If a player won the Conn Smythe Trophy, he has cemented his name in NHL history as an essential figure during his time on the ice.
The Smythe is awarded at the conclusion of the Stanley Cup Final to the player deemed most valuable in the playoffs. This year's winner could be announced tonight if the Los Angeles Kings can close out the New Jersey Devils.
This season's leading candidate seems to be the Kings' Jonathan Quick, who is putting up historically dominant goaltending numbers.
Netminders and scorers alike have played worthy of this trophy; one player scored the game-winner in nearly half of his team's victories, while others make Quick's performance seem relatively mundane.
The award was first given in 1965; here are the best of those recipients.
Hall was with the St. Louis Blues when they lost the first final under the expansion era playoff system.
He went 8-10 with a 2.43 goals-against average and one shutout.
Though Lemieux may be best known for what he did to Kris Draper in the 1996 playoffs, he was always a quality offensive contributor. He scored 13 goals in 1995 as the New Jersey Devils won their first Stanley Cup.
Goring won the Conn Smythe after totaling 20 points over 18 playoff games. The center added two game-winning goals, helping the Islanders win their second consecutive Stanley Cup.
The last time the Toronto Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup, Keon won the Conn Smythe Trophy.
Keon was not a leading scorer in the playoffs; he was not even the leading scorer on his team. Fifth on the Leafs in points that playoffs, the center’s quality defensive play helped earn him the award.
Ward was the goalie for the Carolina Hurricanes in their only Stanley Cup victory. He recorded a .920 save percentage and a 2.14 goals-against average with two shutouts.
Two years after the Flyers were unable to win with Vezina Trophy-winning Pelle Lindbergh, Hextall did all that he could in his rookie season.
Winning both the Vezina and Conn Smythe trophies in his first season, Hextall was not enough to stop the offensive powerhouse Edmonton Oilers. Still, the 22-year-old helped the Flyers make it to Game 7 of the final, with a .908 save percentage, 2.77 goals-against average and two shutouts over 26 playoff games.
When the Edmonton Oilers won their fifth Stanley Cup in 1990, it was not Hart Memorial Trophy winner Mark Messier or leading playoff scorer Craig Simpson who won the Conn Smythe, but a 23-year-old goalie.
Ranford went 16-6 with a .912 save percentage and a 2.53 goals-against average.
Toews is the only skater to win the Conn Smythe despite having an overall negative plus/minus rating in the playoffs, according to Hockey-Reference.com.
Toews totaled 29 points over 22 games and was a minus-one for the Chicago Blackhawks. He scored three game-winning goals.
Beliveau won the inaugural Conn Smythe Trophy after winning his sixth career Stanley Cup and totaling 16 points in 13 games.
Beliveau’s performance in 1956 was actually much more impressive; he scored 12 goals with seven assists in 10 games on the way to his first of 10 career Stanley Cup victories.
Dryden was an incredible playoff performer, winning the Stanley Cup six times in his eight-season career. The dominance started when he won the Conn Smythe in 1971 as a rookie and ended in 1979, when he retired after four consecutive Vezina Trophies and Stanley Cup victories.
Niedermayer’s defense helped him win his fourth Stanley Cup and the Anaheim Ducks their fourth.
Niedermayer totaled 11 points in 21 games while logging an average of 29:51 of ice time.
In 14 playoff games, the Montreal Canadiens defenseman totaled four goals with six assists in addition to contributing with his defensive play.
Savard won the Stanley Cup seven times in his career.
The first goalie to win the trophy, Detroit’s Crozier went 6-5 with a 2.34 goals-against average and one shutout.
Crozier’s goals-against average was particularly impressive because of the teams the Red Wings faced. Before the 1967 expansion, the NHL consisted of just two playoff rounds. Detroit happened to face the teams who were first and second in goals scored that season.
Stevens was an NHL-best plus-nine in the playoffs with 11 points in 23 games. What is perhaps the most memorable moment of his career occurred during Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Stevens demolished Eric Lindros in what was No. 88’s last game in a Flyers uniform until the 2012 NHL Winter Classic Alumni Game.
The Red Wings goaltender was deemed the most valuable player in bringing the Cup back to Detroit for the first time in 42 years.
Vernon went 16-4 with a .927 save percentage and a 1.76 goals-against average.
