Stanley Cup Final Game 5 debate: Which Avalanche player should win the Conn Smythe Trophy for playoff MVP?

Ryan O’Halloran, sports reporter: The NHL awards the Conn Smythe to the overall playoff most valuable player, not just the final round so the entire body of work must be considered. My choice is Avs center Nathan MacKinnon. Entering Friday’s Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final, he leads the Avalanche in goals (12), in ice time among forwards (21:18), has been terrific on the power play (six goals) and played a disciplined game (eight penalty minutes). His value is apparent even when he doesn’t score — once those after-burners are turned on, it creates time and space for his teammates.

Mark Kiszla, sports columnist: Well, the NHL doesn’t let me vote on the Conn Smythe. And that’s probably better for all concerned, because my brain says the winner should be Cale Makar, whose rise into the Bobby Orr stratosphere has changed everything for a team long frustrated by early playoff exits. But my heart tells me the real emotional lynchpin of this Cup run has been Nazem Kadri. HIs hat trick against St. Louis in response to racist and physical threats was the turning point of postseason, while his overtime goal against Tampa Bay put the exclamation point on the arrival of the new champs.

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Sean Keeler, sports columnist: The fun part? So many deserving choices. Makar, for carving another notch on what looks to be the start of a legendary career. Artturi Lehkonen, for being the most beautiful kind of pest in the clutch. Darren Helm, for being a hitting machine. But my vote goes to Kadri, even if he doesn’t skate another shift for this team the rest of the Final. Pick a moment. The hat-trick against the Blues that helped to help break the second-round curse. The massive nights against Edmonton before Evander Kane decided to goon it up. The game-winner in Tampa. When you’ve got too many worthy candidates, it’s not a good problem. It’s a great one.

Mike Chambers, Avalanche beat writer: I have been selected to vote for the Conn Smythe Trophy and I’m leaning toward Makar. The Norris Trophy winner seems to win just about everything he’s up for. He won the Hobey Baker Award as the UMass sophomore in 2019 and captured the Calder Trophy as NHL’s top rookie in 2020. Makar leads the Avalanche with 27 postseason points and his seven goals are tied for fourth. He’s the NHL’s third-leading scorer in the postseason and tops among defensemen. Equally as important as his scoring is his excellent ability to defend and lead zone exits. End to end and side to side, Makar is Colorado’s best player and highly deserving of following Joe Sakic (1996) and Patrick Roy (2001) in winning this award with the Avalanche.

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