While four teams are still left in the running, the end of the season is near enough that Conn Smythe Trophy speculation can begin in earnest. In recent years, future Hall of Famers have put up giant playoff performances en route to championships, as Alex Ovechkin, Victor Hedman, and Sidney Crosby have all added a playoff MVP to their résumé.
But now, we turn our attention to the players grabbing headlines during the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Tampa Bay Lightning look poised to repeat as champions on the back of a fully healthy core. The Vegas Golden Knights are struggling and facing elimination, but always seem to turn it on when it matters most. The New York Islanders continue to play disciplined defensive hockey, and the Montreal Canadiens continue to ride an underdog wave.
The Lightning have many candidates, as the teams to fall to them know all too well. Nikita Kucherov has absolutely tormented opponents on the power play since returning from injury, leading the playoffs with 27 points in just 16 games. Brayden Point has also terrorized opponents on the scoresheet, tallying an incredible 13 goals in 16 games. Tampa Bay’s trifecta wouldn’t be complete without an incredible performance from goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, who’s posted a .936 save percentage to pair with an 11-5 record.
Should the Islanders move on, there’s no real clear-cut candidate from their squad. It speaks as a testament to the strength of a team the Isles have assembled. Everyone’s eyes should turn immediately to Mathew Barzal, however. After a slow start, Barzal is approaching the team lead for both goals and points. Nods should also be given to Josh Bailey and Jean-Gabriel Pageau, who sit tied for the team lead with 13 points in 17 games. Brock Nelson and newcomer Kyle Palmieri share the team lead in goals with seven, and could also receive votes.
For the Golden Knights, Max Pacioretty and Alex Pietrangelo should be classified as the leading candidates. Pietrangelo has been playing his best hockey as a Knight, tallying 11 points in 18 games while playing almost 25 minutes a night. Max Pacioretty leads the team in points per game, having scored 11 in 12 since returning from injury. While Marc-Andre Fleury received earlier consideration, a string of recent mediocre performances likely put him behind Pacioretty and Pietrangelo for contender status.
And for the upstart Habs, it’s veteran Carey Price who’ll undoubtedly take home the hardware should they win it all. The 33-year-old netminder has posted a .933 save percentage in 16 games, playing every game for Montreal during the playoff run. Free-agent acquisition Tyler Toffoli could receive some love too with 14 points in 16 games.
So now we ask you – who’ll be taking home the Conn Smythe Trophy at the conclusion of these playoffs? Vote below!
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But why do this poll now why not run it day before the cup finals
upstart Habs? Like because this core has grossly underperformed in the playoffs and never made it to the conference finals?