Last year, the Boston Bruins rode a hot goaltender in Tim Thomas to their first Stanley Cup Finals trip since 1990. The B's went on to beat the Vancouver Canucks in seven games behind Thomas' stellar performance for their first title since 1972.
This season, the Western Conference's eighth-seeded Los Angeles Kings are following the same script. The Kings knocked off No. 1 Vancouver, the Presidents' Trophy winner, No. 2 St. Louis and then the No. 3 Coyotes in the conference finals to become the second No. 8 seed — along with Edmonton in 2006 — to reach the Stanley Cup Finals.
Most of the credit certainly has to go to goaltender Jonathan Quick. He is the 11-10 betting favorite at Bovada to replace Thomas as the Conn Smythe Trophy winner, with the Cup Finals beginning Wednesday night in New Jersey.
The Kings were second in the NHL during the regular season behind Quick's 1.95 GAA, which was second in the league. In these playoffs, Quick is 12-2 with a playoff-best 1.54 GAA and .946 save percentage (among all goalies with at least four games played). Quick has led the Kings to eight consecutive road wins in this postseason, an NHL record.
If Quick wins the award, it would be unusual because goalies haven't won the Conn Smythe Trophy in back-to-back years since Montreal's Patrick Roy — who has the most playoff MVP awards with three — in 1986 and Philadelphia's Ron Hextall in 1987. Roy is also the only player to win the award with more than one team.
Quick is an American, which would also make it somewhat surprising for him to win the award. Only five times has a non-Canadian won the Conn Smythe. Prior to Thomas last year, the previous non-Canadian winner was Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin in 2009.
The Kings are minus-170 series favorites at the book, so oddsmakers would expect the Conn Smythe winner to come from L.A. as the trophy has been awarded to members of a losing team just five times. The most recent was goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere of the Ducks in 2003. That the Conn Smythe goes to a player from the losing team this year is a yes-only prop at plus-1500. Quick could definitely still win it if the Kings were to lose in seven close games. Quick's over-under GAA for this series is 1.95, with both options at minus-115.
L.A.'s Dustin Brown is the 4-1 second favorite to win the award along with Devils netminder Martin Brodeur at 4-1. Brown, a right wing, is third in the playoffs with 16 points, tied for second with seven goals and tied with teammate Anze Kopitar to lead the NHL with a postseason plus-minus rating of plus-13.
Brodeur, the 40-year-old lock Hall of Famer, is looking for his fourth Stanley Cup title but first playoff MVP award in what could be the final few games of his career. Brodeur has led the Devils back from series deficits in each of the first three rounds, but his 2.04 GAA and .923 save percentage rank well behind Quick's numbers. That a goaltender wins the Conn Smythe is the big minus-210 favorite, with no at plus-170. Brodeur's over-under GAA in this series at the book is set at 2.40.
New Jersey sniper Ilya Kovalchuk and Kings center Anze Kopitar round off the top five favorites for the Conn Smythe. Kovalchuk (11-2) leads all NHL players with 18 playoff points as well as 11 assists. His over-under points total vs. Los Angeles is 5.5, with both at minus-115.
Kopitar (10-1) has six goals — two shorthanded — and nine assists to go along with that top plus-minus rating with his teammate Brown. Kopitar’s over-under points total against New Jersey is five, with the over a minus-130 favorite.