The pool of legitimate Conn Smythe Trophy candidates has thinned out as we get ready for what should be an exciting Stanley Cup Final between the Nashville Predators and defending-champion Pittsburgh Penguins.
Erik Karlsson and Ryan Getzlaf had been playing an elite brand of hockey and were among the frontrunners throughout the conference finals. Neither are in contention anymore after the Senators and Ducks were eliminated. Craig Anderson had also been rising and had the Senators edged out the Pens he’d be among the favourites. Also, the fact Matt Murray has replaced Marc-Andre Fleury as the Penguins starter means the chances of a Pittsburgh goalie winning it are now slim-to-none.
Here are the latest Conn Smythe Power Rankings.
1. Pekka Rinne
Save percentage: .941
Rinne has been the best goalie in the playoffs from the second the puck dropped in Game 1 against the Chicago Blackhawks. His terrific numbers don’t even tell the full story. Getzlaf described him as being a different type of goalie and said there aren’t many puck-stoppers like him in the league. Not only does Rinne take full advantage of his six-foot-five frame but he is adept at reading breakouts and playing the puck, which is something his defencemen can appreciate.
One thing to consider is the Finnish star hasn’t fared well when playing the Penguins throughout his career. He 1-5-2 in his career against the Pens and his .880 save percentage and 3.57 goals-against are far and away his worst numbers against any team in the league.
2. Sidney Crosby
TOI per game: 19:17
Is Crosby leading his team in points? No. Is he playing the best hockey of his career? Not quite. Is he still the best hockey player in the world? It’s tough to argue against it. The Penguins captain does everything well in all areas of the ice. He hasn’t missed a beat after suffering a concussion against the Capitals and he continues to impress the next generation of hockey stars.
3. Evgeni Malkin
TOI per game: 18:38
Like Crosby, Malkin could become the sixth player in NHL history to win multiple Conn Smythes. Bobby Orr (’70, ’72), Bernie Parent (’74,’75), Wayne Gretzky (’85, ’88), and Mario Lemieux (’91, ’92) each have two while Patrick Roy (’86, ’93, ’01) is the only player with three.
4. Filip Forsberg
TOI per game: 20:39
With Ryan Johansen done for the year and Nashville’s top defencemen basically cancelling one another out, Forsberg has emerged as the most likely Preds skater to win the Conn Smythe—though Rinne would really need to flub things for that to happen.
Forsberg, after a relatively quiet series against the Blues, took his game to another level against the Ducks. He scored five goals in six games in the Western Conference Final and has come up clutch on his current seven-game point streak.
5. Ryan Ellis
TOI per game: 23:59
Ellis’s star status is growing almost as quickly as his epic beard. Nashville’s blue line—namely the top four of Ellis, Roman Josi, P.K. Subban and Mattias Ekholm—has taken the NHL by storm since mid-April but if we had to choose one of those four who has elevated his game the most it’s Ellis. He leads all Preds blueliners in blocked shots, takeaways and points.
“He’s always in great position, always great with the stick. He plays hard and smart, he knows how to use his brain a bit more to slow down the game,” Subban’s younger brother Jordan, a Canucks prospect, told Elliotte Friedman in a recent 30 Thoughts column.
6. Phil Kessel
TOI per game: 17:57
Don’t look now but Phil the Thrill is coming on strong. The fiery winger is third in playoff scoring behind Malkin and Crosby and leads all players in power-play points. It will be tough for Kessel to outshine his franchise centre teammates but there have been several games this post-season where No. 81 has been Pittsburgh’s best player.