We’re in the thick of the Stanley Cup Playoffs now, and while the teams have been evenly matched the contenders have begun separating themselves from the pretenders in the race for the Conn Smythe Trophy.
Each of the four second-round series have gotten off to exciting starts with many standout first-round performers continuing to produce. There have also been a handful of players who have stepped up in the past week, so with that in mind here are our latest playoff MVP rankings.
The Sharks have found a way to get 11 pucks past Fleury—the Kings only scored thrice in four games by comparison—but no player has been more vital to his team’s success than “Flower.” The veteran netminder is 6-2 this post-season with a sparkling .951 save percentage, 1.53 goals-against average and three shutouts. Even in his two losses he’s been great, averaging 36.5 saves in those contests. His glove save in overtime against Logan Couture might be the play of the playoffs thus far.
The 21-year-old always seems to make the right decision around the puck. He’s known mostly for his offence yet his two-way game is nothing to scoff at. He has been the best player on the best line in the league these playoffs, which speaks volumes considering the résumés his linemates, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, boast. Pastrnak has scored 69 goals over the past two regular seasons but he has shown off his unheralded playmaking ability this post-season by registering a league-high 14 assists though 10 games.
Eight goals, nine assists for 17 points in nine games is impressive to say the least, but now that his Penguins are trailing the Caps 2-1 in their series, might we see Crosby take his game to another level? His chemistry with current linemates Jake Guentzel and Patric Hornqvist is excellent but even when Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan switches things up Crosby performs at the same elite level.
“He’s a generational talent,” Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan recently told The Washington Post. “He does things that you can’t teach, and that’s part of what makes him what he is. What separates him from other elite players is his appetite to be the best and his willingness and his drive to be the best. … Sid has the ability to adapt and adjust based on who we utilize beside him. He’s one of the easier guys to play with because he has the ability to adapt to the guys we put beside him.”
Preds-Jets has been a joy to watch and so has the performance of Scheifele. He has seven points this series and two or more points in each of the past five games, which is the longest multi-point streak in the playoffs since Crosby did the same back in 2010.
“I think everybody in that room knows what [Scheifele is] capable of,” Jets defenceman Jacob Trouba told reporters earlier this week following a Game 2 loss in which Scheifele had two goals and an assist. “I don’t think it’s any surprise to anyone. He’s shown that over the past how many years that that’s how he can play. He’s a big-time player and he’s got a lot of skill.”
His .934 save percentage, 2.01 GAA and two shutouts are second only to Fleury but his record is an identical 6-2, and by the end of the second round the records are all that will matter. Jones is a proven playoff performer and at home he’s always locked in.
Braden Holtby has been great for the Caps but Ovie has taken the reins for Washington against the Penguins with a goal in each game, including a dramatic Game 3 winner.
At this point it would be a tough sell leaving the playoff points leader off this list of Conn Smythe contenders, even though he wouldn’t win the award ahead of Crosby. He is playing perhaps the best hockey of his young NHL career right now though.
Byfuglien has been just as dominant against the Predators as he was versus the Wild. He leads all defencemen in points per game but his size and strength is an X-factor other teams can’t prepare for.
“He brings a lot to the table,” Preds coach Peter Laviolette said of Byfuglien. “Just his size, his physicality for one. The way he can move is another.”
Added Jets forward Bryan Little: “I think Buff is the strongest person in the league. Hands down.”
In addition to his consistent output—four goals, 11 assists in 10 games—Marchand remains a top penalty killer with an uncanny ability to bother opponents with gamesmanship.
Five points in the past two games and a playoff-leading 43 shots on goal means the Preds forward makes an appearance here.
The Lightning netminder was lit up for five goals on 23 shots in Game 1 against the Bruins. Outside of that game, in which his entire team was outclassed, Vasilevskiy has been solid and put up numbers comparable to Jones and Holtby.