Conn Smythe Rankings: Alex Ovechkin in his element

Ron MacLean, Nick Kypreos, Kelly Hrudey and Elliotte Friedman recap Game 7 between the Winnipeg Jets and Nashville Predators.

It’s official: This year will be the first time since the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs that a player not named Sidney Crosby will be awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy.

So, who’s it going to be? With the field narrowed down to just four teams, we’re seeing plenty of familiar names show up on this list. Here’s who we’re watching this week.

Marc-Andre Fleury, Vegas Golden Knights

We’ve put together three of these Power Rankings so far this post-season, and there’s a reason Fleury has been the first name on the list each time. While we maintain that the players on this weekly list are placed in no particular order … well, simply put, Fleury is the first that comes to mind when we think about the biggest difference-makers this spring.

The three-time Stanley Cup champion has consistently shown up in the biggest moments of these playoffs, currently leading his playoff peers in goals-against average (1.53), save percentage (.951) and shutouts (four).

And this pretty cool: Fleury opened and closed the first round with a pair of shutouts against the Kings (Games 1 and 4), and then went and did the same thing against the San Jose Sharks in Round 2 (Games 1 and 6).

There’s also a dog named after him, so that counts for something too, right?

Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals

It finally happened: The Washington Capitals defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins to reach the Eastern Conference Final, and Ovechkin is a big reason why.

With eight goals and seven assists through 12 games so far, Washington’s captain trails only Mark Scheifele (more on him later) among players still in contention for the Cup (Jake Guentzel, Crosby, David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand, and Patrice Bergeron rank ahead of him after two rounds).

He came up big with two goals to clinch the Capitals’ first-round series comeback against the Columbus Blue Jackets, and followed it up with a goal in each of Washington’s first three second-round games against Pittsburgh. No. 8 has been a dominant presence all post-season, registering at least a point in all but three games this spring.

Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals

Holtby rediscovered his game just in time for the biggest playoff run of his life, and we’re all just along for the ride.

Though his performance isn’t quite up to say, Fleury’s level (then again, whose is these days…?), Holtby has been consistently great for the Capitals since re-establishing himself as the starter against Columbus in Round 1 and was an integral part of the club finally (!) defeating the Penguins as he stopped all but one shot in the Game 6 series clincher.

His 2.04 goals-against average ranks him second behind Fleury, and he’s a close third behind Vasilevkiy in save percentage (.926) and has been excellent in high-pressure situations.

We can’t wait to see him go head-to-head with another goalie on this list…

Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning

While we may have seen him at his worst in Game 1 against the Bruins, he more than rebounded — as did the rest of his team — to string together four straight victories to claim the series. Through 10 games, he’s got a 2.20 goals-against average and a save percentage of .927. He has yet to register a shutout, but his steady presence in net can’t be overstated as his performance allows the Lightning to win games their way.

Brayden Point, Tampa Bay Lightning

After a huge Round 1 output against the New Jersey Devils, Nikita Kucherov cooled off in Round 2 against the Bruins and while he’s still in the running here (no doubt, he’ll heat up again), we’re keeping an especially close eye on his teammate, Brayden Point.

Point’s dominant seven-point performance against the Bruins in Round 2 had head coach Jon Cooper singing his praises, even calling him “arguably our best player in that series.” And it’s not hard to figure out why. He drew tough matchups, was nearly impossible to defend at times, and changed the pace and feel of the game with every shift. That’s MVP material for sure.

Mark Scheifele, Winnipeg Jets

What is there to even say about Mark Scheifele that hasn’t already been said? He’s just that good, and he’s stepped up in the post-season to the tune of 11 goals and five assists through two rounds, the most points of any player still standing. He’s already got seven multi-point games in these playoffs, including a run of five straight from Game 4 against Minnesota to Game 3 versus Nashville.

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