Conn Smythe Odds Entering the 2014 Stanley Cup Final Between Kings and Rangers
Two years ago, when the Los Angeles Kings won the Stanley Cup, goaltender Jonathan Quick's performance was seen as the key factor in that victory. Consequently, he was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player of the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs.
He has a chance to repeat but faces stiff competition. His counterpart on the New York Rangers has been extraordinary, and both the Kings and Rangers have a full slate of potential winners.
As we enter the final round of the postseason, who is the favourite to win the award? What are the odds of the contenders? Read on for our view, based on the players' performances to date and how they match up against their Stanley Cup Final opponents.
Statistics courtesy of NHL.com unless otherwise noted.
10. Rick Nash
Credentials to Date: They aren't pretty. With just three goals and 10 points through 20 games, the player who should be leading the Rangers offensively has instead just been a member of the supporting cast.
How He Matches up vs. Kings: This will be a pretty tough series for Nash, who is likely to see a steady diet of Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty. He's seen some good forwards (Sidney Crosby comes to mind) and some good defencemen (hello, P.K. Subban) but hasn't often had to face both.
He'll Win the Conn Smythe If... Pucks start going in. Nash is on this list not just because of his reputation but because he leads New York with 65 shots. To date, he's had a wretched 4.6 shooting percentage, but over his career, he's proven himself an exceptional finisher. And right now, Jonathan Quick looks awfully vulnerable.
MVP Odds: 60-1
9. Martin St. Louis
Credentials to Date: St. Louis is tied for the lead on the Rangers in scoring, albeit with a modest 13 points through 20 games. He also is tied for the team lead in goals with six.
How He Matches up vs. Kings: St. Louis likely won't have to go head-to-head with Anze Kopitar, but he will still be seeing a quality line, likely either Jeff Carter's or Jarret Stoll's, and spending significant minutes against the Kings' second defence pair (as well, potentially, as getting some Drew Doughty minutes).
He'll Win the Conn Smythe If... He's the offensive leader of a winning Rangers team that sees goaltender Henrik Lundqvist struggle in the finals. Yes, that's a long shot.
MVP Odds: 25-1
8. Chris Kreider
Credentials to Date: The crease-crashing winger had a monster series against Montreal, running up eight points in six games and (unintentionally) injuring goaltender Carey Price. He only has 10 points in the postseason, but he's only played 10 games, making him the Rangers' most efficient points-per-game forward.
How He Matches up vs. Kings: Unlike Montreal, the Kings can match Kreider's size. He's also likely to spend time against L.A.'s best players, which means he shouldn't be given too many opportunities against the slow defenders near the bottom of the Kings depth chart.
He'll Win the Conn Smythe If... He's the offensive leader of a winning Rangers team that sees goaltender Henrik Lundqvist struggle in the fourth round. As with St. Louis, that's a long shot.
MVP Odds: 25-1
7. Justin Williams
Credentials to Date: Mr. Game 7 has been among the offensive leaders (seven goals, 18 points) on this Kings team and paces the club in goal differential (plus-11). Voters will also be impressed by his performance with the Kings facing elimination in these playoffs: In those seven games, Williams has six goals and 11 points.
How He Matches up vs. Rangers: Williams has bounced around the lineup a little bit, but he's likely to end up on the third line again, charged with shutting down either the Rangers' second or third lines.
He'll Win the Conn Smythe If... Williams' best chance is if the Rangers succeed in shutting down the Kings' top two lines early in the series, both because that opens the door to a promotion and also because there's a perception that he's magic in the critical games at the end of a long series.
MVP Odds: 20-1
6. Jeff Carter
Credentials to Date: Carter's line came alive early in the third round, with the centre notching nine points in four games as the Kings established a 3-1 series lead on Chicago. He's second among Los Angeles skaters in goals (nine) and points (22).
How He Matches up vs. Rangers: The Rangers don't have the same void at centre after the first line that Chicago did for so long, and Carter's scoring took a dip after the Blackhawks found a functional second line. This will be a tough series for his unit.
He'll Win the Conn Smythe If... With a dominant final round, Carter could find himself as the Kings' scoring leader—and a strong finish to the postseason is always worth more with voters than a strong start.
MVP Odds: 35-2
5. Marian Gaborik
Credentials to Date: Gaborik leads the entire NHL with 12 postseason goals, and with 19 points, he is five points behind teammate Anze Kopitar for the league lead in total scoring. L.A.'s most frequent shooter is also its most lethal, and he's been a breath of fresh air on a team that has historically struggled to finish.
How He Matches up vs. Rangers: It wasn't all that long ago that Gaborik was playing in New York, so he has the book on most of his Stanley Cup Final opponents. The bad news is that they have the book on him, too.
He'll Win the Conn Smythe If... Gaborik's big Conn Smythe challenge is in scoring goals without allowing teammates Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty to rack up assists on the plays.
MVP Odds: 15-1
4. Ryan McDonagh
Credentials to Date: Tied for the Rangers scoring lead, McDonagh is also New York's top minute-muncher on the back end, averaging more than 25 minutes per game. A No. 1 defenceman piling up points on a team without a true offensive leader up front is always an attractive Conn Smythe candidate.
How He Matches up vs. Kings: He'll see lots and lots of Anze Kopitar, Marian Gaborik and Dustin Brown. Of course, he saw lots of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in the second round, so handling top offensive threats isn't exactly new to him.
He'll Win the Conn Smythe If... If McDonagh can keep scoring, New York wins and voters are given a reason to sour on the Rangers' goaltending, he's the most likely recipient.
MVP Odds: 15-1
3. Drew Doughty
Credentials to Date: The Kings' top defenceman has averaged just under 28 minutes per game in the postseason and has held together a blue line that has seen numerous injuries and occasional performances from its lower pairs. He has 16 points and is one of the Kings' two most important players.
How He Matches up vs. Rangers: With due respect to New York, after facing Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry and the zillion capable scorers in San Jose, Doughty should have an easier go of things in the finals.
He'll Win the Conn Smythe If... If Los Angeles wins and Doughty can narrow the scoring gap between himself and Anze Kopitar, he's got a very good shot at taking the award.
MVP Odds: 11-2
2. Anze Kopitar
Credentials to Date: The Kings' leading scorer has 24 points and has taken on the toughest matchups in every series so far. He didn't score a goal and had just five assists in the third round as he went head-to-head with Jonathan Toews, but prior to that, Kopitar had been the most vital piece of the L.A. attack.
How He Matches up vs. Rangers: No matter which line the Rangers put head-to-head with Kopitar, it won't be centered by Toews. That's going to give Kopitar a chance to get back on the attack.
He'll Win the Conn Smythe If... As it stands, Kopitar is the most probable choice as the team's MVP. If L.A. wins the series and Kopitar plays well, he'll be the favourite.
MVP Odds: 5-1
1. Henrik Lundqvist
Credentials to Date: Lundqvist closed the door on a difficult third round with an 18-save shutout victory. He's held the opposition to one goal or less in eight of his 20 playoff starts and two goals in seven others. His .928 save percentage isn't bad at all.
How He Matches up vs. Kings: This depends. Los Angeles has been a different beast in the postseason than it was during the regular season, where the club struggled mightily to score. If he gets the regular-season Kings, he has a good shot; if he gets the playoff Kings, things will be tougher. He's likely to outshine Jonathan Quick at the other end of the ice.
He'll Win the Conn Smythe If... If the Rangers win, it will likely be because of Lundqvist's brilliance. He's been the team's best player by a mile, and if he wins the Cup, he'll almost certainly collect the Conn Smythe as well.
MVP Odds: 3-1