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Six candidates for Conn Smythe

by Staff Writer / New Jersey Devils
Ilya Kovalchuk at Media Day.

The 2012 Stanley Cup Final has been determined. After a thrilling overtime victory against the New York Rangers on Friday night, the New Jersey Devils will have home-ice advantage for the first time this postseason as they host the Los Angeles Kings for Game 1 on Wednesday at the Prudential Center.

With three rounds of playoff hockey in the books, takes a closer look at six potential candidates for the Conn Smythe Trophy, which is awarded to the Most Valuable Player of the Stanley Cup Playoffs:

1. Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles -- Already a finalist for the Vezina Trophy as the League's top goaltender, Quick's spectacular play from the regular season has carried over into the playoffs. The 26-year-old leads the NHL with a 1.54 goals-against average and .946 save percentage to go along with his 12-2 record. If Quick plays well in the final and the Kings win their first Stanley Cup in franchise history, he's all but a lock to take home the Conn Smythe.

2. Ilya Kovalchuk, New Jersey -- The Russian sniper has been solid in what is easily the longest postseason of his career. In 17 playoff games this year, Kovalchuk has seven goals (five via the power play) and 11 assists. Devils coach Peter DeBoer has put a lot of trust into Kovalchuk, as the latter is averaging 23:16 of ice time per game. Only New York captain Ryan Callahan was averaging more (23:32). His 18 points are tops in the League.

3. Dustin Brown, Los Angeles -- After dealing with trade rumors just a few months ago, the Kings' captain is enjoying a fantastic postseason. Brown, who has appeared in every regular-season game for three consecutive seasons and went 22-32-54 in 2011-12, has seven goals, nine assists and a plus-13 rating in 14 playoff contests. The Ithaca, N.Y. native has been clutch, too -- he's tied for the League lead with New Jersey forward David Clarkson with three game-winning goals.

4. Zach Parise, New Jersey -- It's no surprise the Devils' captain has played a huge role in his club's success this postseason. Only Kovalchuk has tallied more points for New Jersey in these playoffs, as Parise is 7-7-14 in 18 games. Set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, a Conn Smythe Trophy would probably make Parise a couple of extra bucks this summer.

5. Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles -- Everyone's contributing in L.A., which is why it's been able to steamroll its way to the Stanley Cup Final. Kopitar, though, has stood out. The solid two-way center ranks second behind only Brown with 15 points (six goals, nine assists) and is tied with his captain with a plus-13 rating. And, just like Brown, two of his six tallies have been scored while shorthanded. The 24-year-old is also averaging more than 22 minutes of ice time per game.

6. Martin Brodeur, New Jersey -- If this is the 40-year-old's last hurrah, what a way to go out. The three-time Stanley Cup winner is 12-6 with a 2.04 GAA, .923 save percentage and one shutout. Fresh off a playoff series victory against Vezina finalist Henrik Lundqvist, Brodeur will have to outplay another one in the Stanley Cup Final. Should he do so, it may be enough for Brodeur to win his first Conn Smythe Trophy.

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL

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