LOS ANGELES -- Before the Stanley Cup finals, last year’s Conn Smythe winner Patrick Kane had already scored 67 percent of his playoff goals. The previous year, before stopping a single shot against the New Jersey Devils, Jonathan Quick had made 75 percent of his postseason saves.
At this point, the list has narrowed for the postseason MVP. The foundation for the Conn Smythe has been poured. Now comes the finishing touches for the favorites from the Los Angeles Kings and New York Rangers. If a long shot is going to emerge, he has his work cut out, considering the cases made by the following group.
Here’s an examination of what the top six Conn Smythe candidates need to do to cement their place in NHL history:
1. Drew Doughty, D, Kings
What he’s done: Doughty simply has been the best defenseman in the postseason, continuing to build his reputation as a player who loves competing when the pressure is highest. His skating, and his ability to create and jump-start the Kings' transition game all become more important when the stakes are higher.
“People recognize those abilities of him as a player, they get reconfirmed at that stage in the Olympics or playoff time, but we see it on a nightly basis,” teammate Willie Mitchell said. “He’s just a heck of a hockey player in every fashion. Not only offensive and dynamic on the blue line where he can shake guys and move and take shots, but he’s very good defensively.”
Through 21 games, Doughty has 16 points, most among defensemen in these playoffs. It’s also three more points than any Rangers forward has registered this postseason.
What he needs to do: When Scott Niedermayer won the Conn Smythe in 2007, he had three goals and eight assists, so Doughty has already exceeded that point total.
If Doughty can be instrumental in shutting down New York’s top offensive players like Martin St. Louis, Brad Richards and Rick Nash while contributing a couple of big goals in a Kings championship run, he should be in good shape to be just the fifth defenseman to win the award since Brian Leetch pulled off the feat in 1994.
2. Henrik Lundqvist, G, Rangers
What he’s done: He’s been the best goalie this postseason.