Through three 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. Jonathan Quick, KingsWhen you look at his peripheral stats – 1.54 goals-against average, .946 save percentage – Quick has been the best goaltender in these playoffs. When you look at his overall play – featuring countless highlight reel saves like this one – Quick has further proved he’s been the toughest goaltender to beat in these playoffs. Did I mention he has been good this postseason?
Usually the biggest argument for MVP’s, regular season or postseason, is what the team would without that individual player. Would the Kings be in the Stanley Cup final without Quick? Maybe. With the way the team has played in front of him, probably. But they certainly wouldn’t have made it look easy against Vancouver, St. Louis and Phoenix without Quick’s stellar play between the pipes.
Quick has been the best player this spring and is considered the (slight) favorite for the Conn Smythe heading into the Cup final.
2. Dustin Brown, KingsMany times throughout the first three rounds, between the clutch goals, big hits and great defensive play, Brown has been the Kings’ top performer. His impact goes beyond the offensive side of the puck. He, along with linemates Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams, have been dominant in all three zones. Once they gain possession of the puck, it’s hard to get it back.
Brown ranks third in the NHL in playoff points (16), second among players still remaining. 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 67 hits in 14 games. He has also been valuable in the sense that he has gotten under the skin of his opponents.
The Kings captain has done it all this postseason and should be considered a top Conn Smythe contender.
3. Ilya Kovalchuk, DevilsThe playoff points leader is always in the Conn Smythe discussion, and that is no different here with Kovalchuk. The Devils winger has 18 points in 17 games this spring and has scored some big goals along the way. He was dynamite in the second round against Philadelphia, racking up six points in the final three games of the series.
Not many people knew what to expect from Kovalchuk this postseason. Before the Devils beat Florida, Kovalchuk had never won a playoff series. Heck, he had only won one playoff game in his career. However, Kovalchuk has responded in a big way by becoming the most valuable cog in the Devils’ lineup; in three of the four games he has gone pointless, the team has been shut out.
4. Anze Kopitar, KingsKopitar’s two-way excellence has made a difference in their lineup for most of the first three rounds. Overall, Kopitar has 15 points in 14 games, including 11 points in the last eight games (seven of which were victories). Moreover, he has been dominant on both sides of the puck and boasts a plus-13 rating; he has only recorded a minus rating in one game this postseason.
The Slovenian has also come up big in the big moments. 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. Then after Phoenix took a 1-0 lead early in the second period of Game 3 in the Western Conference Finals, Kopitar answered right back with a breakaway tally to regain the momentum to help the Kings take a 3-0 series advantage.
5. Martin Brodeur, DevilsSome believe Brodeur should be up there with Quick as one of the top contenders. Though the 40-year-old Devils netminder has been solid, he’s had a few clunkers in the playoffs; Brodeur has given up three goals or more five times, compared to Quick’s two. Brodeur also has a .923 save percentage compared to Quick’s .946. But Brodeur is on this list because of how clutch he was against the Rangers.
The Devils were outplayed for most of Games 5 and 6, but they were able to win both contests due to Brodeur’s timely stops. He was especially clutch in Game 6 when he stacked the pads in the third period to stone Brad Richards of a prime scoring chance.
He hasn’t been the backbone of the Devils’ surprising playoff success, but he’s been an important piece of the puzzle.
Honorable mention: Zach Parise, Devils; Drew Doughty, Kings
Photo credit: Getty Images