The New Jersey Devils leader Ilya Kovalchuk will have something more to fight for in the Stanley Cup final series as he has been announced among the six Conn Smythe Trophy contenders.
Kovalchuk’s teammates Zach Parise and Martin Brodeur as well as the Los Angeles trio Jonathan Quick, Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar are among the other five players who could grab the prize awarded to the Most Valuable Player of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
If the Devils win the series, Kovalchuk will be the hot favorite for the prize. He has already netted seven goals and made 11 assists to take the lead in the best goal-scorers list.
In his recent interviews the Russian demonstrated a huge sense of accomplishment for a new reputation he has built since swapping no-playoff-fighter Atlanta for New Jersey.
"I think I was myself all those years. It's just this year we're fortunate to go this far. And I think it's not just because of one guy. We were great as a team. Guys like Gionta, Bernier, Ponikarovsky, Carts (Carter), Sal (Salvadore) – you know all those guys they really stepped up their games and that was the big difference," says Kovalchuk.
Now, a little less than two years after battling for the forward, the New Jersey Devils and Los Angeles Kings come head-to-head in the fight for the Stanley Cup.
Led by Kovalchuk and 40-year-old star-goalie Martin Brodeur, the Devils are only the second sixth seeds to reach the final. Even more surprising is the presence of the Kings in the ultimate series.
First, in the last few regular season games they managed to lose the third place in the Western Conference and began the playoffs as the last seed side. But they proved the best in the West with a seeming easiness.
It is in Los Angeles yet another Russian is playing – the 22-year-old defender Vyacheslav Voinov, so the Russians’ sympathies will divide during the next two weeks.
Game One is scheduled for Wednesday night in New Jersey.