Ranking Best Options to Win 2018 NHL Stanley Cup MVP
All odds for the 2018 Stanley Cup Finals MVP award come via Bovada and are accurate ahead of Game 1. Keep checking these lines before you place your wager, as they will move—particularly if you’ve decided to make your gamble during the middle of the series. Each of our picks is presented in order of increasing betting appeal rather than their specific odds.
5. Braden Holtby (+400)
Consider this something of an obligatory inclusion. Goalies are the most common pick among MVP ladders. The NHL hasn’t had a Conn Smythe winner between the posts since 2012, but that doesn’t change the betting trend.
For a team to win four times in seven tries at the highest level, their goalie needs to play well. That’s why Patrick Roy has racked up the most NHL Stanley Cup Finals MVP victories in league history, and it’s also why Braden Holtby is laying the third-best odds of the entire series.
To his credit, the 28-year-old has been better than good during the playoffs. He’s fourth among the 16 starting goalies who appeared in the postseason in scores allowed per game. It remains to be seen, however, whether that’s more about him or his defenseman.
Though the Washington Capitals don’t enter with the stingiest machine alive, they are pretty adept at limiting high quality shots around the iron. Get looks off, though, and you have an above-average chance of getting by Holtby relative to the field. He’s currently 12th in postseason save percentage.
This doesn’t mean he won’t nab the Conn Smythe Trophy. Again: Goalies are never terrible options. But be wary of his candidacy overall—especially when he’s not laying long-shot odds.
4. Jonathan Marchessault, Las Vegas Golden Knights (+2000)
It doesn’t get much better than Jonathan Marchessault in terms of lucrative picks.
The 27-year-old is the closest the Las Vegas Golden Knights come to a superstar offensive player. He ranks sixth in total goals scored for the playoffs and eighth overall in total points.
Las Vegas has made it to the Stanley Cup Finals on the back of their defense, which puts Marchessault at a disadvantage. If they win the hardware, as we expect them to, it stands to reason the MVP would go to someone on that side of the ice—namely goalie Marc-Andre Fleury (more on him later).
Shot volume is the key for the Knights’ center. He’s going to take more stabs at the goal than anyone on his team, and it probably won’t be even close. His 64 attempts on goal pace the squad so far by an eight-shot margin.
Unless left-winger James Neal gets loose inside the defending zone, Marchessault with get off more looks than anyone else on the Knights. That gives him a better chance of putting in more scores than anyone else, which in turn makes it more likely that he’ll cobble together a strong MVP candidacy.
3. Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals (+350)
Most will expect Alex Ovechkin to be a spot or two higher on this ladder. That’s fair. He’s a goal-scoring machine.
Mark Scheifele from the Winnipeg Jets, who the Capitals dispatched during the Conference Finals, is the only player in the league to amass more scores in the postseason. Not only that, but his shooting percentage since at 15 on the dot—a more than respectable number given how many looks he’s gotten off (a team-leading 80).
Still, we have some reserves about how he’ll fare against the hellacious Las Vegas defense. Their top defensemen will be all over him. Nate Schmidt, Shea Theodore and Colin Miller make up perhaps the league’s peskiest trio.
Entirely stopping the Capitals’ offense completely is out of the question. They’re way too potent. But the bulk of the Knights’ attention will be spent on Ovechkin specifically, rendering it a touch more difficult for him to stand out as the MVP. Don’t rule it out, but be sure to weigh all your other options as well.
2. Evgeny Kuznetsov, Washington Capitals (+900)
Putting Evgeny Kuznetsov here could be construed as strange for a couple of reasons.
First and foremost, we’ve pegged the Knights as eventual Stanley Cup champions. The winner of the Conn Smythe hardware typically comes from the victorious side, and Kuznetsov’s inclusion gives the Capitals a 3-2 edge in the pool of top-five candidates. He’s also being slotted ahead of Ovechkin, a move that, from a distance, comes across as inherently dangerous, if not deliberately inflammatory, because the latter is by far Washington’s most valuable player.
These points are all good. But they’re not making us rethinking this selection for a second.
For starters, the candidate count discrepancy isn’t supposed to be a reflection of which team has a better chance to win the series. It’s more about how these two squads play. Whereas the Knights scrap and claw as a committee on both offense and defense, the Capitals are more reliant on a handful players: their goalie, Holtby, by default; Ovechkin; and Kuznetsov.
This won’t coax everyone into putting Kuznetsov over Ovechkin, but he deserves to be here. Kuznetsov is more of a playmaker than Ovechkin, and this comes in addition to semi-ferocious shot-making. He not only leads the Capitals in total points, but he paces the entire NHL in that department.
That mix of table-setting and raw scoring allows him to impact the game on more overall fronts. And while he doesn’t do any one thing as well as Ovechkin scores, balance figures to be of the utmost importance to the Capitals as they try to crack one of the NHL’s most vaunted defensive machines.
1. Marc-Andre Fleury (-140)
Was there ever any doubt?
Marc-Andre Fleury is laying the best odds of anyone on this list—so much so you may not even want to pick him. The return won’t be large enough unless you wager a significant amount of money.
Then again, bettors are lucky this line hasn’t moved even further away from even money. Fleury has been that freaking good.
He’s primarily responsible for their first-round thrashing of the Los Angeles Kings, the team many picked to win that opening series. He held their offense to under one goal per game in a straight sweep.
For the playoffs overall, he’s letting up just 1.7 scores per contest, the second-best mark in the league, trailing only Jonathan Quick, who just so happens to play for the Kings team the Knights trashed in the first round. And where his average is based off a four-game sample, Fleury has 15 contests under his belt. (By the way, if you needed any more evidence at how talented Las Vegas’ defense overall, look at the series. They didn’t just win; they completed the sweep. And it all happened while scoring under two goals per game.)
Fleury also ranks second for the postseason in save percentage. And the goalie he trails, Cory Schneider, was again only active for the first round. Fleury is putting together a truly remarkable performance over a long haul.
Equally important is the extra time off he’s received. It’s a little scary how dependent the Knights are on him, but they’re working off a five-game set against the San Jose Sharks in the Conference Finals. Holtby and the Capitals had to go a full seven contests with Jets.
Failing all that, Fleury wins the common sense bet. If the Knights should be your pick to win, and if their livelihood is directly related to his performance in front of the net, why shouldn’t he be the favorite to take ownership of the Conn Smythe Trophy?
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