Ranking the Boston Bruins' Top 5 Conn Smythe Trophy Candidates
Only two Boston Bruins have ever won the Conn Smythe Trophy, but with just one win standing between the B's and a return to the Stanley Cup Final, there is a good chance that a new face could join the club.
Those two Boston legends were Bobby Orr, who picked up the award twice in the early '70s, and Tim Thomas, who backstopped the Bruins to the Cup in 2011. A number of current Bruins have what it takes to have their names join those two in history.
Though it has required a remarkable team effort to reach this stage of the playoffs, the Bruins have enjoyed some spectacular individual performances, and they have plenty of rock-solid nominees fighting to earn the title of playoff MVP.
Here are the Bruins' top five Conn Smythe Candidates:
5. Torey Krug
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Torey Krug is the quintessential dark-horse candidate to win arguably the most coveted individual honor in hockey. The rookie defenseman has played just eight postseason games, but his arrival proved to be a turning point for the suddenly dominant Bruins.
Krug joined the club for the Eastern Conference semifinals, and he almost single-handedly dismantled the New York Rangers. The former Michigan State captain scored in four of the series' five games, and his free-wheeling style fundamentally changed the nature of Boston's offense.
Throughout the series he was Boston's most dangerous player, and he was no slouch defensively. In eight postseason games, he has a plus-four rating, with his outstanding positioning and surprising degree of physicality making him a defensive asset.
Though he has yet to score in the conference finals, he has continued to threaten the Penguins goaltenders, and he nearly picked up the game-winner in Game 3. He has also done a remarkable job in helping the Bruins hold their opponents to just two goals in three games.
The Bruins' secret weapon has sparked the team to some truly outstanding performances. A strong Stanley Cup Final could give him a shot at the award.
4. Nathan Horton
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Nathan Horton has a history of postseason heroics, scoring the game-winner in two of Boston's three Game 7 victories back in 2011, and this summer, he is playing the best hockey of career.
Horton ranks second in the NHL, behind linemate David Krejci, with 17 points in 15 playoff games.
After a disappointing regular season, the free agent-to-be has been dominant at times, pouring in seven goals and adding 10 assists.
Horton has been especially hot in the conference finals, posting five points in the first two games of the series. Though he failed to register a point in Game 3, he was just a whisker away, ringing the iron over Tomas Vokoun's shoulder. Had that shot found the back of the net, he would rank higher on this list.
The most telling sign of Horton's superb play is his league-leading plus-20 rating. In the category, he leads linemate David Krejci by seven and all non-Bruins by at least 10.
That means that when Nathan Horton is on the ice, the Bruins are nearly unbeatable. If he can add a clutch goal or two to his resume, he could shoot up this list.
3. Patrice Bergeron
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Patrice Bergeron has been Mr. Clutch this postseason, and that tends to go a long way toward winning the Conn Smythe Trophy.
Back in Round 1, Bergeron engineered the Bruins' miracle Game 7 comeback. First he assisted on Milan Lucic's goal to cut the deficit to one. Then he tied it up with 51 seconds remaining and netted the game-winner six minutes into OT.
Days later, he came up big in the extra session of Game 1 against the New York Rangers, assisting on Brad Marchand's winner, and it was Bergeron again who snatched victory for the Bruins in double overtime against the Penguins on Wednesday night.
When he hasn't been scoring enormous goals, he has been providing the Selke Trophy-worthy defense that has made him a star.
His excellence in the faceoff circle and on the penalty kill has been enormous for the Bruins throughout the postseason.
He may never lead the league in points, but Bergeron simply does whatever it takes to win night in and night out.
2. Tuukka Rask
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In the National Hockey League, goaltending wins championships, and Tuukka Rask has certainly provided the Bruins with Cup-caliber goaltending.
Two years after riding the pine while Tim Thomas picked up the Conn Smythe, the 26-year-old Rask's time has come.
Posting a 1.85 goals-against average and a .940 save percentage, Rask actually has slightly better numbers right now than Tim Thomas did at the conclusion of the 2011 playoffs, when the two-time Vezina winner had a 1.98 goals-against average and an identical save percentage.
Rask only trails defending Conn Smythe winner Jonathan Quick in the two major goaltending stats, and the Bruins netminder has come alive against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the conference finals. Facing off against the NHL's most feared offense, Rask has allowed just two goals in three games.
In fact, Rask has stopped 108 of 110 shots in the series, including a 53-save effort in Game 3. In the double-overtime thriller, Rask effectively stole the game for the Bruins, holding the Pens to just one goal in arguably the best game of his life.
He has yet to surrender a single point to Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin or Kris Letang, and if he stays hot, the Bruins could ride him straight to a title.
1. David Krejci
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David Krejci led the NHL in postseason scoring two years ago with 29 points as he carried the Bruins to a title, so perhaps his current dominance shouldn't be so surprising. But it's hard to watch the Bruins right now without asking, "Where did this come from?"
After a number of relatively quiet regular seasons, Krejci has been the best player in the National Hockey League throughout the playoffs.
He leads the league in both goals (nine) and points (21), and his brilliant playmaking has brought long-slumping wingers Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic to life.
In the first round, Krejci completely dismantled the Maple Leafs with 13 points in seven games, and after a quieter series against the New York Rangers, Krejci has started pouring in the goals once again in the conference finals.
While Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have failed to register a point, the Czech center has scored in all three games against the Penguins, putting up two goals in Game 1.
The 27-year-old now has five multi-point games in just 15 playoff contests, and he is averaging 1.4 points per game. He also ranks second in the NHL in plus/minus behind linemate Nathan Horton with a plus-13 rating.
If Krejci's unbelievable hot streak can continue, he is the clear favorite to pick up the Conn Smythe.