Conn Smythe Watch: Which players have the inside track for NHL playoff MVP?

Every night in our Three Stars roundup during the playoffs, we offer a Top 10 list for the Conn Smythe. Several variables play into the rankings, including which teams may or may not advance and the quality of contenders on each team's roster. One night's hero can be the next night's goat — just ask Pekka Rinne.

As we're moving into the final stages of some series, we figured it'd be a good time to break down this daily feature into the favorites and the field for the Conn Smythe.

Did we miss anyone from your series? Who are the darkhorses for the award? Fill us in down in the comments.

The Frontrunners

Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings: He's leading the playoffs in every major goaltending category save for shutouts: 7-1, .948 save percentage and a 1.62 GAA in eight games. Quick's credited with leading the Kings to their first-round upset over the Vancouver Canucks, and continues to make key saves in this series against the Blues. He's also been the backbone of a penalty kill that's 91.4-percent effective. The frontrunner among the frontrunners. It doesn't hurt that he's a [expletive] Jedi apparently.

Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers: With 15 points, he still leads the playoffs in scoring despite going without a point in his last two vs. the Devils. Giroux's first-round performance against the Penguins was a defining moment for him, and won't soon be forgotten by the voters should the Flyers win the Cup. How many other potential MVPs have a Lisa Loeb-style love song in their honor?

Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers: He has a 1.68 GAA and a .940 save percentage, and has kept the Rangers in games where their offense sputtered. He's having arguably the best postseason of his career. He's also incredibly handsome when he's angry.

Mike Smith, Phoenix Coyotes: Not only wins, but wins in the clutch. His three victories in Chicago — no small feat for a goalie, as Luongo will tell you — propelled the Coyotes to the second round. In Game 4, he may have squashed the Predators' rally in the series with a 25-save shutout. He has a 1.85 GAA and a .940 save percentage and coined the phrase of the playoffs to describe his team's style: "Coyote Ugly."

Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals: The rookie netminder outplayed Tim Thomas in Round 1 and is trying to defeat Lundqvist in Round 2. His numbers are stellar, including a 1.94 GAA in 11 games. But it's his ability to suffocate a slump that's been his key asset — he hasn't lost consecutive games in the playoffs, and hasn't given up more than two goals in any of those rebound efforts. His winning the Conn would be worth it just for the reaction shots from his mom.

Ilya Kovalchuk, New Jersey Devils: The Devils are getting some strong performances throughout their lineup, but Kovalchuk might end up with the most MVP buzz. His 3-point game in Game 3, after missing the previous game with a back injury, was masterful. He had two points in a potential elimination game against Florida. He's a minus-3 … but c'mon, it's Kovalchuk. Isn't a minus just assumed?

Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators: If the Preds rally, it's going to be with Rinne leading them there. His 2.07 GAA and .932 save percentage are solid, but he's had a few lapses for Nashville. Still, he makes curfew, so that's something.

Andy McDonald, St. Louis Blues: One imagines we'll be bidding adieu to the Blues in short order, but McDonald's 10 points in eight playoff games — 2 goals, 8 assists — are impressive. Like the rest of the team, he had a stronger first series, with just two points in Game 2 for the Blues vs. the Kings.

The Contenders

Danny Briere, Philadelphia Flyers: Giroux has his teammate hot on his skates for the NHL playoff points lead. Briere has 12 points in 9 games, including an OT game-winner vs. the Devils. His eight goals lead the playoffs.

Brad Richards, New York Rangers: He's making all of those "not worth the money" naysayers eat their verbiage. Richards has nine points in 11 games, and has looked dangerous every time he has the puck. They could use a bit more from him on the power play, but he's been the Rangers' best offensive player.

Dustin Brown, Los Angeles Kings: He's gone from trade bait to having the postseason of his life, with nine points in eight games, a plus-8 and two shorthanded goals. He's also played a tad physical:

Travis Zajac, New Jersey Devils: This heart-and-soul player for the Devils has nine points and a game-winning OT goal vs. the Panthers. Perhaps most impressive: 58.9 percent on faceoffs for a team that's not killing it in the circle.

Zach Parise, New Jersey Devils: Right there with Zajac and Kovalchuk, he has eight points and four in the series against the Flyers. A stellar postseason for Parise, and a nice parting gift for Devils fans before he leaves for a pile of money that would dwarf the trash heaps off the Jersey Turnpike.

Mike Richards, Los Angeles Kings: He has eight points in eight games and has been a difference-maker in many of them, including a Gordie Howe Hat Trick in Game 3 vs. the Blues. Darryl Sutter on Richards in that game: "I thought he took the bull by the horns tonight. He did an awesome job." Awesome indeed, sir.

Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings: Eight points so far for Kopitar, to go along with a  plus-7. He's tallied four points in his last two games for the Kings and could just be getting warmed up.

Antoine Vermette, Phoenix Coyotes: His five goals in 10 games is good for fourth in the playoffs (tied with three others), and his three power play goals ties him with Giroux for best in the postseason. He's also 56.8 percent on faceoffs. The Conn Smythe would be a tremendous honor for him, though it will still be overshadowed by the joy of having been rescued from Columbus.

Mikkel Boedker, Phoenix Coyotes: Boedker has seven points in 10 playoff games, but that includes two overtime game winners. He's been a force offensively for the Coyotes, and one gets the feeling his clutch play may not be done.

Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals: Despite some ice time oddness thanks to Coach Dale Hunter, Ovechkin remains the Capitals' offensive catalyst and has seven points in 11 playoff games — including the game-winner in Game 2 in MSG. Could become the first player to win the Conn Smythe and play 30 seconds in the third period of the Cup-winning game.

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