We keep an eye on the top candidates for the Conn Smythe Trophy to tell you whose stock is rising, whose is dropping and who is just treading water.
NEW JERSEY DEVILS
After his performance in Game 5, we introduce the 40-year-old legend to our Conn Smythe list. The game's all-time winningest goalie is the No. 1 reason the Devils are still alive. He was spectacular again Saturday night in a 25-save effort, and he's matching Quick save for save in this series, which probably surprises most.
New Jersey's top playoff scorer has shown that he can step up in big moments. The main criticism when the Devils splurged on the Russian star with that monster contract in the summer of 2010 was that Kovalchuk had never proved anything in Atlanta and wasn't terribly effective when first dealt from the Thrashers to the Devils during the 2009-10 season. Well, he's well on his way to smashing that criticism with a superb playoffs, leading the scoring after his clutch Game 6 performance against the Rangers.
• Game 1: He only had one shot on goal; the Devils need more or this will be a quick series.
• Game 2: The big winger had a chance to ice the win for the Devils with 19 seconds left in regulation but couldn't score, his shot going off Jonathan Quick and the crossbar. He actually played better in the third and overtime but still needs to do more.
• Game 3: Not a good night for Kovalchuk, who is the key part of the Devils' floundering power play. His giveaway in the third period led to a Devils penalty, which led to the Kings' first of two power-play goals.
• Game 4: Scored an empty-net goal but, in reality, had four shots on goal. Not a bad effort from the believed-to-be injured star.
• Game 5:He played a more physical game and was noticeable in that fashion but held off the scoresheet.
The UFA-to-be is just so reliable, and the bigger the game, the more poised he is. He doesn't always make the highlight-grabbing play, like Kovalchuk does, but Parise is so smart with his decisions that he makes difficult plays look easy. It's not just about goals and assists with the Devils captain.
• Game 1: Had an open side of the net, but the puck bounced at an ill-opportune time.
• Game 2: Continues to give maximum effort but like Kovalchuk needs to produce if the Devils are going to get back in this series.
• Game 3: As usual, Parise delivered lots of hustle but he accomplished very little offensively. He had a great chance just before the Devils' ill-fated five-on-three but Jonathan Quick denied his effort to beat him five-hole.
• Game 4: The Devils captain was more noticeable on this night, registering four shots on goal while going plus-1 on the night.
• Game 5: Scored his first goal of the series and easily played his most impactful game.
LOS ANGELES KINGS
The one-man wrecking ball drove Vancouver, St. Louis and Phoenix crazy in the first three rounds, so you know what's coming in the Cup finals. He leads the Kings in scoring with 16 points (7 goals, 9 assists) in 14 games, but that only paints part of the story. His physical play, timely hits and energy fuel the Kings' success.
• Game 1: The humidity in Newark caused problems for everyone on the ice.
• Game 2: Zero points in opening two games of the Cup finals.
• Game 3: His best game of the Cup finals, by far. Made a super feed to set up Kopitar's second-period goal. Brown, of course, led the Kings with eight hits.
• Game 4: Two shots on goal and five hits on the night but not a great game overall.
• Game 5: Had a great opening few shifts but his play tailed off over the final two periods.
Best player in the Western Conference finals? Kopitar might have something to say about that, but it might have been Doughty, who has found his all-world game of two years ago. "Drew was adversely impacted by missing camp but now looks to be all the way back and then some," said a Western Conference pro scout. "His combination of youth, physicality, mobility and productivity is extremely rare." With a repeat performance of the West finals, he might be a Conn Smythe Trophy winner, too.
• Game 1: Yet again a dominant game at both ends of the ice, the only player in the game with a plus-2.
• Game 2: Incredible goal and another great game. Make it 10 points (3-7) in his last nine playoff games.
• Game 3: Another stellar effort by the all-world blue-liner, who picked up an assist.
• Game 4: The all-world blueliner scored his fourth goal of the playoffs with a thunderous one-timer on the power play.
• Game 5: Another superb effort for the all-world Kings blueliner, who led skaters on both teams in ice time at 25:41. He never seems to make a mistake.
Kopitar entered the Cup finals with 11 points (5 goals, 6 assists) in his past eight playoff games, after terrorizing the Coyotes in the Western Conference finals with a dominant performance. He has been overshadowed for most of the playoffs by linemate Brown, but the fact is, Kopitar has been just as important to the team's success.
• Game 1: Not his best performance, but scored the game winner in overtime.
• Game 2: Solid game Saturday night, even if he was held scoreless.
• Game 3: Finished a beautiful goal sequence to make it 2-0, breaking the back of the Devils. Kopitar was all over the puck and also added an assist to give him the share of the NHL playoff scoring lead with Ilya Kovalchuk.
• Game 4: Had an assist on Doughty's goal although wasn't his usual impactful self, not registering a shot on goal while also being minus-1.
• Game 5: Not his usual impact game. Was held without a shot on goal.
Not that he had a bad Western Conference finals by any stretch, but somehow the Vezina Trophy nominee slipped just a tad in the minds of many after being seen as a major front-runner for the Conn Smythe through two rounds. In the end, it's really more the fact that the Kings needed him less last round as the Coyotes struggled offensively and were outshot by L.A. every game. But folks, he still has a .946 save percentage and a 1.54 goals-against average -- best in the playoffs! Quick didn't need to be the difference against Phoenix, but he may have to be in the Cup finals. If he delivers, he'll be among the Conn Smythe contenders, for sure.
• Game 1: He only faced 18 shots, but there were several quality saves that made the difference.
• Game 2: His composure is remarkable in his first Cup finals. He has been a rock.
• Game 3: A 22-save shutout gives him a stranglehold on the Conn Smythe Trophy. He has allowed only two goals in the Cup finals, an exclamation point on four rounds of sensational goaltending.
• Game 4: You can't blame the Kings' netminder on either goal Wednesday night, Patrick Elias scoring on a rebound and Adam Henrique with a wicked, perfect wrist shot.
• Game 5: Was solid again Saturday night in a 17-save effort. He had no chance on the winning goal, which deflected off Slava Voynov. His puck-handling mistake, however, led to Parise's opening goal.