Henrik Lundqvist: Conn Smythe Winner?


Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Henrik Lundqvist‘s chances of lifting the Stanley Cup are in very serious jeopardy with the New York Rangers trailing the Los Angeles Kings 3-0 in their best of seven Finals series, but, in my opinion, he has a real chance to earn himself a consolation prize that should silence many of Henrik’s critics. The Conn Smythe trophy.

He has earned it.

The most important thing to remember here is that the Conn Smythe is not a Finals MVP, like the award that is given in the NBA. It is an award that honors the player that was most valuable for the entire Stanley Cup playoffs.

From here on out I will be working under the premise that the Kings prevail in the series; not only because at this point it seems the most likely scenario, but, more importantly, if the Rangers were to win this series there is absolutely no debate that the Conn Smythe would be handed to Lundqvist, no other Ranger would even be in the conversation. It would take a heroic effort by him to get the Rangers into a position to hoist the Cup, and if they do, the Conn Smythe will absolutely be headed his way.

It is a rarity for a player on a team that did not win the Stanley Cup to win the award, but it is not unprecedented. Most recently Jean Sebastien Gigiure did so as a member of a Anaheim Ducks team that lost in the Finals in 2003; he became the fifth player to do so, following Ron Hextall, Reggie Leach, Glenn Hall, and Roger Crozier. Of those five players, only Leach was not a goaltender.

Lundqvist has been remarkable this postseason between the pipes for the Rangers, posting the second best goals against average and the second best save percentage in the playoffs, behind Boston’s Tukka Rask, whose Bruins were eliminated in the second round. If you compare the only two goaltenders that are legitimate contenders for the award, Lundqvist and Kings goalie Jonathan Quick, number for number there’s no comparison. Lundqvist’s 2.20 goals against is nearly half a goal better than Quick’s 2.69 and Henrik’s .922 is far superior to Quick’s .910, a number that places the American netminder 7th of the 11 qualifying playoff goaltenders.

Another key factor, in my opinion, is that the Rangers do not have another player that could challenge Lundqvist for the honor. Only Ryan McDonagh would be in the conversation, but to me there’s no question who has been more valuable this postseason.

Simply put, the Rangers could not have advanced to the Finals without him. He has been their best player nearly every night, and despite an offense that can go cold, or absent, for long stretches, he has kept the team in almost every game, many times all by himself.

The Kings, on the other hand, have the playoffs’ top four point getters and three of the top four goal scorers. The highest ranked Ranger is McDonagh at ninth with 16 points.

Anze Kopitar leads the way with 26 points. Kopitar has been stellar all postseason, compiling a ten game point streak during one stretch of the post season. Jeff Carter and the perennially clutch Justin Williams each have 24 and Marian Gaborik, the NHL’s leading goal scorer this postseason with 13 goals, has 23 points. All four are serious candidates for the Conn Smythe.

You can never rule out a Stanley Cup winning goaltender to win the award, so Jonathan Quick has a legitimate chance to be given the honor, despite not putting up the stats that Lundqvist has. Especially given his play in the Finals themselves.

And did I mention Drew Doughty? Doughty has been a stalwart along the LA blue line and the catalyst for this team’s power play all playofffs long, as well as logging huge minutes and  for the Kings in all situations. He very well may be the Kings best candidate for the trophy.

That’s six legitimate candidates to choose from for the Kings. Six. Compared to the Rangers one.

Do I think that Lundqvist will receive the award? No. Do I think he has earned it? Absolutely.

So what would it take for him to get serious consdideration even in a Ranger defeat? One more win, but he’d have be the reason they win the game.

If the Rangers are swept I doubt the NHL would even consider Lundqvist, as unfair as that seems, it’s the truth. If he steals game four, he’s got a chance. If it comes back to New York for a game six I’d say he’s the favorite to win it. If the series goes seven games you could engrave Lundqvist’s name on the trophy pregame, the result wont matter.