With the Stanley Cup Final already two games underway, the end of hockey season is just around the corner. The Conn Smythe trophy is still up for grabs, and the list of candidates continues to grow. There are about 7 players at the moment that look to have a leg up on the rest of their respective teammates to win this award as MVP of the playoffs.
This shouldn’t surprise anyone. Quick’s 32 saves and .970 save percentage led the Kings to a Game 2 victory last night in New Jersey, where he played quite possibly his best game of the playoffs. Quick has set two NHL records throughout the playoffs with 10 consecutive road wins in a single postseason and 12 in a row if you go back to last year’s playoff series vs. San Jose. In 50% of those road wins, Quick has given up one goal or less. Let’s also not forget that Quick has been the MVP of this team all season long, not just in the playoffs. He’s the very reason the Kings were able to squeak into that 8th spot and has been an integral part of their postseason success. His playoff stats of 1.44 goals against average and a .947 save percentage lead the entire league, making him a very worthy candidate of not only the Conn Smythe trophy, but the Vezina as well.
Anze Kopitar is in at least the top 4 of every offensive category this postseason. He is third in points with 16, tied for third in goals with 7, tied for third in assists with 9, and shares the top spot in the plus-minus category with Dustin Brown at a plus-14. If there was a category for juiciest, filthiest, most insanely beautifully goals, Kopitar would undoubtedly be sitting at the top. It’s been said many times before that Anze Kopitar is a world-class player with a type of skill that can’t be taught. He scored the overtime game winner against New Jersey in Game 1, a goal that has propelled him to the top of the list of Conn Smythe candidates.
In the first and second round, Dustin Brown seemed like the runaway for MVP. He was scoring and setting up beautiful goals, playing smart defensively, steamrolling fools, and constantly pumping up his teammates. His numbers have trailed off a bit, as he’s gone six games without a goal, but he’s still been an extremely effective captain for his team and a huge part of why they were able to make it this far. Like Kopitar, Brown is in at least the top 5 of every category with 7 goals, 9 assists, and a plus-14 rating. Just because he hasn’t been finding the back of the net lately, doesn’t mean anyone has started to discount him from this race.
Doughty’s resurgence of offense is what has been earning him all of this recent attention. He scored one of the best end-to-end goals I’ve ever seen last night for his fourth point in his last four games. Blues Coach Ken Hitchcock referred to him as the best player in the series against St. Louis and he has not since disappointed. Him and Rangers D-man Dan Girardi lead the league in playoff points by a defenseman with 12, an impressive number for the 22-year old. After admittedly buckling under the pressure of living up to his huge contract, Doughty is back to playing the type of hockey that earned him that salary in the first place. Aside from his offensive skill, his defensive capabilities often go unnoticed. He leads the Kings in ice time and is a plus-12. It may be a long shot for Doughty to surpass his three other stellar teammates, but if he keeps going at this rate, his name will definitely be thrown into the mix.
For New Jersey, the race is a little less tight. In my opinion, there are three players who could potentially make a case for winning this award if and ONLY if the Devils were to win the Stanley Cup.
Marty Brodeur is…well, Marty Brodeur. He is arguably one of the best goaltenders to ever play the game and even at 40 years old, he’s not done proving that point. Coming into the playoffs, Brodeur was a wildcard. Nobody knew if Jersey was going to get the 4-time Vezina, 3-time Stanley Cup winning, 2-time Olympic Gold Medalist or a 40-year old exhausted by a lengthy career. Brodeur has been a large factor in the Devils success. In both Game 1 and Game 2, he made some incredible saves despite the defeat. He’s held the Kings to no more than 2 goals per game this series and has a postseason GAA of 2.00 and a save percentage of .924. If Marty stands on his head and robs the Kings of their first ever Stanley Cup, he could potentially be adding a Conn Smythe to his never-ending trophy collection.
Kovalchuk leads the league with 18 points this playoff season and has been known to step up in big moments. He had an incredibly clutch Game 6 performance against the Rangers, but hasn’t been quite as good in the series against Los Angeles. In Game 1, he had only one shot on goal. He improved his performance in Game 2, but couldn’t capitalize on a massive opportunity with 19 seconds left in regulation that could have evened the series at 1. The biggest factor for Kovalchuk is consistency. He has flashes of sheer brilliance and moments of dullness. His minus-4 rating is unimpressive, but if he can get back to being the consistent scoring machine that we’ve seen at times, he could make a case for the Conn Smythe as well.
This may be a long shot here, but as a rookie, Henrique has handled the pressure of playoffs like a 10-year veteran. He doesn’t yet have a point in the series against Los Angeles, but his two series ending overtime goals make it impossible to leave his name out of the conversation. L.A. has had success shutting him down, as well as many of the Devils other top players, but we’ve seen Henrique step up in key moments and he will need to continue that type of play in order to get his team out of this 0-2 deficit.
Game 3 is tomorrow night at 5pm EST in Los Angeles. Keep an eye on these players to see who will break out as the frontrunner.