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Conn Smythe candidate review: Ultimate team glory, but who’s MVP?

Wayne Masut | The Scrum Sports

Victor Hedman. 2020 Conn Smythe Trophy winner, and well deserved. Out of his mind he played in the Cup run. An absolute beast, setting the standard for a D-man taking MVP honors. So, if Tampa Bay does the near impossible and goes back-to-back, who follows Hedman? Hedman? No. However, the Lightning are getting production from a wealth of players. Who takes the MVP cake, and eats it too? Could be one of, in my mind, four legitimate candidates, but dont’ sleep on a few others. Let’s dig in. 

It takes a perfect storm to win a Stanley Cup. No pun intended. Same goes, individually speaking, for a Conn Smythe. Last year, that storm was comprised of outstanding goaltending, and blueline production, among other things. This year? Well, it’s a different story. The Lightning have just two goals from the back-end and are currently two wins from a chance to defend. One series. To become hockey icons, and take home the Cup, with a Conn Smythe candidate cashing in to become equally iconic.

“Do you want to just win one and be done?… Or do you want to be special?”

Fire. Me. Up, Jon Cooper. This quote speaks volumes to the drive this Lightning team has to win it all. So, that being said, the road has been completely different for Tampa this yea. Obviously, production from Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point is common. New faces, though, are chipping in, and as mentioned, the forward group is scoring like wildfire. Forwards highlight Riley Gillespie-Wilson’s top candidates for Conn Smythe honours if the Bolts get it done again.

Top candidate: The Big Cat

This one is easy in all honesty. Not only is the goalie of a star studded group the league’s darling, but there’s no doubt Andrei Vasilevskiy will have earned this particular hardware.

Where does he rank among the best goaltenders of all time? Check out our recent discussion, led by myself and Dan Herrejon, to find out.

The one thing that is certain is he’s been the Bolts’ best D-man all playoff long, though he tends the crease. Timely saves. Acrobatic saves. You name it, he’s done it. The Lightning’s rock all playoffs long, he has the best goals-against, and has amassed the most saves of any goalie in the playoffs.

Second in line: 21

Brayden Point has been absolutely phenomenal. In my opinion, he carries the Conn Smythe back North of the border last season, if not for Hedman. Voters agreed, as he pulled into second with an absolutely dominant stretch of play.

Same story this run. Point has 12 goals in 15 games this postseason, and is second in points only to his Russian sniper teammate Nikita Kucherov.

Three’s company: “Kuuuuch”

Leading the playoffs in points? Yes, indeed. I can’t overstate how wild it is to see 86 in blue and white go absolutely hay-wire after missing the entire regular season. As much as that probably should, and will maybe be, taken into account, it’s his play alone that puts ‘Kuch’ in this conversation.

Repeat possible?

As noted, I don’t think Hedman has done quite enough to do the unthinkable and pull another Conn Smythe out of his bag of Swedish tricks. However, he’s still, while admittedly battling an injury, playing better hockey than 90% of defensemen out there.

14 points. 13 assists. While putting the puck in the net would help his case, he’s still the engine that drives this blue-line, and the Bolts power play, for that matter.

Killer instinct: Don’t sleep on Harvard

Harvard grad Alex Killorn is more than intelligent, and social media savvy. He’s far more than a man and his Sea Doo. The Lightning’s power forward is infinitely valuable, and a force in front of the net. Need a big hit? Call on ‘Killer.’ Big goal? Do likewise.

He’s having his best playoff of his relatively young career, by a long-shot, with 6 goals and 13 points in the Bolts’ 15 tilts. A definite candidate. He won’t win, but, if he does, by some miracle, or because of an uptick in production, you heard it here first.

Honorable mentions

While these guys would also need a huge last (hopefully) 6 games to become a legitimate candidate, the following deserve some love for a solid postseason:

  1. Steven Stamkos: Leadership to a tee, phenomenal in multiple games, 14 points!
  2. Erik Cernak: 8 assists.
  3. Yanni Gourde: 3 goals, +3.

Get it done first

While this is fun speculation, Bolts nation really only cares about the 34-and-a-half pound mammoth trophy every kid dreams of hoisting one day.

Let’s capture back-to-back jacks, then concern ourselves with the 700+ words you just ingested. Six wins. to become “special.”



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