If the Boston Bruins hold on and prevail in the 2013 Stanley Cup Final, top point-getter David Krejci and otherworldly goaltender Tuukka Rask are both knee-jerk Conn Smythe Trophy candidates, and good ones at that.
Krejci’s consistency comes through on his game log, where one will notice that his only case of back-to-back pointless outings occurred in Games 2 and 3 of the final. He has turned in memorable multipoint efforts, including a hat trick in the first round and a pair of assists in the finals opener which, in a losing cause, at least helped to verify Boston’s competitiveness.
Rask is retaining a Tim Thomas-esque stat line with a .946 save percentage and 1.64 goals-against average whilst stifling top-notch offenses from Pittsburgh and Chicago. The way he kept the second game of the final competitive after a 19-shot first-period firestorm makes for one booming opening statement for his Conn Smythe case.
But upon digging beneath the top of Boston’s production leaderboard and the NHL’s netminding leaderboard and exploring the context of various individuals’ output, Patrice Bergeron warrants at least equal Conn Smythe consideration.
Bergeron leads all qualified playoff participants with a 62.7 percent success rate in faceoffs. His consistency in that area has rivaled Krejci’s in the point column. He has won the majority of his draws in 18 out of 19 postseason games.
His worst success rate in those 18 games was 52.2 percent in Game 4 of the Toronto series.
That 19th game, the only night when he finished with a losing record at the dot, ended with his second overtime goal of the spring, giving Boston a 2-1 win and 3-0 series lead over the Penguins.
That goal, along with five shots on net and a pair of takeaways, easily recompensed his uncharacteristic 13-for-35 showing in the faceoff department. It was also the third sudden-death strike Bergeron has had a hand in during this tournament.
In Game 7 of the opening round, he fired home a last-minute equalizer from the straightaway point through a forest, drawing a 4-4 knot and forcing bonus action against Toronto. He followed up by ending the series in the fourth period.
In the resultant second-round series opener against the New York Rangers, Bergeron followed up on all of that with the primary setup on Brad Marchand’s overtime clincher.
He also claimed credit for the secondary helper on the series clincher versus the Penguins. Ditto the goal that put Boston in the lead for good en route to a 5-2 victory over the Rangers in the second game of the second round.
Later in that match, Bergeron had a hand in a goal that augmented the lead to 4-2 in the tone-setting first minute of the third period. Similarly, in Game 2 of the Pittsburgh series, he was in on a last-minute strike that drained any momentum the Penguins might have drawn from hitting the board and cutting Boston’s lead to 3-1 in the first period.
He later made it 5-1 on the first shift on a fresh sheet in the closing frame.
At the other end, virtually every Bruin has done his part to join Rask in minimizing the opposing offense. But Bergeron stands out for helping to keep the opposing power play scoreless.
Of the 22 skaters to dress for Boston in the 2013 playoffs, 10 have yet to let an opposing power play convert on their watch. Of those 10, Bergeron is the leader in shorthanded ice time at 32:12, followed by his linemate Marchand at 28:15 and then Krejci a considerably distant third at 8:55.
Conversely, he has been on the ice for three of the Bruins’ power-play conversions, with all three of those coming off his own blade to tie him with rookie depth defenseman Torey Krug for the team lead.
The third of those five-on-four strikes came in Monday night’s 2-0 victory over the Blackhawks, helping them to a 2-1 lead in the series and a 2-0 goal differential on special teams.
Who has scored the only other man-up goal in this series?
That’s right. Bergeron converted in Game 1 to spot Boston a 3-1 lead―which, granted, the team ultimately spilled, although none of Chicago’s four goals occurred when he was on duty.
That stinginess is sound enough, but its significance is amplified considering whom Bergeron has been tasked with helping to shut down these last two rounds (Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews, etc.).
On top of that, he has repeatedly complemented his flustering defensive work with involvement in every brand of back-breaking goal. Though his line has not been as prolific as Krejci’s, it has generated more than its share of first- or last-minute tallies, power-play conversions, rally-completing equalizers and overtime clinchers.
For that exemplary two-way excellence and timely tangible output, Bergeron deserves nothing less than to sit with Krejci and Rask among Boston’s finalists for playoff MVP.
If the debate boils down to who has done the most in key situations with the most frequency and reliability, Rask may be his only rival among the Bruins in the race.
Unless otherwise indicated, all statistics for this report were found via NHL.com.