Each team has their reasons for surviving three rounds in the playoffs, but both have one player in particular who has made the biggest differences. L.A.’s best player has been Anze Kopitar while the Rangers have naturally leaned on goalie Henrik Lundqvist to reach the final. It seems inevitable that one of these players will receive the Conn Smythe Award at the conclusion of the finals.
The Conn Smythe is awarded each year to the one perceived to be the most valuable player throughout the playoffs. Kopitar and Lundqvist have to be the favorites for the award, and considering they play on opposite teams, someone’s got to win it, right? Let’s look a little closer at why each player should be a favorite for the award.
Why Kopitar Could Win:
Kopitar has been one of the leaders of this Kings team for years, and he’s been leading them this postseason in many ways. He’s averaging 1.14 points per game and has posted five goals and 19 assists in 21 playoff games. The numbers don’t lie, but his value goes beyond consistent production on the score sheet.
The conference final is evidence of that; Kopitar scored no goals in the series, but he played great every single game. He’s very good on faceoffs and is one of the best defensive forwards in the game. He had the difficult task of defending Jonathan Toews in the third round and looked strong. His first line centering Dustin Brown and Marian Gaborik has been absolutely lethal for most of the playoffs.
Gaborik leads all players in goals this postseason with 12, and Kopitar is a huge reason why. Of Gaborik’s 12 goals, Kopitar has assisted on nine of them. Kopitar has developed into one of the best two-way players in the NHL, and his great play has been essential to the Kings’ magical playoff run.
Why Lundqvist Could Win:
“The King” as he’s known in New York has lived up to his nickname this postseason. His .928 save percentage leads all goalies, and he has a sparkling 2.03 goals against average to go with it. Lundqvist’s consistency has been rock solid, and he’s played extremely well in games after a loss.
His worst outing of the playoffs in the Eastern Conference Finals had him pulled in the second period after giving up four goals. Lundqvist followed that game with an 18-save shutout in the clinching game that made New York the east champs.
Nobody on the Rangers deserves the Cup more than Lundqvist, and they won’t win it without an outstanding performance from him against the Kings. It’s almost certain that if the Rangers triumph in the finals, Lundqvist will take home the Conn Smythe.
The Final Act:
Both players deserve to be candidates for the MVP of the playoffs, but there are still some games left to play. Naturally this series being the most important will determine who wins the award, so anything could happen. If there were a player who would challenge Lundqvist and Kopitar for the Conn Smythe, it would probably be L.A. defenseman Drew Doughty.
Doughty’s been nothing short of spectacular as well, so he could become a new favorite if he has a great series. Still, the award appears to be a two-man competition between Lundqvist and Kopitar. No matter who ends up with the honor, everyone is focused on a different trophy at the moment.