By Nick Craddock
The 2012 NHL playoffs are coming to a crescendo. Between a closely contested Eastern Conference Finals featuring the rival New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils and what has turned into a one-sided Western Conference Finals featuring the Los Angeles Kings and Phoenix Coyotes, the muddled playoff picture which began with 16 teams vying for Lord Stanley’s Cup is coming into focus.
Of all the players who have made their mark this postseason in helping their teams to this stage, these five look poised to have the best shot at capturing the Conn Smythe Trophy, awarded to the NHL playoffs’ Most Valuable Player.
1. Dustin Brown, right wing, Kings: Brown is proving why he wears the “C” on his jersey this spring. He leads his team in scoring with seven goals and eight assists, including three game-winning goals. He’s tied with teammate Anze Kopitar for the best plus/minus rating of any player in the playoffs. He delivers crushing hits. And even when he’s not making an incredible play, he influences the game to such a degree that it affects his opponent’s psyche (i.e.Phoenix’s Martin Hanzal cross-checking Brown from behind into the boards during Game 2, resulting in a one-game suspension). All in all, Brown’s outstanding play makes it unfathomable to think the Kings contemplated trading Brown at the trading deadline. Simply put, the Kings’ stellar play through these playoffs thus far would not be possible without Brown. That description sounds like the embodiment of a Conn Smythe winner. Continue reading