Who's The Playoff MVP?

Picking the Conn Smythe winner doesn’t exactly require a crystal ball. 25 of the last 30 winners have been the Cup winner’s goalie or top scorer. Almost by definition, then, fancy stats don’t play much (any) role in the selection.


But if they did, who should win this year?


Let’s start with the assumption that the Conn Smythe winner will come from the team that wins the Cup.


If the Rangers win . . . just kidding, the Rangers aren’t going to win.


If (when) the Kings win, there’s an interesting group of candidates. Most commentators seem to think that Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty have the inside line, with Marian Gaborik, as the leading goal scorer in the playoffs, having an outside shot.


But as you might have noticed I tend not to put too much credence in what “most commentators” say. So let’s count down my top 5.


5. Marian Gaborik: Gaborik is an important piece of the puzzle, but he’s not the main guy.  He’s tops in goals scored, but otherwise not in the same class as the others on this list. His 5-on-5 Fenwick For percentage (the percent of all unblocked shots attempted when he’s on the ice that were taken by his team rather than the opponent) was just 50.2% — 15th on the Kings and 60th overall. And that’s playing the majority of his minutes with top-notch teammates Kopitar (52.9% of his minutes) and Doughty (33.5% of his minutes). Great playoffs, but not Conn Smythe material.


4. Drew Doughty: Doughty’s one of the best D-men in the game and he’s critical to L.A.’s success, but playoff MVP?  Not this year. True, he plays huge minutes: 28.2 per game. And true, he has 17 points.  But that number is less impressive when you consider how much ice time he gets: His points per 60 minutes in 5-on-5 play is an unexceptional 0.97 —  10th best among defensemen in these playoffs, and just over half of Brent Seabrook’s 1.92. Combine that with the fact that a very high 37.3% of his shifts have started in the offensive zone, and the fact that he tried to hand the Blackhawks a couple games in the Conference Finals with giveaways that make Oprah Winfrey – of the “everybody gets a new car” specials – look like Ebenezer Scrooge, and I’m going to say that giving the award to Doughty would be a major misfire.  Maybe next year.


Which brings us to the three guys who have been a cut above. An argument could definitely be made for any one of the three. In fact, if one of these players has a big game from here on out he’s probably going to be the one to take home the hardware. But if the award were handed out today . . .


3. Jeff Carter:  Carter is tied for second in the playoffs in scoring with 10 goals and 14 assists for 24 points, and is just a fraction behind Kopitar with 2.77 points per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 play. He’s also second among Kings forwards in 5-on-5 Fenwick For %, at 55.9. His numbers might be slightly inflated because 38.4% of his shifts started in the offensive zone, but for the possession-monster L.A. Kings that number isn’t all that much higher than most of the others on this list. There’s nothing negative to say about his play, he just wasn’t quite as good as my top 2.


2. Anze Kopitar:  This guy’s the real deal. He leads the playoffs in scoring with 26 points, and is 6th overall with 2.83 points per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 play. An elite defender who gets more than his share of defensive zone starts and who’s won 53.1% of his draws to boot. The one knock against him is that he’s only scored five goals in 25 games, which isn’t a mortal sin, but also isn’t enough to put him over the top.


And the Conn Smythe winner should be . . .


1. Justin Williams. You’re probably surprised. Frankly, so am I. And if I were a GM and I could have my pick of players on the Kings Williams likely wouldn’t crack the top 10. But for the past 25 games Williams hasn’t just been “Mr. Game 7,” he’s been the Kings’ most productive player. He’s tied with Carter for second in playoff scoring with 24 points, but because he plays considerably fewer minutes — especially on the power play — his 5-on-5 points per 60 minutes is much higher. In fact, Williams’ 3.33 points per 60 is by far the highest in the league. Only 2 other players in these playoffs were even above 3.00:  Evgeni Malkin and Jussi Jokinen. Williams’ 53.1% 5-on-5 Fenwick For % is better than Gaborik (50.2%), Kopitar (51.6%), and even Doughty (52.5%), and that’s despite (a) playing mostly with some of the Kings’ lesser-lights like Jarret Stoll, Dwight King, and Slava Voynov; and (b) starting far fewer of his shifts in the offensive zone (31.6%) than any of the others on this list.


Williams’ numbers are better than the other candidates and he’s delivered in critical situations and while playing with weaker teammates. That’s why he’d get my vote for the Conn Smythe.


Player Goals Assists Points Points/60 5v5 Fenwick For % (5v5) Offensive Zone Start %
Marian Gaborik 13 8 21 2.31 50.2 34.7
Anze Kopitar 5 21 26 2.83 51.6 35.3
Drew Doughty 5 12 17 0.97 52.5 37.3
Jeff Carter 10 14 24 2.77 55.9 38.4
Justin Williams 8 16 24 3.33 53.1 31.6


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