On the eve of the 2018 Stanley Cup Final, Vegas Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury is widely considered to be the front-runner for the Conn Smythe Trophy, awarded to the most valuable player of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
But what if the Golden Knights lose to the Washington Capitals in the best-of-7 Cup Final, which starts at Vegas on Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS)?
Fleury's .947 save percentage is the best in a single postseason in NHL history among goalies to play at least 12 games. His 1.68 goals-against average in 15 starts leads the League in the 2018 playoffs. He has more shutouts (four) than losses (three). He has allowed one goal in the three close-out games Vegas has played.
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The Conn Smythe has been awarded 52 times, and five players from losing teams have won it (forward Reggie Leach and goalies Roger Crozier, Glenn Hall, Ron Hextall and Jean-Sebastien Giguere).
Should Fleury be No. 6 if the dream season of the Golden Knights does not end with the Cup?
We asked 10 NHL.com writers for their thoughts on this Conn Smythe debate.
Amalie Benjamin, staff writer
No. Though it has happened five times that a player from the losing team won the Conn Smythe Trophy, it shouldn't happen again. Not for Fleury nor anyone else. Just as in the regular season, when the winner of the Hart Trophy should be on a playoff team, the winner of the Conn Smythe should be on the Stanley Cup-winning team. That's what most valuable indicates, after all. If the Capitals win, there are plenty of candidates (Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Braden Holtby). If the Cup goes to Washington, so should the Conn Smythe.
Nick Cotsonika, columnist
Yes. There is plenty of precedent. Five players, including four goaltenders, have won the Conn Smythe as a member of the team that lost in the Cup Final. The last expansion team to make the Final was the 1968 St. Louis Blues. Even though they were swept by the Montreal Canadiens, the Conn Smythe winner was their goaltender, Hall.
Video: Is Fleury the front-runner for the Conn Smythe?
Tim Campbell, staff writer
No. How definitive can a no be? If the Golden Knights lose the series, then the odds are strong that someone on the Capitals will have been exceptional. Holtby comes to mind right away. Given his work over the final three games of the Eastern Conference Final, he ought to be right there with Fleury as a candidate, so I see no possible case for Fleury as the winner of the Conn Smythe if his team doesn't win the Cup.
Lisa Dillman, staff writer
Yes. Because I don't like dealing in absolutes. It hasn't happened often that a player from a losing team in the Stanley Cup Final has won the Conn Smythe. I covered part of two rounds and the Final (but did not have a vote) the last time it happened, when Giguere of the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim won in 2003. I likely would have voted for New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur. But having said that, there should be room to consider a truly outstanding playoff run like the one Fleury is having.
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Tom Gulitti, staff writer
No. The Capitals have several deserving candidates if they win the Stanley Cup, beginning with Ovehckin, whose 12 goals in the playoffs are second in the NHL behind Winnipeg Jets center Mark Scheifele's 14 and whose 22 points are second behind Kuznetsov's 24 (11 goals, 13 assists). Kuznetsov also is a strong Conn Smythe contender, along with Holtby.
Tracey Myers, staff writer
No. It's my belief that if you're going to win a most valuable anything, you should reach the highest level. I thought the same way when I was a Professional Hockey Writers Association member and voted for the Hart Trophy every year: If your work helped get your team to the playoffs, you were more likely to get my vote. Same goes for the playoffs. If the Capitals win, someone from Washington will be more than worthy to win the Conn Smythe.
Shawn Roarke, Director of Editorial
No. Giguere won the Conn Smythe in a losing effort in 2003. I covered every round of those playoffs. I thought it was wrong then and I think it is wrong now for this reason: There is as deserving a candidate on the winning team. In 2003, it was Devils defenseman Scott Niedermayer. This time, it could be Ovechkin or Holtby.
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Dan Rosen, senior writer
No. He shouldn't. What he has done so far makes him the leader for the Conn Smythe, but Fleury shouldn't beat out a remarkable postseason by a player on the winning side of the Cup Final. Winning has to be a part of the MVP vote, especially in the playoffs, when winning is all that matters. The Capitals will have enough candidates who impacted their run to the Cup Final and their win in it to negate Fleury's chances if he loses. It doesn't mean he didn't have a terrific postseason; it just means someone else got the job done.
Dave Stubbs, columnist
Yes. It's been done four times previously by goalies on the losing team in the Stanley Cup Final, beginning in 1966 with Crozier of the Detroit Red Wings and two years later when Hall and the Blues were swept in the Final. Hextall with the Philadelphia Flyers in 1987 and Giguere in 2003 are the most recent winners from the losing team. The Conn Smythe is voted to the player deemed most valuable "to his team" in the playoffs, not specifically the Cup winner or just the Stanley Cup Final. Fleury has proven to be that and more to the Golden Knights through three rounds, win or lose against the Capitals.
Mike Zeisberger, staff writer
No. It's not that Fleury hasn't carried the Golden Knights on his back. He's done exactly that through three rounds. But to award him the MVP in a losing effort disrespects the efforts of Ovechkin and Holtby. Ovechkin has been a difference-maker this spring. Holtby shut out the high-powered Tampa Bay Lightning for the final 159:27 of the conference final. If the Capitals win the Cup, Ovechkin or Holtby would deserve credit for finally pushing them over the top.
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