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Lundqvist, Perry among Conn Smythe candidates

by Dan Rosen /

Stars have shined and unlikely overtime heroes have emerged through two rounds totaling 69 games, including three Game 7s, during the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Chicago Blackhawks, Anaheim Ducks, New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning are the final four teams standing. They still have a chance to win the Stanley Cup, which means their players  have a chance to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as most valuable player of the playoffs.

Here are the top five candidates for the Conn Smythe Trophy through two rounds:

1. Henrik Lundqvist, G, New York Rangers

Remember when people were wondering if the Rangers should ride Cam Talbot into the playoffs because of how well he played in 23 starts when Lundqvist was out because of a vascular injury in his neck? No offense to Talbot, but how silly does that seem now?

Lundqvist leads all goalies who played beyond the first round with a 1.60 goals-against average and is tied for first with a .944 save percentage. He has allowed 20 goals on 355 shots through 12 games.

He had a .939 save percentage and 1.53 GAA in helping the Rangers eliminate the Pittsburgh Penguins in five games in the first round, and a .946 save percentage and 1.64 GAA in helping the Rangers defeat the Washington Capitals in seven games in the second round.

Lundqvist allowed five goals on 110 shots in winning Games 5, 6 and 7 against Washington. In the Rangers' two series-clinching wins, he allowed two goals on 74 shots.

He has had no margin for error because each of New York's 12 games has been decided by one goal, including four in overtime. Lundqvist is 4-0 in overtime and 6-2 in games decided by a 2-1 score. The Rangers have scored more than three goals in three games.

2. Corey Perry, RW, Anaheim Ducks

The Ducks have played nine games, the fewest of any of the four teams remaining, but Perry leads the playoffs with 15 points, and he's tied for second with seven goals.

He has been particularly good in Anaheim's close-out games. Perry had two assists in Anaheim's series-clinching 5-2 win in Game 4 against the Winnipeg Jets in the first round. He scored in overtime and had eight shots on goal in the Ducks' series-clinching 3-2 win against the Calgary Flames in Game 5 of the second round.

Perry opened the playoffs with a four-point Game 1 against Winnipeg and he hasn't slowed down. He had a four-point Game 1 against Calgary, has two or more points in four of the nine games, and at least one point in seven of the games.

He leads Western Conference players with 42 shots on goal; the next closest is Chicago Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa with 34.

3. Duncan Keith, D, Chicago Blackhawks

No defensemen has had a bigger impact on his team's success than Keith. He is playing 30:37 per game, leads all players with a plus-10 rating, and leads defensemen with 10 points. He has two goals, each a game-winner.

Keith scored 7:49 into the second overtime to give Chicago a 4-3 win in Game 1 of the first round against the Nashville Predators. He clinched the series against Nashville in Game 6 with his game-winning goal at 16:12 of the third period.

Beyond his production, Keith arguably has been the most important player for Chicago in terms of getting out of the defensive zone.

He leads Chicago with a 56.38 shot-attempts percentage (SAT%). The Blackhawks have generated 265 shot attempts at 5-on-5 with Keith on the ice and have allowed 205. His plus-60 in that area is 25 better than any Chicago player.

The Blackhawks as a team have a 51.82 SAT%, which goes to show Keith's value when he's on the ice vs. when he's not.

4. Tyler Johnson, C, Tampa Bay Lightning

He is the leading scorer on the best line in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, which arguably was the best line in the League during the regular season. Johnson has a playoff-high eight goals, including three game-winners, and his 12 points are tied for third.

Johnson's line, which includes Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat, has 17 goals and 14 assists in 13 games. Kucherov has six goals and 11 points; Palat has five assists and eight points.

Johnson had three dominant games in the first round against the Detroit Red Wings, including his two goals in Tampa Bay's must-win Game 6, when his second goal was the game-winner. He also scored two goals in Game 2, and two goals, including the winner, with an assist in Game 4.

He followed that with two goals and three assists in the first four games against the Montreal Canadiens in the second round. Johnson's goal with 1.1 seconds remaining in Game 3 gave the Lightning a 3-0 lead in the series.

Johnson didn't have a point in Tampa Bay's series-clinching 4-1 win in Game 6 against the Canadiens, but he was on the ice for three of the four goals. He started the rush into the zone that led to Kucherov's goal that made it 1-0.

5. Patrick Kane, RW, Chicago Blackhawks

Kane didn't play in the regular season after fracturing his left clavicle Feb. 24. He returned for Game 1 in the first round against Nashville, took about a period to shed the rust, and has looked like the player he is ever since.

He is tied for second in goals (seven) and points (13) in 10 games. He has a point in all but one game, and carries streaks of seven consecutive games with a point and five consecutive games with a goal into the Western Conference Final against the Ducks.

Kane factored into six of Chicago's 13 goals against Minnesota; he scored five of them, including two in Game 2. He has four two-point games in the playoffs, including his two-assist game in Game 1 against Nashville, his first game in seven weeks.


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