Latest posts by Mike Gallagher (see all)

The Conference Finals are underway and Conn Smythe talk has already begun. Although this conversation should usually wait until the Stanley Cup Finals, all four teams have a genuine shot at winning the Stanley Cup and have clear options of who could win playoff MVP.

Pittsburgh Penguins – Evgeni Malkin

Although much of the spotlight has been on Sidney Crosby and Marc-Andre Fleury, I think that Evgeni Malkin is the frontrunner for potential Penguins’ Conn Smythe winners. As for much of his career, Malkin has spent playing under the radar as much of the media attention lands on Penguins’ captain Sidney Crosby. However, this has boded well for Malkin including in 2017. This past season Malkin finished his 11th NHL season with 72 points  in 62 games. This included 33 goals which was his highest goal total since the 2011-12 season where he lit the lamp 50 times.

By the time the playoffs rolled around Pittsburgh had already lost their top defenseman in Kris Letang and the injuries continued to add up as the Penguins continued deeper into the postseason. Despite numerous injuries including Letang, Trevor Daley and Justin Schultz and even Sidney Crosby having a concussion scare, Malkin has continued to help the Penguins find ways to win games. In 14 games played Malkin has accumulated 6 goals and 20 points which leads all players in playoff scoring. Despite these incredible numbers much of the media attention has still been around the incredible performance of Marc-Andre Fleury and Sidney Crosby, but Malkin has continued to dominate the postseason. Although the series is tied 1-1, it is interesting to notice that the last time Malkin had at least 20 points in the playoffs, Pittsburgh won the Stanley Cup in 2009.

Anaheim Ducks – Ryan Getzlaf

The Anaheim Ducks finally expelled their Game 7 curse in their 2-1 victory against the Edmonton Oilers and are headed back to the Western Conference Finals. Since the beginning of his career in Anaheim, Ryan Getzlaf has been an impact player, especially in the playoffs. After tallying 39 points in 57 games in his rookie campaign, Getzlaf responded with 58 points in 82 games and 17 playoff points in 21 games en route to the Ducks’ first Stanley Cup Championship. Since then Getzlaf has been almost a point per game player in the postseason with 117 points in 118 games and leads Ducks players in playoff points, assists and is third in goals only behind Teemu Selanne and Corey Perry. This playoff run has been one of Getzlaf’s personal best. In 14 games he has amassed 8 goals and 10 assists leading the team and currently sitting second overall in playoff points behind Evgeni Malkin.

Ottawa Senators – Erik Karlsson

One of the best defensemen currently playing the game, Erik Karlsson is leading the Ottawa Senators to their second Conference Finals in franchise history. After dominating the regular season tallying 71 points in 77 games, the third most for defensemen, Karlsson is having the deepest postseason run of his career and are 3 wins away from bringing the Senators back to the Stanley Cup Finals. Despite playing through two hairline fractures in his foot, Karlsson has been the best Senators’ player throughout the three rounds and continues to impress shift after shift. In 14 games played this postseason Karlsson has almost been a point per game player with 13 points consisting of 2 goals and 11 assists while leading all defensemen in playoff points. The Senators/Penguins series is currently tied 1-1, but if the Senators can make it to the Stanley Cup Finals and win there is no doubt that Karlsson will be the man chosen.

Nashville Predators – Pekka Rinne

The Nashville Predators have existed since the 1998-99 season, but 2017 is history in making for Smashville. After sweeping the Chicago Blackhawks and dispatching the St. Louis Blues in six games, Nashville has made it to their first Conference Finals in franchise history. Although a lot of the production has come from the defense, I believe Pekka Rinne has been the Predators best player. The 34 year old Finnish netminder has accumulated a 10-3 record with a .942% save percentage and 1.58 GAA. Not only are these his personal best, but he leads the league in these categories along with having three assists and two shutouts. Along with these incredible stats, Rinne has backstopped the Predators to 10 straight home wins, dating back to last season, becoming the first team to accomplish the feat since the Detroit Red Wings in 1997-98.