But before the finals began, just like most years, it was obvious that two defensemen would play a pivotal role. Former teammates on Team Canada during the 2010 Winter Olympics, Duncan Keith and Chris Pronger, have taken over the series with their back-and-forth defensive efforts each night.
The 26-year-old Keith has one goal and five points, and is a plus-two in four games thus far. He has also played over 30 minutes in back-to-back games.
Keith’s efforts are no different from his regular season, where he was recognized with his first Norris Trophy nomination. Pronger, on the other hand, was left high and dry, and snubbed of any chance of collecting his second Norris Trophy.
Pronger’s play was excellent during the regular season, but his defensive standards have risen even higher in the playoffs and have pulled the Flyers out of a two-game hole.
The 6’6” Pronger averaged just under 26 minutes of ice-time throughout the regular season, but has averaged over 29 minutes during the playoffs. He is averaging over 30 minutes per game against the Blackhawks.
The 35-year-old's offensive and defensive play have also been stellar. He has three assists and is a plus-seven in the finals, including an impressive plus-four effort on Friday night.
Overall this postseason, Keith has 15 points in 20 games compared with his “senior” counterpart, Pronger, who has 17 points in 21 games. Keith is a respectable plus-five, whereas Pronger is a plus-nine.
Keith’s postseason play has been almost a mirror-image of his incredible regular season. Pronger was a bit underappreciated during the regular season, but his veteran presence and strong defensive abilities have taken over in the playoffs.
Keith has proven that his Norris Trophy nomination was more than well-deserved, while Pronger has proven that his snub could not have been more undeserving.
Where defensemen like Mike Green and Drew Doughty—who both had great regular seasons—have failed, Keith and Pronger have succeeded. They have separated themselves as the two elite defensemen in today’s NHL.
Both defensemen have logged important minutes every night, and have made a serious case for the Conn Smythe Trophy.
The best part, we get to watch them play at least two more games.