There are no runaway candidates to win the Conn Smythe Trophy after three rounds of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Had the Chicago Blackhawks advanced to the final instead of the Los Angeles Kings, then Patrick Kane
would have been the leaching contender to be named the most valuable player of the post-season.
Kane had eight goals and 20 points in 19 games, including two goals and 10 points in Chicago's last four games.
Alas, the Blackhawks were eliminated
and so were Kane's chance of winning the prestigious award.
So, here are the leading contenders (presented alphabetically) for the Conn Smythe:Jeff Carter, centre, Los Angeles Kings
Playing on a line with a pair of youngsters in Tyler Tofolli and Tanner Pearson, Carter ranks second in playoff scoring
with nine goals and 22 points in 21 games. His nine goals and 13 assists are both career bests for the 29-year-old London, Ont., native, who has averaged 17:29 ice time in the playoffs. Carter is also a winner, having won gold medals at the world junior championship as well as the Olympic Games, and an American Hockey League championship with the Philadelphia Phantoms to go with the Stanley Cup he helped the Kings win two years ago.
Drew Doughty, defence, Los Angeles Kings
Doughty, 24, just may be the most complete performer in this year's playoffs. He has chipped in on offence with four goals and 18 points in 21 games, but he also controls the pace of the game with his deft puck control and skating ability. His 45 blocked shots rank fourth in the playoffs and his nine power-play points tie him for first with P.K. Subban of the Montreal Canadiens. He also has 51 shots on goal, which ranks 11th in the post-season.
Marian Gaborik, right wing, Los Angeles Kings
A deadline deal brought the much-scorned veteran to the Kings from Columbus, and at age 32, the Slovak veteran has found a home playing on a line with Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown. For the first time in a long time, Gaborik is not being asked to lead his team, but rather do what he does best -- score goals. So far, so good. Gaborik, 32, leads the playoffs with 12 goals (three more than any other player) and ranks fourth in scoring with 19 points. And to think, Gaborik used to drive Rangers fans nuts with his indifferent play. The impending unrestricted free agent picked the perfect time to put his goal-scoring prowess on display. Ching! Ching!
Anze Kopitar, centre, Los Angeles Kings
On one hand Kopitar is a leading contender for the Conn Smythe simply because he leads the playoffs in scoring with five goals and 24 points in 21 games. Impressive numbers. On the other hand, however, he was held goalless in the seven Western Conference final games against the Blackhawks. To win the Trophy he'll likely have to pick it up against the Rangers in the final. Koptar, 26, does get full marks for being a solid and dependable two-way player, as his plus-9 rating indicates.
Henrik Lundqvist, goaltender, New York Rangers
If the Rangers are to win the Cup -- or even be competitive in the final, for that matter -- Lundqvist will have to be at his absolute best. For the Kings to win the Cup, their goalie Jonathan Quick merely has to give his team a chance to win games. Lundqvist has to steal games, as he's not likely to get the goal support that Quick will get. The 32-year-old Swede has had a few rough outing in the playoffs (he was pulled from games twice) but still ranks No. 1 in save percentage at .928 (tied with Tuukka Rask of the Boston Bruins).
Martin St. Louis, right-wing, New York Rangers
It has been a crazy season for the veteran right-winger. First he was left off the Canadian Olympic hockey team, then he was added as an injury replacement, and upon returning home from Sochi with a gold medal, he demanded a trade from the Tampa Bay Lightning. And then his mother, France, passed away suddenly during the second round of the playoffs. Through it all, St. Louis has played admirably, producing six goals and 13 points in 20 games to tie with Derek Stepan for the Rangers' lead in scoring. He will need a strong final and for his team to upset the Kings to win the Conn Smythe.
Justin Williams, right-wing, Los Angeles Kings
The 32-year-old two-time Stanley Cup champion saves his best hockey for this time of year. With a goal and an assist in Game 7 against Chicago, he became the NHL's all-time leader with 14 points in Game 7s. He is also a perfect 7-0 when a series goes the distance. Williams has been Mr. Everything for the Kings, scoring seven goals and 18 points in 21 games. He has a game-winning goal and also leads the playoffs with a plus-11. Should the Stanley Cup final go to a seventh game, put your money on Williams and the Kings.
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