As the Los Angeles Kings prepare to skate into the Western Conference Finals for the third consecutive year, the early Conn Smythe chatter has begun. While Jonathan Quick has been unbeatable at times, he has had his fair share of stinkers. Anze Kopitar, at the same time, has been a pillar of consistency and reliability for the Kings.
The Kings have played 14 games in the postseason, and Kopitar has recorded points in 13 of those games, an astonishing rate of productivity. While Kopitar has inarguably been the Kings’ postseason MVP, he has also been the league’s most valuable player in the playoffs this year.
Before proclaiming Kopitar the Conn Smythe winner, there has to be a brief look at other notable “candidates”. PK Subban’s rocket for a shot and dynamic puck moving on the blue line were crucial to the Montreal Canadiens upsetting the top-seeded Boston Bruins. Meanwhile, the New York Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist’s stellar play frustrated the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins in respective seven-game series as he was stopping everything (literally everything — according to a commercial, he can stop a rhinoceros made of hockey pucks).
Finally, Patrick Kane, last year’s Conn Smythe winner, has been scoring overtime winners and displaying a level of craftiness rarely seen at any level as the reigning champion Chicago Blackhawks look to defend their crown.
What about Kopitar has him above all of these great players? Six times the Kings have taken the ice with their season on the line, and six times they have emerged victorious. In those six games, Kopitar has recorded 10 points, including the game and series-winner against the San Jose Sharks in Game 7 of that first-round series.
The Kings still have a ways to go as the have only won eight of the 16 games needed to win the Cup, but they have every reason to be confident going into their series against the Blackhawks. Kopitar is already the first native of Slovenia to skate in the NHL and win the Stanley Cup; in a few short weeks, it may be time to add “first Slovenian to win the Conn Smythe” to Kopitar’s prestigious resume.