The Conn Smythe
It might not be that time, just yet. And yes, before we begin, I fully understand that we are only into the semi-finals of these 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
However, with the way certain players have shown elevation in their game I feel this discussion needs to begin.
The Conn Smythe trophy, handed out to the Most Valuable Player over the course of the playoffs for his team, comes at the end of the final game of the Stanley Cup Finals.
However, before we indulge in who leads the way to be named winner, let’s take a look at the actual trophy shall we?
The Conn Smythe Trophy was introduced in 1964 by Maple Leaf Gardens Limited to honor Conn Smythe, the former owner, general manager, and coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs. He is also a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame as a builder.
The trophy’s design is similar to Maple Leaf Gardens, the arena in which the Maple Leafs played their home games from 1931 to 1999, with a botanically-correct maple leaf further embellishing it as well.
Constantine Falkland Cary Smythe was a Canadian businessman, soldier and sportsman in both ice hockey and horse racing who lived a life that began on February 1, 1895 and ended November 18, 1980. He is best known as the principal owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs of the NHL from 1927 to 1961. Also, he was the actual builder of Maple Leaf Gardens.
As owner of the Leafs during numerous championship years, his name appears on Lord Stanleys Cup eleven times: 1932, 1942, 1945, 1947, 1948, 1949, 1951, 1962, 1963, 1964, and 1967.
The first winner of the award was Montreal Canadiens center Jean Beliveau. It came in 1965 and for the obvious, his performance in the Stanley Cup playoffs that year where he posted 16 points in 13 games.
Bobby Orr of the Boston Bruins was the first player to win the award twice. Philadelphia Flyers long time netminder Bernie Parent and centers Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux also won it twice.
Only one player stands out above that rest and that is Patrick Roy, who won the award three different times. He is also the only player in the history of the award to win it for more than one team.
A bit more of a history lesson here, the trophy has been won nine times by skaters within the Montreal Canadiens organization, five times by Detroit Red Wings players and four times by members of the Edmonton Oilers, Philadelphia Flyers and New York Islanders organizations.
The Conn Smythe trophy does not always go to a player on the team that wins the leagues top prize. In 2003, then Anaheim Mighty Ducks netminder Jean-Sebastien Giguere won the award as the losing goaltender in the Stanley Cup Finals. The Ducks lost to the New Jersey Devils in their seven game series.
The only non-goaltender to win the award in a losing cause is ex-Philadelphia Flyers player Reggie Leach. He captured the trophy after an amazing performance during the 1976 Cup finals even with the Flyers being swept by Montreal.
Ron Hextall won the award on the losing side of the Stanley Cup for the Philadelphia Flyers as well.
Another interesting fact here is that there have only been four non-Canadian players to win the award. Brian Leetch of the United States (1994), Evgeni Malkin of Russia (2009), Nicklas Lidstrom of Sweden (2002) and Henrik Zetterberg also of Sweden (2008). You guessed it, every other winner has been of Canadian pride.
Speaking of interesting statistics surrounding the glorious award, only three players have won the Conn Smythe Trophy as well as the Hart Memorial Trophy in the same year. The Hart Memorial Trophy is handed to the most valuable palyer during the regular season. The winers: Bobby Orr (1970), Guy Lafleur (1977) and Wayne Gretzky (1985).
This year, we have witnessed some incredible single acts.
Craig Anderson, Sidney Crosby, Michael Cammellari, Mikael Samuelsson, Jaroslav Halak, but none other truly stand out to me over Joe Pavelski.
However, we look at the reasoning behind why each player has made a case for an article like this one.
When you can score in the playoffs like Mario Lemieux (no I’m not comparing the two), your team will usually win. Although the Canucks are heading home in their series with the Chicago Blackhawks tied at one game a piece, Samuelsson has provided plenty of offense for the club. Through eight playoff games Samuelsson has scored eight goals, added four assists and has a plus-eight rating.
Speaking of scoring ala Lemieux, he’s been the sniper that the Habs have been waiting for since the departure of Alex Kovalev’s talent. When the Habs signed Kovalev, they felt they were going to get a pure goal-scorer; but Kovalev left his goal-scoring ability in his agent’s office when he signed his hefty contract in Montreal. ‘Cammie’ is providing bang for the buck. And plenty of it. Finding his scoring touch and taking it to the next level within these playoffs has helped Montreal in battling against the league’s top teams. The stellar play of Cammalleri along with outstanding performances from Jaroslav Halak, Hal Gill and P.K. Subban, the President’s Trophy winners have already been eliminated and the defending champs have already been defeated once in their series.
In these playoffs, Cammalleri has played nine games and has provided the Habs with 13 points (8g, 5a).
It is no secret that the Boston Bruins are up 2-0 in their series with the Philadelphia Flyers due to the man they call “Tuuuuuuuukkka”. In eight playoff games (his first ever postseason), Rask has an amazing 6-2 record with a 2.27 goals against average and a stellar .922 save percentage. Taking over the number one role from reigning Vezina Trophy-winner Tim Thomas has provided the Bruins with plenty of hope, especially now in the playoffs.
Now, since the mention has been made, the closest Lemieux type during these playoffs has truly been Crosby. Number eighty-seven is playing like a man possessed. On the ice he has been nothing short of a pure, all-around player. Currently leading all playoff performers with 16 points through eight games, what more can be said for the Canadian youngster who already has a resume of accolades that many players can not say they earned over the course of their entire careers.
Crosby is a very talented and very gifted player. Playing on, who I feel to be, the most complete team in these playoffs doesn’t seem to affect Crosby or his game one way or another. In every shift played, he provides the Penguins with a serious offensive threat. A threat that can dominate not only a game but an entire series on its own (as proven against Ottawa).
Taking matters into his own hands is the way Halak has played so far this post-season. Magician-like through the opening round of the playoffs, the Montreal Halak-iens were able to defeat the top-seeded team in the NHL, the Washington Capitals. A record, currently, of 5-3 in the post-season might not be one of merit but his .931 save percentage stands out as it is top among the remaining netminders.
After a poor performance in Game 1 of these semifinals, Halak rebounded with another fine outing which helped Montreal tie the series and split the first of two on the road.
As mentioned previously, due to the fantastic play of Halak and the gifted scoring touch of Cammellari, this Habs team can not be overlooked.
All it takes is a hot goaltender to ride you through the playoffs to play for the leagues top prize (SEE: Cam Ward).
“The Big” is on fire.
He and Dan Boyle have carried this team to a 2-0 series lead here in the second round over Detroit. But Pavelski has provided all season long, and here within the second season, he has truly taken his game up to a new level.
“Little Joe” is the second leading scorer in the playoffs behind only Crosby, but his nine goals are best. In eight games, Pavelski is a plus-7 with five goals coming on the power play.
Making up the offense that has disappeared from the top names in San Jose has helped the Sharks take a two games to none lead over the Detroit Red Wings and has given Pavelski plenty of mentions when discussing the Conn Smythe candidates.
Craig Anderson would likely have his name at the top of this list if the Avalanche would have upset the San Jose Sharks. Unfortunately for Anderson and the Avs, they have to wait until next season to have a better playoff outcome. However, Anderson’s .933 save percentage still remains the postseason’s best at this time.
There is plenty of hockey left and we are likely to witness a change in names for this discussion as we head into the Conference Finals. However, if all remains on course, one of the aforementioned players could very well skate away at the end of the playoffs with two prizes.
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