- The 2020 NHL season restarts on Saturday, Aug. 1st
- The early Conn Smythe odds favor the starting goalies on the two Stanley Cup favorites
- Recent trends suggest a forward is far more likely to win playoff MVP
The 2020 NHL season is set to restart in just over a week with eight “qualification series”, which commence on Saturday, Aug. 1st, and will finalize the final four playoff teams in each conference.
Neither those series, nor the round robins to determine the top-four seeds in each conference, are technically part of the playoffs.
That is a technicality bettors need to keep in mind when assessing the early Conn Smythe odds, which have now been posted at online sportsbooks. The voting for the award will be based on the round of 16 onward.
The early playoff MVP odds favor a pair of goalies from the two teams with the shortest Stanley Cup odds. Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy opened as the outright favorite at +1600, followed by Boston’s Tuukka Rask, who is tied with Hart Trophy finalist Nathan MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche at +1800.
2020 Conn Smythe Favorites: Top 30
|Andrei Vasilevskiy (Lightning)||Goalie||+1600|
|Tuukka Rask (Bruins)||Goalie||+1800|
|Nathan MacKinnon (Avalanche)||Forward||+1800|
|Nikita Kucherov (Lightning)||Forward||+2000|
|Mac-Andre Fleury (Golden Knights)||Goalie||+2000|
|Philipp Grubauer (Avalanche)||Goalie||+2000|
|Steven Stamkos (Lightning)||Forward||+2500|
|Carter Hart (Flyers)||Goalie||+2800|
|Jordan Binnington (Blues)||Goalie||+2800|
|Sidney Crosby (Penguins)||Forward||+2800|
|David Pastrnak (Bruins)||Forward||+3000|
|Brad Marchand (Bruins)||Forward||+3000|
|Patrice Bergeron (Bruins)||Forward||+3000|
|Braden Holtby (Capitals)||Goalie||+3000|
|Max Pacioretty (Golden Knights)||Forward||+3500|
|Mark Stone (Golden Knights)||Forward||+3500|
|Ryan O’Reilly (Blues)||Forward||+3500|
|Jakub Voracek (Flyers)||Forward||+4000|
|Claude Giroux (Flyers)||Forward||+4000|
|Alex Ovechkin (Capitals)||Forward||+4000|
|Ben Bishop (Stars)||Goalie||+4000|
|Connor McDavid (Oilers)||Forward||+4000|
|Tristan Jarry (Penguins)||Goalie||+5000|
|Brayden Point (Lightning)||Forward||+5000|
|Reilly Smith (Golden Knights)||Forward||+5000|
|Gabriel Landeskog (Avalanche)||Forward||+5000|
|Evgeni Malkin (Penguins)||Forward||+5000|
|Auston Matthews (Leafs)||Forward||+5000|
|Tyler Seguin (Stars)||Forward||+5000|
|Frederik Andersen (Leafs)||Goalie||+5000|
Odds as of July 23rd.
A full third of the top-30 favorites are goalies. The other 20 are forwards. None are defensemen. The top blueliner on the list is Washington’s John Carlson (the odds-on Norris Trophy favorite) at +6600, followed by Colorado rookie Cale Makar at +7000.
The most important part of picking a Conn Smythe winner is first deciding which team is the most-likely to win the Stanley Cup. Every Conn Smythe winner has come from the champion since 2003 when Anaheim’s JS Giguere captured the award. Before Giguere, there was a 16-year gap to Philadelphia’s Ron Hextall, whose Flyers lost to Wayne Gretzky’s Edmonton Oilers in 1987.
In the 55-year history of the Conn Smythe award, only five players have been named playoff MVP while playing for a team that didn’t win the Cup.
Betting Trends Are Not Kind to Goalies
It’s somewhat surprising that the favorites are goalies. The last goalie to win the Conn Smythe was Jonathan Quick with the LA Kings in 2012. Since then, six forwards and one defenseman have earned the honour.
Since the NHL returned from its 2005 lockout with new, more scoring-friendly rules, only three of 14 Conn Smythe winners have been netminders: Cam Ward (Hurricanes, 2006), Tim Thomas (Bruins, 2011), and the aforementioned Quick. That’s a 21.4% clip, barely one out of every five.
Between Rask and Vasilevskiy, I would side with Rask at a slightly longer price. He was the best goalie in the league this year and plays behind a Boston team that is more defensively-responsible than Tampa. If the Bruins make another run to the Stanley Cup final, there’s a good chance they do it in a number of low-scoring games.
A Lightning run is more likely to be powered by an offensive explosion.
Narrowing Down the Forwards
Of course, it’s easy to narrow down which goalies have the best shot. Everyone knows Vasilevskiy and Rask will get the vast majority of playoff starts for their respective teams, so if the Bruins or Lightning do win the Cup, their names will almost inevitably be in the Conn Smythe discussion. The same can’t be said of any particular forward.
That said, there is a pretty obvious trend that emerges when analyzing the forwards who have won recently. Of the last six forwards to win the Conn Smythe, five were also the regular-season scoring leaders for their teams.
To find a Conn Smythe-winning forward who wasn’t at least in the top three on his team in regular-season scoring, you have to go all the way back to Claude Lemieux with the New Jersey Devils in 1995. The consummate postseason performer, Lemieux is the exception that breaks a lot of playoff rules.
If you are planning to bet the Conn Smythe winner at this stage, my advice is to sprinkle your money on the top-three scorers from whichever team you see lifting the Cup. In the case of Boston, it would probably be safe to limit it to two (David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand) given the toll that injuries have taken on 35-year-old Patrice Bergeron.
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