Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) -
With more than two rounds to go in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it's a little premature to predict who will win the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player of the postseason.
But here's a prediction I can make: The Conn Smythe winner will come from one of the eight teams remaining (so bold, I know).
Every team has one player who has stood out above the rest and is most likely to win the trophy should his team take home the Stanley Cup.
These are the eight front-runners for the award:
Los Angeles Kings: Anze Kopitar - It's about time Kopitar received recognition for what he is: one of the top all-around forwards in the NHL. He could have won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2012 when the Kings won the Stanley Cup, as he had 20 points in 20 playoff games, but goaltender Jonathan Quick's 1.41 goals against average and .946 save percentage couldn't be ignored. This postseason, the award will belong to Kopitar should Los Angeles win the Cup again. He's scored a point in all nine playoff games and has 14 points (four goals, 10 assists) in total.
Anaheim Ducks: Ryan Getzlaf - If Anaheim is going to dig itself out of a 2-0 hole against the Kings, it will need the players around Getzlaf to play better. There's not much more Getzlaf can do, as he's produced three goals and seven assists in seven games this postseason, including three points in the Ducks' series against Los Angeles.
Chicago Blackhawks: Corey Crawford - Crawford had a 1.84 GAA and a .932 save percentage in 23 games last postseason as Chicago won the Stanley Cup, but the Conn Smythe went to Patrick Kane. Kane (eight points in nine games), Jonathan Toews (nine points in nine games), Brent Seabrook (nine points in six games), Bryan Bickell (eight points in nine games) and Marian Hossa (eight points in nine games) are contenders for the award this season, but the skaters may cancel each other out. That leaves Crawford, who is 6-3 with a 1.99 GAA and a .929 save percentage in these playoffs, as the Blackhawks' front-runner.
Minnesota Wild: Zach Parise - While Ilya Bryzgalov blanked the Blackhawks in Game 3 Tuesday night to help the Wild avoid going down three games to none, it's going to be very difficult for Minnesota to advance in the playoffs with Bryzgalov and Darcy Kuemper in the crease. If they do make a miraculous charge, it will be because Parise continues to play out of his mind. In nine postseason games, the winger has four goals, nine assists (13 points) and 38 shots on goal.
Boston Bruins: Tuukka Rask - In all likelihood, Rask would have won the Conn Smythe in 2013 had the Bruins knocked off the Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Finals. He went 14-8 with a 1.88 GAA, a .940 save percentage and three shutouts in the playoffs. This postseason, he has been equally as impressive -- he's 5-3 with a 1.87 GAA and a .933 save percentage. The only Bruins player who can really challenge Rask is Patrice Bergeron, who has generated nine points in eight postseason games and at least one point in 20 of his last 21 games going back to the regular season.
Montreal Canadiens: P.K. Subban - Netminder Carey Price has been tremendous, going 6-1-0 with a 2.47 GAA and a .912 save percentage, but Subban has been otherworldly. The defenseman has three goals and eight assists (11 points) in seven games during these playoffs, including two points in each of the first three games of Montreal's second-round series against the Boston Bruins.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Marc-Andre Fleury - Fleury has taken his fair share of criticism for his shoddy postseason performances in the past, but he has been a consistent force in the net in the 2014 playoffs. Sidney Crosby has posted just one goal, six assists and a minus-4 rating in nine playoff games, but Pittsburgh is still 6-3, with all three losses coming in overtime. Fleury has a 2.22 GAA and a .925 save percentage, and his two consecutive shutouts against the New York Rangers helped Pittsburgh take a 2-1 lead in its second-round series.
New York Rangers: Henrik Lundqvist - Brad Richards leads the Rangers with seven points in 10 games this postseason, Martin St. Louis has six points, Rick Nash hasn't scored a goal and New York is 3-for-42 on power-play chances. But the Rangers still have a shot in any game because Lundqvist is blocking the cage. The goalie has a 2.08 GAA and a .922 save percentage this postseason. The Rangers won't make a Cup run without better offensive play, but if they do, it will ultimately be because Lundqvist carries them there.