It is only the semifinals in the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals, but it is hard not to start thinking about who is worthy of the Conn Smythe should their team go all the way. There are two players who stand out in my mind as the first and foremost front runners: Jonathan Quick of the LA Kings and Claude Giroux of the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Kings came into the playoffs as the eighth seeded team in the West. They took out the Canucks, who won the Presidents Trophy and went to the Stanley Cup Finals last season, in five games. Today, they have the opportunity to sweep the St. Louis Blues. The Kings have many good players, but I wouldn’t say they have anyone that is completely ranked among the elite. Dustin Penner and Anze Kopitar haven’t played to their entire potential, though former Flyers Captain Mike Richards.
Young goalie Jonathan Quick, who is a Vezina finalist this season, has only allowed 13 goals the entire playoffs. During the regular season, Quick led the league in shutouts, with 10. What he has done this playoff season is amazing. Without Quick, the results for the Kings may be vastly different. He has been a brick wall in the net and shown the world once and for all why he is an elite goalie.
His work with his legs is something to behold. Much like the Penguins Marc-Andre Fleury, Quick’s butterflying and leg saves are incredible to watch.
Check out some of the saves he has made this playoff season:
My other pick, Claude Giroux, is one of the NHL’s most fiercely debated talents this season. Those in Philadelphia are calling him the greatest player in hockey today. Those in Pittsburgh, and to some extent the greater part of the league, will say Evgeni Malkin. Others still cite Sidney Crosby as the greatest player in the league.
No matter where you see him falling in line, Giroux has been without a doubt the MVP of his team this season and in the playoffs (with Danny Briere not far behind him).
Giroux is a creative player. He is a skilled skater and puck handler and dances across the ice. He leads the league in the playoffs in points and assists and is only one goal behind teammate Briere for the most goals in the playoffs. He scored a hat trick against Pittsburgh in Game 2 of Round 1 and without a doubt makes everything he does look easy and flawless.
With Captain Chris Pronger sidelined indefinitely with injury to the Flyers detriment, Giroux being on his top game has been essential for their continued success. Goalie Ilya Bryzgalov is dead last for goalies in the playoffs in goals against with 31 in 9 games played. The support of his team’s scoring power is what has kept them alive for so long. G tops the list.
Out of his 7 playoff goals, 3 were on the power play and one was short handed. He is someone the Flyers can use in almost any game situation and he keeps his head on straight and goes to work.
Watch. What. A. Snipe.
If one of these teams wins in the finals, you can bet Quick or Giroux will be going home with an extra trophy.