2013 NHL Playoffs: Top Five Conn Smythe Candidates for Boston Bruins
Who Are the Top Five Conn Smythe Candidates for the Boston Bruins?
The Boston Bruins, who a little over a month ago were about to get knocked out of the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs in the first round, are now two wins away from bringing home their second championship in three years. It's quite amazing when you think about it.
Even as the Bruins stole a Game 7 stunner against the Toronto Maple Leafs, no one could honestly believe the team would go on this kind of roll from that game on. Not one regulation loss since May 12? Seriously?
It’s true; the team is 11-0-2 since losing Game 6 against Toronto in regulation. How could a team who looked so dead in the water as that game came to a close now be two wins away from completing a dominant run with a Stanley Cup? Even the most biased fan couldn’t have looked at the Game 7 situation with Toronto, down three with ten minutes to go, and thought, “I bet this team will be on the verge of winning a Cup in a month.”
And yet here they are. With last night’s Game 3 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Finals, Boston is just a couple of wins from becoming the first dynasty the league has seen in decades.
At just 2-1 this series is far from over, and it's still important to look at Boston’s roster and identify who's gone out of their way to help the team get this far. We all know the captain is the first player to hoist the Stanley Cup, but who on the Bruins would be the playoff MVP if they do indeed win this series?
With this in mind, here are the top five Boston candidates for the Conn Smythe trophy.
5. Nathan Horton
If the Bruins end up winning the Stanley Cup, Horton will have a career players dream about. He would have two Stanley Cups in as many playoff appearances (he missed last postseason with a concussion), and he’s hardly just coming along for the ride.
Horton currently boasts seven goals and 11 assists, which goes well with his astounding +22 in plus/minus. And as we found out last weekend, he’s been gutting it out with a bum shoulder that’s been aching since April.
After a slow regular season, it’s looking more and more like Horton was born to play in the postseason. If this is how he’s going to play any time Boston makes the playoffs, you’re not going to hear many complaints from the Bruins faithful.
4. Zdeno Chara
Again, scoring stats aren’t going to be the reason Chara should be considered a Conn Smythe candidate. But think about this; how many of the star players that have taken the ice against Boston so far have really seen legit success?
Rick Nash, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were all forced to skate against the Bruins’ mountain of a man, and Nash – with only one goal -- is the sole player who can brag. Now it's Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane who are seeing Chara in their nightmares. Facts are facts; Chara is brought on the ice to neutralize top scoring threats, and he’s been doing just that.
And you can’t talk about the Bruins’ big man without mentioning the amount of ice time he logs per night. He’s currently averaging 30:05 minutes per game. So if you’re going to try and enjoy some time without Chara blotting out the sun on ice, take it in while you can. He’ll be back to shut you down before you know it.
3. Patrice Bergeron
He may not be leading in any specific stat, but anyone who can honestly claim Bergeron hasn’t made a huge impact on Boston’s postseason hasn’t watched a single minute of it.
Seven goals and six assists, which is a great line in itself, won’t be impressive enough to win a Conn Smythe alone. However, it’s what Bergeron has been doing outside of the box score that should garner him some attention. Fact is Bergeron just does it all for Boston.
He owns the face off dot, he kills penalties, and he shuts down the opponent’s top forwards. And he does all of this along with scoring points. Heck, if Rask were to ever unravel, the team could probably give Bergeron a goalie mask and have him step in to steady the ship. Still painfully underrated, Bergeron is indeed the definition of a perfectly well-rounded player.
2. David Krejci
Unfortunately, Patrick Sharp’s goal in Game 2 was his ninth this postseason, tying him with Krejci atop the league leaders. However, Krejci is still leading the league in overall points with 23. The next highest? Nathan Horton with 18.
While Rask may be the biggest lock, a couple more big games for Krejci could change everything. He was absolutely dominant against both Toronto and Pittsburgh, and his line, with Horton and Milan Lucic, has become one of, if not the best in the league.
Make no mistake, when Krejci is feeling it, the ice can tilt for Boston in a hurry. If there’s anyone who can supplant Rask atop the Conn Smythe leaders, it’s the Bruins’ Czech center.
1. Tuukka Rask
Not too much drama here. He’s has been standing on his head on a nightly basis for the past month, and if you can only identify one man in a Bruins sweater as the reason his team is on the verge of a Stanley Cup, Rask is the Vegas odds favorite.
Three shutouts in seven games complete with an absolute shutdown of the entire Pittsburgh Penguins roster and if you look at all the Chicago goals in this series, how many can you say were the result of a Blackhawks player beating Rask?
Dirty goals, deflections, and lucky bounces are how the Blackhawks have scored the majority of their goals this series. Who knows if this will continue. Chicago is still a frighteningly talented team, but if Boston pulls this out in similar fashion to their past month, you have to believe Rask has a Conn Smythe coming his way.