The Conn Smythe Trophy is the second-best award of the postseason, but there’s no doubt that several players will be attempting to win it in the process of coming out victorious in the Stanley Cup Finals.
The Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks each have several contenders for the award that’s given to the best player throughout the entire postseason.
It’s unlike any other postseason award in a major sport since it’s not only about dominance in the finals, but throughout the entire playoffs. That just makes it even more special. A player must be on top of his game for an extended period of time in order to be worthy of winning it.
So, of the players who’ll be playing for the Stanley Cup over the next week or so, who enters the finals in the best shape to win the Conn Smythe Trophy? Let’s take a look at the three top contenders for this year’s award.
3. David Krejci, Forward, Boston Bruins
Several of the Bruins’ players have stepped up their game in the postseason, but no one has been better than David Krejci.The Boston forward has been unstoppable and has continually put shots on net—with several getting by the goalie.
In 16 postseason games, Krejci has scored nine goals, which is more than any player. He also has more playoff points than anyone else. His 12 assists sit in second place to Pittsburgh’s Kris Letang’s 13. His plus-14 rating and 42 shots are also the second-best in the NHL.
If he’s not passing, he’s scoring. If he’s not scoring, he’s passing. Toronto, New York and Pittsburgh have all failed to stop Krejci throughout the Stanley Cup playoffs.
This is what Krejci’s teammate Andrew Ference told Julian Benbow of The Boston Globe about the forward’s composure on the ice:
Everybody can see when he’s on his game. He’s controlling the pace of the play and just playing with an extreme confidence. I think that’s the biggest thing that he has over a lot of guys is confidence to make plays, a calmness about him in certain situations.
He’s not an emotional roller coaster. He really is pretty calm in big situations and overtimes and big games and stuff like that.
Krejci has always played well in the postseason. In 75 career playoff games, he has 29 goals and 39 assists for nearly an average of one point per game. If he continues to play like he has over the last three weeks, there’s no doubt he’ll be in the running for the postseason’s top player.
2. Patrick Kane, Forward, Chicago Blackhawks
The Blackhawks live and die with Patrick Kane. It’s that simple.
If Chicago is going to defeat Boston four times in the next week and a half, it’s because Kane scored a handful of goals or at least assisted on ones scored by his teammates. In 17 games during the Stanley Cup playoffs, Kane has scored six times and has totaled eight assists.
Out of the 17 games that Kane has played in during the playoffs, he has earned at least one point in 10 of them. He’s had at least two points in three games. In the Blackhawks’ most recent victory over the defending champion Kings, he had a hat trick—which was completed when he scored a goal in double overtime.
Here’s what Kane told Michael Vega of The Boston Globe about his approach on the ice:
I’m a player that wants the puck and I’m a better player when I have it. I think whether it was teammates, coaches, coaches from past, my parents, just saying that, ‘You’ve got to want the puck.' That’s what I tried to do in the last two games. Felt like I had more success when I did that.
Now I’ll try to have the same mind-set going into the finals. I’ll just try to get the puck and make plays, not so much worry about scoring or getting an assist or points, just try to get it and make plays.
When Chicago won the Stanley Cup three years ago, Kane had 28 points in the playoffs, scoring 10 goals and totaling 18 assists. Despite his high point total, it was Jonathan Toews that won the Conn Smythe.
Kane is 14 points shy of his total from that year, but he may already have enough to win the trophy this year, should Chicago win it all.
1. Tuukka Rask, Goalie, Boston Bruins
Two years ago, when the Bruins won the Stanley Cup, Tuukka Rask was the backup for Tim Thomas—the Conn Smythe trophy winner that season. Thomas stood on his head all postseason long and was deserving of the honor. This year, it’s Rask’s time to win the award.
One could make the case for Rask to win the Conn Smythe even if the Bruins didn’t make it to the Stanley Cup. That’s how well he’s played.
In 17 games, Rask has a .943 save percentage, which is the best in hockey by a large margin. He currently sits 0.02 points away from the lead in goals against average, which is held by his counterpart this series, Corey Crawford. Without Rask, the Bruins wouldn’t have made it out of the first round.
And now, it’s Anton Khudobin who’s looking on in the backup role, admiring what the starter is doing. Rask’s backup told Matt Kalman of the Boston Herald about his postseason numbers, “I just checked yesterday. I didn’t really think about it and yesterday I checked. These numbers are amazing. I think he’s going to make history.”
Rask only needs to win four more games in order to hoist the Stanley Cup for the second time in his career. But he’ll also be hoisting the Conn Smythe Trophy if the Bruins finish the Blackhawks off. There’s no doubt about that.