The Conn Smythe Trophy is awarded to the most valuable player of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. There is no easy way to judge this, as human nature will weigh the Stanley Cup Finals above all other series, even though a team has to win 12 games before it makes it that far.
For Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick, the award he won Monday night after the Kings' Game 6 win was absolutely earned, because Quick was the Kings' best and most consistent player throughout the team's 16-4 steamroll through the playoffs.
It can be easy to identify a team's best player through a playoff run. In this case, the Kings had so many players step up throughout the team's magical playoff season that Quick's consistency put him over the top of any of them.
He had his moments in every series, and Quick was never ineffective. You can count the number of questionable goals he allowed on one hand, an amazing trait for a goaltender over 20 games with such high pressure attached to them. His playoff numbers (16-4, 1.41 goals against, .946 save percentage) show a goalie beyond hot. Quick was practically unbeatable in the playoffs. Even though he didn't really have to stand on his head in any game of the Final, his consistency won him the Conn Smythe.
(Need statistical proof? Quick now holds records for best goals against and save percentage in a playoff year, and he also set marks for most overall and consecutive road wins in a postseason with 10.)
Sure, captain Dustin Brown had a case. But he practically disappeared during the Final before coming alive early in Game 6. Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter had eight goals. Drew "Brad Doty" Doughty was a freaking plus-11 while playing 26 minutes a game.
That's the difference. Yeah, Quick gave up a honker in Game 1 of the Western Conference Final, and he turned the puck over to Zach Parise for the first goal of Game 5 in this series. However, that was just about it.
In Game 2, I thought the Devils were the better team, but they couldn't solve Quick, outside of Ryan Carter's tying goal in the third period. His defense in front of him was outstanding throughout the playoffs, but Quick made athletic and sometimes acrobatic saves, and he was unflappable when pressured or hit with a bad play or soft goal.
Quick was great against the Canucks, especially when given a chance to close out the series. He was especially good in a Game 5 goalies' duel against Cory Schneider that wasn't over until Jarret Stoll ended it in overtime.
One win away from the Stanley Cup, Quick didn't buckle against the Devils. His team couldn't score, and a very good New Jersey team finally figured out how to get a couple goals. But scoring seven goals over a six-game series is hardly an impressive feat, or a sign of a goaltender who can't handle the pressure of the Final.
This isn't a case of a goalie winning the Conn Smythe because no one else was really that good throughout the playoffs. Instead, Quick won the Conn Smythe because he rose above a bunch of great players to be the best his team had throughout one of the best playoff runs hockey has ever seen.
Stick with our StoryStream for complete Stanley Cup Finals Game 6 coverage. For more on the New Jersey Devils, check out Devils blog In Lou We Trust. For more on the Los Angeles Kings, check out Jewels From The Crown and SB Nation Los Angeles.