Two down, two to go. Eight wins on these four teams’ last cup assignments, and we’ve seen some great performances. As the stage is set for a pair of highly anticipated encounters in the conference finals, starting Tuesday night when the Colorado Avalanche host the Edmonton Oilers followed by the Lightning-Rangers’ opening night in New York on Wednesday, we’re taking a look at the best performances so far.
From the game’s biggest offensive superstars to the network’s most consistent players, here’s a look at the top candidates for Conn Smythe as we wrap up Round Two and head into the conference finals.
1. Conor MacDavid, Edmonton Oilers
There is an elite, then there Conor McDavid in the 2022 Stanley Cup Elite qualifiers. Captain Oilers was Conn Smythe’s obvious leader after the first round, and all he’s done since then is improve.
After seven years of his NHL career, McDavid is about to experience his first trip to the Western Conference Final thanks to his impressive second-round performances, including an overtime winner at Game 5 to seal off what was a short but wild version of the Battle of Alberta. With 12 competitions this spring, he scored 10 multi-point games – including a seven-point multi-point series that concluded on Thursday – and was dropped from the scoresheet just once (Game 4 against the Kings). He is currently at the top of the league along with his teammate Leon Drysittel, in assists (19), points (26), and points per game (2.17).
Small context for points accrual: Last year, Nikita Kucherov led the league in playoff points with 32 points in 23 games en route to his second consecutive Stanley Cup in Tampa Bay. McDavid is only six points away from matching that, in half the time.
No player has scored more than 50 points in a single playoff. The highest total we’ve seen in one season after one season is 47, scored by Wayne Gretzky in 1984-85 as he led the Oilers to their second consecutive Stanley Cup. Only two players have broken the 40-point barrier: Gretzky did it three times (twice with Edmonton, once with the Kings) and Mario Lemio did it once (44 points in 1991).
If McDavid maintains his current impressive scoring pace, and if he can lead the Oilers to the promised land, he could be on his way to a historic 56 points (calculated based on two more rounds in seven full games each… hey, we can dream, right? ?!).
2. Leon Drystel, Edmonton Oilers
Never in cup history have we seen a pair of teammates share MVP awards in a final, but if ever there was an occasion… it would be it. Take all those adjectives we used to describe McDavid—elite, special, wonderful, historical—and apply them to Leon Draisaitl, too. If anyone Euler rivals MacDavid’s accomplishments this spring, it’s his streak. Pairing the two together on the ice feels like a gift from the hockey gods (unless, of course, you’re a fan of Flames).
So these skilled teammates coincide as they exited two rounds of post-season play with identical flat streaks: seven goals, 19 assists, 26 points and one goal wins the game. Both scored at least one point in all but one post-season game.
Draisaitl was great in the first round, but he was absolutely amazing in the second. He’s racked up 17 points in just five games against Flames, and he did so while playing through an injury that hampered his movement and shooting ability.
Draisaitl put in at least three points per game during the Battle of Alberta, and his 15 assists through five encounters helped propel him into a very rare atmosphere.
3. Andrei Vasilevsky, Tampa Bay Lightning
After six high-scoring contests against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Andrei Vasilevsky returned to his fork ways just in time to rule the first-round series against Toronto, carrying the Maple Leafs with just one goal in a Game 7 win. Closing in in five straight play-offs – it was a sign of the goalkeeper’s coming greatness.
Against Florida in the second round, Vasilevskiy stared at the league’s strongest attack of the regular season, averaging over four goals per game through 82, and holding it at just three. Objectives. the total.
Yes, last year’s Conn Smythe winner is back in supplement form.
The Panthers only managed one goal in each of the series’ first three games before Vasilevskiy completely shuts the door in Game 4 to complete the series’ sweep. After another string of shutdowns to his name, Vasilevskiy’s numbers in high-stakes situations are from another world: In his past seven series-defining games, dating back to his elimination by Dallas to lift the Stanley Cup in the 2020 bubble, the goalkeeper has allowed in just one goal through 200 combined shots. How will he pay against the Rangers’ multi-sided attack?
4. Nathan McKinnon, Colorado Avalanche
We have seen the target. I have seen the target. All of the hockey players saw the goal, which gave Colorado a 4-3 lead with less than three minutes to go for the potentially series-defining Match 5 game:
As hockey gods and fate would have it, MacKinnon’s incredible efforts, who also completed his natural hat trick in that match, didn’t end up winning the game — the drama’s blues brilliance had us wild. Finish and Game 6. But if you want to put your finger on the kind of magic that McKinnon can pull off in the biggest moments, this was a great example.
McKinnon has been an astounding post-season, and his eight goals this spring are good for third place – second among players still in the race – and a 13-point tie tie for eighth with teammate Cal Makar.
