Stanley Cup Playoffs 2012: Conn Smythe Trophy Candidates
The Conn Smythe Trophy is given annually to the best playoff performer in the NHL. This year, there are many worthy candidates.
Winners typically come from the victorious team, although there have been exceptions. Recent winners include Tim Thomas, Jonathan Toews, Evgeni Malkin and Henrik Zetterberg.
Conn Smythe winners display excellence throughout the entire playoffs, usually producing multiple signature moments.
They make big plays in big moments throughout the playoffs and come up huge in the Stanley Cup Final.
It is difficult to choose a Conn Smythe winner, but it usually is the one person whom the winning team could not do without.
In the NHL playoffs, almost everyone on a roster contributes meaningfully. However, we're looking for the most indispensable ones.
In this year's Stanley Cup, there have been many indispensable players.
Which player has been the most indispensable?
We will rank the top 10 candidates to win the Conn Smythe Trophy and explain why each deserves it.
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Jonathan Quick had a remarkable regular season. In the postseason, he's been even better.
In 17 postseason games, Quick is 15-2 with a 1.36 goals against average, a .950 save percentage and three shutouts.
He had an outstanding 1.95 goals against average in the regular season. A 1.36 goals against average is almost unheard of.
Quick is the main reason why the Kings have been so dominant throughout these playoffs. Without him, it is unlikely that they would have breezed through the first three rounds so easily.
The American goalie has long flown under the radar, but his work this season and postseason has put him in the conversation as one of the top goalies in the league.
In 10 road victories this postseason, Quick has given up one goal or fewer five times.
It is hard to imagine the Kings doing this well without Quick, making him the favorite, as of now, to win the Conn Smythe if the Kings do win the Cup. Quick's postseason has been truly outstanding.
Anze Kopitar has long been the Kings' most talented offensive player, and this postseason has proven no different.
Kopitar has eight goals and 10 assists so far this postseason. He scored the game-winning goal in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.
Kopitar is tied for the lead in total playoff points with 18.
He is also very strong defensively and helps stifle the opposing team's top players. He's done a terrific job on Ilya Kovalchuk.
He plays very well on the penalty kill and has added two short-handed goals.
Without Kopitar, the Kings would lack a consistent offensive threat who could score from anywhere on the ice. He's also their most important defensive forward; his play has helped Quick be so effective.
Kopitar is rarely in the discussion of the league's best players. This postseason should put him in the middle of that discussion.
If the Kings win in the next game or two and Kopitar is a big reason why, then he will challenge Quick for the Conn Smythe. He's another game-winner away from being awarded the trophy.
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If the Devils can somehow pull off an improbable comeback and win four straight games to win the Stanley Cup, then they will need Martin Brodeur to be nothing short of spectacular.
So far, Brodeur has been really good. He's 12-8 with a 2.09 goals against average, a .919 save percentage and one shutout.
Brodeur is a big reason why the Devils beat the Rangers in the Eastern Conference finals. He made some spectacular saves and frustrated the Rangers greatly.
It's pretty remarkable that Brodeur is playing at such a high level at age 40. The Devils will need him to be even better if they want to pull off a comeback.
Brodeur has been able to keep the Devils in games against the Kings in which they were completely outplayed. Although they are down three games to none in the series, it would look even worse without Brodeur.
If the Devils do win, then expect Brodeur to win the Conn Smythe. In that scenario, it would follow that Brodeur would have to steal games and be amazing.
As of now, Brodeur has been pretty good. Unfortunately for the Devils, he hasn't been as good as Quick.
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Drew Doughty is an incredible talent, and this postseason he's had a chance to show off his skills.
He's scored three goals and added an impressive 10 assists from the blue line. He's put up five points in his last four games.
His end-to-end goal (via NHL.com) in Game 2 of the Cup Final was his signature moment. Weaving through defenders and showing off his incredible speed, Doughty made it look easy in a big moment.
Doughty, throughout the playoffs, has been remarkable and a big reason why the Kings have been so successful. He's been terrific on defense, using his speed to get to pucks quickly and passing them out to his forwards to get the offense going.
He's made life very tough for the Devils, as they have yet to find a match for him.
Cam Cole of the National Post describes his play succinctly:
Rushed it end-to-end like Bobby Orr in Game 2 Saturday in New Jersey. Plays both ends of the ice, hits, makes the 60-foot tape-to-tape pass look easy, has a nasty edge to him, a heavy point shot and can take forechecking pressure and turn it back on the opponent in a very big hurry.
Defensemen don't often win the Conn Smythe; only three have won since 2000.
However, Doughty is making a strong case. His two-way skills have given the Devils fits, and his overall playoff performance has been superb. He leads defensemen in points in the playoffs and has done so in three fewer games than the second-leading scorer, Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi.
Doughty has been the best defenseman in the playoffs, and he will now be in the discussion as the best defenseman in hockey. His postseason has been outstanding, making him a strong contender for the Conn Smythe.
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Ilya Kovalchuk is the most talented Devil, and this postseason has been no different.
He has scored seven goals and added 11 assists. He has five power-play goals.
Kovalchuk is a threat to score from anywhere on the ice and is equally dangerous with and without the puck.
