We don’t know just yet which two teams will play for the Stanley Cup, but one thing we do know is the race for the Conn Smythe Trophy is getting more and more interesting by the day.
Here’s our latest look at the frontrunners for the NHL’s playoff MVP.
The Vegas Golden Knights’ netminder has been the favourite basically since the moment the puck dropped in Vegas’s first playoff game. Through 13 appearances, Fleury is 10-3 with a .945 save percentage, 1.70 goals-against average and four shutouts. There have only been two games this post-season in which he’s faced fewer than 30 shots and he’s averaging 31.7 saves per game. He was the lone reason his team held on to beat the Jets in Game 3 of the Western Conference Final on Wednesday, stopping 15 shots in the final frame, many of the 10-bell variety.
It’s only the conference finals but Scheifele has already set an NHL record for most road goals in a single post-season with 11. He has 14 goals in total—five short of tying the all-time playoff record shared by Jari Kurri and Reggie Leach—to go with a ridiculous 35.9 shooting percentage. More than that, he’s been a catalyst for his teammates to step up their respective games.
“He’s been unbelievable,” Jets defenceman Tyler Myers said. “He’s so consistent and he’s playing great. We just want to come back as a group and rally behind him.”
Second to Scheifele in goals with 10 through 15 contests, Ovie appears to be on a mission this year as he leads all players in shots on goal with 66 and his 47 hits ranks sixth among all players in the playoffs. He’s now the only player in Capitals history to score 10 or more goals multiple times during playoff runs.
Marchessault, like most Vegas skaters, underperformed in their sweep of the Kings but he has made up for that in spades. In six games against San Jose and three against the Jets, the diminutive forward has played like a giant. Eight ginos and seven apples in the past nine games earns him a spot on the list.
Scheifele is getting most of the attention these playoffs because he’s the one scoring the goals, but Wheeler’s importance to the Jets and his line with Scheifele and Kyle Connor can’t be overlooked. The Jets’ captain leads all players in assists with 17 in 15 games and he has helped set up 12 of Scheifele’s 14 post-season goals thus far.
Hedman did not register a point in Tampa’s opening-round series with the Devils, but in the eight games since then the big Swede has one goal and 10 assists. It’s not only about his knack for chipping in on offence. Hedman has been just as dominant in his own end.
“He’s a perennial Norris guy but we can’t describe how good he is out there,” Stamkos told reporters earlier this week following a Game 3 win over the Capitals. “We rely on him a ton. He’s a horse. Most nights, if he’s going well, we’re going well as a team.”
Capitals veteran defenceman Brooks Orpik recently said of Kuznetsov: “He’s still young and he’s getting better and better. And to say he keeps getting better and better is pretty scary, because he’s an elite guy already.”
This has been evident in the spring as Kuznetsov has stepped up his game in the playoffs. He leads the Capitals with 20 points in 15 games, a stark improvement on the 0.48 playoff points per game he had averaged prior to this year.
Stamkos has been en fuego of late, putting up three goals and five points in three games against Washington. The Lightning captain has buried in five of his last six games thanks in large part to his elite one-timer that’s really working for him right now.