Through four games of the Stanley Cup Final, here are the top contenders for the Conn Smythe Trophy, which is given annually to the NHL’s postseason MVP.
1. Jonathan Quick, Kings
If the Kings win the Stanley Cup (it’s more of a formality than a question mark), you can look back to Games 2 and 3 when Quick won himself the Conn Smythe. Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar have been lurking in the Conn Smythe race, and Drew Doughty deserves some recognition – but Quick has separated himself here in the Cup Final.
Through four games he has given up four goals. Thanks to a shutout and a pair of overtime wins, Quick’s goals-against average for the playoffs has shrunk to 1.39. His save percentage, you ask? .948. But here in the Final, Quick has been the best player on the ice. Neither team has brought their A-game consistently, but Quick has. He’s stopped 91 of the 95 shots that have come his way, playing a big role in the Kings killing off 15 Devils power plays thus far.
Conn Smythe voters tend to favor goaltenders. Not only has Quick been the best goaltender in these playoffs, but he’s been the best player – which is why the Conn Smythe will be his if (or when) the Kings close out New Jersey.
2. Anze Kopitar, Kings
Every Conn Smythe winner has their moment in which they shine. Kopitar has had a few of those this postseason, including in Game 1 of the Final when he scored the overtime winner on a clean breakaway. Further, in Game 2 at St. Louis he scored a pair of goals in a first period that set the tone for the rest of the series that ended in a Kings sweep. A series later, Kopitar scored a big momentum goal to help the Kings take a 3-0 series advantage over Phoenix.
Beyond the offense, Kopitar has left his mark on these playoffs with his two-way excellence. He has been dominant on both sides of the puck and boasts a plus-14 rating; he has only recorded a minus rating in two games this postseason.
Overall, he has 19 points in 18 games, tied with New Jersey’s Ilya Kovalchuk for tops in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. In the process, Kopitar has gone from a great to an elite player.
3. Drew Doughty, Kings
As much recognition as Quick, Kopitar and Dustin Brown have received throughout the playoffs, it’s blatantly obvious that Doughty has been the top defenseman all spring. As a result, he should be considered for the Conn Smythe, as well.
Doughty has 14 points and a plus-12 rating, which leads all defensemen in the playoffs. He scored a stunning coast-to-coast goal in Game 2 in New Jersey. He’s also averaging 26:05 of ice time per game, tops amongst remaining players. Ever since being a Norris Trophy finalist in 2010, Doughty has had some ups and downs. However, he’s fulfilling his $56 million contract with a clutch playoff performance that shouldn’t go unnoticed.
4. Martin Brodeur, Devils
Going into the Stanley Cup Final, some believed Brodeur should be up there with Quick as one of the top Conn Smythe contenders. Though the 40-year-old Devils netminder has been solid (especially against New York in the conference final), he’s had a few clunkers in the playoffs; Brodeur has given up three goals or more six times, compared to Quick’s three. Brodeur also has a .921 save percentage compared to Quick’s .948.
Brodeur hasn’t been entirely sharp against Los Angeles. He was cleanly beat on both overtime winners in Games 1 and 2, and failed to make that clutch stop, contrary to what Quick has been able to do, until his 21-save performance in Game 4.
5. Dustin Brown, Kings
Many times throughout the first three rounds, between the clutch goals, big hits and great defensive play, Brown has been the Kings’ top performer. He, along with linemates Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams, have been dominant in all three zones.
Brown is tied for third in the NHL in playoff points. Three of his seven goals have been of the game-winning variety. Brown has especially been a physical force in these playoffs, recording a team-high 74 hits in 16 games and getting under the skin of his opponents. However, his offensive drought (two points in the last six games) and Kopitar’s emergence have hurt Brown’s Conn Smythe stock.
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