Stanley Cup playoffs: Six to watch for the Conn Smythe Trophy

May 25, 2022 08:10 PM

We’re almost midway through the Stanley Cup playoffs, so let’s look at some of the contenders for the Conn Smythe Trophy (playoff MVP) from a betting perspective:

Cale Makar (+ 450), Colorado Avalanche

Makar leads the Avalanche in points with three goals and nine assists. He does a lot of things that don’t show up in the box score, but offensive output is a big factor, especially for defenders. If the Avs win the Stanley Cup and Makar finishes with the most points on the team, he’ll almost certainly win the award, but there are a lot of ifs. Nathan MacKinnon (+ 550) will likely finish with more goals and could overtake Makar in points if he gets hot. I’m holding a 13-1 ticket on Makar from earlier in the playoffs, but if you’re thinking about betting the Avalanche to win the Stanley Cup at + 135, consider taking Makar at + 450 to be named the MVP of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Andrei Vasilevskiy (+ 650), Tampa Bay Lightning

Vasilevskiy allowed just three goals on 154 shots in the Lightning’s sweep of the Panthers. The Presidents’ Trophy winners were the NHL’s highest-scoring team in 26 years, and Vasilevskiy made 49 saves to shut them out in Game 4. With a 10-0 record (six shutouts) in elimination games dating to 2020, he’s becoming a legend right in front of our eyes. If the Lightning win the Stanley Cup for a third year in a row, they’ll have Vasilevskiy to thank. After a slow start to the playoffs, Vasilevskiy’s save percentage is now .932 after posting a .980 save percentage in four games against the Panthers, and that’s typically where a goaltender needs to be to win the award. Nikita Kucherov (+ 900) leads the team in points, but I’m sure even he would tell you that Vasilevskiy is the team’s MVP.

Connor McDavid (+ 1100), Edmonton Oilers

What McDavid is doing is historical. He had nine straight multi-point games entering Tuesday (an NHL record) and his 23 points over 10 playoff games trails only Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux. It’s the greatest playoff performance I have ever witnessed, and if the rest of the team can do their part, the Oilers might have a shot at hoisting the Stanley Cup. It still feels like a long shot, but McDavid at + 1100 sounds a lot better than the Oilers at + 900.

Antti Raanta (+ 2500) or Sebastian Aho (+ 2500), Carolina Hurricanes

Raanta is the leading candidate for the Hurricanes with a .940 save percentage, the best of any goaltender who has played at least nine games. Still, there’s always the possibility that Frederik Andersen could return if the Hurricanes make it past the Rangers and into the Eastern Conference finals, and Raanta’s leash might be short in a series versus the Lightning. Aho leads the team in goals, but he and his teammates haven’t been lighting the world on fire. Aho would have to come up big against Vasilevskiy, and that seems unlikely at this point.

Long shot: Nazem Kadri (+ 5000), Avalanche

Kadri is tied for the team lead in goals and only two points behind Makar. He’s a polarizing player, but any smart hockey fan would want him on their team. His play has been inspiring and I would not count him out as a potential candidate to lead the Avalanche in goals and points. He’s built for the playoffs, but he does have a history of getting into trouble. If he can avoid any issues going forward, he will be a big part of the Avs’ playoff run.

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