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JR: Plenty of candidates for Conn Smythe

by Jeremy Roenick

NHL analyst and former All-Star Jeremy Roenick pens a weekly blog for "World According to JR" touches on all things related to the NHL. This week, Roenick decided to offer his early Conn Smythe Trophy favorites on the four teams remaining in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
There are some good candidates on each team, but I'm narrowing the field of Conn Smythe Trophy candidates. Here goes:
It's pretty much a lockdown, easy shot with Phoenix. It's Mike Smith.
He's been a feel-good story this season, putting himself in the star category of the National Hockey League. He probably could be named as the most improved player in the NHL, as well. This is a guy who was a backup and now he's a focal point of a team in the Western Conference Finals.
Smith is by far the easy choice for the Coyotes.
This is not so clear cut. I think there are two very close candidates for this. Time will tell.
Leading the charge is Jonathan Quick because of his numbers and because of the way he has dominated every single game. His save percentage is off the charts. His goals-against average is excellent.
Dustin Brown
Right Wing - LAK
GOALS: 7 | ASST: 7 | PTS: 14
SOG: 38 | +/-: 11
Yes, the Kings are scoring more than three goals a game in the playoffs, but even if they were struggling to score like they did in the regular season, it wouldn't matter because Quick can win a game for you if you give him just one goal. He can win a game by himself. He has shown he can do it.
However, Dustin Brown is without question beating down his door and could dethrone him.
To say Brown has been a beast would be a huge understatement considering how he has elevated his game. Defensively, offensively, physically -- everything you can ask for in your captain, he has delivered. He has raised his level so high this postseason that his stock has tripled -- quadrupled -- for how he has played.
That's a tough call for L.A. between those two guys.
This is another easy one. It's Henrik Lundqvist.
The Rangers struggle to score goals and Lundqvist has been there time after time after time. He has been the most consistent goalie from October all the way until today. He continues to be very difficult to beat in the playoffs.
Lundqvist gets a lot of defensive help from Dan Girardi, Marc Staal and Ryan McDonagh, but in my opinion there is no other choice than Lundqvist for the Conn Smythe in New York.
I think this is another pick your poison -- it's between Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise.
Ilya Kovalchuk
Left Wing - NJD
GOALS: 5 | ASST: 7 | PTS: 12
SOG: 38 | +/-: -4
I say Kovalchuk because he totally has morphed his game into being a team-oriented player. Early in his career he was more selfish; he wouldn't buy into a team concept. But Kovalchuk has revamped his game and now he's so impressive scoring goals, blocking shots, playing defense and killing penalties.
Kovalchuk has been very strong throughout these playoffs.
Parise probably is one of the hardest-working guys in the National Hockey League. He leads by example. You've got to love a guy that scores a big goal when you need it and is always pushing his team to be better.
If I had to pick a winner right now, it would be Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings.

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