NHL Playoffs: An Early Look at Conn Smythe Contenders

May 11, 2015 Updated: May 12, 2015

It’s almost time for the Stanley Cup Playoffs Conference Finals round, which means the conversation for the Conn Smythe Trophy is starting to pick up.

The NHL is unique in that its MVP award is for the best player of the entire playoffs instead of just the final series.

Here are the leading candidates for the Conn Smythe trophy:

Patrick Kane

A remarkable story in these playoffs, Kane wasn’t even supposed to return to the Chicago Blackhawks’ lineup until the Conference Finals round after suffering a broken clavicle on Feb. 24. But the 2013 Conn Smythe winner returned just in time for the playoffs, five weeks ahead of schedule.

Kane’s 7 goals and 13 points rank second in the NHL postseason. Despite the injury, Kane hasn’t been showing any ill effects and his game is soaring.

“I was feeling good after the surgery,” Kane told the Associated Press. “You never really know when you’re going to be allowed to come back and get cleared, but it’s been awesome playing here in the playoffs.”

Kane was very good against Nashville notching two goals and five assists in six games. But he was outstanding in Round 2 against Minnesota, scoring in every game of the series. In fact, the five-game goal streak is a personal high for the Buffalo native.

Kane is a proven playoff performer. He scored the Stanley Cup-winning goal in overtime in 2010 and his 19 points led the Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup in 2013. It should come as no surprise that, since the Blackhawks are back to their old selves, Kane is performing at a high level yet again in 2015.

Corey Perry

Love him or hate him, there’s no denying that Perry is having an excellent postseason for Anaheim. He is leading the NHL with 15 points (7 goals, 8 assists) this postseason. He’s only had to play nine games.

After a solid first round series against Winnipeg in which he collected seven points in four games, the Peterborough, Ontario native was brilliant against Calgary in Round 2, recording nine points in five games. This included his series-winning goal in overtime of the fifth game that eliminated the Flames.

Perry did receive a scare in Game 5, as he was involved in a knee-on-knee collision with Matt Stajan. Perry crawled to the bench and was immediately taken to the dressing room. However, Perry returned to a thunderous ovation at the Honda Centre and rewarded the Anaheim faithful with his first career playoff overtime goal.

“It didn’t feel good at first,” Perry told the Orange County Register about the hit, “But you do anything you can to come back and help your team win a game at any point but especially in the playoffs.”

Even though Perry came back, there are questions regarding the severity of his knee injury. If Perry isn’t 100 percent, it will hurt the Ducks’ chances against Chicago in the Western Conference Final.

Perry has been the catalyst of the Anaheim attack and if he his healthy and continues at this torrid pace, the Conn Smythe may be added to his trophy case.

Henrik Lundqvist

“The King” is standing tall on his throne yet again. Lundqvist, 33, is having another brilliant playoff between the pipes for the New York Rangers.

So far, Lundqvist is posting a 1.68 goals against average and a .940 save percentage. At this rate, Lundqvist will post career best numbers in save percentage and goals against average in the playoffs.

And he’ll have to do that for the Rangers to succeed as the offence hasn’t produced. The Rangers are averaging a mere two goals per game, which is lowest among teams remaining in the Cup chase.

Offensive stars such as Rick Nash and Martin St. Louis have struggled to find their scoring touch, which makes Lundqvist’s contributions even more impressive.

Without Lundqvist, the Rangers would be on the golf course right now. But because of The King, the Rangers host Washington in Game 7 Wednesday night—and they must like their chances. But if Lundqvist is going to win the Conn Smythe, he’ll need his teammates to give him some help.

Jeremy Wiebe has written for The Hockey Writers and other web sites. Currently residing in Winnipeg, his Twitter is @jstar1973