Conn Smythe race is how much the Coyotes have depended on Smith to rise to the occasion.
Not only does Smith boasts a .948 save percentage with two shutouts, but he has played in a lot of close games. Six of the Coyotes’ eight playoff wins have been decided by one goal, four of which coming in overtime (Smith has a 4-2 record in overtime). To contrast, Quick’s Kings have won by two-plus goals six times this postseason and have played in one overtime game.
Both goalies have been really good, but Smith gets the nod at this point in time. Nobody has meant more to their team than Smith has to the Coyotes this spring.
2. Jonathan Quick, Kings
When you look at sheer numbers, Quick has been a smidge better than Smith with an 8-1 overall record and a .949 save percentage. However, as mentioned, Quick hasn’t had to bail his team out as much as Smith has this spring. But that’s not taking anything away from Quick, who should be the favorite to win the Vezina Trophy (but isn’t). The Kings have received quality goaltending from him all postseason long, and it’s a big reason why they made quick work of the Canucks and Blues.
3. Ilya Kovalchuk, Devils
Of all the remaining players, Kovalchuk’s 12 points lead the NHL. He has always been a scrutinized individual, whether it came in Atlanta or now in New Jersey. But as Kovalchuk stated after the series win against Philadelphia, this is the first time in nine years that he has not played in the World Championships.
Like the entire Devils team, Kovalchuk is having a lot of fun right now. In four straight victories against the Flyers, the dynamic Russian tallied seven points. His biggest performance came in an overtime win in Game 3, where he had three points and was the best player on the ice. Teammate Zach Parise gets an honorable mention here, but Kovalchuk’s top-notch play has him among the Conn Smythe favorites through two rounds.
4. Braden Holtby, Capitals
This debate here comes down to the two goaltenders that will slug it out Saturday night in Game 7. Braden Holtby and Henrik Lundqvist have both been fantastic for their respective teams this postseason, but I have to give the nod to Holtby when it comes to MVP. The 22-year-old Saskatchewan native, in his first Stanley Cup Playoff, has had to put the Capitals on his back at times in these playoffs, where all but one game his team has played has been decided by just one goal.
5. Henrik Lundqvist, Rangers
With a dominant performance in Game 7 against Washington, Lundqvist can shoot up these rankings. For now, he’s lying in the weeds. He’s been clutch most of the way and was phenomenal in Game 3 against Washington, making 45 saves in a triple-overtime victory. Lundqvist is the backbone of the Rangers’ success and would be the guy to lead them to a Stanley Cup. He has a little more work to do to get to that point.
Honorable mention: Dustin Brown, Kings; Zach Parise, Devils; Brad Richards, Rangers
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