The Pittsburgh Penguins own a 2-0 series lead in the 2017 Stanley Cup Finals as the two teams prepare for game three in Nashville. That game will be the first one ever played in the Stanley Cup Finals from Bridgestone Arena. The Penguins, should they win, would become huge favorites to win the Cup as they would then own a 3-0 series lead. If we assume that the Conn Smythe Trophy, the award that recognizes the most valuable player in the NHL playoffs, will go to a member of the winning team then right now only Pittsburgh's players can be looked at as candidates for the prestigious award.

Losing players sometimes get the Conn Smythe

But it should be said from the start that a player on a winning team doesn't always win the Conn Smythe. There have been times that a losing player has won the award. In those cases, it is often the losing team's goaltender. However, to find the most-recent example of a losing player winning the Conn Smythe you do have to go all the way back to 2003. It's safe to say that if Pittsburgh win the Cup then a Penguins player will win the playoff MVP award.

At this point, I think the two favorites for the Conn Smythe Trophy are Evgeni Malkin and Jake Guentzel. Prior to the start of the series, I named the two favorites as Malkin and Predator goaltender Pekke Rinne.

However, Rinne has taken a beating so far in the championship series, he's given up a lot of goals, and his team is down 0-2 to boot. He could still win the Conn Smythe, but that would involve basically leading his team to the comeback with huge nights game-in and game-out.

Evgeni Malkin leads the playoffs in scoring

Malkin remains the clear favorite for the Conn Smythe because he leads the playoffs in points. Pittsburgh's goaltenders can't be considered to be in contention because of split time between Matt Murray and Marc-Andre Fleury. That's not to say that the goalies have done poorly in the playoffs, in fact Murray has a .943 save percentage.

However, the playing time isn't really there to be considered for the large individual award that the playoffs offers. Malkin, who is 4 points clear of Crosby in the scoring race, has to be considered the favorite at this point.

Crosby and Phil Kessel might be considered 2nd and 3rd favorites. However, Pittsburgh's Jake Guentzel is the fourth-leading scorer in the 2017 NHL playoffs. Unlike Malkin, Crosby, and Kessel the 22 year old American has a goal-heavy points total. Of his 19 points in the playoffs, 12 of those are from direct goals as opposed to primary or secondary assists.

However, Malkin is the guy with the most points and he also has the 2nd-best plus/minus on Pittsburgh at +10. If the series ends up being a short one then that makes the stats less subject to variations from this point onward.

It would also see Pittsburgh win the Stanley Cup as Nashville now needs a long series to do so. For those reasons, Malkin looks like a powerful candidate to win what would be his second Conn Smythe Trophy in his career.

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