There has been loads of debate ever since the Pittsburgh Penguins clinched the title of Stanley Cup Champions about whether or not Sidney Crosby deserved to win the Conn Smythe trophy. Some say his teammate Phil Kessel should’ve been given the honor, while others think Matt Murray’s performance throughout the playoffs was enough to take the title. To settle all of this, I wanted to take a look at Pittsburgh’s top performers of this year’s Stanley Cup Finals, and determine who should’ve really been awarded the Conn Smythe trophy.
6. Bryan Rust
Bryan Rust became an almost-unsung hero for the Penguins throughout the playoffs. He was the lone scorer for Pittsburgh in a big Game 7 against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Finals with two goals in a 2-1 game. Rust tallied nine points throughout the playoffs, with six goals and three assists, and managed to keep a +7 while he was on the ice. Rust was a breath of fresh air for the Penguins and was a key contributor for the Stanley Cup champs.
5. Carl Hagelin
Of course, when you talk about the Penguins in the playoffs, you have to mention the “HBK Line”. The first member of the line, Carl Hagelin, deservingly earned his way into a top five spot on this list with his play throughout the postseason. HAgelin embraced his role on the line, and proved he could score and contribute as he tallied 16 points, with 10 assists and six goals. He helped spark the team and line’s momentum with his speed, and was one of the best players in black and yellow throughout all the team’s games.
4. Nick Bonino
The second part of the “HBK Line”, Nick Bonino was on fire throughout the playoffs. He led the team with 14 assists in the postseason, and finished with 18 points, the third-best scorer on the team behind Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Bonino was the perfect center for his line, as he created endless scoring chances and helped to set his linemates up at the perfect time in tough situations. Without Bonino, the Penguins don’t have their perfect line, and may not advance as far as they did this year.
3. Sidney Crosby
This may surprise some people, but I truly believe Sidney Crosby was only the third-best player on the Penguins this postseason. Sure, he showed great leadership in his captain role by utilizing his playoff experience, but he could’ve done better. His 19 points were second on the team, and he was just a -2 on the ice. He was pretty solid and was definitely in the running for the Conn Smythe, but honestly, I believe there were better options.
2. Matt Murray
Matt Murray quickly went from a nobody to a somebody in the 2016 playoffs, and put in a case to be the Conn Smythe winner consistently throughout the postseason. Murray carried the team on his back in his first career playoffs after Marc-Andre Fleury went down with an injury. He posted a 15-6 record, and saved 92 percent of the 575 shots he faced in the 21 games he played. He averaged just two goals allowed per game, and constantly kept his team in the hunt for the Stanley Cup even when they didn’t deserve to be there at points.
1. Phil Kessel
I truly thought Phil Kessel was the clear frontrunner for the Conn Smythe trophy if Pittsburgh was going to win the series. He was the team’s top scorer, and averaged almost a point a game, with 22 points in 24 games. He was the last, but certainly not least, part of the “HBK Line”, and really turned it on when the postseason came around. He was well-balanced throughout, with 10 goals and 12 assists, and was tied for third in playoff goal-scoring. He was the final piece of the Penguins’ puzzle, and truly deserved the Conn Smythe honor.