Power Ranking the 2013 NHL Conn Smythe Trophy Candidates

Steve SilvermanFeatured ColumnistJune 11, 2013

Power Ranking the 2013 NHL Conn Smythe Trophy Candidates

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    The Conn Smythe Trophy has been awarded to goaltenders the past two years.

    However, there is no bias in favor of puck-stoppers. Non-goalies have won the postseason MVP award in six of the last 10 playoffs.

    Corey Crawford of the Chicago Blackhawks and Tuukka Rask of the Boston Bruins will try to stretch the streak of goalie Conn Smythe winners to three. If either one wins, they would join Tim Thomas and Jonathan Quick.

    Both goalies have substantial competition. Here's our power ranking of the top nine players in consideration for the award.

9. Duncan Keith, Chicago Blackhawks

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    Duncan Keith has been good for the Blackhawks through the first three rounds of the playoffs. He has been a solid puck carrier, consistent in his own zone and has made a positive offensive contribution with two goals and nine assists.

    Keith is an outsider for the Conn Smythe Trophy at this point. However, he is the Blackhawks' best defenseman by a wide margin. If the Blackhawks are going to beat the Bruins, they are going to have to shut down—or at least slow down—the Bruins' top offensive line of David Krejci, Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic.

    Much of that will be due to Keith. If he is on top of his game, he can have a huge influence with his skating, stickhandling, shooting and defensive positioning.

8. Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks

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    Patrick Kane has been a streaky player throughout the majority of his career with the Chicago Blackhawks.

    His greatest high came in the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals, when he scored the Stanley Cup-winning goal in overtime against the Philadelphia Flyers.

    He added another important highlight to his resume when he scored the Western Conference series-winning goal in double overtime against the Los Angeles Kings to cap off a hat trick.

    Kane has scored 14 points and he is tied with Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp for the team lead. However, prior to scoring four goals in his last two postseason games, Kane had been scoreless in his previous seven games.

    So, it's up and down for Kane. If he can stay hot against the Bruins, he can throw himself into prime consideration for the Conn Smythe Trophy.

7. Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins

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    If the Blackhawks are going to have success in the offensive zone, they are going to have to go through Zdeno Chara, which will be hard to do. Chara's skill at breaking up passes, delivering big checks and intimidating opponents makes him the Bruins' most formidable defender.

    He also has the hardest shot in the league and he can intimidate shot blockers and goalies when he loads up on his 100-plus MPH slapshot.

    Chara has two goals and nine assists through the first three rounds of the playoffs. He also has a plus-12 rating.

6. Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins

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    Patrice Bergeron is the Bruins' best all-around player, so he has to be given consideration when it comes to listing contenders for the Conn Smythe Trophy.

    Bergeron's dominance as a defensive player is consistent and he's also the best faceoff man in the league. He's winning 61.0 percent of his draws in the postseason.

    Bergeron is also a superb clutch player. He scored the dramatic game-tying goal against the Toronto Maple Leaf in Game 7 and the game-winner minutes later in overtime. He also scored a double-overtime goal in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final sweep of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

    Bergeron also scored two goals—including the Stanley Cup clincher—in the Game 7 victory over the Vancouver Canucks two years ago.

5. Nathan Horton, Boston Bruins

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    Nathan Horton has stepped to the forefront in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

    After an undistinguished regular season (13 goals, nine assists, plus-one rating), Horton has been remarkable in the postseason. He has scored seven goals and 10 assists in the Bruins' 16 playoff games, making him the No. 2 scorer in the league.

    Remarkably, Horton is plus-21 over the course of the playoffs, giving him a seven-point lead over teammate David Krejci.

    Everything that touches Horton's stick has a chance to end up in the net, and that makes him a legitimate Conn Smythe candidate.

4. Marian Hossa, Chicago Blackhawks

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    Marian Hossa has been one of the Blackhawks' top performers thus far in the playoffs. He has scored seven goals and seven assists and he has a plus-eight rating.

    Hossa has the size, strength and acceleration to become a huge factor in the Stanley Cup Final. Bruins head coach Claude Julien will likely match Patrice Bergeron on Jonathan Toews. Who is he going to match up with Hossa?

    Hossa seems like he is going to have an excellent chance to get open and put pressure on Boston goalie Tuukka Rask. He could end up being the dominant offensive figure in the series.

3. Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins

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    Tuukka Rask was not being mentioned as a Conn Smythe Trophy candidate prior to the Bruins' four-game sweep of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

    He had played well in the first two rounds, but goalies like Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings and Corey Crawford of the Blackhawks were getting more attention.

    Rask had outperformed Henrik Lundqvist, who probably is the best goalie in the NHL, in the conference semifinal round. Rask followed that up with a superb effort against the Penguins. He held them to two goals in four games and had a minuscule 0.44 goals against average.

    Rask has a 1.75 GAA, a .943 save percentage and two shutouts in the postseason.

2. Corey Crawford, Chicago Blackhawks

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    Corey Crawford came into the playoffs with quite a bit to prove.

    While he had enjoyed an excellent regular season, he had to bear much of the blame for the Blackhawks' first-round loss to the Phoenix Coyotes last year. He gave up overtime goals in three of the losses.

    Crawford showed that he could win an overtime game when the Blackhawks opened the playoffs with a 2-1 victory over the Minnesota Wild in which the Blackhawks goalie made several eye-catching saves in the extra session.

    Crawford has been one of the Blackhawks' best players in the postseason. He has a league-leading 1.74 GAA and ranks second with a .935 save percentage.

1. David Krejci, Boston Bruins

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    David Krejci has been superb on the big stage.

    Krejci leads all NHL postseason scorers with 21 points (nine goals, 12 assists, plus-14), and he is dominating play for the Bruins. He has found a way to put the puck in the net or set up his teammates on a nightly basis.

    Krejci seems to create time and space every time he has the puck in the offensive zone. He waits an extra split second before passing or shooting, and that creates opportunities.

    He has scored two game-winning goals to this point in the postseason and is a very confident player. The Blackhawks must find a way to slow him down or he could steal a couple of victories all by himself.