So here we are, the Stanley Cup Finals are upon us. On Wednesday the Los Angeles Kings will travel to Newark to take on the New Jersey Devils in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals. At the end of the series, two major trophies will be given out, the Stanley Cup of course, but also the Conn Smythe Trophy for MVP of the playoffs.
From NHL.com, “The Conn Smythe Trophy is an annual award given to the most valuable player for his team in the playoffs. The winner is selected by the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association at the conclusion of the final game in the Stanley Cup finals. “
Unlike Most leagues, the NHL awards its post-season MVP not just to the MVP of the championship game or series, but rather recognizes the performance of the player all playoffs long. The Stanley Cup playoffs is a gruelling two month-long war of attrition, and as such this makes the Conn Smythe a prestigious and much coveted award. Since we are 3/4 of the way through the playoffs, lets look at who I believe are the 4 Conn Smythe Contenders headed into the finals.
Martin Brodeur: Earlier this season I wrote that Brodeur was washed up, that he was ruining his legacy by continuing to play, and that he should retire. Boy, was I ever DEAD WRONG! Marty is currently playing his best hockey in years, and proving why he is a legend, and a contender for the title of Best Goalie of All-Time. Brodeur is chasing his 4th Stanley Cup Championship, however he has never won the Conn Smythe. Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs will be the 200th Playoff Start in his illustrious career. Brodeur heads into the finals with a 12-6 record, a 2.04 GAA, a 0.923 SV % and one shutout. But more than that Brodeur has come up with key save after key save when the Devils have needed it, whether it was in their first round 7 Game Overtime Series against the Florida Panthers, their 5 game win over the Flyers, or their 6 game (again in OT) conference final victory over the New York Rangers. Brodeur is the inspirational leader of the Devils, and this may be the year he adds the one trophy that has eluded him in his Hall of Fame Career.
Ilya Kovalchuk: In the summer of 2010, many laughed when the Devils signed Kovalchuk to 15 year, $100 million contract. After this was a guy who had never even won a playoff series in his NHL career. The critics puffed their chests and said they were justified after the Devils disastrous 2010-11 season, where they didn’t come close to a playoff spot. The refrain of “you can’t win with him, he’s an enigma” was heard loud and clear. My, how everything has changed. Ilya Kovalchuk has 7 goals in the playoffs so far, and leads the league with 18 playoff points, this despite missing a game in the Flyers series due to an injury. More than just pure points though, Kovalchuk has been clutch. His line is easily New Jersey’s most dangerous and has been the focal point of their offence.
Dustin Brown: Sometimes the best trades are the ones you don’t make. As this season’s trade deadline approached, Dustin Brown was the subject of numerous trade rumors, and TSN’s Bob McKenzie mentionned that he was on the block. The Kings ultimately choose to keep their captain, and he’s been a dominant force in the NHL playoffs. Brown has been a strong physical presence and also shown off his offensive skills. The emotional leader of the Kings, leads by example in playing the strong physical game that coach Darryl Sutter preaches. He has also led the team on the scores sheet with 7 goals and 16 points. Three of Brown’s goals have been game winning goals, and three of his assists have come on game winning goals, meaning that he’s been directly involved in the Game Winning Goal in half of Los Angeles’ wins so far.
Jonathan Quick: Los Angeles’ best player all season long, and the guy who they rode into a playoff spot was undeniably their goaltender Jonathan Quick. Quick has emerged as one of the NHL’s best goalies and is nominated for this year’s Vezina trophy. He’s continued his great regular season play as he leads the league with the incredible numbers of a 12-2 record, a 1.54 Goals Against Average, and a 0.946 Save percentage. He’s also put up 2 shutouts. These numbers are so good, they are usually only seen in Video Games. Quick has been an almost impenetrable wall for the Kings so far in these playoffs, and is a huge reason why they are playing in their first final since 1993.
While these are the four main contenders at this point, there is still one more series to play. A good series from Devils Captain Zach Parise, Centre Travis Zajac, Brown’s linemate Anze Kopitar, or Kings Defenceman Drew Doughty could have them steal the Conn Smythe at the last minute, and more importantly would greatly help their team win the Cup.
Hockey fans hope that the next 2 weeks are as exciting as the last 6 have been. We all hope for a competitive and hard fought final, with a bit more drama to end this season. My prediction is that the Devils will win the Cup, and Martin Brodeur will be crowned as the Conn Smythe winner. What’s your take?
… and thats the Last Word.