Although the Stanley Cup resides in Los Angeles, ‘the King’ remains in New York.
After Los Angeles Kings defensemen Alec Martinez netted the overtime winner in Game 5, teammate Justin Williams was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy for the most valuable player to his team during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Williams’ offensive production was stellar throughout the playoffs. His 25 points were the second most by any player in the playoffs, and his clutch game winning goals helped propel the Kings to the Stanley Cup Finals. However, one other player made a strong case as to why he deserved the Conn Smythe.
Henrik Lundqvist finished the playoffs with a .927 save percentage, which was the second best out of all goaltenders in the playoffs.
When facing the Kings in the Finals, Lundqvist faced more than 40 shots on four occasions. Lundqvist quickly realized that the high-flying offenses in the Western Conference had a bit more speed than some of his Eastern Conference opponents.
He also proved that he could bounce back after a rough game in the playoffs. After letting in four goals against the Montreal Canadiens, Lundqvist was pulled in the second period by head coach Alain Vigneault, but returned between the pipes in Game 6 and shutout the Canadiens, sending the New York Rangers to the Finals.
Since the Conn Smythe Trophy was introduced in 1964 to honor the former owner, general manager and coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Conn Smythe, there have been five recipients of the trophy who played for the defeated team in the Stanley Cup Finals. Out of these five players, four of them have been goaltenders.
Lundqvist’s resilience and leadership throughout the playoffs was one of the most impressive showings by a goaltender since Jean-Sebastien Giguere lead the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim to the Stanley Cup in 2003. Although Giguere did not hoist the Cup over his head, his strong performance in the playoffs earned him the Conn Smythe.
Lundqvist consistently put his team on his back, and when the offense was not producing, Lundqvist became a brick wall that hindered even the best snipers in the league. Although Lundqvist was not impenetrable in the Finals, his play was a huge reason why the Rangers came back to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins after being down 3-1 in the series. Lundqvist then stonewalled the Canadiens on his way to facing the LA Kings in the Stanley Cup Finals. While he was not about to shut out a talented Western Conference team like the Kings, Lundqvist still remains the best net minder in the league.
That is why ‘The King’ is the true MVP of the Stanley Cup Finals.