Ranking the Los Angeles Kings' Top Conn Smythe Trophy Candidates
Patrick Kane was surging in the past two games, putting himself in position to capture the award for a second consecutive year. But, with the Chicago Blackhawks being eliminated in overtime of Game 7 of the Western Conference Final, so too were his MVP hopes.
The first two games of the Final should give a much better indication of which L.A. players will break away from the rest. Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter and Drew Doughty are just a few of the players in the running.
With that said, here's a look at the Kings' top Conn Smythe Trophy candidates as they hunt for their second Stanley Cup in three years.
5. Jonathan Quick
Jonathan Quick's number aren't great. But, they are good enough to keep him in contention if he comes up with a dominant series. And, that's something he's certainly capable of.
Quick is 12-9 with a .906 save percentage, 2.86 goals-against average and one shutout. However, he came up big when needed, allowing just one goal in Game 7 against the Sharks and two in Game 7 versus the Ducks.
Yes, he allowed a couple awful goals in Game 7 against the Blackhawks, but he stopped 37 of 41 shots which included some incredible saves late in the third period with the series on the line.
Odds are Quick won't win his second Conn Smythe Trophy, but it cannot be ruled out.
4. Marian Gaborik
It's a deadline acquisition that could live on as the best in Kings' history.
Marian Gaborik is back in a big way, playing at a level many people thought he was no longer capable of. The 32-year-old Slovakian leads the playoffs with 12 goals and is fourth with 19 points.
Heading into the Final, Gaborik is the only player with more than nine goals. To further put that in perspective, the highest scoring Rangers—Martin St. Louis and Carl Hagelin—have six goals each.
Gaborik will need to continue to dominate offensively. He and Anze Kopitar developed instant chemistry, but that will be tested against a group of physical, shot-blocking defensemen from New York.
Does Gaborik have enough left in the tank to help the Kings beat his old team?
3. Drew Doughty
Drew Doughty has been all over the ice in the postseason, making an impact in every way possible.
The 24-year-old defenseman has played an excellent shutdown game in his own zone. He ranks fourth in the playoffs with 45 blocked shots and has racked up 36 hits.
On offense he's stepped up from last postseason where he had just five points in 18 games. He sits tied for seventh in points in these playoffs, with four goals and 12 assists for 16 points.
Doughty has been tasked with shutting down some of the world's best forwards from Joe Thornton to Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf to Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.
Look for Doughty to make a serious push for the Conn Smythe. He proved in the Olympics he can excel under pressure and on the biggest stage.
2. Jeff Carter
Mike Richards may be on the decline, but his good friend Jeff Carter is ascending rapidly.
The 29-year-old is playing some of the best hockey of his life, alongside youngsters Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson.
Carter ranks second in the playoffs with nine goals and 22 points and is averaging 17:29 of ice time per game. Aside from a weak Game 6 performance in which he was minus-three, Carter was arguably the Kings' best player against Chicago.
He helped create chances off the rush and was a force in the offensive zone, especially in cycling the puck. He became the first L.A. player since Wayne Gretzky to have back-to-back games with three or more points. He finished with 11 points in the seven-game series.
To win the Conn Smythe, he may need to repeat that performance against the Rangers and finish ahead of Anze Kopitar in points.
1. Anze Kopitar
Remember when the Kings were trailing the San Jose Sharks 3-0?
It should have been season over, and it probably would have been, if not for Anze Kopitar. With his spectacular play at both ends of the rink, he led the Kings to one of the most remarkable comebacks in NHL history.
He did whatever Darryl Sutter asked of him and never gave up on a play. He's made hits along the boards, drove to the net, backchecked and blocked shots.
Kopitar has registered at least a point every time the Kings have faced elimination for a total of 11 points in seven games.
He also happens to lead the playoffs with 24 points. He's won 54.4 percent of his draws, holds a plus-nine rating and is averaging more than 20 minutes of ice time per game. He's clearly the Kings' MVP of the first three rounds.
If he maintains his current level of play and the Kings win the Cup, he should become the first Slovenian to win the Conn Smythe Trophy.
Stats courtesy of NHL.com.