To now see McKinnon and McDavid dress up their best of seven with the Stanley Cup Final berth on the line is truly something to appreciate.
5. Igor Shesterkin, New York Rangers
When things get tough, Igor Shesterkin begins. Although the young net keeper had some hiccups earlier this season, he more than makes up for it when it really matters.
Through two rounds of play, Shesterkin and the Rangers have faced eliminations five times – they made their way back from a 3-1 series deficit against Pittsburgh in Round 1 and then forced out and won Game 7 against Carolina – and came out victorious each time, thanks in large part to From him to some exciting performances by Shesterkin. The busier, the better – in all five games with the season at stake, he faced a barrage of over 30 shots (including 42 against the Penguins in Game 7 of Round 1 and 39 in each of the last two games against Carolina) . Against the Hurricanes, he allowed only four goals from a total of 78 shots to be scored in Games 6 and 7 to send the Rangers to the Eastern Conference Final.
For all the offensive superstars prepared for the Eastern Conference final, this series undoubtedly belongs to the men in blue paint.
6. Cal Makar, Colorado Avalanche
After coming out of the gates in the first round against Nashville with three goals and 10 points in four games, McCar was considered the favorite to win the Con Smith title. Round two is (relatively) calmer, more offensive for the Norris Cup Final, giving way to some of his NHL peers to leap forward, but the relative lack of production doesn’t mean he’s had an overall quiet run.
Makar’s effect can be seen every time he is on the ice – because opponents need to constantly monitor the tabs, his presence unlocks the ice with each shift. Not to mention, his shutdown abilities leave no room for error for those storming the Colorado area.
Perhaps Makar’s most impressive stats after the second round is his average time on the ice, coming in at a team leading position of 26:42 on the night. This puts him second among all players by two rounds of play, behind Adam Fox of New York. McCar’s three goals and 13 points from 10 games in two runs are good for eighth overall in the league, while 1.30 points per game is the fourth-best mark (a tie with McKinnon) among his NHL peers still in the running.
7. Adam Fox, New York Rangers
Rangers have several attacking stars capable of changing the pace of the game and accumulating points – Chris Kreider has eight leading the team, Mika Zibanijad trails Rangers with 19 points, Philippe Chettle obviously has the clutch gene, and Jacob has a fully featured Troube physicality, to name no. limitation. But the strongest hand in the biggest moments was Adam Fox.
Fox has changed the rules of the game since he first arrived in New York, and is a major part of the now-completed rebuilding of the Rangers. Last year’s winner Norris has really shone in the post-season. And like his goalkeeper, he is at his best when the team is tough.
In five playoff games against the Penguins and Hurricanes—including a pair of 7s—Fox has earned 10 points (two goals, eight assists).
Fox leads all defensemen in goals (five), assists (13), and points (18) through two rounds, and has 1.29 points per game a hair behind Colorado Cal McCarr (1.30). Fox numbers good for third in the league among all skaters in assists and fourth in points.
8. Mika Zibanijad, New York Rangers
Even among all the attacking stars in New York, Zibanijad stands out thanks to his consistent production and ability to turn the game on its head with his speed and skill. His team that leads 19 points in two rounds of play has secured New York’s four-time Stanley Cup Final win — not to mention miles away from its rebuilding. He enters the Eastern Conference Final with five consecutive points and will be a force against Lightning.
Shesterkin should be the key to victory for Rangers, but look to Lightning – And beyond, a possible cup final match against Avalanche or the Oilers Keeping up with those hero-level crimes can be just as important as trying to stop them completely.
9. Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning
For two straight years, and two straight cups, Nikita Kucherov led the Lightning team with points en route to winning it all. His four goals and 15 points have him once again leading Tampa Bay in scoring, ranking fourth in the league, and his 1.36 points per game from 11 competitions so far showing just how consistent he has been: He has put up points at a similar pace in 2020, scoring 1.39 per game last year.
Kucheroff’s presence and production will continue to be more important than ever as Tampa Bay continues its quest for a three-peat, particularly given the absence of fellow co-star Brayden Pointe. Missed a point in the second round against the Florida Panthers, Kucherov scored seven points by sweeping all four games, and it’s not clear when (or if) we’ll see him again this spring.
10. Evander Kane, Edmonton Oilers
He scores in groups through two rounds of play, with a pair of hat-tricks already to his name while playing alongside Conor McDavid and Leon Drysittle. His 12 goals this spring give him the league lead in this category, and if he continues at this pace, he could open the Western Conference final wide open.
The outstanding performance of his teammates is a major reason why he considers him to be Con Smith – Oilers finally found a fast skater skilled enough to keep up with the duo — and the biggest reason is that despite his impressive production, it’s hard to see Kane being honored as an MVP for his efforts should the Oilers win it all. However, he deserves more than one place on this star list.