Conn Smythe watch: MVPs for remaining teams
With every semifinals series still too close to call, we can’t say yet who will go all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals, or who will prove to be the most valuable player of the playoffs in that last series of hockey’s bizarre summer postseason. But for each of the eight teams that still has a chance to advance, which player would stand the best chance of taking that trophy home if they made it to the final dance?
Detroit Red Wings: Henrik Zetterberg
Zetterberg is a strong pick, and not just for what’s on paper. Zetterberg is the leading point-scorer for the Wings in these playoffs, and it’s because of his quiet yet enormously important plays like his two assists in Saturday’s Game 2. Zetterberg fed Brendan Smith for an unlikely goal by making a smart, unselfish play to the front of the net. He also started the rush up ice that led to the Red Wings’ nail-in-the-coffin fourth goal of the game by being aggressive on the puck after the Blackhawks got lazy on a faceoff. Even without scoring, he has made the players around him better. This same kind of play won him the Conn Smythe trophy in 2008 when the Red Wings last raised the Cup.
Chicago Blackhawks: Patrick Sharp
The Hawks are getting scoring from up and down their lineup, which is good, but for the most part, their stars have not come out to play. Patrick Sharp’s six goals are what sets him apart, especially since he plays under 20 minutes a night on average. He’s consistent, and has been a big part of each and every one of Chicago’s wins. While his goal in Game 1 of the semis was an empty netter, his two assists in that win were the result of dogged play, protecting the puck so Hossa could eventually get a shot off after a scramble in the high slot and having a simple great sense of timing to feed Johnny Oduya after a battle along the boards. The Blackhawks are obviously desperate to get Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane going, especially after the Wings tied the series handily, but it’s Sharp who is keeping the team afloat right now.
Los Angeles Kings: Jonathan Quick
Despite his outburst at the end of Game 3, when the San Jose Sharks got a 5-on-3 power play in overtime, scoring a goal after the first penalty expired to cut the series deficit in half, Quick needs to continue to be a steadying presence in goal for the Kings. His distinction as their best player is his to lose after losing his temper with the officials and getting fined as a result. If he mentally stays in the series and continues to be the best statistically in every goaltending category, he could be a repeat Conn Smythe winner.
San Jose Sharks: Patrick Marleau
Marleau is the veteran offensive presence that might as well be the glue that keeps the San Jose Sharks together. He’s the one who set Logan Couture up for his overtime power play goal, and he had a goal per game in the first round. If he keeps this pace up, it would be a no-brainer should the Sharks advance to the final round.
Ottawa Senators: Kyle Turris
Daniel Alfredsson is the team’s goal leader, but Turris’s goals have been timely, not to mention gutsy. The Senators still have a mountain to climb against the Penguins, but if they come back, it’ll be a combination of Anderson finding his legs again and Turris finding soft spots to tie games and maybe win a few, too.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Sidney Crosby
Evgeni Malkin has more points, but Crosby is tied going into Sunday night’s Game 3 for the league lead in playoff goals with Patrick Sharp and his frequent linemate, Pascal Dupuis. Crosby is definitely showing his ability to take over games in the playoffs at a level he has never shown before; his Game 2 hat trick was an explosive example of his ability to change a game.
Boston Bruins: David Krejci
It’s easy to pick the leading playoff scorer for this, but that’s typically how these things work. Krejci is having a career-changing playoff season with five goals and sixteen points. He hasn’t scored a goal since his hat trick on May 8 in Game 4 vs. Toronto, but he has kept up a scoring pace by helping out his teammates and will likely be able to find the back of the net again soon.
New York Rangers: Henrik Lundqvist
If the Rangers climb out of their current hole against the Boston Bruins, it will be because King Henrik put the team on his back again. A five-goals-allowed performance from Sunday’s game 2 will have to be completely reversed–and if anyone is capable of leading the Rangers out of the woods into a tie series, it is Lundqvist. The Rangers’ offense isn’t great and defensemen rarely make MVP, no matter how many times they give up their bodies–and they will be relying on solid performance in net to move forward.