The Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning in round one of the 2023 NHL Playoffs.
It feels so good to write that.
To hold us over as we wait for the second round to begin, I would like us to get way ahead of ourselves and look at which players could win the Conn Smythe Award for playoff MVP.
Only one Maple Leafs player, Dave Keon, has ever won the award that is named for the long time owner of the team and it was first awarded in 1965. The trophy has a model of Maple Leafs Gardens that sits in front of a gold maple leaf.
Who will be next?
There's a few names, and they are the most obvious ones, but that's how it goes until someone from the bottom six steps up and pulls a Justin Williams to score multiple game-winning goals these playoffs.
On that beat, we have four games won, and four players to score game winners: William Nylander, Morgan Rielly, John Tavares, and Alex Kerfoot. Only Nylander did it in regulation, and that was the 7-2 win in game two and there were four more goals after that one. That's not the only metric to picking a Conn Smythe, but that does help. It's overall play, how you're feeling at the time, points, and reputation.
These are my picks currently in the running for the MVP when the Maple Leafs eventually win the Stanley Cup.
6GP - 3G - 5A - 8Pts
All series long we heard about "Playoff Morgan Rielly". While people questioned keeping him on his new long-term contract during the regular season, no one was asking why he was here in the playoffs. Over a point per game, an OT winner, and turning doubters into believers.
2G - 9A - 11Pts
The Maple Leafs scoring leader for the playoffs has been setting up the first line all series. Sure, assists aren't as flashy as goals, but without them you can't have goals. Simple science. He's one point out of first in the NHL, Roope Hintz has the lead, but Marner hasn't backed down or shied away from offense in this first round series. He's also stayed out of the penalty box so far in the playoffs, not letting anyone get a powerplay opportunity on his watch.
Marner does it all; power plays, penalty kills, and close situations. What can't he do? Dress himself most nights. Put on some socks!
5G - 4A - 9Pts
The face of the franchise, the draft pick that ended the rebuild, the one who scored the most goals all series. Whether we're happy or mad about a game rests on his play and the focus is all on him. So far he's keeping us happy, but a more consistent game could get him a guarantied MVP award.
4G - 3A - 7Pts
Johnny Toronto has scored us a hat trick, and the overtime game winner that advanced the Leafs to round two. The captain hasn't stood out in a wow-ing fashion, but his steady play has kept the second line as a perfectly fine option for the Leafs when they need it.
.900sv% - 3.14sv%
Boy the numbers don't support this one, but it was a very busy series and Samsonov was kept on his toes the entire time. Game one had us all on edge that goaltending could be our downfall this series, but Samsonov came right back from it and held back enough Lightning shots to get four wins. He's given many of us the confidence we need to get through games and I'm sure the Leafs feel like they can go off offensively without too many worries about what happens behind them.
There are at least twelve more games for the MVP of the Maple Leafs post-season run to reveal themselves. William Nylander could win it, Ryan O'Reilly already has one but who wouldn't want two? Could Matthew Knies be the rookie phenom and win? Share your picks in the comments, and we'll see who steps up and takes the MVP lead tonight.