Two rounds of the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs are now in the books. Anaheim, Nashville, Ottawa, and Pittsburgh are the final four teams left standing. With eight wins apiece, each team is halfway en route to raising Lord Stanley’s Cup. In this article, we look at one player from each team to be selected as the probable winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy.
Goaltender, Pekka Rinne (8-2-0, .951 Sv%, 1.37 GAA, 2 SO)
Pekka would be the first person to admit that he has battled the “ups-and-downs” throughout his career. Consistency was always a concern, and in 2014 Rinne found himself sidelined with lingering hip and groin issues. His strong play is largely attributable to his skill level and athleticism which requires him to rely heavily on having a strong lower body; a luxury that seemed to be missing for the Finnish netminder until 2015.
However, this postseason, Rinne has been everything (and more) that Nashville could ask for. The 34-year-old backstopped the Predators to a surprising 4-0 series sweep against the Chicago Blackhawks, pivotal cup contenders. The Blackhawks’ potent offense were only able to muster three goals on the Predators all series. Kane, Toews, Panarin, Keith and the rest of the Hawks were left off the scoresheet entirely on home ice; not an easy feat to accomplish in the “Mad House.”
Along with his sparkling .951 Sv% and 1.37 Goals Against Average, Pekka has also contributed with three assists in 10 games this postseason. That’s as many goals as the Blackhawks were able to generate all playoff. Talk about a goalie doing it all!
Honorable Mention: Defenseman, Ryan Ellis (10GP, 4G, 5A, 9PTS, +4)
Centre, Ryan Getzlaf (11 GP, 8G, 7A, 15PTS, +9)
Ryan Getzlaf has proven that he belongs in the “Top 5 Players in the World” category with his splendid playoff run thus far. The Ducks captain frequently matches up with the opposing team’s top pairing defenseman; yet, that does not stop the 6’4”, 221 lb pivot.
Getzlaf has historically been a point-per-game producer in the playoffs (114 PTS in 115 GP). According to NHL.com, the Ducks are the best possession team in close games (of the remaining teams—second overall of all playoff teams). It is safe to say, Ryan, who plays an amazing 23:55 per night, is a huge part of the Ducks’ dominant 55.17% Shot Attempts % (Close).
- Note from NHL.com: Shot Attempts % (Close) = 100 X Shot Attempts For / (Shot Attempts For + Shot Attempts Against) When Teams are within 1 Goal or tied in the 3rd Period.
This number is a powerful statistic as it shows how well a team is able to perform under the pressure of holding onto/needing a goal in their lead/deficit.
Ryan’s offensive output has lifted the Ducks into the Western Conference Final, despite the porous goaltending from John Gibson. Gibson has mere .908 Sv% and 2.80 GAA numbers up to this point. He will need to be much better, especially against the aforementioned Rinne, in order to help Anaheim earn a birth to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Honorable Mention: Jakob Silfverberg (11GP, 7G, 4A, 11PTS, +2)
Defenseman, Erik Karlsson (12GP, 2G, 11A, 13PTS, +8)
An offensive catalyst. Defensive prowess. Probably would make an elite goaltender as well. Not only should he get more Conn Smythe attention, we also wrote about why he deserves to win the cup.
This man does it all for the Ottawa Senators. Karlsson embodies everything the Conn Smythe Trophy stands for. The smooth-skating defenseman is averaging over a point-per-game in these Stanley Cup playoffs while logging an incredible 28:56 TOI/Game average. Oh yeah, did I mention he’s been performing this well while having two fractures in his foot?
The Swedish rearguard ranks top 10 in the following categories (among players on the four remaining teams): Assists (2nd), Points (6th), Plus/Minus (7th), Points Per Game (5th), Game Winning Goals (2nd), TOI/Game (1st).
Usually, defencemen with high point totals generate many of their points on the man advantage. However, of Erik’s 13 points, 11 of them have come during 5-on-5 play. Furthermore, this number ranks 2nd among all players in this year’s playoffs (behind Getzlaf—12 points). Karlsson’s nine even strength assists leads the league during the postseason.
Honorable Mention: Erik Karlsson (Yup, he’s been that good).
Centre, Evgeni Malkin (12GP, 5G, 13A, 18PTS, +8)
The Pittsburgh alternate captain has risen to the occasion and taken over in crucial hockey games; his 18 points lead the NHL playoffs through the conference semi-finals. Heading into rounds 3 & 4, Ottawa and Nashville/Anaheim (should the Penguins win) will have difficult decisions ahead. With Crosby back in the lineup after missing one game with a concussion, the opposing teams will have to decide proper shutdown deployment in order to stop the Penguins’ offense.
Many fans believe that Malkin’s offense comes from playing against secondary defensemen and shutdown forwards. However, Malkin’s TOI/Game is 50 seconds higher than Crosby’s; which means that head coach Mike Sullivan has utilized the Russian equally as much his captain in close situations.
Malkin’s 11 even strength points tie Erik Karlsson for second in the NHL playoffs, just one point behind Getzlaf. His 1.50 Point/Game clip mirrors his 2008-2009 postseason performance when he recorded his first Conn Smythe Trophy and had the following stats:
Evgeni Malkin (2008-2009 playoffs): 24GP, 14G, 22A, 36A, +3, 1.50 Points/Game.
Should 71 keep his production steady, there will be no doubt that he will be awarded a second Conn Smythe Trophy in his career. Admittedly, this choice was the toughest of the four teams remaining. The Penguins’ overall balance have them as cup favorites once again.
Honourable Mention: Marc-Andre Fleury (12GP, 8-4-0, .927 Sv%, 2.55GAA, 1SO)