The four-time Frank J. Selke Trophy winner also won the Conn Smythe during the Canadiens’ late-1970s dynasty. While his 16 points in 16 games was not dominant offensively at the time, the two-way forward was able to help Montreal defensively.
Though Lidstrom’s 16 points in 23 games as a defenseman were impressive, what was astonishing was his 31:10 average time-on-ice each game. He played more than four minutes per game more than any other teammate.
The six-time Stanley Cup champion and playoff legend won just a single Conn Smythe Trophy in his career.
Messier totaled 26 points in 19 games with two game-winners.
The captain led the playoffs with 18 assists and 24 points in 22 games. He was a plus-10 as the Detroit Red Wings won their second consecutive Stanley Cup.
After setting a playoff record with 35 points in 1981, Bossy won the Conn Smythe in 1982 with a total of 27 points in 19 games.
Three of his 17 goals were game-winners.
Nieuwendyk led the NHL with a relatively small total of 11 goals in the playoffs. He totaled 21 points in 23 games, but what is most impressive is that six of his 11 goals were game-winners.
A then-NHL record 29 playoff points helped Trottier win the Conn Smythe as the New York Islanders won the Stanley Cup for the first of four consecutive seasons.
Zetterberg led the NHL in playoff goals (13), points (27) and plus/minus (plus-16) while totaling four game-winning goals in the Red Wings’ last Cup run.
Cournoyer led the playoffs in goals (15), points (25) and game-winning goals (three). Montreal won the Stanley Cup in 1973 after leading the regular-season standings with 120 points.
MacInnis was an offensive force in the Flames’ cup-winning run, leading the playoffs in assists (24) and points (31). The defenseman scored four game-winning goals in the playoffs.
When the Islanders won their fourth consecutive Stanley Cup, it was goaltender Billy Smith’s turn to take the Conn Smythe. The former Vezina Trophy winner and that season’s William Jennings Trophy winner, Smith went 13-3 with two shutouts.
Want clutch scoring? Richards led the NHL in points with 26 that postseason. When he put points on the board was even more important; seven of his 12 goals won games for the Tampa Bay Lightning.
He scored nearly half of the game-winning goals for Tampa’s playoff run.
Malkin totaled 36 points over 24 playoff games when the Pittsburgh Penguins won their third Stanley Cup. Those numbers include three game-winning goals.
While the Montreal Canadiens (who defeated the Flyers en route to the first of four straight Stanley Cup victories) were too much for the previous two seasons’ Conn Smythe-winning goalie Bernie Parent, playoff goalies were not a hassle for Leach.
Leach led the playoffs in two categories, with 19 goals (still an NHL record) and 24 points in 16 games. Not even the Hart Memorial Trophy winner that season, teammate and captain Bobby Clarke, scored as many points as Leach scored goals; Clarke was second on the team with 16 points over 16 games.
Though Sakic led the NHL with 18 playoff goals and 34 playoff points, what is perhaps more impressive is when he scored. Sakic scored the winning goal in six of the 16 games Colorado needed to win the Stanley Cup.
Parent led the Philadelphia Flyers to the first Stanley Cup victory by an expansion team. He went 12-5 with a 2.02 goals-against average with two playoff shutouts.
Parent was an essential factor in the Flyers’ victory over the Boston Bruins in the final. The offensive powerhouse totaled an incredible 349 goals in the regular season. The second most belonged to the New York Rangers, notching a distant 300.
The Flyers clinched Game 6 with a 1-0 victory, with Parent shutting down an incredibly talented offense.
Four of Parent’s 10 wins were shutouts. Parent totaled a 1.89 goals-against average during the playoffs, notching a shutout in the Stanley Cup-clinching game again.
Lafleur actually led the NHL or tied for the lead in playoff scoring for three consecutive seasons, this being the first. Still, this was his only Conn Smythe Trophy win.
He totaled 26 points in 14 games. Scoring was nothing new for Lafleur; he had won the Art Ross Trophy in 1976 and 1977 for leading the regular season in scoring.
Robinson tied for the lead in playoff scoring when the Montreal Canadiens won their third consecutive Stanley Cup. He totaled 21 points in 14 games.
Robinson had won the James Norris Trophy in 1977 as the NHL’s best defenseman.
