Sports Conn Smythe Power Rankings: Kuznetsov the top dog now

20:06  05 june  2018
20:06  05 june  2018 Source:   thescore.com

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31. 20:32. Kuznetsov has simply been the best player in these playoffs. Ovechkin has been the Capitals' leader and top scorer. Do you care about the Conn Smythe Trophy? Evgeny Kuznetsov : “ What’s that going to get you?

Kuznetsov , of course, does not care about any of this right now because there is still a pretty big job to do before the award actually gets handed out to somebody. Following the Capitals’ Game 4 win on Monday night he was asked if he cared about winning the Conn Smythe and simply said “What’s that

As we approach the climax of the Stanley Cup Final and the NHL season as a whole, it's time to take one more look at the top contenders for the Conn Smythe Trophy.

The Washington Capitals find themselves on the cusp of the first Stanley Cup championship in franchise history, holding a 3-1 series lead. Consequently, four of the five front-runners for playoff MVP sport red, white, and blue.

Here's where we stand after the Capitals' convincing win over the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 4 on Monday:

5. Nicklas Backstrom

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Backstrom has flown under the radar in these playoffs thanks to the stellar performances of some of his teammates, but his terrific play-making ability has undoubtedly been a factor in Washington's Cup run.

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[Note: those stats are just cumulative totals for the teams’ top -four centers and don’t account for fill-ins in games missed by Backstrom, Beagle, Alex Wenneberg and Evgeni Malkin, and not all power plays feature two centers like the Conn Smythe race is Evgeny Kuznetsov vs. Alex Ovechkin. That's it.

Now , with a Cup victory within grasp, he’s got a real chance to win the Conn Smythe Trophy for the most valuable player of the playoffs. It has summarily eliminated Fleury from Conn Smythe contention. So in comes Kuznetsov , who doesn’t actually care about the trophy.

The Swedish center missed four games due to injury, but he's excelled when healthy. He's provided steady production on the Capitals' second line, alongside a nearly equally productive T.J. Oshie, giving Washington a lethal top-six.

4. Marc-Andre Fleury

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Fleury was the Conn Smythe favorite for most of this postseason, and he has been the biggest reason for the Golden Knights' success, but he's looked human lately.

a group of people racing each other on a snow board © Icon Sportswire / Getty

The veteran netminder was simply overwhelmed Monday night, allowing six goals on 23 shots, and he's given up 16 in the four Cup Final games.

Had Fleury continued to play lights-out, he would have remained a Conn Smythe favorite, even in a losing effort, but his play has simply slipped.

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Power RankingsPower Rankings . For Kuznetsov , the Conn Smythe would be confirmation of his elite status, putting him in the conversation as one of the league's most talented players more frequently.

Evgeny Kuznetsov should have slight edge over Alex Ovechkin for Conn Smythe . More shots on net give Washington more opportunities to score, and right now Kuznetsov is a leader on all fronts.

3. Braden Holtby

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Holtby has made his fair share of game-saving stops throughout the Capitals' run, none more memorable than "The Save" in Game 2 versus Vegas. He's had a few hiccups, sure, but the former Vezina winner has been outstanding on the whole.

Fleury still holds an edge in the save percentage department because of how good the Golden Knights goalie was for most of the playoffs, but Holtby has allowed only five goals in the last three games.

If Holtby continues to stymie Vegas the way he has for most of this series, he'll have a legitimate case.

2. Alex Ovechkin

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Ovechkin's pursuit of a long-elusive title is arguably the best story of the playoffs, and he's one of the biggest reasons the Capitals are on the verge of winning it all.

The "Great Eight" is tied with Winnipeg Jets forward Mark Scheifele for the postseason lead in goals. He's scored two in the Cup Final to go along with a pair of assists.

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When we last checked in with our Conn Smythe Power Rankings before the start of the Stanley Cup Final I argued that it was still Marc-Andre When it comes to the Capitals’ Conn Smythe candidates Eller is behind the obvious choices in Ovechkin, Holtby, and Kuznetsov , but do not overlook his value.

Although just two teams remain in the hunt for the Stanley Cup, it's still a wide-open race for the Conn Smythe Trophy. Here are the top five leading candidates .947. 4. Fleury has held the top spot on these power rankings since the get-go, and with good reason.

Ovechkin, the heart and soul of his club for more than a decade, has always shouldered a disproportionate amount of blame for Washington's playoff failures. But now, with the tables turned, it's time to give credit where it's due.

1. Evgeny Kuznetsov

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Kuznetsov has simply been the best player in these playoffs.

Ovechkin has been the Capitals' leader and top scorer. Holtby has been excellent for the most part, and exceptional at key moments. However, Kuznetsov has been the best, leading all skaters in playoff points and trailing only Ovechkin and the vanquished Scheifele in goals.

Another four-point game for Kuznetsov on Monday night - his second such effort and fourth game with at least three points in this postseason - made him the clear favorite to win the Conn Smythe.

Would it be a crime to give the award to Ovi, or even to Holtby? No. But it should be Kuznetsov's to lose, whether he cares about it or not.

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