Rangers Goalie Henrik Lundqvist Tops Conn Smythe Trophy Candidate List

Henrik Lundqvist,  Andrei MarkovAfter the first two games of the Eastern and Western conference finals, it’s time to review the top candidates for the Conn Smythe Trophy, an award given annually to the most valuable player of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Many players are making a strong case to be among the top candidates for this year’s award. In fact, this might become one of the tightest races in a long time.

Without further ado, let’s look at the top candidates for the 2014 Conn Smythe Trophy.

1) Henrik Lundqvist, Goaltender, New York Rangers

Lundqvist has been the best goalie of the playoffs with a league-leading 1.93 goals against average and a .934 save percentage. His .944 even-strength save percentage is the best among goalies still in the postseason. He earned a .940 save percentage in New York’s seven-game second-round series win over the Pittsburgh Penguins and has tallied a staggering .952 save percentage with just three goals against over the first two games of the Eastern Conference finals against the Montreal Canadiens (the Rangers lead 2-0).

Lundqvist helped the Rangers overcome a historically bad power play in the first two rounds (it started 0-for-36) and has the Blueshirts within two wins of their first Stanley Cup Final appearance in 20 years.

2) Jonathan Quick, Goaltender, Los Angeles Kings

Quick has a .912 save percentage and a 2.70 GAA, which aren’t earth-shattering numbers, but he has played much better than his stats would suggest. The Kings netminder has made many tremendous saves in each game, several of which have come after poor defensive zone play and costly turnovers by his defensemen.

Quick’s performance Wednesday night against the Blackhawks in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals was a shining example of why he’s among the top candidates for this award. Quick denied nearly 10 Grade A scoring chances that Chicago created, which kept Los Angeles in the game long enough to mount a comeback and win 6-2 with five third-period goals after trailing 2-0.

Quick has given up just eight goals in the six elimination games that the Kings have played, including three goals against and a .951 save percentage in two Game 7 victories.

3) Anze Kopitar, Center, Los Angeles Kings

Kopitar leads the playoffs with 20 points (including a league-best 15 assists) in 16 games. He has been a very good possession player with a 54.3 corsi-for percentage and has faced the opponent’s top line on just about every shift (evidenced by his 29.6 quality of competition rating).

In addition to his stellar defense and consistent scoring production, Kopitar is winning 55 percent of his faceoffs and spending 5:34 of ice time per game on special teams. He’s making a positive impact in all three zones for the Kings.

4) Jonathan Toews, Center, Chicago Blackhawks

The Blackhawks captain has tallied 11 points (six goals, five assists) in 14 games, including a league-best four game-winning goals. He’s winning 57.2 percent of his faceoffs and has faced the toughest competition of any player in the playoffs (league-leading 31.8 QoC rating). Toews also is excelling on the best penalty kill remaining in the playoffs.

5) Jeff Carter, Winger, Los Angeles Kings

Carter’s reputation as a reliable playoff performer has been bolstered over the last few weeks, as he has tallied 13 points (seven goals, six assists) in 16 playoff games, including points in 11 games. His four-point performance in Game 2 against the Blackhawks was one of the finest of the playoffs from any player.

Carter has three total points (one goal, two assists) in two Game 7 victories and has tallied four points in six elimination games. His scoring production, physical play, leadership and quality defense in all three zones have been a major benefit for the Kings.

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