The Los Angeles Kings are one win away from their second Stanley Cup championship in three seasons, and they will have their first opportunity to clinch the title when they take on the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night.
If the Kings are able to finish off the series and become the first team to earn a sweep in a Cup Final since the Detroit Red Wings white-washed the Washington Capitals in 1998, there is one question that needs to be asked: Who will be awarded the Conn Smythe Award as the playoff MVP?
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To answer that question, we put together a list of five contenders for the trophy, and we’ll make our selection at the end.
Carter has been an instrumental part of the Kings’ offensive attack during the postseason, and while he only has a goal and an assist against the Rangers thus far, his play against the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference Final gives him a strong chance at the award. He racked up five goals and six assists in that series, including a goal in the series-clincher in the Windy City.
Doughty has had some cold streaks during these playoffs (including a notable power outage against the Anaheim Ducks), but he really has stepped up at times as well. His goal in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final was the stuff of legends, and the seven points he had in the series against the Blackhawks helped the Kings to finish off the defending champions. He also plays nearly 30 minutes a game at a very demanding position, and his excellent two-way play has been a blessing to the Kings.
Gaborik has been an instrumental player for the Kings as they went from having a lackluster offense during the regular season to the league’s best in the postseason. He was especially great in the series against the Ducks, racking up six goals and four assists in the seven game victory. His 13 goals lead all postseason scorers, and he has points in five of the Kings’ last seven games.
Kopitar leads the NHL in postseason points with 26 so far this year, and his ability to move the puck around the ice has helped the Kings in a big way. Through the first two rounds of the playoffs he had five goals and 14 assists, and he has showed little sign of slowing down outside of a couple of rough games against Jonathan Toews and the Blackhawks. He has two assists so far in the Stanley Cup Final.
Williams is a player who is now legendary for his Game 7 exploits (he has two goals and three assists in three Game 7’s this season), but he has been on fire over the team’s last five games. In those contests, Williams has two goals and seven assists, and he has arguably been the best player on the ice for Los Angeles so far in the Cup Final.
And the Winner Is….
It really is a tough decision on who to go with for playoff MVP honors, with Kopitar and Doughty both playing such instrumental roles. At the end of the day though, the one player who is really excelling the most when the pressure is at its highest is Williams and it’s because of his play in the conference and Cup finals that gives him the edge in our eyes for the Conn Smythe.