The Conn Smythe Trophy is basically the MVP award for the Stanley Cup playoffs. Since the award was first given out in 1965 it has gone to five players that were on a losing team, often goaltenders in those cases. However, the huge majority of the time, the Conn Smythe Trophy has gone to the best player on the winning team. With Pittsburgh favored to win the Stanley Cup Finals this season over the Nashville Predators, it's Evgeni Malkin that has to be considered the clear favorite to win the award this season.

Malkin enters the final series with 24 points in 19 games, four points clear of teammate Sidney Crosby. Malkin is also +8 on +/- while Crosby is actually at -1 for the post-season - a stat that hurts his candidacy.

Whether you look at total points or +/-, Malkin has the clear edge for what could be a second Conn Smythe Trophy, having first won it back in 2009 when the Penguins defeated the Detroit Red Wings in seven games.

Nashville's best candidate is Pekka Rinne

If the Nashville Predators upset the Pittsburgh Penguins and win the Stanley Cup then you'd think that the Conn Smythe Trophy would go to a defensive player instead of an offensive one. Unless one of the Nashville forwards has an amazing final series, they are unlikely to contend for the playoff MVP. Left-winger Filip Forsberg is the highest scoring Nashville Predator with 15 points in the playoffs. It's worth pointing out that Leon Draisaitl of Edmonton, whose team went out two rounds ago now, still has more points in the playoffs than anyone in Nashville.

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Their playoff success has been much more about defensive prowess than offensive standouts.

For that reason goaltender Pekka Rinne is a clear candidate for the Conn Smythe Trophy based on how well he has performed so far in the playoffs. With a .941 save percentage and a 1.70 goals-against average it's safe to say that Nashville would not be where they are right now without his contributions. His 12-4 record is clearly the best and his Pittsburgh counterparts aren't really in the ballpark. Marc-Andre Fleury is 9-6 on the post-season, but he has platooned a little with Matt Murray, who is 3-1.

Malkin first favorite, Renne second favorite

For those that think that Nashville will win the Cup, then Rinne is clearly the favorite for the Conn Smythe. However, since the trophy so often goes to a player on the winning team, Pittsburgh's status as favorite makes Malkin the outright favorite for the coveted trophy. It will all be settled on the ice of course, with game one of the best-of-seven series to be played on Monday night.