Stanley Cup Final 2013: Grades for All the Top Stars of the Classic Series
On Monday night, the Chicago Blackhawks stunned the Boston Bruins and their fans with two goals in the last 1:16 to win 3-2 and capture their second Stanley Cup in four years.
It was a hard-fought series that went down to the wire, with contributions from the entire lineup on both sides.
As the series progressed and the stakes got higher, some stars rose to the occasion while others faltered. Here's a look at the final grades for both teams' top stars.
David Krejci led the playoffs in scoring with 26 points in 22 games, the highest total since the 2010 playoffs when Philadelphia's Danny Briere led the way with 30 points. Krejci was also the leading scorer when Boston won the Stanley Cup in 2011, with 23 points. He's the first player since Joe Sakic (1996, 2001) to win the postseason scoring race multiple times.
Despite that consistency, this year the Czech center's best work came before the Stanley Cup Final.
Against the Blackhawks, Krejci didn't score. He did pick up five assists, including the lone helper on Milan Lucic's third-period goal in Game 6, which put the Bruins up 2-1.
Krejci logged big minutes, including a career-high 38:41 over 51 shifts in Game 1 in the finals. With the outcome of every game so close, a little more production from Krejci in crunch time could have made all the difference for Boston.
Stanley Cup Final Grade: C
Patrick Kane knows how to pick his spots.
In 2010, his Cup-winning overtime goal and subsequent celebration became the symbol of Chicago's triumph after 49 years of futility.
This year, Kane's hat trick against Los Angeles clinched the Western Conference championship. After Chicago fell behind 2-1 to the Bruins in the finals, he was reunited with Jonathan Toews and the pair stepped up to make the difference in the series.
Kane got two points in Game 4, and his two goals in the pivotal Game 5 of the finals essentially clinched his Conn Smythe trophy as the most valuable player of the 2013 playoffs.
Kane wrapped up the postseason as Chicago's leading scorer, with nine goals and 19 points. To top it off, No. 88 took exactly 88 shots through Chicago's 23 games.
He can be maddeningly inconsistent, but Kane is a player who delivers when the pressure's on.
Stanley Cup Final Grade: A-
If his third-period goal in Game 6 had held up as the game-winner, Milan Lucic could have made a case for inclusion in the Conn Smythe discussion.
His clutch play in earlier rounds, especially against the Toronto Maple Leafs, was a big part of why Boston reached the Stanley Cup Final.
Lucic had two goals and an assist in Boston's 4-3 triple-overtime loss in Game 1 of the series and also scored once in the 6-5 Game 4 barnburner for a total of four goals and six points. Lucic was the leading scorer in the finals and also kept up his physical play throughout the series.
The big winger finished the playoffs with a plus-12 ranking but was a combined minus-three through the last two games, his first minus games since midway through the second round. Lucic was on the ice for all three Blackhawks goals in Game 5 and the two backbreakers late in Game 6. Letter grade drops accordingly.
Stanley Cup Final Grade: C+
Frustrated for much of the playoffs, Jonathan Toews got sweet redemption when he hoisted Lord Stanley's Cup over his head on Monday night.
The 2010 Conn Smythe winner finished with just 14 points in 23 playoff games, well below his usual level of production. During the first three rounds, his defining moments were memorably negative—bad penalties and an inability to score.
Once Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville reunited Toews and Patrick Kane for Game 4 of the finals, the captain started to shake the monkey off his back.
Two of his three postseason goals came in those last three games, including a beauty on his only shot in Game 6. He also set up Bryan Bickell for the tying goal that changed the game's momentum for good.
All told, Toews had five points in his team's last three wins and was a killer in the faceoff circle. He won 60 percent of his draws in Game 6 and a stunning 75 percent in Game 5.
Toews was held out of the late stages of Game 5 after taking a couple of big hits but insisted he'd be ready to go for Game 6 and delivered a solid performance in 20 minutes of ice time. Toews' grade definitely rises on the basis of his clutch play in Games 4 through 6.
