The Tampa Bay Lightning need just one more win to capture the Stanley Cup for the second time in franchise history. If they are able to get it the Conn Smythe Trophy debate is going to be as close as it has been in years between their top-three players — Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, and Victor Hedman — as all of them have a great argument for it.
We take a look at the ongoing race for the Conn Smythe in our weekly NHL Power Rankings.
The Lightning have another chance to get that win on Monday night in Game 6 (8 p.m. ET, NBC; livestream) against the Dallas Stars.
Since the Lightning are the closest team to winning the Cup they definitely have the top-three favorites as of this moment, but a lot can change if the Stars win Game 6 on Monday.
Who all makes the Conn Smythe watch in our latest update?
To the rankings!
1. Brayden Point, Tampa Bay Lightning. It is really difficult to differentiate between Point and Kucherov right now. They play on the same line, they are equally dominant, they are both deserving. Point gets the slight edge right now for the simple fact that he already has four goals and seven total points in the Cup Final, and going back to the earlier rounds of the playoffs has two overtime winning goals, including a series-clincher. He has an NHL best 13 total goals and 10 even-strength goals this postseason.
2. Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning. One of the finest postseason performances we have seen from a defenseman in years. He controls the game at an absurd level and enters Game 6 on Monday having already scored 10 goals in 24 playoff games. He is only one goal away from matching his regular season total that he reached in 66 games. But it is not just the goal-scoring that makes him so dominant. He is simply the most complete defenseman in the NHL right now for his ability to shut things down defensively, control the transition game, and be a major factor in the offensive zone.
3. Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning. In most years his performance would make him a slam-dunk Conn Smythe winner, and it a testament to the overall brilliance of Point and Hedman that it is even a debate at this point. It is not just the overall production that stands out, but the consistency as well.
4. Miro Heiskanen, Dallas Stars. I don’t know that he has been quite as dominant in the Cup Final as he was in earlier rounds, but he has still been the Stars’ best and most consistent player from the moment the postseason began. He is still their top scorer (as a defenseman!) and best overall player. A rising superstar in the NHL.
5. Joe Pavelski, Dallas Stars. A big-time late push from the Stars’ big free agent acquisition. After a somewhat underwhelming debut regular season, Pavelski has proven to be exactly what the Stars wanted — and needed — in the playoffs to help balance out their offense, taking some of the pressure off of their top line. His 13 goals are tied for the league lead in the playoffs (with Point) and he already has four in the Stanley Cup Final. The biggest of those four was his game-tying goal late in Game 5 to send it overtime, setting the stage for Corey Perry‘s game winner.
6. Anton Khudobin, Dallas Stars. After a slow start to the Cup Final, Khudobin came through in a big way in Game 5 to extend the series. Do you know what would rapidly make him get back closer to the top of this race? Two more dominant starts to pick up wins.
7. Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning. It is still a little wild that Vasilevskiy has played every minute for the Lightning this postseason and has a .920-plus save percentage and is barely even an afterthought in the Conn Smythe discussion. But given the performance of the top-three Lightning players he just does not really have much of a chance. He has still be great. Just as he always is.
8. Jamie Benn, Dallas Stars. It has been an incredible postseason for Benn and a nice reminder that he can still be a productive top-line player. But his offense has gone a little cold in the Cup Final and barring two massive performances to power a series comeback that will hurt him in the Conn Smythe race.
Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.