Not since 2003 has a player on the losing team in the Stanley Cup finals won the Conn Smythe trophy as the most valuable player. We all remember J.S. Giguere’s performance that year, and that thick beard that probably had Scott Niedermayer jealous in both length and color (grey beards don’t look cool, Scott).
And as the 2009 Stanley Cup playoffs wind down either Tuesday or Friday night, we’ll be left figuring out this year’s Conn Smythe winner. Well, we won’t, the NHL will, but you get what I mean. It’s with no surprise that this year’s Conn Smythe winner is a 2 horse race between Evgeni Malkin and Henrik Zetterberg.
You can make pretty good arguments for Sidney Crosby, Chris Osgood and maybe even Johan Franzen, but ultimately, Zetterberg and Malkin are the front runners. Their impact – although slightly different – are the big reason why both Detroit and Pittsburgh are in the finals, again.
The winner of the Conn Smythe usually goes to the winning team. Duh. Unless a performance nearly overshaddows the winning team, like Giguere in 2003. So the question really becomes:
If the Red Wings win the Stanley Cup, has Evgeni Malkin done enough to win the Conn Smythe?
Conversely, if the Penguins win the Stanely Cup, has Henrik Zetterberg done enough?
Malkin has truly stepped up, leading the Penguins (and all other players) with 35 points in 22 games. Zetterberg is 3rd in playoff scoring (24 points in 21 games), but his biggest contributions lie in his defensive play, shutting down Rick Nash, Ryan Getzlaf, Patrick Kane and now Sidney Crosby. Oh yeah, and his offensive contributions aren’t anything to frown on either.
It’s a tough call. Ultimately, the team that wins the Stanley Cup will probably host the Conn Smythe as that player will likely outplay everyone else, propelling their team to victory. But that’s based on how the NHL has typically awarded the trophy.
Who do I think should win the trophy, regardless of who wins the Cup? Henrik Zetterberg, by a mile. He’s shut down some of the game’s best and brightest stars as noted above. He’s been relied on even more in the Stanley Cup finals with Pavel Datsyuk injured and out of action. He’s average more than a point per game in the playoffs (averaged slightly less in the regular season), despite increased attention and time spent in the defensive zone.
Hank should win this trophy. I believe he’s meant more to the Detroit Red Wings than Evgeni Malkin has to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Don’t get me wrong – Malkin is no slouch. I believe Zetterberg has been a hair or two more dominant to the Red Wing’s pursuit of Lord Stanley than Malkin to the Penguins. Do you agree?
Stay classy, Zetterberg