Kukla's Korner

Picking Conn Smythe

If the Red Wings win the Stanley Cup tonight (and if you’re going by history, that if comes with about 90% certainty because of home ice), I think we’re all in agreement about giving the Conn Smythe to Chris Osgood. He’s been surprisingly steady, and other than Game 4 against Columbus, hasn’t really had a bad game that I can think of.

On the other hand, should the Penguins beat the odds and win, everyone’s handing the Conn Smythe over to Evgeni Malkin.

Now hold on a second. While Malkin was, to use a Pierre McGuire term, a monster during the Carolina series and has been very strong against the Red Wings, am I the only one who remembers that it took about two series for him to really get going?

Well, “get going” is used in relative terms. There was about a two-week chunk of the playoffs where the media asked a lot about where Malkin had been. That’s what happens when you “only” get five points in seven games split against Philadelphia and Washington.

So Malkin’s first-half playoff totals were 6G, 13A in 13 games. Not exactly numbers to scoff at but he wasn’t the dominant player we saw destroying the Hurricanes. Against Carolina and Detroit, he’s had 15 points in 10 games.

On the other hand, Sidney Crosby seemed to be everyone’s shoe-in for Conn Smythe leader after two rounds. At just about a goal-per-game (12 goals in 13 games) in the first two rounds, and a fair share of assists, Crosby looked like he shrugged off all of the burdens of last year’s playoffs while Malkin still looked like he was in the funk that slowed him down in the 2008 Cup final.

Against Carolina, Crosby and Malkin were equally beasts, with Crosby getting seven points in four games. As for the Wings series, well, we all know what the tenacious checking of Zetterberg, Lidstrom, and Rafalski have done to Crosby, and he’s been limited to three points in six games so far.

The question comes down to this—is it purely “What have you done for me lately?” when it’s Conn Smythe voting? That seems to be what everyone’s thinking, and I’m not quite sure why. Malkin wasn’t dominating in the first two rounds while Crosby was; they both played extremely well against Carolina and Malkin’s had a better series against Detroit, though Crosby’s attracted his share of shut-down attention.

If we did this mathematically, let’s assign a 1 for a mediocre series, 2 for a good series, and 3 for a superb series. Crosby gets 3 (Philadelphia), 3 (Washington), 3 (Carolina), and 1 (Detroit) for a total of 10. Malkin gets 2 (Philadelphia), 2 (Washington), 3 (Carolina), and 2 (Detroit) for a total of 9. By that logic, they’re pretty even. But the media loves to jump on the hot hand, so the fact that Malkin’s been the best Penguin against Detroit makes a lot of people forget that he hasn’t been the best Penguin all playoff long.

Another way to look at it is that up till the Detroit series, Crosby only had two games without a point while Malkin had four. Heading into Game 7, they’re equal with six games without a point.

So if the Penguins do wind up beating the home-ice odds, I wouldn’t just hand it over to Malkin. I’d say that it’s a toss up between the two, as Malkin had one stronger series than Crosby and Crosby’s had two stronger (but early) series than Malkin. If the Pens are hoisting Lord Stanley tonight, then the Conn Smythe goes to whoever decides to actually step it up tonight between those two.

And if they both fail but wind up winning, I’ll give the Conn Smythe to Max Talbot, not cause he necessarily deserves it (though he’s been good) but because he’s in this awesome car commercial. Can we all be “superstars” and awkwardly dance?

Update: Obviously, I’m not a superstar because I brain-farted and left the E off Smythe. Fixed and facepalmed.

Filed in: | Mike Chen's Hockey Blog | Permalink
  Tags: chris+osgood, conn+smythe, evgeni+malkin, sidney+crosby

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