The NHL’s annual awards, which will be presented at a Tuesday ceremony that can be viewed on Sportsnet (7 pm ET/4 pm PT), are earned for stellar performances during the regular season. But what if they were delivered strictly for the Stanley Cup Playoffs instead, like the Conn Smythe?
Who would be the favorites to get the hardware for best goalie, best defenseman, best defensive forward, best coach, best rookie, etc., for this year’s postseason? Luckily, we have a list.
2021-22 finalists: Jacob Markstrom, Flames; Juuse Saros, Predators; Igor Shesterkin, Rangers
2022 playoff winner: Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning
It’s hard to ignore Games 1 and 2 of the Cup Finals, sure, but you can’t ignore what the best goalie in the game has done for the Lightning in these playoffs. Frankly, a week ago, Vasilevskiy was the runaway candidate, well ahead of Rangers’ No. 2 Igor Shesterkin, but that gap has since narrowed. Outside of Denver’s thin air, though, there isn’t another goalie you want with games on the line. His stats are good, but the best part is: the guy knows how to win. All he did in the second round against the league’s most potent offense was allow three goals in four games, speeding up an amazing sweep and asserting his authoritative presence. If the Lightning teams up to beat the Avalanche and win the Stanley Cup, you have to think Vasilevskiy would become the first goaltender to win back-to-back Conn Smythes since the Flyers’ Bernie Parent won his second in a row in 1975.
James Norris Memorial Trophy
2021-22 Finalists: Victor Hedman, Lightning; Cale Makar, Avalanche; Roman Josi, Predators
2022 playoff winner: Cale Makar, Avalanche
Like Sportsnet Justin Bourne expertly broke it down, Makar is having a Conn Smythe-level postseason. His control of the puck, his control of the game, his vision of the ice is unmatched by anyone in the playoffs, let alone any other defenseman. And the guy is only 23 years old. Sure, one could argue that Tampa’s Hedman should be considered here as well, as the former Norris winner has continued his stellar and solid play at the blue line for the defending champions. But he’s not setting the pace in the playoffs the way Makar is, who can launch the killer pass across the ice from his own wing to create a great scoring opportunity or run across the ice to create a great scoring opportunity for himself. same. His great performance in Game 2 of the Cup Final was something to behold.
Frank J. Selke Trophy
2021-22 finalists: Aleksander Barkov, Panthers; Patrice Bergeron, Bruins (winner); Elias Lindholm, Llamas
2022 playoff winner: Anthony Cirelli, Lightning
Cirelli’s defensive mantle played a big part in limiting damage from Toronto’s Auston Matthews in the first round, shut down Florida’s Jonathan Huberdeau in the second round and, after an early setback, held off Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider from New York in the third round. Against the Maple Leafs and Rangers especially, Cirelli and linemates Brandon Hagel and Alex Killorn figured out how to adjust on the fly, repeatedly struggling to shut down their opponents’ potent offense. Zibanejad and Kreider had zero points in the last two games of the Eastern Conference Finals due to Cirelli’s line prowess. Lightning relied more on closing than Avalanche did to advance, and Cirelli’s trio have done relatively well against Nathan MacKinnon and company, believe it or not.
Jack Adams Award
2021-22 Finalists: Andrew Brunette, Panthers; Gerard Gallant, Rangers; Darryl Sutter, Calgary Flames (winner)
2022 playoff winner: Jon Cooper, Lightning
Seriously, it’s a crime this guy didn’t win the Jack Adams. We are here to change that. No coach has been able to consistently get the most out of his team through three difficult seasons and postseasons like Cooper. He’s smart, he’s tactical, he’s decent with the media, he has no problem getting a guy out of a midway interview. It’s a perfect mix of new school and old school, with school results for the opposition. One of the main reasons you can’t write Lightning off in the finals is because Cooper is behind the bench.
Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy
2021-22 finalists: Zdeno Chara, Islanders; Kevin Hayes, flyers; Carey Price, Canadians (winner)
2022 playoff winner: Nazem Kadri, Colorado Avalanche
This award is usually given to the player who fights off big problems off the ice during the regular season. We’re not here to discount the struggles the true finalists had this year, and this won’t be a popular pick, but when it comes to the playoffs, fewer players made it through off-ice challenges and matched better than Kadri, who scored a hat-trick against the Blues after receiving death threats for bumping into and sidelining St. Louis No. 1 goalie Jordan Binnington in the third round.
Calder Memorial Trophy
2021-22 finalists: Michael Bunting, Maple Leafs; Moritz Seider, Red Wings; Trevor Zegras, Ducks
2022 playoff winner: Bowen Byram, Colorado Avalanche
Byram could also qualify for the Masterton, after struggling with the post-concussion system for most of the season. But he seems to have gotten the game back from him, playing around 18 minutes a game, averaging a point every two games and staying on the healthy side of the ledger/under. Because of the superstar pairing of Cale Makar and Devon Toews, the Avs depth at D doesn’t get enough support, but you can’t win without a solid defensive corps, and Byram has shown he has skills in his ice baptism.
Lady Byng Memorial Trophy
2021-22 finalists: Kyle Connor, Jets (winner); Jacob Salvin, Hurricanes; Jared Spurgeon, Savage
2022 playoff winner: Just kidding. Who wants to win the Lady Byng of the playoffs?