Conn Smythe Power Rankings: Two captains stand above the rest

NHL insider Chris Johnston tells Blair and Brunt that Erik Karlsson’s performance so far this postseason has changed his perception league-wide, even though he does have those two Norris Trophies.

With the Oilers, Blues, Capitals and Rangers eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs it means players like Jake Allen, Leon Draisaitl and Henrik Lunqvist, who shone through the first two rounds, are no longer in the running for the Conn Smythe Trophy.

There have been a handful of standout performances from the four remaining teams—the Ottawa Senators and Pittsburgh Penguins in the East, plus Nashville Predators and Anaheim Ducks in the West—so as we head into the conference finals here are the latest Conn Smythe Power Rankings.

1. Erik Karlsson
Goals: 2
Assists: 11
TOI per game: 28:56

What Karlsson is doing for the Sens is remarkable considering the heel injury he’s fighting through.

“That’s the fun part of this sport. You know it’s going to hurt. It’s not going to be easy,” he told Sportsnet’s Kyle Bukauskas following Game 6 against the Rangers, in which he scored the eventual winner.

He had two goals, five assists in six games against the Blue Shirts and looked every part of a player on the verge of possibly winning his third Norris Trophy. His coach and teammates are in awe of what he’s doing at less than 100 per cent.

“You know what, I can’t explain it,” Sens bench boss Guy Boucher said after his team’s Game 6 win over the Rangers. “If he’s not there it’s because he’s really not fine. This guy’s a horse. He takes a lot. I’m glad he’s on my team.”

No one in the game right now takes command of the ice the way Karlsson does.

2. Ryan Getzlaf
Goals: 8
Assists: 7
TOI per game: 23:54

The Ducks captain played well in his team’s first-round sweep of the Flames but for the most part flew under the radar. Against the Oilers, however, he was bordering on unstoppable. Getzlaf registered 10 points in the first five games of the series and only Evgeni Malkin is averaging more points per game. Getzlaf doesn’t merely thrive in the offensive zone, although he can body opposing players on the cycle down low as well as anyone. He’s a 200-foot player, wins 55.2 per cent of the faceoffs he takes, his hands are silky soft and his vision is superior to most.

His Game 4 performance against the Oilers in particular was transcendent: Two goals, two assists and he set up the OT winner after blocking a shot.

3. Pekka Rinne
Record: 8-2
GAA: 1.37
Save percentage: .951

Rinne hasn’t allowed more than three goals in any game this post-season and has only allowed three goals twice. The 34-year-old is playing the best hockey of his career and he’s seeing the puck incredibly well.

“He’s been our best player in the whole playoffs so far, making saves that you don’t think are possible and keeping us in games,” Predators forward Victor Arvidsson said via NHL.com. “He’s been unbelievable.”

4. Marc-Andre Fleury
Record: 8-4
GAA: 2.55
Save percentage: .927

Fleury played second fiddle to Matt Murray during the Penguins’ 2016 Stanley Cup run, so the veteran netminder is taking full advantage of his opportunity this year. His 61 career post-season victories are the 13th most in NHL history and he’s now tied with Lundqvist for most playoff wins among active goalies.

He faced more than 30 shots in 10 of his 12 starts this post-season, including a 49-save effort against the Blue Jackets and a 29-save shutout in Game 7 against the Capitals. The Penguins are averaging 3.42 goals per game so he hasn’t needed to be quite as integral to his team’s success as say Rinne has, but Fleury has already stolen a few games his team didn’t necessarily deserve to win.

On the periphery…

Sidney Crosby – Maybe people have been too busy focusing on his health to consider him amongst the Conn Smythe frontrunners, but Crosby has been his usual dominant self. There’s a reason Jake Guentzel leads the playoffs in goals with nine and set a Penguins single-season rookie post-season scoring record. Hint: it’s because he’s on Crosby’s line.

Roman Josi & Ryan Ellis – If you could name co-Conn Smythe winners this defence pairing would garner some votes. Only Karlsson averages more ice-time per game than Josi, while Ellis has been perhaps the best blue-liner in these playoffs outside of the Sens superstar, of course.

Honourable mention: Evgeni Malkin, Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen, Craig Anderson, Jakob Silfverberg

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