The NHL Playoffs has reached its final round with two teams standing in the Montreal Canadiens and the Tampa bay Lightning. Before the Stanley Cup is handed off from Gary Bettman to the winning team’s captain he will award the Conn Smythe Trophy for postseason MVP.
The Conn Smythe Trophy is named after a Toronto Maple Leafs’ great. Conn Smythe was the team’s owner, general manager, and coach. His name appears on the Cup eight times as an owner. The award was introduced in the 1964-65 season and 46 players have won it over the course of the 53 times it was handed out.
Victor Hedman won it last season for the Lightning, will he win it again? Let’s check out the top candidates as we head into the Final.
Conn Smythe Candidates: Montreal Canadiens
The Montreal Canadiens came into this postseason with the lowest point total of any team that qualified at just 59. For context, two other teams (Dallas Stars and New York Rangers) missed the playoffs with more points. When the Habs made it in, they were considered to be an easy out for the heavily favored Toronto Maple Leafs.
Carey Price had other ideas.
Through three rounds, Price is the clear MVP for the Canadiens. He’s second for all goalies this postseason with a .934 SV% and is second among remaining backstops (playing 8 or more games) with a 2.02 GAA. The 33 year-old net minder is now on the verge of pulling off one more upset and bringing Montreal and the country Canada its first Cup since 1993.
Other possible candidates: Price is so obvious a choice that he may win the Conn Smythe Trophy even if the Canadiens lose. Two other possibilities are Tyler Toffoli who leads all Habs scorers this post season with 14 points. Another is the postgame pizza eater, Phillip Danault. He has shutdown every top player he’s faced and his defensive work should be recognized and applauded.
Conn Smythe Candidates: Tampa Bay Lightning
After spending the entire regular season on LTIR from hip surgery, Nikita Kucherov is leading all skaters in scoring with a staggering 27 points in 18 games. I understand that 17 of those points come on the man advantage, but special teams are a key to winning playoffs games and Kucherov is the best there is at it.
Kucherov was injured towards the end of the Islanders series in Game 6, but did play in Game 7. If he were to cool off, Brayden Point may warrant consideration with his 20 points in 18 games which includes a mind-boggling 14 goals.
Vasilevskiy has been spectacular in the post season in defeating the Florida Panthers, Carolina Hurricanes, and New York Islanders. He leads all goalies in the playoffs with a .936 SV% and is first among remaining backstops (playing 8 or more games) with a 1.99 GAA. On top of those staggering numbers are his four shutouts which includes a textbook performance in Game 7 against the Isles to get here.
Other possible candidates: The aforementioned Brayden Point is certainly one while the captain Steven Stamkos is the other. He is tied for third in team scoring at 17 points along with Alex Killorn. Stamkos was an emotional and inspirational leader last season in Tampa’s Cup win. He raised his first Cup after playing in only one game for just 10 minutes, but managed to score a goal.