Stanley Cup Final Grade: B+
Big "Z," what happened?
After a phenomenal three rounds and three games of the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs, Boston captain Zdeno Chara abruptly morphed into an unexpected liability as the Blackhawks stormed back to win the series.
The normally world-class defenseman was on the ice for 10 of the 12 goals Chicago scored in Games 4, 5 and 6 to win the series and capture the Cup.
Chara has spent his entire career playing in the Eastern Conference, so the 'Hawks have had limited experience operating against him. After sizing him up for three games, Joel Quenneville and his staff appear to have found the way to neutralize the Slovak giant.
There's no word yet about whether injury may have factored in to Chara's decline, but fatigue may have been an issue. Chara's known for being one of the fittest players in the NHL, but the biggest player in the postseason was also the busiest, finishing the playoffs with a stunning 10 hours, 49 minutes and 38 seconds of ice time. That's nearly 42 minutes more than second-place Duncan Keith.
Chara played an average of two minutes per game more in 2013 than he did when Boston won the Stanley Cup in 2011. Perhaps he just wore down.
Grade reflects his late-playoff decline.
Stanley Cup Final Grade: C-
All told, it was a great Stanley Cup Final for Duncan Keith.
The rugged Blackhawks blueliner was on the ice for nearly half of every game, playing even more minutes than Zdeno Chara on the other side. He picked up just two assists but finished plus-four in the finals, an impressive stat in a series where every game was decided by the narrowest of margins.
Keith's effective play was a huge part of Chicago's ability to neutralize Boston's big line of Krejci, Lucic and Horton and to maintain its impressive penalty kill, which went four-for-four in crucial Game 6.
Chara's play declined as the series progressed, while Keith got better and better. You won't often see a defenseman get serious consideration for the Conn Smythe trophy, but when Chicago's star forwards struggled early in the series, Keith was key in keeping the 'Hawks in games and moving forward.
Stanley Cup Final Grade: A
Tuukka Rask finished the Stanley Cup playoffs with a league-leading, otherworldly save percentage of .940 and an impressive 1.88 goals-against average.
Unfortunately, Rask was "just okay" with his team facing elimination in Game 6.
Jonathan Toews made a great play on Chicago's first goal of the night, but his shot through the five-hole was definitely stoppable. The mad scrambles that led to the two late goals can't be laid so much at Rask's feet, but after all the unbelievable stops he made to get his team as far as he did, it was a terrible time for his puck luck to run out.
Rask's playoff performance peaked during the Eastern Conference Final, when he allowed just two goals in four games against the Pittsburgh Penguins. He posted one more shutout in Game 3 against the Blackhawks, but in a series where five of six games were decided by just one goal, in the end he was outdueled by Corey Crawford.
Goaltender Tim Thomas won the Conn Smythe trophy when Boston won the Cup in 2011. Rask did enough in this postseason to put the memory of Thomas to rest for Bruins fans, but in the end Boston needed Rask to be just a little better.
Stanley Cup Final Grade: B
Remember Game 4? Goals starting piling up out of nowhere at both ends of the ice.
Even though Chicago won that 6-5 barnburner in overtime, the book at the time was that the Bruins had uncovered Corey Crawford's glaring weakness. They could score at will, it was said, by shooting to the glove side.
Why is it, then, that the Bruins managed just three more goals in the next two games of the series? Did they become too obsessed with their new secret weapon?
The 'Hawks limited Boston to just 25 shots in each of the last two games, but Crawford did what was needed as the last line of defense. In Game 5, he shut the door long enough to give his team a comfortable 2-0 lead heading into the third period, and in Game 6 he stood tall through multiple penalty kills and kept the Blackhawks in the game long enough for them to mount their amazing late comeback.
Crawford finished the playoffs with a league-leading 1.84 GAA and should warrant serious consideration for Canada's 2014 Olympic team roster, glove hand be darned.
Stanley Cup Final Grade: A-
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