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The Race for the 2021 NHL Conn Smythe Trophy

June 22, 2021
Trphy Odds Alex P

The NHL is down to its final four teams. Each semifinal series is knotted at 2-2 heading into a new week of play. With the postseason winding down, the race for the 2021 Conn Smythe Trophy (playoff MVP) is heating up. 

Of the eight games played in the semifinals thus far, six of those games were decided by one goal. The Under is 4-1-3 in those eight games. The three pushes saw a game total of 5. What this all means is that the goaltending in these two series has been outstanding. Not surprisingly, all four starting goaltenders are high up on the Conn Smythe betting board.

The Surprising Favorite

Despite the stellar goalie play thus far in the NHL postseason, the favorite to win this year’s Conn Smythe is a forward – Alex Pietrangelo of Vegas. It makes sense that a player like Pietrangelo is the overall favorite since the last eight straight Conn Smythe winners have been non-goalies.

The last goaltender to win the award was Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings in 2012. Quick was preceded by Boston’s Tim Thomas in 2011. They are the only two goalies to win the playoff MVP since 2006.

Pietrangelo gets the nod as the favorite because he is starting to peak at the right time. He has just 11 points in the postseason, but three of his four playoff goals have come in the Golden Knights’ semifinals series against Montreal. Pietrangelo scored two goals in Game 3 and a netted a single goal in Game 4. Both games were Vegas losses, by the way.

Should Pietrangelo continue to show off his scoring prowess throughout the rest of the postseason and Vegas is able to capture the Stanley Cup, Pietrangelo at +275 is a strong bet to win the Conn Smythe.

Goaltending Favorites

Each of the four starting goaltenders on the semifinal teams is among the top seven on the Conn Smythe betting board. The top candidate is Andrei Vasilevskiy of defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay. Vasilevskiy is listed at +400 at top ranked sportsbooks and rightfully so. He is 11-5 so far in the postseason and fresh off an 8-0 shutout victory over the Islanders.

Vasilevskiy faced 21 shots in the last win over New York to bring his playoff-leading save percentage to .936. His goals against average (GAA) is now 2.05 in the postseason. The problem for Vasilevskiy is that if the Lightning repeat as champions, he will have to beat out a couple of prolific scorers for the award. More on them in a minute.

The only playoff goalie with a better GAA than Vasilevskiy is Marc-Andre Fleury of Vegas. Though he has a playoff record of 9-6, Fleury leads all goaltenders with a 1.97 GAA. His Golden Knights are still a +130 favorite to win the Stanley Cup and if they do, Fleury, who is priced at +550, will be a big reason why.

Montreal’s Carey Price is having a strong postseason too. He is 10-5 overall with a 2.09 GAA and .931 save percentage. The Canadiens have been a huge surprise in the playoffs and Price, a former Vezina and Hart Memorial Trophy winner, is one of the reasons. At +750 to win, Price is more of a longshot, but no one even expected Montreal to get this far. 

The Islanders are one of the better defensive teams in hockey. At least they are when Semyon Varlamov is in goal. In Game 5 of their semifinals series with Tampa Bay, the Islanders went with Ilya Sorokin who went 13-6-3 during the regular season in relief of Varlamov. Sorokin promptly gave up five goals in a little over two periods.

Varlamov came on and gave up three more in the third period to take his GAA to 2.74 and drop his save percentage to .919. Still, Varlamov is given +600 odds to win the Conn Smythe. 

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Top Contenders

Last season, it was Tampa Bay’s Victor Hedman that won the award after scoring 10 goals and 22 points to lead the Lightning to the Stanley Cup. With 14 points (1 goal) so far this playoff season, Hedman is a longshot to repeat at +2000.

His teammates – Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov – will be right in the mix. Kucherov, who returned from injury after missing the entire regular season, is the leading scorer in the playoffs with 27 points. Point has 18 points, including a playoff-high 13 goals. Should Tampa Bay repeat as champs, it would be hard not to see the Conn Smythe in one of their hands given the recent trend of the award.

The Final Word

With skaters winning the last eight Conn Smythe Trophies, this race comes down to one thing – defense. Is there a goalie that will take over a series? The best bet to do so is Fleury. If you like Vegas to win the Cup, Fleury is the winner as the Golden Knights don’t have skaters with great numbers.

If you like the Lightning to repeat, the best bet is Kucherov and then Point. Kucherov has a great story with his comeback which will overshadow how well Vasilevskiy has played in the postseason.