With the Stanley Cup Playoffs right around the corner and almost all the playoff spots secure, save for the Philadelphia, Boston, Detroit saga, everyone wants to make predictions on how far their favorite team will go. While it is true that it takes an entire team effort to win the Stanley Cup there is always one (sometimes more) player that stands out over the course of two gruelling months of playoff hockey.
The Conn Smythe Trophy is given to the player who is judged to be most valuable to their team during the entire course of the playoffs. This is different from the other three major sports in North America (the MLB, NFL, and NBA) which give out their awards based on the performance of the player in the final series alone. While performing well in the last series to win it all is very important, the Conn Smythe Trophy recognizes not only the final 4 wins but also the other 12 that had to happen to get to the finals. Sometimes, most times, these previous wins are just as hard or harder to achieve because teams are playing their division or conference rivals; teams that they have played against many times in the regular season and teams that know how to strategize against your team. This article will examine some of the possible Conn Smythe Trophy candidates if their teams get all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Alex Ovechkin/Braden Holtby – Let’s start with the President’s Trophy winning Washington Capitals and their stars. The Capitals are hoping for it all this year and they have every reason to believe they can do it. They are well clear of any other team in terms of regular season points, they have the top goal scorer in the league in Ovechkin with 47 goals so far, and the league leader in wins for a goaltender with Braden Holtby’s 47. If Ovechkin can keep up his torrid goal scoring pace into the playoffs there is no reason why he shouldn’t be the playoffs MVP. If the Capitals end up winning the Cup then it will probably have something to do with goaltender Braden Holtby stealing a few games but otherwise playing solid the way he has been all season. The Conn Smythe Trophy might be a coin flip if the Capitals win the Stanley Cup.
Jonathan Toews/Patrick Kane – The Chicago Blackhawks seem to be in contention for a Cup every year now and it is in no small way due to their best forwards. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane have lead this team (and the league in Kane’s case) in points for the last few years and especially in the playoffs. Defenceman Duncan Keith is the reigning Conn Smythe winner but his recent suspension might hinder the perception of being the most valuable. Jonathan Toews is arguably the best captain in the NHL right now and if the Blackhawks reach the Stanley Cup finals it will probably be on their captain’s back, scoring or not. Patrick Kane is the Western Conference’s answer to Ovechkin and if the two of them end up battling it out for the Conn Smythe Trophy it should be very fun to watch.
Of course anything can happen in the playoffs and there are any number of players and goaltenders that can get struck by lightning and have an amazing run to the Finals. There are also the superstars on every team that have the potential to win games all on their own. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Drew Doughty, Jamie Benn, Alexander Steen, Henrik Lundqvist, Jaromir Jagr, Corey Perry, and Ryan Getzlaf all have the skill and experience to lead their teams the Holy Grail of hockey and a chance to win the Conn Smythe Trophy.