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BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - MAY 06: Brad Marchand #63 of the Boston Bruins looks on during the first period Game Two of the First Round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Carolina Hurricanes at TD Garden on May 06, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. Maddie Meyer/Getty Images/AFP (Photo by Maddie Meyer / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

Midway through the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, much uncertainty remains regarding which teams will move to the second round. 

That uncertainty can create an opportunity for finding value for the Conn Smythe Trophy, awarded to the Most Valuable Player of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Last year’s winner was Andrei Vasilevskiy, goaltender for the Tampa Bay Lightning. 

When seeking surprises for this year’s Conn Smythe, let’s stipulate that any stars from the Colorado Avalanche or the Florida Panthers can’t be considered surprises. They were the top two teams in the regular season and had the highest likelihood of reaching the Stanley Cup Final, so the players that would be expected to lead those teams are deservedly favored to win Playoff MVP. 

Here are the Conn Smythe odds courtesy of DraftKings:

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It is not merely enough that a player has a strong playoff run - the media vote on the award, and, historically, the Conn Smythe winner is on the side that wins the Stanley Cup. 

There have been exceptions: Jean-Sebastien Giguere (2003), Ron Hextall (1987), Reggie Leach (1976), Glenn Hall (1968), and Roger Crozier (1966). 

Leach, the Philadelphia Flyers right winger, is the only skater to win the award while his team did not win the Cup. 

Here are three early surprises in the Conn Smythe race. 

Brad Marchand (+5000) 

The Boston Bruins agitator has provided the whole Marchand experience in four games against Carolina, getting under the skin of Carolina’s players while leading the NHL in playoff scoring with nine points (3 G, 6 A). 

The Bruins have climbed back to even in their series with the Hurricanes, which at least opens the door to Boston possibly advancing and having a shot to go deep into the postseason - something that did not look too likely after Carolina easily won the first two games.

Sidney Crosby (+4500) 

It is not like he is some plucky unknown player, but expectations were modest for the Penguins coming into the postseason, and they quickly had to turn to their third-string goaltender due to injuries. 

The Penguins lead the New York Rangers 2-1 in the series, and Crosby has delivered six points (1 G, 5 A). 

If Pittsburgh manages to get through and perhaps gets healthier, maybe the last ride of this Penguins core could run deeper than expected. If Pittsburgh wins, Crosby would be their most likely Conn Smythe candidate.

Ryan O’Reilly (+5000) 

The St. Louis Blues have a tough first-round matchup with the Minnesota Wild, and the series is tied at two wins apiece through the first four games. The Blues’ captain had 58 points in 78 games during the regular season, his 0.74 points per game ranking as his lowest per-game production since 2014-2015, his last season with the Colorado Avalanche. 

O’Reilly has opened the postseason with six points (3 G, 3 A) in four games, and it is not unusual for him to elevate his game in the postseason – he won the Conn Smythe Trophy when the Blues won the Stanley Cup in 2019.

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