NHL analyst and former All-Star Jeremy Roenick is taking an early stab at choosing his top Conn Smythe candidates from the four remaining playoff teams.
Here's a look at JR's choices:
Coyotes: Mike Smith
Kings: Jonathan Quick (or Dustin Brown)
Rangers: Henrik Lundqvist
Devils: Ilya Kovalchuk (or Zach Parise)
Mike Smith is clearly the top choice in Phoenix, but the goaltender will have to get back on track against the Kings to look Trophy worthy. You have to give him credit, Smith shined in the first two rounds of the playoffs and became a well-known name around the league. He's maintained a .943 save percentage and has recorded two shutouts since the end of the regular season--one against the Blackhawks and another against the Devils.
Deciding between Dustin Brown and Jonathan Quick isn't easy. The Kings' captain has recorded seven goals and seven assists in 11 games, two of them short-handed. On top of that, he's maintained a level of physicality on the ice that isn't comparable to anything else we've seen in the postseason. His ability to deliver and absorb hits without hindering his performance has skyrocketed the Kings to a phenomenal 10-1 playoff record.
But when analyzing the Kings, you have to remember that Jonathan Quick is the reason Los Angeles made it to the playoffs in the first place. The Kings were the worst offensive team in the league for a good portion of the season, and they went through a frustratingly-long rough patch of not being able to score more than two goals per game. Quick's outstanding on-ice performance has only gotten stronger during the playoffs. His .951 postseason save percentage and two shutouts have helped make the Kings unstoppable and is the reason Roenick has chosen him as his top pick. Quick's also a candidate for the Vezina Trophy.
Henrik Lundqvist has been outstanding for the Rangers. Despite New York's scoring struggles from time to time, they managed to hold on to the top seed in the east. Roenick points out that Lundqvist has been the most consistent goalie since October, and his .930 regular season save percentage backs that statement. If the Rangers and Kings were to advance to the Stanley Cup finals, the goalie battle would keep any hockey fan at the edge of their seat. He is also a candidate for the Vezina Trophy (Pekka Rinne is the third goalie battling for the honor).
When looking at the Devils, Roenick believes Ilya Kovalchuk is the better choice over Zach Parise. Kovalchuk has transformed into more of a team player and has produced six goals and seven assists in 13 playoff games. But it's important to note that Parise has always shown his dedication to the sport at to his team, pushing the Devils to constantly improve. He's recorded four goals and five assists in the postseason.
If a winner were chosen today, who would you pick as your favorite candidate for the Conn Smythe Trophy?