While Kovalchuk has not yet registered a point in the Stanley Cup Final, he was a potent weapon in the previous series, especially against the Rangers, who did not have an answer to his electrifying skills.
The Devils will need Kovalchuk to start putting points on the board if they want to come back in this series. If they do, Kovalchuk will fly to the top of the Conn Smythe conversation.
For now, Kovalchuk's disappointing Cup Final moves him down a bit.
However, his overall playoffs have been very good, and if he can start scoring again in the Cup Final, he will be a very strong contender for the Conn Smythe.
Kovalchuk did hit the crossbar at the end of regulation in Game 2, which would have given the Devils the victory.
If Kovalchuk can get a shot like that to go in, it will go a long way towards helping the Devils get back into this series.
Kovalchuk is one of the elite talents in the NHL. After playing in obscurity for many years in Atlanta, this postseason has given him a chance to show off his skills for a national audience. He hasn't disappointed.
Being held scoreless in the Cup Final hurts his Conn Smythe chances, but if he can get going, he will be right in the conversation to win it.
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Jeff Carter was criticized highly after not delivering in Philadelphia. A midseason trade to Los Angeles rejuvenated him, and his playoffs have been great.
Carter has scored six goals and added five assists in 17 games. In Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final, Carter had the game-winning goal in overtime.
Outside of Kopitar, Carter has been the Kings' most dangerous and consistent offensive force.
Carter has also changed his perception as a soft player, buying into the Kings' physical and aggressive style.
Carter has taken pressure off Kopitar and given the Kings two top lines.
In fact, it can be said that Carter has been one of the impetuses for this incredible run. Since trading for Carter at the deadline, the Kings, including playoffs, have gone 28-7-3. Carter has played a huge role in that remarkable display of hockey, scoring 12 goals and adding eight assists in that time span.
Carter's signature moment was the game-winner in Game 2. Another moment like that will propel him to the top of the Conn Smythe discussion.
The Kings captain has provided many clutch moments over the course of these playoffs.
He's scored seven goals and added 10 assists. Three of those goals have been game-winners.
Brown plays an aggressive style, and that hasn't changed in the playoffs. He has two short-handed goals, along with an impressive 82 hits.
Captains are almost always considered strongly for the Conn Smythe, but unfortunately for Brown, he's been just one of many tremendous players for the Kings.
Despite being behind some of his teammates for the trophy, Brown has been a very valuable part of the Kings' amazing playoff run.
His leadership and physical style of play have been on display.
He hasn't scored a goal in his last seven games, and that will hurt his chances. But his overall play and role as a captain will keep him in the discussion.
His penchant for clutch goals and his aggressive, punishing style make him valuable to the Kings, but in terms of his Conn Smythe chances, he will need to add a few more signature moments. With the Kings on the cusp of the cup, he's running out of chances.
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The Devils captain has had a very good overall playoffs, but he has started to struggle in the Stanley Cup Final.
He's scored seven goals and chipped in seven assists but has been held pointless in three Cup Final games.
Though he has 45 hits in the playoffs, he's also been minus-five in the Cup Final, which is unusual for a strong defensive player.
If the Devils are to crawl out of this hole, they will need Parise to play at his best.
Parise has been frustrated by the Kings, and his play has reflected that. With the Devils in such a hole, it will take a miracle for them to win it all. Parise will need to overcome his frustration and score.
While he's had a very good overall playoff performance, his weak Stanley Cup Final performance hurts his Conn Smythe chances. Like the rest of the Devils, he will need to drastically improve his play to improve his chances.
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Adam Henrique has shown impressive poise for a rookie this postseason.
He's scored three goals and added eight assists. He's also added some big moments.
He scored the series-winner in the first round against Florida. Against the Rangers in the Eastern Conference finals, he scored the game-winner in overtime to send the Devils to the Stanley Cup Final.
Pretty good for a rookie.
Henrique has struggled in the Stanley Cup Final, being held scoreless. He didn't have a shot in Game 2. But his overall playoff performance has been terrific.
His two series-winning goals automatically put him in the conversation for the Conn Smythe. He has struggled in the Stanley Cup Final, though, and that will hurt him.
However, if the Devils can pull off a comeback, Henrique will have to be in the discussion. He has produced two signature moments. If he can add one more, he will be at the top of the list.
Ryan Carter plays on the fourth line, but that hasn't stopped him from making a big impact in the playoffs.
Carter has five goals and two assists, including the game-winner in Game 5 against the Rangers.
That's even more impressive considering Carter only scored four goals in the regular season.
While Carter isn't a big name, he has made his presence known. He plays with incredible passion and is very aggressive. He's a hitting machine with 28 hits this postseason.
The Devils' fourth line has arguably been their most consistent. They are ferocious on the forecheck. They gave the Rangers problems all series long.
Carter won a Stanley Cup with Anaheim in 2007. His experience has shown.
While Carter doesn't always play the most minutes, he has been one of the most valuable Devils, playing effectively when he has the chance.
Carter's fourth line will have to be even better if the Devils are to come back in this series. However, his play so far has well exceeded expectations. Despite his fourth-line status, he has been one of the most valuable Devils.
He's an outsider for the Conn Smythe, but his playoff performance deserves recognition. If the Devils can extend the series and he can continue his strong play, he'll be a viable choice for the trophy.