The weather is warming up and so is the “Coolest Game on Earth”. The 2021 Stanley Cup final is finally upon us.
After a 56-game sprint and three rounds of high-octane postseason hockey, the NHL is left with the last two teams: defending champion Lightning and the NHL’s most decorated franchise, the Canadiens.
While a team-first mentality is always the key component to a successful postseason, there are some players who have risen to the top for the coveted Conn Smythe Trophy, awarded to the best player of the postseason. Will this be the year we see the trophy awarded to someone from the losing team? Or will it be someone skating with not one, but two trophies in July?
MORE: Six of the biggest award slights in NHL history
Sporting News ranks the top five MVP candidates entering the Stanley Cup final:
Conn Smythe Power Rankings 2021
5. Phillip Danault, Canadiens
You are probably wondering how it got here. While he only has three assists in 17 games, Danault has become an integral role in getting the Canadiens to this point. The Quebecois center-back, along with his linemate Brendan Gallagher, has shut out the best opposition players: Mitch Marner of the Maple Leafs and 2021 Rocket Richard Trophy winner Auston Matthews in the first round, Nikolaj Ehlers and Kyle Connor. of the Jets in the conference semifinals and Golden Knights’ Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone in the final. Zero goals from six guys who scored more than 20 in a 56-game or fewer regular season when they faced Danault and his team.
Plus, you smash pizza for post-game press conferences, so you have loot too.
Stanley Cup Final: Predictions, Schedule, Odds for Lightning vs. Canadians
4. Nikita Kucherov, Lightning
Kucherov missed the entire regular season recovering from hip surgery and, despite not playing a couple between late September and May, has returned in top scoring form. In 18 games he accumulated five goals and 27 points, 17 of them in the power game.
3. Brayden Point, Lightning
It was tough picking a No. 2 between Point and Kucherov, but the Calgary native’s three game winners push him past his teammate. Like last season’s Cup race, Point has been a game changer for the Bolts. Last season he added 33 points (14 goals, 19 assists) in 23 games. This season he has already reached the mark of 14 goals in just 18 games and has contributed six assists. He tickled the thread in nine straight games, one behind Reggie Leach’s record, and has scored in all but five games this postseason.
2. Andrei Vasilevskiy, Lightning
Once again, Vasilevskiy has put together an impressive postseason streak, posting a .936 save percentage and a 1.99 goals-against average in 18 starts. At 5v5, his save percentage increases to .939. Has the NHL’s best goals saves above average (4.85) and high-density GSAA (5.55), according to Natural Stat Trick. The 26-year-old, who is set for the 2021 Vezina Trophy as the league’s best regular-season goalkeeper, has thrown shutouts at all decisive points of the series, including a Game 7 win over the Islanders to reach the definitive series.
1. Carey Price, Canadiens
If the Canadiens can beat the star-studded Lightning in the Stanley Cup final, it will all be for Price. An always relaxing presence between the pipes, he has once again elevated his playoff game. The netminder has been stellar on the net, posting a .934 save percentage, 2.02 goals against average and one shutout.
Though rare, he has allowed just three goals on 63 shots (.952 save percentage). and two of them come from places of high danger. Even if the Canadiens can’t pull it off, Price has a good chance of being the losing team’s sixth player to win, joining Roger Crozier (Red Wings, 1966), Glenn Hall (Blues, 1968), Leach (Flyers, 1976), Ron Hextall (Flyers, 1987) and Jean-Sebastien Giguere (Mighty Ducks, 2003).
Conn Smythe odds 2021
|Andrei Vasilevskiy||Flash of lightning||+135|
|Nikita Kucherov||Flash of lightning||+300|
|Brayden Point||Flash of lightning||+400|
|Victor Hedman||Flash of lightning||+5000|
|Steven stamkos||Flash of lightning||+6000|
|Alex Killorn||Flash of lightning||+10000|
Fees as of June 28 and courtesy of DraftKings.com.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.