The Vegas Golden Knights lead the Florida Panthers 3-1 in a best-of-7 series and can claim their first championship with a win in Game 5 at T-Mobile Arena (8 p.m. ET; TNT, truTV, SN, CBC, and TVAS).
This is the biggest news heading into the game, but realize that the Stanley Cup always has company in the award process. In fact, this is the Conn Smythe Trophy, which is awarded to the most valuable player in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
[RELATED: Complete Stanley Cup Final coverage]
The race for Conn Smythe remains a crowded field and there is fierce debate over who will take the trophy from NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman to start the presentation ceremony.
So, ahead of Game 5, we’ve revised the MVP discussion.
Not surprisingly, a panel of NHL.com writers differed in their opinions. Here are their answers, in alphabetical order:
There has been a lot of talk about the Florida Panthers’ goaltender. And if they come back to win the Stanley Cup Final, I’ll be late Sergei Bobrovsky for the best player. But we can’t ignore Hill, his consistent and excellent hand that was in goal for the Golden Knights, the way he effectively saved their season when they had no one else to turn to, after Laurent Brossuyt injured. In 15 games in the playoffs, Hill had a 2.11 goals-against average, . 934 save percentage, and gave the team a lot of confidence. Hill allowed two goals for the Panthers in each Golden Knights victory and three in their loss in Game 3, the last goal coming in overtime. This is exactly what a goalkeeper must do to pass his team across the finish line and win the Stanley Cup. It may not be his goal to get headlines from Bobrovsky or cheers for those goals he scores Jonathan Marquessault. But, really, where would they be without him? I claim not to win the cup. — Amalie Benjamin, staff writer
Video: VGK @ FLA, Gm4: Hill stopped Verhaeghe in the dying seconds
The idea is to score goals, and no one in the Golden Knights has done a better job at the right times than Marchesault. The forward has 13 goals in his last 14 games entering Game 5 after not scoring in the first seven games of the playoffs. He has 14 points (eight goals, six assists) over nine straight. But it’s not just that he scores goals, it’s when he scores goals. Of his 13 goals, three tied the game and six gave Vegas the lead, including three game-winners. He scored the first goal in three matches. Marchessault had a natural triple in the second period of Game 6 against the Edmonton Oilers in the Western Conference, tying the game, giving the Golden Knights the lead and then giving them protection in the 5-2 win. Scored the tying goal in Game 2 against the Dallas Stars in the Conference Final at 17:38 of the third period. Vegas won in overtime. – Dan Rosen, Senior Writer
During a conversation with the Eastern Conference General Manager on Monday afternoon, the topic of making the biggest difference in the 2023 Stanley Cup playoffs came up. “You usually look at the goalies,” he said. “But Marchesault’s timing was impeccable. When games are on the line, in playoffs during games that can go either way, he puts his mark on games.” And as Dan clearly pointed out, the Vegas striker has done this repeatedly. Nine of his 13 goals either tied games or gave the Golden Knights the lead. When the goal is 16 wins en route to the Stanley Cup, his fingerprints are everywhere. There were flashes of Jack Eichel And Mark Stone And Alex Pietrangelo and Adin Hill, but no one changed the balance of games like Marchessault. Don’t take my words seriously. Executives around the NHL feel this way, too. – Mike Zizberger, faculty writer
No need to think about this. Leading the Golden Knights in goals (13) and points (24) in the Stanley Cup playoffs, Marchessault has hit it big in the big moments. You can make a case for Jack Eichel, William Carlson, Adin Hill and others, but if Vegas wins the Cup, it would feel good if Marchessault was voted MVP of the playoffs. This should not be taken into account, but if Conn Smith wins, it will be appropriate. Selected in the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft from the Florida Panthers, out of all teams. He leads the Golden Knights in goals (34) and points (70) in the playoffs from the start. – Nicholas J. Kutsuneka, columnist
Video: VGK @ FLA, Gm3: Marchessault nets PPG for second place
Dan is right, the idea is to score goals. The idea is also to prevent the other team from scoring, and the defender was a major reason Vegas was so successful in doing so. Since their previous round start, the Golden Knights have allowed 2.10 goals per game, the best of all four teams in the Conference Finals. Pietrangelo leads all Vegas defensemen in time on the ice per game with 23:33, three minutes more than his closest teammate (Shea Theodore, 20:07), and is second in points among Vegas defensemen with nine points (one goal, eight assists), one behind Theodore. Perhaps most importantly, his Stanley Cup-winning pedigree (St. Louis, 2019) gave the veteran Golden Knights the championship lead they’ve counted on this season. Bill Price, Editor-in-Chief
The quarterback showed his value to the Golden Knights again in their 3-2 win in Game 4, helping them rebound from the Game 3 loss by scoring their first two goals, including one on a 1:39 breakaway into the game. The speedy 29-year-old has five points (two goals and three assists) in the Cup Final and 19 points (10 goals and nine assists) in 21 games in the playoffs. That includes three game-winning goals (one in extra time), tying him with Marcisault for most in the Golden Knights. Stevenson plays in all positions, including being a key player in power play and killing (he’s the only Vegas rusher to be in the top three on the team in power play and short ice time), helping Vegas edge Florida 6.0 in. Special teams in the series. Stevenson also leads the Golden Knights in ties in playoffs (332) and ranks second among their players with at least 10 draws in wins at 53.3 percent (behind William Carlson’s 53.9 percent). — Tom Goleti, faculty writer
Video: VGK @ FLA, Gm4: Stevenson goes five holes on the breakaway
Considering the Golden Knights captain missed the last 39 games of the regular season after undergoing back surgery in January, it’s pretty remarkable what he did in the 2023 Stanley Cup playoffs.
Stone has 21 points (eight goals, 13 assists) in 21 playoff games. He had two goals and an assist in his second game, helping the Golden Knights to an important 5-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets to tie the Best of 7 in the first round at 1-1, and he hasn’t looked back.
Playing through corporal punishment in the second round against the Oilers, Stone scored a goal and an assist in a 6-4 win in Game 1, and scored a power-hitting goal in Game 5 to tie it 2-2 on the way to a 4-3 win.
The victory marked a turning point in the series, which Vegas won in six games. His scoring continued in time during the Conference Final and Cup Final. — Derek Van Diest, faculty writer
Video: VGK @ FLA, Gm3: Stone’s equal game with PPG in the first period
Yes, I realize that the Panthers may not come back from the 3-1 deficit they are facing to win the Stanley Cup. Even if they don’t, it’s hard for me not to consider Florida forward Conn Smith the winner. Look what he did: 24 points (11 goals, 13 assists) in the Stanley Cup playoffs, tied for first in points with Marchessault (13 goals, 11 assists) and Rob Hintz The stars (10 goals, 14 assists). He leads the Panthers with four power-hitting and four game winning goals, including three in overtime, in the postseason. Ice time averages 21:38 minutes per game. Tkachuk has been a beast and is clearly battling some kind of injury; He was benched for nearly 11 minutes of the third period when the Panthers trailed 3-2 in Game 4 on Saturday. But he was there at the end of the match, almost tying it up with a last-second try. If Tkachuk wins Conn Smythe and the Panthers no longer, he will be the first to win it from a losing team since goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere of the Anaheim Ducks did so in 2003. — Tracy Meyers, faculty writer
Video: VGK @ FLA, Gm3: Tkachuk serves up the puck loose at third
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