Analysis of Lightning’s top contenders for the Conn Smythe Trophy

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Taking advantage of an overtime power play, Kevin Shattenkirk gave the Tampa Bay Lightning a 3-1 lead in the Stanley Cup final on Friday night. Nothing is over until it’s over, and the Dallas Stars have continually impressed when most saw them down in this postseason, but the Lightning has a shot at winning the second Stanley Cup in the game. their franchise story on Saturday night.

If the Lightning closes the deal in the second half of a straight game, who will win the Conn Smythe Trophy? Let’s go through the top three candidates in no particular order.

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Nikita Kucherov

With 32 points, Kucherov leads the playoffs in goals, and he did so despite only scoring on 8.2% of his shots on goal, compared to his career average which is closer by 15%. Was Kucherov really unlucky despite leading the playoffs in scoring?

All data is 5 to 5, unless otherwise noted.

Simply put, the level at which the Lightning dominates the puck when Kucherov is on the ice is… complete.

His team’s absurdity being 18% better in inside shots at slots and over 16% better in passes to slots when their skates hit the ice is hard to put into words. The Lightning’s top line has been dirty throughout the playoffs, and it can be difficult to separate Kucherov’s impacts and point to the differentials on ice, but let’s look at specific areas where Kucherov has been excellent at making his case in favor of Conn Smythe. .

In these playoffs, Kucherov registered the 11th most shots inside slot machines on the net of all players, the 47th most for 20 minutes of ice time at 5v5. isn’t too impressive, but Kucherov is a middle distance shooter who thrives on single shots, so it’s not his area of ​​dominance.

Since the slot machine, his 3.01 attempts to shoot the slot machine every 20 minutes rank seventh among players with at least 150 minutes of play, and in total only his teammate Ondrej Palat has shot more. net shots from the machine than Kucherov’s 60, with 61.

Kucherov’s greatest scoring strength is arguably his one time, and he leads all forwards in the playoffs with 24 of those 5-5, and is second to just David Pastrnak in a time every 20 minutes.

Adding more elements of danger to his shots, Kucherov has the third-highest number of chances to score out of the playoff race, the second-most out of the cycle, and is tied for third in front failure. . Obviously, he’s the furthest thing from a single-trick pony, attacking the net in different ways.

Kucherov also leads the league in assists this postseason, thanks to his versatile playing ability. Kucherov ranks fourth in the playoffs for completed slot passes, fifth for completed scramble passes, second for east-west passes, and second for passes that create unique passes.

The ability to shoot and play with equal efficiency makes Kucherov one of the toughest players in the league to defend, and his driving game during these playoffs has been unassailable. Even without his dominance of powerplay, he’s a clear contender to be the Lightning MVP.

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Brayden Point

Just two points behind Kucherov despite a few missed games and leading the playoffs with a whopping 13, Brayden Point also has several overtime winners on his CV, continuously scoring important goals for his team. Unlike Kucherov, Point was very lucky with 21.3% of his shots beating goaltenders.

Like his line mate in Kucherov, Point’s relative possession metrics are absurdly excellent. His team are incredibly successful on the ice, controlling 64% of inside shots and 65% of passes, as well as 60% of shots and attempted shots.

However, if you take a closer look, his differentials aren’t as strong as Kucherov’s, so to compensate for Kucherov being the greatest equal impact player overall, Point has to make noise by individual metrics. .

After missing a few games, in raw totals, Point is a bit behind Kucherov in a few areas, but he is second to Ondrej Palat in penalties from the inside lunge in the postseason, fourth in attempted shots since the post-season. slot machine and fourth net shots from the slot. Per 20 minutes played, Point ranks fifth, 15th and ninth in these bars.

Point is not at the same level as Kucherov for single players, ranking 68th in the playoffs overall, but no one has managed more chances out of the race than Point 20, despite ranking behind. Nathan MacKinnon and Brock Nelson in the rush chance by 20 minutes.

While overall, Point logged in on three less passes than Kucherov, he actually ranks ahead of him in slot passes completed every 20 minutes, and is also ahead of peak passes. .

If there’s one argument to be made for Point over Kucherov in this playoffs, it boils down to precision versus volume. Kucherov was brilliant, but a lot of the plays he made didn’t work out for him 5v5. For example, Point made 50% of his passing attempts at Kucherov’s 39.7. Out of the race, Point completed 81.8% of his attempt

passes to 65.4% of Kucherov. On the East-West passes, Kucherov completed only 71.4% of his attempts against 90.9 for Point.

The same is happening with shooting, where Point has put 66.7% of his shot attempts from the slot machine on the net, Kucherov is at 41.7%. Over time, the higher volume of those metrics is probably worth more, but we’re not talking about a full regular season, just the playoffs. At the end of the playoffs, the results are more relevant than the process, especially when the process is broadly relatively similar anyway.

Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman talk to lots of people in the hockey world, then they tell listeners what they heard and what they think.

Victor Hedman

It’s always a little hard to compare the value of a defender to that of a striker, the roles they play are so different. Hedman is the second-strongest defenseman in the playoffs after Miro Heiskanen, and the imposing defenseman has some 10 goals under his belt, only three of which are on the power play.

While acknowledging that they play very different roles on the Lightning, the gaps for Hedman aren’t as strong as they are for Point and Kucherov.

Hedman is a bit offended by the excellence of the Lightning pair of Kevin Shattenkirk and Mikhail Sergachev, who have brilliant numbers while playing softer minutes than him, but don’t get me wrong Hedman remains the best defender in the game. Tampa.

Playing just over 26 minutes a night, Hedman leads all defenders in offensive contributions 5v5, and is third in attack generating plays every 20 minutes behind Nate Schmidt and Shea Theodore.

Hedman leads all defensemen in the playoffs in controlled outs, and is sixth in controlled outs by 20 minutes played. Hedman has just edged Heiskanen in transition games, successfully bringing the puck back onto the ice 497 times in those playoffs, leading all defensemen. Heiskanen managed to stay ahead of Hedman in the controlled entrances, by just two.

While the goals are excellent, Hedman also leads all defenders in completed passes, with 50% more than the next closest defender, Quinn Hughes. Assists, in general, have been a strength for Hedman, as he successfully dealt the puck to his teammates 596 times 5-on-5 in this playoffs, more than any other defenseman.

Where Hedman hasn’t been so strong is his play without the puck, where he’s fifth in free puck recoveries on his own team, fourth in puck battle wins and fourth in reject rate. controlled entry.

Where Hedman was really brilliant was in puck management. He has struggled at times to get the puck when his team didn’t have possession, but once he got it he didn’t make a lot of mistakes. Only Jeff Petry and Rasmus Andersson commit defensive zone rotations less often than Hedman, and he also has the eighth lowest turnover rate in the attacking zone.

Hedman is a brilliant player who eats big minutes, but overall I think he lags behind Point and Kucherov in the competition for the playoff MVP. If I had a vote, barring incredible performances in the last three possible games, Point would be the player I would vote to get the Conn Smythe.



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