Ranking the New York Rangers' Top Conn Smythe Trophy Candidates

Jeremy Fuchs@@jaf78Correspondent IIIJune 1, 2014

Ranking the New York Rangers' Top Conn Smythe Trophy Candidates

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    The New York Rangers are on their way to the Stanley Cup Final, having beaten the Montreal Canadiens in six games.

    Like any Stanley Cup run, there is no one player who carries a team. Everyone on the roster has to play a part.

    But, there can only be one Conn Smythe Trophy winner, only one most valuable player in the playoffs.

    Who has been the Rangers' most valuable player?

    We rank the candidates with the best chance to win the Conn Smythe, based on their impact on the team and their odds at winning the award.

Honorable Mention: Brian Boyle

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    It's hard to imagine where the Rangers would be without Brian Boyle.

    Not only did he score the first goal in Game 7 against the Pittsburgh Penguins, but he also assisted on the game-winning goal in Game 6 against the Montreal Canadiens.

    He has won 51.7 percent of his faceoffs and is the lead penalty-killer on a unit that has killed off 85.9 percent of penalties, the best percentage in the playoffs.

    Boyle has established himself as the team's best defensive forward, on the ice for all important situations late in the game. He blocks shots, redirects shooting lanes and uses his big 6'7" frame to play physically.

    Role players are essential in the playoffs. The more role players that step up, the better chance a team has to win.

    Boyle has stepped up, and it's a main reason why the Rangers are in the Stanley Cup Final. 

5. Brad Richards

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    Brad Richards has established himself as the team's de facto captain, with his experience and leadership playing an invaluable role in this magical run.

    He is also producing, with 11 points, tied for second on the team.

    In last year's playoffs, Richards was scratched for the final two games.

    This year, he is centering the team's most productive line, all while playing solid defense.

    Should the Rangers win the Stanley Cup, it will be Richards who will have the first crack at raising the chalice. His contributions have been immeasurable. 

4. Carl Hagelin

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    Carl Hagelin was by far the best offensive player in the series against Montreal, for either team.

    His speed gave Montreal fits, and it allowed him to score three points against the Canadiens. His shorthanded goal in Game 4 will be one of the highlights of this run.

    Hagelin is on the first pair of penalty-killers, his speed allowing him to get to loose pucks and forcing offensive players to make plays they don't want to.

    Speed will be essential in the Stanley Cup Final, and Hagelin will once again be the fastest player on either team.

3. Ryan McDonagh

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    Ryan McDonagh leads the team in minutes played, averaging a little over 25 minutes.

    He is also tied for the team lead in scoring, with 11 points, including eight on the power play.

    He was sensational against Montreal, with a ridiculous 10 points in six games.

    McDonagh's speed has been on display, as it allowed him to join the rush while also giving him enough time to get back on defense.

    That two-way play has been a major factor in the Rangers' playoff run.

    He's quickly becoming one of the league's best defenders, and his play has allowed the Rangers to advance this far. 

2. Martin St. Louis

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    In addition to being the emotional leader of the Rangers, Martin St. Louis has been the team's most productive forward.

    He plays the most of any forward at nearly 19 minutes per game. He plays on the power play and kills penalties.

    Most importantly, he is tied for the Rangers' lead in scoring, with 13 points.

    Many, myself included, were skeptical about trading Ryan Callahan, then the team's captain, for St. Louis. And when St. Louis scored just one regular-season goal with the team, that skepticism seemed warranted.

    Now? St. Louis is the heart and soul of the team, beloved by fans and playing an essential role to the team's success. Without St. Louis, it's hard to believe the Rangers would be here.

1. Henrik Lundqvist

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    The numbers are spectacular: a 2.03 goals-against average and a .928 save percentage. Heck, he even has an assist. 

    Of the goalies remaining, Lundqvist has the best save percentage and GAA.

    Beyond the pure numbers, though, it becomes clear the Rangers would not be here without Lundqvist. He has won two Game 7s, allowing just two goals between the two games. He had a shutout in the deciding Game 6 against Montreal.

    Perhaps more importantly, when the Rangers were down three games to one against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Lundqvist allowed just three goals in the subsequent three games, letting the Rangers complete the comeback.

    If the Rangers are to win the Stanley Cup, it will be because Lundqvist has played his best hockey. It's hard to envision how he could play better than he has. But to win, he will have to.

    And if the Rangers win, Lundqvist will be the Conn Smythe Trophy winner.