The Conn Smythe Trophy goes to the most valuable player in the NHL playoffs. In the 2013 playoffs, there are numerous players who have the potential to win this award.
Most award winners are generally on the cup-winning team. So, picking the Conn Smythe winner is also an exercise in picking the eventual champion. It makes no sense to pick someone to win the Conn Smythe if his team is going to be bounced in the first round.
Which players have the best chance to lead their teams to a Stanley Cup victory and take home the Conn Smythe Trophy?
Read on to find out.
Sidney Crosby, C, Pittsburgh Penguins
Yes, he hasn't played since the end of March. But the best player in hockey is on his way back. Dave Molinari of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that Crosby is practicing and has not ruled out a return for Game 1 of the playoffs.
Assuming he's back, the best player in the world will lead the best team in the league to a long playoff run. In just 36 games this season, Crosby has 15 goals and 41 assists for 56 points. Despite missing 12 games, Crosby is still tied for the third-most points in the league.
Quite simply, he is the best player in the world. He's the leader of a team with the best offense and second-best power play in the league.
The Penguins don't have to rely on just Crosby, either. With Evgeni Malkin, Jarome Iginla, Chris Kunitz and James Neal, not to mention a pretty good goaltender in Marc-Andre Fleury, the Penguins have plenty of firepower to win it all.
So yes, the Penguins are built to win a cup. If the Penguins win, it will be due to Crosby's play. He is the straw that stirs the drink, the catalyst that makes it all happen.
Without him, they have the talent to go far.
With him, they have what it takes to win it all.
He's the odds-on favorite to win the Conn Smythe, seeing as he's the most valuable player on the best team. Look for him to have a huge playoffs and take the Penguins deep into June.
Jonathan Toews, C, Chicago Blackhawks
The Chicago Blackhawks had an incredible regular season, notching 77 points and winning the Presidents' Trophy.
A lot of that success is due to their captain Jonathan Toews. He has 23 goals and 25 assists. In addition, he is the leader of the Blackhawks' third-ranked penalty kill. That will be incredibly valuable in the playoffs, because teams with great penalty kills often go far in the postseason.
Toews is one of the best all-around players in the game. He's not as flashy as his teammate Patrick Kane, but he's the ultimate glue guy. He has incredible offensive skill along with impressive defensive awareness and positioning.
When the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in 2010, Toews won the Conn Smythe. He scored seven goals and had 22 assists in just 22 games.
That's the type of performance the Blackhawks can expect from Toews. He'll score important, timely goals while playing in all situations and doing whatever is necessary to win. If the Blackhawks do win it all, then Toews will pick up his second Conn Smythe.
Tuukka Rask, G, Boston Bruins
A hot goalie can take any team to the promised land. When Tuukka Rask is on his game, there aren't many goalies better in the league.
He's had a remarkable season, posting a 19-9-5 record with a sparkling 1.97 goals-against average and a sterling .930 save percentage. He has five shutouts and is one of the top candidates to win the Vezina Trophy, awarded to the best goalie.
Rask puts on performances like the one below on a regular basis:
In April, Rask has been even better. He has a 1.82 goals-against average and a truly remarkable .946 save percentage.
If Rask can continue that type of play into the postseason, then the Bruins have the personnel in front of him to make a deep run. They have balanced scoring and plenty of postseason experience.
With Rask dominating in net, the Bruins are poised to do something special. With their combination of grit, defense and offense, and of course, a great goalie, the Bruins have a good chance to win it all.
And if they do, it will be because of Rask.