All right, two games into the Stanley Cup Final and the series is now a best of five. With both games going to overtime, it would appear that this series has the ability to go seven. Both teams obviously have the talent and the desire to win. And the big winners here are the fans…yes we got the shaft at the normal start to the regular season when the owners and players couldn’t come to an agreement as to who was at fault, or who was more greedy, or who was getting screwed the hardest…but we are getting our reward now. But I’m not here to re-hash games one or two, but to talk hardware…In particular, the other award given out after the the 16 wins are achieved.
The Conn Smythe Trophy is awarded annually to the player judged most valuable to his team during the National Hockey League‘s Stanley Cup playoffs. The Conn Smythe Trophy has been awarded 47 times to 41 players since the 1964–65 NHL season. Each year, at the conclusion of the final game of the Stanley Cup Finals, members of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association vote to elect the player deserving of the trophy. The trophy is handed out prior to the presentation of the Stanley Cup by the NHL commissioner and only the winner is announced, in contrast to most of the other NHL awards which name three finalists and which are presented at a ceremony.
Unlike the playoff MVP awards presented in the other major professional sports leagues of the United States and Canada (the Super Bowl MVP, the NBA Finals MVP, and the World Series MVP), the Conn Smythe is based on the entire NHL postseason instead of just the championship game or series.
-Sorry, but the above two paragraphs were borrowed straight from Wikipedia, as I couldn’t have written it better myself. Thanks to Wikipedia for the assist.
To break down what those two paragraphs above, there are a couple of players in this years’s final that could be deserving of the award. When the hardware is given out, it will most likely be to a goal tender, but maybe the hockey writers need to take a closer look at a couple others that don’t just jump right off the page at you. Sure most pundits would say that you need to ride a hot goalie to the Stanley Cup, but that shouldn’t be a guarantee of a Conn Smythe award. Let’s look at it by position:
Tied for the most wins with Centers, the goalies tend to garner the most interest for this award as they are the backstops for their teams. Both goaltenders here can be considered for the hardware, with Tuukka Rask gaining a bit more attention than Corey Crawford due to his performance against the Pittsburgh Penguins. His two shut outs came at their expense and his .944 save percentage is better than Crawford’s by almost a full percentage point. Corey is no slouch here either. His 1.72 goals against is ridiculously minuscule, but with one more game played, he has allowed only one more goal, but on 68 less shots on net. The amount of activity here gives it to Rask.
Obviously the top two, Duncan Keith and Zdeno Chara lead the pack here. Its remarkable that a defenseman has taken home the hardware only 9 times in 47 opportunities since the Conn Smythe was created. The similarities between these two extremely talented players are amazing to see. Both have 11 points, with 2 two goals each. Both average 3:20 of ice time shorthanded per game. both have a shooting percentage of 4. The only differences here are that Chara averages over 30 minutes of ice time per game to Keith’s 27 plus minutes, and Chara’s +/- is better at 13 to Duncan’s 4. It’s really a wash here, and since anyone who has played at any time in the playoffs can conceivably win the award, this writer wouldn’t be surprised if one or the other won it on a losing team.
Tyler Seguin…what can I say. Playing out of position, no one can hit the glass with more accuracy…oh wait, sorry, wrong award. Anyway, Horton certainly would be a candidate at this postion. As would Marian Hossa. But again the ice tilts toward Horton, with his +22. Both have goals, but Hossa is standing at a plus 8. Could be a wash, but I don’t think the winner is coming from this position when all is said and done.
Again…Tyler…never mind. There are too many good centers in this Final to make jokes. Krejci, Bergeron, Toews. Take your pick here. As with goalie, 16 of the past winners came from the Center position, and you wouldn’t go wrong with any of these three. Selkes, two way play, leadership, and then there’s Krejci. Leads all players in scoring in these playoffs. Second on his team in +/-, but there’s just not enough. He benefits from playing on a solid line. He doesn’t come across as the leader that Toews is, or the “leave it all on the ice” that Bergeron gives. He is a real solid player during the playoffs, but doesn’t really do anything that warrants the Conn Smythe.
Well, here it is, the best for last. Although not according to the hockey writers that vote for the MVP. Only once has a left wing won this prestigous award, Bob Gainey in 1979. Good thing too, because he was never going to win GM Of The Year honors. But I digress; this year’s winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy should, in this writer’s opinion, come from this position. Milan Lucic. Third on his team in scoring, third in plus/minus. Plays in all situations. And hitting… The key here is that Milan is leading by example. I heard the quote from a reporter in Canada that the Bruins didn’t win Game 7 against the Toronto Maple Leafs until Milan decided that they were going to win. He has done this all playoffs long. He isn’t the leading scorer, but against the Rangers, Milan intimidated then to the point that when he possessed the puck along the boards, there wasn’t a Ranger within 6 feet of him. And no one would be willing to mess with Lucic during the Penguins series, except Engellund, and he wouldn’t throw down when he was invited to do so by the freight train. He is doing it again in the Final. Big hits on both Oduya and Hjalmarsson set the tone down the stretch of game two.
The award will most likely go to a goaltender during this series due to the extremely good numbers both are putting up, but, going by the description given for the winner of the Conn Smythe, Milan fits the bill perfectly.
Again, thanks to Sportsnetics.com for the assist with most of the stats in this piece.