With the New York Rangers and Los Angeles Kings left standing in the Stanley Cup final, a few players have emerged as Conn Smythe Trophy favourites.
The final four to seven games will have a lot to do with who wins MVP honours. But unlike other pro sports, this isn't an award determined only by the final game or series.
With that in mind, here's a look at the top contenders through three rounds:
Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings centre
Kopitar, a Selke Trophy finalist as the NHL's top defensive forward, went head-to-head with Jonathan Toews, Ryan Getzlaf and Joe Thornton and not only managed to contain them but lead the playoffs in points with 24. He'll have Derek Stepan to contend with in the Cup final, but Kopitar has already thrived against top-quality competition over the past few weeks.
Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers goaltender
Lundqvist is reason No. 1 why the Rangers are in the Cup final. He has a sparkling 2.03 goals-against average and a .928 save percentage. He has allowed two or fewer even-strength goals in 17 of 20 starts, and New York won 12 of those games. How Lundqvist goes, the Rangers go, and if he's good enough in this series he could win it even if the Kings are champions.
Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings defenceman
The Kings lean on Doughty more than the Rangers—or any team in the NHL's final four—rely on any one player. The No. 1 defenceman has played 56 more minutes than anyone else in these playoffs (584:44), which is attributable to three long series and his skill in all situations. Doughty (16 points) showed what he could do offensively in a magical third period in Game 6 against Chicago.
Martin St. Louis, New York Rangers winger
For the Rangers, this has become the playoffs in honour of St. Louis' mother, France, after she died in early May. Martin playing Games 5 through 7 of the Penguins series with a heavy heart served as an inspiration for his teammates. But his contributions go beyond emotions, as St. Louis has seven points in New York's past eight games and is tied for the team lead in scoring.
Marian Gaborik, Los Angeles Kings winger
Gaborik leads all playoff scorers with 12 goals, showing that some trade-deadline moves prove worthwhile. One of those was an overtime game-winner in Game 1 against the Ducks. He now gets a chance against one of his former teams to prove he can deliver when it matters most.
Longshots: Kings winger Jeff Carter (22 points), Rangers defenceman Ryan McDonagh (13 points), Kings winger Justin Williams (18 points), Rangers centre Brad Richards (11 points).
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