If getting -150 odds on the Penguins or +130 odds on the Predators in the Stanley Cup final isn’t enough to float your hockey betting boat, how about giving Conn Smythe Trophy betting a shot?
Betting on who will receive the Conn Smythe as NHL playoff MVP is kind of like betting on who will win the Cup, since only 5 players in history have won the award without being on a team that won the NHL championship. The nice thing about betting the Conn Smythe instead of the Cup futures is that you can hit a much bigger return, but you’ve just got to be able to correctly predict which player will be deemed most critical to his team’s championship win.
One more thing about the Conn Smythe Trophy: Unlike the NBA, which awards the MVP of the Finals, this honor goes to the MVP of the entire playoffs. You don’t win this trophy simply by having an excellent showing in the final (though it doesn’t hurt).
Alright, let’s take a look at the 7 top Conn Smythe Trophy contenders going into the Cup final, based on the current odds at BetOnline.
1. Pekka Rinne +200
If this award were presented after 3 rounds of the playoffs, Rinne would be the clear winner.
The Predators goaltender couldn’t have been better through Nashville’s run to the Stanley Cup final, going 12-4 with a 1.70 goals-against average and phenomenal .941 save percentage. Rinne, who has upped his game when his team needed it the most.
If Nashville is going to pull off the upset of Pittsburgh, Rinne will almost definitely be a big reason why. The Predators don’t have enough firepower to beat the Penguins in high-scoring games, and Pittsburgh puts a ton of pucks on net.
Only 2 goalies have earned the Conn Smythe Trophy in the last 10 years. Both posted goal-against averages under 2, and save percentages of .940 or higher. If Rinne can maintain his current pace and the Predators win the Cup, he’s a lock.
2. Evgeni Malkin +225
Malkin’s had an impressive month and a half by any standard, but even more so when you remember that he missed the final month of the regular season before returning for Game 1 of the playoffs.
The Russian sniper leads all scorers in the postseason, collecting 7 goals and 17 assists through his first 19 games. His 1.26 points per game is also better than anyone else in the NHL this spring.
He did slow down a bit in the Eastern Conference final versus the Senators, going pointless in 3 of the 7 games in the series, though he still finished with 2 goals and 4 helpers.
However, leading the playoffs in scoring is no guarantee of winning the Conn Smythe Trophy, even when your team wins the Cup. In fact, the last time the top scorer in the playoffs earned MVP honors was back in 2009 – when Malkin took the award.
3. Sidney Crosby +260
This looks like pretty good value on the Penguins captain, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy last year despite “just” 19 points in 24 games.
This year, he’s already surpassed that production with 20 points, doing so in 6 fewer games. Crosby has also had to overcome a concussion, which forced him to miss Game 4 of the second round against Washington. Whether it’s been his goals and assists, his strong two-way play or as an inspirational leader, Crosby is absolutely indispensable to the Penguins.
Want another reason to bet on Crosby? He’s a media darling. That matters when it is members of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association who determine who receives the award.
4. Phil Kessel +725
Formerly known as a guy who wilted under the glare of the spotlight, Kessel has shed that reputation with his second straight stellar spring for the Penguins.
The sniper is third in playoff scoring with 19 points in the playoffs, 7 of them goals. This strong postseason performance comes on the heels of last year’s 10-goal, 12-assist showing.
Unfortunately for Kessel, his detractors will point to the fact that so many of his goals (5) and points (11) have come on the power play. And when Kessel scores or gets an assist, Crosby or Malkin are also often getting a point on the play, strengthening their MVP case even more.
Still, Kessel has provided some big goals in these playoffs, with 2 of his tallies standing up as winners. Another winner or two in the final could get him some more serious attention from Conn Smythe voters.
5. Filip Forsberg +850
Rinne’s phenomenal playoffs has taken a lot of the focus away from Forsberg’s contributions, but the Swedish forward has also been critical to the Preds’ success this spring.
Forsberg ranks second in the playoffs in goals (8) and is tied for eighth in points. However, the stat that best illustrates his value to the Predators is his plus/minus (the even-strength goal differential of his team when he’s on the ice), which is an NHL-leading plus-17.
Forsberg’s 15 points have come honestly, with only 1 of them coming on the power play. By comparison, 10 of Malkin’s 24 points have come with the man advantage, as have 11 of Kessel’s 19. Forsberg also ranks third in the playoffs in shots on goal, and is averaging more than 20 minutes of ice time per contest.
If Rinne regresses a bit in the final and Forsberg scores a couple of important goals (maybe an overtime game winner), Forsberg’s got a shot at this award if Nashville can pull off the upset.
6. Matt Murray +1400
The Penguins goalie is an intriguing darkhorse on the Conn Smythe odds.
His case for playoff MVP will be hurt by the fact that he missed the first two and a half rounds of the playoffs after suffering an injury in warmups before Game 1 of the first round.
But when Murray returned, he backstopped the Penguins to 3 wins in 4 games as Pittsburgh overcame a 2-1 series deficit in the Eastern Conference final to beat Ottawa in 7 games. He posted a shutout in his second game back from injury, earned the victory in the double OT Game 7, and has a sparkling 1.35 goals-against average and .946 save percentage in his 5 outings.
If Murray continues to provide stellar netminding in the final, and neither Crosby or Malkin explode offensively, it’ll be interesting to see if voters are willing to look past the goalie’s injury and hand the rookie the award.
7. Roman Josi +2200
Defense has been key to Nashville’s Cinderella run, so we naturally need to look at a Predators blueliner to round out the Conn Smythe Trophy contenders.
Now that Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson is out, Josi is the top defenseman on the playoff MVP odds. He leads all rearguards in goals during the postseason (5), including the late winner in Game 5 of the Western Conference final.
Josi is also tied for third in scoring among defensemen, 1 point behind teammate Ryan Ellis, and leads all active players in the postseason in average time on ice, playing nearly 26 minutes per outing.
In order for Josi to secure the award, it will take more than just strong defensive play, since that will also help the chances of MVP favorite Rinne. Josi will need to score a big goal or two in this series, but at +2200 odds, it may be worth a shot.
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