We’re a couple weeks into the postseason, which means it’s time to fruitlessly speculate about which players that have had a great start to the playoffs will continue playing well and be named the postseason MVP. I was planning on saving this post until next week, but the LA Kings seem intent on getting through each playoff round as quickly as possible, so I decided to write it now while there are still 8 teams left.
While most Conn Smythe watch articles are content to name a few obvious players who are leading their team in points or posted a shutout or two, that seems shortsighted. The fact is that any one of the eight teams remaining could go on to win the Cup (yes, even the Blues), and with the winner of the Conn Smythe almost always coming from the Cup-winning team, naming just a few standouts just doesn’t cover it.
That’s why it’s time to build some buzz for a Conn Smythe candidate from each team, so that no matter who makes it through to the Final, we’re covered.
Philadelphia Flyers – Claude Giroux
Even if you think that Danny Briere is the clutchiest clutch that ever clutched, there’s no point denying that Giroux is the man in Philadelphia. His 14 points in 6 games in the first round was eye-catching. His coach even opined that Giroux is the best player in the world. The only issue is that he has just 1 point in the second round and his Flyers are down 2-1 to the New Jersey Devils. The Flyers need him to produce offensively to turn the series around.
New Jersey Devils – Zach Parise
This is a tough one, as the Devils don’t have anyone stepping out from the pack. Ilya Kovalchuk has put up 9 points in 9 games, while Travis Zajac also has 9 points. Martin Brodeur has been alternately a sieve and a wall, so he’s out. I have to give the nod to Zach Parise: he has 4 goals and 4 assists through 10 games and has been dominant in terms of possession. He leads the team with 42 shots on goal, 14 more than Patrick Elias, the next highest shooter, and second overall behind Brad Richards. He seems primed to break out and go on a scoring tear soon.
New York Rangers – Henrik Lundqvist
While these playoffs have illustrated how much the Rangers’ defensive system helps Lundqvist look better, the fact is he looked pretty good to begin with. Lundqvist has the second lowest goals against average (behind Cory Schneider, natch), but that is, to a certain extent, a team statistic. His sterling .944 save percentage? He can get most of the credit for that. Lundqvist continues to be solid for the Rangers and will likely be the de facto choice if the Rangers win the Cup. I like Ryan Callahan as a sleeper pick.
Washington Capitals – Braden Holtby
While Holtby isn’t quite up to par with some of the other goaltenders left in the postseason, he has still been surprisingly good for the Capitals, stepping in as a fresh-faced rookie and halting the Stanley Cup champion Bruins. His .935 save percentage is fifth in the playoffs and he’s helped by no one stepping up and making a case for themselves among the skaters. Alex Ovechkin, however, has 41 shots though 10 games but has just 6 points so far. He’ll need to start potting a few more goals before being considered. At this point, Holtby is essentially just the default choice.
Phoenix Coyotes – Mike Smith
Is there any doubt who their MVP is right now? Of course not, it’s Dave Tippett, but he’s not eligible. Smith has 2 shutouts so far, is third in save percentage after Schneider and Quick, all while facing the most shots in the playoffs. Smith has been solid and gets extra credit for the 5 overytime games he faced in the first round against the Blackhawks. Antoine Vermette’s 5 goals is a pleasant surprise and if he continues on his offensive tear, he could challenge for the Conn Smythe.
Nashville Predators – David Legwand
This is another tough choice, as no one on the Predators has really distinguished themselves yet. I have, however, liked what I’ve seen from Legwand, and he’s near the top in scoring for the Predators. The easy choice would be Pekka Rinne, who has been very good, but something seems a little off with him. He’s still posting great numbers, but he doesn’t look the sae as he did last year. He’s not swallowing up rebound as easily and seems to be diving out for pucks more often.
St. Louis Blues – Andy McDonald
It’s hard to argue with McDonald’s 5 goals and 5 assists in 8 games, placing him third in the postseason in points. Before Brian Elliott had a nervous breakdown in the second round, he was looking like he might challenge for the Conn Smythe. Other players could put themselves in the conversation with an incredible performance to win 4 straight against the Kings. I’m looking at you David Backes.
Los Angeles Kings – Jonathan Quick
If the Kings win the Stanley Cup, I actually think that Dustin Brown will be the MVP, but right now the Kings’ candidate has to be Quick, whose .948 save percentage and 1.62 goals against average are awfully pretty. Brown has 9 points in 9 games, while Mike Richards and Anze Kopitar both have 8. Any one of them could end up as the Conn Smythe winner, but for now the frontrunner has to be Quick and the way he’s made short work of every opponent.