The second round of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs may only be a few days old but it is never too early to start keeping track of the front-runners for the Conn Smythe Trophy.
Throughout the remainder of the playoffs we will be taking a regular look at who is rising and falling in that race.
With still eight teams playing — all of them with a legitimate shot to win the whole thing, nobody is out of place here — there are no shortage of worthy contenders so far with some incredibly dominant individual performances, both from skaters and goaltenders.
So let’s take a look at the early list.
1. David Pastrnak, Boston Bruins. The Bruins’ top-line has been the story for this team all season and at any given time it can be either Pastrnak, Brad Marchand or Patrice Bergeron carrying the play and dominating the scoresheet. At the moment it is Pastrnak, entering the week as the league’s top scorer this postseason with 17 points in eight games. He already has a three-point game, a four-point game, and a six-point game this postseason. That six-point game is the first one in a Stanley Cup Playoff game since Jamie Benn back in 2013. It is only the third since 2010.
2. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins. The winner of the past two Conn Smythe Trophies, Crosby is scoring at a significantly higher pace than he did in either of those two playoff runs. Just consider: Through his first eight playoff games in 2016 he had three goals and eight points. Through his first eight games in the 2017 playoffs he had four goals and 11 total points. Through his first eight games in the 2018 playoffs he already has seven goals and 15 points. He was the most dominant player on the ice in their first-round series win against the Philadelphia Flyers, scoring at least two goals against each of the three different Flyers goalies.
3. Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals. The Washington Capitals are still trying to get over the second-round hump in the the Ovechkin era, but don’t blame him for it not happening yet. All the guy does is produce, and he is doing it again this year for the Capitals. He already has seven goals in their first eight games and has recorded five multi-point games. He is a machine.
4. Marc-Andre Fleury, Vegas Golden Knights. Remember when this guy was a playoff punchline? After being benched for Tomas Vokoun in the first-round of the 2013 playoffs Fleury has been one of the league’s best postseason goalies, owning the third highest playoff save percentage in the NHL since then. He has been outstanding so far for Vegas with a .967 save percentage and already three shutouts entering play on Monday.
5. Mark Scheifele, Winnipeg Jets. Scheifele has become one of the centerpieces of the Jets’ dynamic offense and been one of the league’s most productive players over the past three years without much fanfare. He is on an absolute tear right now with goals in four consecutive games, including three two-goal games.
7. Filip Forsberg, Nashville Predators. He probably has the two best goals of the playoffs after making a mockery of the Colorado Avalanche defense in the first-round. He is also Nashville’s leading scorer and had a huge three-assist performance in their Game 2 overtime win against the Winnipeg Jets to even that series.
8. Martin Jones, San Jose Sharks. He was lit up in the first game of the second-round against Vegas, but that game was a pretty colossal failure on the part of everyone in San Jose. Before that, however, Jones was probably the biggest reason the Sharks were able to sweep the Anaheim Ducks in the first round, allowing just four goals in the four-game series. He has been money for the Sharks in the playoffs during his time with the team.
9. Jake Guentzel, Pittsburgh Penguins. You could make the argument that Guentzel should maybe be higher on this list given his production. He is one of the top scorers in the league (both in terms of goals and total points). He already has a pair of game-winning goals. He now has 20 goals in the first 33 playoff games of his career. It is also a situation where it is difficult to separate him from Crosby because they are both playing on the same line and doing their damage together. Only one of them could potentially win the award, and for as good as Guentzel is — and he is legitimately good — Crosby is probably the one driving the bus on this one. And when I say probably, I mean that he definitely is.
10. Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins. Like Guentzel he could probably be a little higher, but you are again stuck with trying to separate players on the same line, and in this case I think Pastrnak is just a little bit ahead of Marchand in terms of driving things for the Bruins. That should not take away from Marchand’s performance because he has been incredible all over the ice and in all situations. Just wish he would stop doing that extra nonsense away from the play and after the whistles because it overshadows and takes away from just how good and productive he is.