With the Pittsburgh Penguins again going Mola Ram on the Washington Capitals and the Anaheim Ducks finally not blowing a 3-2 series lead and beating the Edmonton Oilers, the NHL playoffs are officially two rounds old. There have been heroes, goats and an old man on TV getting mad when a young man bobbed his head to the music during pregame warmups.
Last week, we focused on the players that had been the least valuable. This week, we accentuate the positive and look at the players who have made a case for the Conn Smythe Trophy, awarded to the most valuable player of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Or, the trophy that went to Sidney Crosby last year when Phil Kessel deserved it.
There are just four teams remaining, so who has been the MVP entering the conference finals? Here are the five best options.
5. Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers
Postseason numbers: 13 games, 6 goals, 16 points
Sometimes, the Conn Smythe goes to a player on the losing team in the Final, so it’s OK to have Draisaitl fifth on a fictional ballot through two rounds. After he was held scoreless through the first four games against the Sharks during the first round, Draisaitl went bananas.
Well, he also went plums, in that he jammed his stick into the plums of Chris Tierney in Game 4 against the Sharks. In his next 10 games, he amassed all 16 of his postseason points. He had a four-point game and a five-point game against the Ducks. He did everything in his power to get the Oilers through to the conference finals.
The lesson here is: When you’re struggling, hit a guy in the dick and balls with a hockey stick.
Note: This only applies to the NHL, where you can do that and avoid a suspension. You will probably get jail time if you do that in any other situation.
4. Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh Penguins
Postseason numbers: 8-4, 2.55 GAA, .927 save percentage
His numbers took a hit during the Capitals series, but Fleury’s value within the context of the Penguins losing Matt Murray before Game 1 of the first round has been immense. He blanked the Capitals in Game 7, even if that involved the shaft of a stick he later pleasured in front of the world, and pretty much stole all four wins the Penguins earned in that series.
Since Kris Letang isn’t coming back and the Penguins are sure to find themselves getting outshot a few more times in the playoffs, Fleury is perhaps the favorite to win the real Conn Smythe if the Penguins go all the way.
3. Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks
Postseason numbers: 11 games, 8 goals, 15 points
The chrome-domed leader of the Ducks is second in the league in goals and has already scored half as many goals in the postseason as he did in the regular season (15). He was colossal in Game 5 against the Oilers, registering a point on all four Ducks goals, including the primary assist on the overtime winner.
Getzlaf has been everything for the Ducks through two rounds. He’s scoring goals, setting up goals, winning faceoffs and throwing his body around.
Should he win the Conn Smythe, he’ll be the first bald recipient of the trophy since 1962. (That is probably not true.)
2. Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators
Postseason numbers: 12 games, 2 goals, 13 points
You can make a case that no one has been more valuable to his team through two rounds than Karlsson, but that’s you. There’s no denying the numbers which show that with Karlsson on the ice, the Senators are world-beaters, but without him, they are a pedestrian club. He was the difference in the Sens’ second-round defeat of the Rangers.
Karlsson plays nearly 30 minutes per night, dominates possession and is a beast in every zone. If the Senators upset the Penguins, there’s a very good chance he will be the first player to win the Conn Smythe in a losing fashion since Jean-Sebastien Giguere did it for the Ducks (of Anaheim) in 2003.
That’s not to say the Senators will lose if they get to the Final. It’s more if they lose. You know what I meant. Stop reading into things.
1. Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators
Postseason numbers: 8-2, 1.37 GAA, .951 save percentage
I don’t have too many rules when it comes to awards, but if you have a .951 save percentage, you are the MVP. It could be the regular season or playoffs — .951 gets you the MVP trophy. That’s a rule.
The last two goaltenders to win the Conn Smythe were Jonathan Quick in 2012 and Tim Thomas in 2011. Thomas had a .938 for the Bruins and Quick had a .946 for the Kings, so if you’re five points better than Quick, you get the trophy.
Rinne shut out the Blackhawks twice in a first-round sweep and has three assists. Rinne has as many points as the Blackhawks had goals in four games.
That last fact alone makes Rinne the unanimous two-round MVP.