Connor McDavid wins Conn Smythe as playoff MVP despite Oilers losing Stanley Cup Final to Panthers


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SUNRISE, Fla. — Connor McDavid won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP on Monday night despite Edmonton's Stanley Cup Final loss to Florida, a nod to one of the greatest postseason performances in NHL history.

McDavid, who was held without a point the final two games of the final, still led all playoff scorers with 42 points, five shy of the record of 47 set by Wayne Gretzky in 1985. He did not return from the locker room to accept the trophy from Commissioner Gary Bettman, leaving it sitting on its stand while the Panthers celebrated nearby.

"It's an honor with the names on that trophy, but yeah," McDavid said.

McDavid was first on 16 of 17 ballots. Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov was second.

"I don't think he cares," longtime running mate Leon Draisaitl said. "I mean, it speaks to how amazing of a hockey player he is. There's no player in the world that wants to win a Stanley Cup more than him. He does everything right, every single day, just to win it one day. It's really hard with him being sad and being disappointed at the end."

After not scoring (but still leading the team with three assists) through the first three games against Florida, McDavid changed the course of the series by doing something no other player in history has done, including Gretzky. He had four points in consecutive games in the final to keep the Oilers from being eliminated.

"You think about the year that Connor had: 100 assists, leading our team, the performance he had in this playoffs, especially in this final round when we're down three games to zero and then he comes out with eight points in two games," coach Kris Knoblauch said. "Yeah, he's our leader, he's our best player."

McDavid is just the second skater after the Flyers' Reggie Leach in 1976 to win the Conn Smythe on a team that lost in the final. Goaltenders Jean-Sebastien Giguere of Anaheim in 2003, Ron Hextall of Philadelphia in 1987, Glenn Hall of St. Louis in 1968 and Roger Crozier with Detroit in 1966 were also playoff MVPs after backstopping teams that fell just short of hoisting the Cup.

Asked how he was feeling nearly a half-hour after the loss, McDavid could only muster the words, "It sucks."

McDavid, the reigning and three time Hart Trophy winner long considered the best hockey player in the world, put on a show in his first trip to the final. His goal and three assists in an 8-1 rout in Game 4 avoided a sweep, and his four points including an empty netter in Game 5 three nights later dragged the series back to Alberta.

Those who know McDavid believe it's the year-round work he has put in throughout his career allowed him to thrive when the spotlight was at its brightest.

"He's unique in his dedication to his craft," said Hall of Famer Ken Hitchcock, who coached McDavid in 2018-19. "He's very unique. He's learned to be relentless, and he enjoys it and he's very, very serious about his craft, and that becomes contagious when you're on the team with him."

Oilers players lauded McDavid not just for leading by example with his play but also off the ice.

"He's the greatest player to ever play, in my book," Draisaitl said. "So many things that a lot of people don't see that he does, his work ethic. He singlehandedly turned our franchise around, pretty much. Just love sharing the ice with him. He's just a really, really special person."

That talk is justified for a player who led the league in scoring five times during the regular season and accomplished just about everything on an individual basis. What is still missing in the Stanley Cup, which will have to wait at least another year.

"Connor McDavid, he's going to win the Stanley Cup some day," said Patric Hornqvist, a two-time champion with Pittsburgh who is now a Panthers scouting and development consultant. "That's how good he is."

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AP NHL playoffs: https://apnews.com/hub/stanley-cup and https://www.apnews.com/hub/NHL

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Stephen Whyno

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