Though Mark Messier and Stephane Matteau provided the most memorable heroics from the New York Rangers’ 1994 Stanley Cup win, it was Brian Leetch who won the Conn Smythe.
Leetch totaled 34 playoff points with four game-winning goals and was a plus-19 as a defenseman, leading the NHL in all three categories. No defenseman has led the playoffs in scoring since, aside from Scott Niedermayer tying for the lead in 2003 with 19 playoff points.
The first of his record three Conn Smythe Trophies came in 1986 as a rookie with the Montreal Canadiens. The 20-year-old went 15-5 with a 1.92 goals-against average and a .923 save percentage.
Roy won another Conn Smythe during the Canadiens’ last trip to the final. He went 16-4 with a .929 save percentage and 2.13 goals-against average.
When the Boston Bruins won their first Stanley Cup in 29 years, the legendary Orr led the way with 20 points in 14 playoff games. Orr also had two winning goals, one of which is now honored with a statue outside of TD Garden.
Lemieux is the only player not named Wayne Gretzky to total more than 40 points in a single playoff. In 1991 Lemieux totaled 16 goals and 28 assists, with a plus-14 rating as he led the Pittsburgh Penguins to their first Stanley Cup.
Orr’s second Stanley Cup victory came with another impressive performance. Orr led the NHL with 24 playoff points in 15 games.
After this playoff season, Gretzky was first, second and third in the NHL’s single-season playoff scoring record books. He totaled 43 points in 19 games as the Oilers won their fourth Stanley Cup.
Roy’s record third Conn Smythe Trophy came at the age of 35 in what was perhaps his best playoff performance yet. Roy had a save percentage of .934 with a 1.70 goals-against average, and four of his 16 playoff wins were shutouts.
Only one goalie totaled a higher playoff save percentage than Thomas’ .940 from last season. Thomas’ 1.98 goals-against average takes into account that four of his 16 playoff wins were shutouts.
It is hard to believe the Bruins would have even made it past the first round without Thomas; the team needed three Game 7 victories to win the Cup, two of which were decided by one goal. That is where he was a difference-maker and earned his place in hockey history.
During the second-round series against the New York Rangers, a slash from Adam Graves broke Lemieux’s hand, causing him to miss five games.
Still, Lemieux came back and dominated the playoffs for a total of 34 points in 15 games. He totaled five game-winning goals, including Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, when he broke a tie with 12 seconds to go in regulation.
Lemieux also notched three points in a 6-5 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks, whom Pittsburgh swept for their second consecutive championship.
The relatively average regular-season goalie put together the most impressive playoff run by a netminder since the Conn Smythe Trophy was first awarded.
Giguere went 15-6 with a .945 save percentage, 1.62 goals-against average and five shutouts. (To this day, Giguere has only totaled more than five shutouts in the regular season once).
The details of the run are even more amazing. In the first round against the Detroit Red Wings (the NHL’s leading offense with 269 regular-season goals), Giguere gave up just six goals in four games, including a triple overtime win in Game 1 and an overtime victory in Game 4.
Giguere started off the next round against the Western Conference’s No. 1 seed by helping the Mighty Ducks win a five-overtime game. Anaheim won Game 2 of that series in overtime as well.
The third round, Giguere impressed even further, by setting an expansion-era record with a shutout streak of 217 minutes and 54 seconds. He shut out the Minnesota Wild in the first three games of the series before giving up one goal the fourth game.
When Giguere reached the final, he met his match. Martin Brodeur recorded three shutouts in the final, but Giguere was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy.
Of the six games Anaheim lost in the playoffs that year, it is hard to blame Giguere; in five of those games the Mighty Ducks scored one goal or fewer.
Of course Gretzky would be here. After breaking the playoff points record in 1983 with 38 points over the previous record of 35 (Mike Bossy, 1981), Gretzky shattered his own record in 1985.
He totaled 17 goals with 30 assists (also a record) over 18 games, was an astonishing plus-28 and nearly impossible to stop. His shooting percentage of 25.4 meant that roughly one out of every four shots he took found the back of the net.
Gretzky’s Oilers won the final that year, totaled 21 goals in a five-game victory in the final against the Philadelphia Flyers and Vezina Trophy-winning goalie Pelle Lindbergh.
Jason Sapunka covers the NHL and is available on Twitter for updates, commentary and analysis.