On Wednesday, either the Bruins or Blues will win the Stanley Cup. Additionally, someone is going to take home the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP. Let’s take a look at the leading contenders.
- Tuukka Rask- Goalie, Bruins
If the Bruins win the Cup, Tuukka Rask is taking home the award. Book it. Rask has been a rock for the black and gold all Spring long. He’s 15-8 with a .938 save percentage and a goals against average of just below two. He has yet to record a save percentage of under .900 in any game this playoff. In elimination and close-out games, he’s been even better. In those five games, including Sunday’s victory, his goals against is a staggering .08 with a save percentage of .973. Four of the five games were away from Boston with Rask recording two shutouts. The Bruins are not one win away from a Stanley Cup without their man in between the pipes.
2. Ryan O’Reilly- Center, Blues
O’Reilly has been the man for St. Louis. His ability to dominate the offensive, defensive, and natural zone has been on display throughout St. Louis’ run this postseason. He’s saving his best for last too with a goal in each of the last three games. Two of those were Blues victories with O’Reilly at the center of each. He put the Blues ahead less than a minute into game four before adding the game-winner in the third period. In the next game, he gave the Blues the lead at the beginning off the second when he took a beautiful feed from Zach Sanford and roofed a puck passed Tuukka Rask on his backhand. He has killed penalties and won draws with a faceoff percentage above .50 for the playoffs.
3. Torey Krug- Defense, Bruins
The Bruins defense has been great the entire playoffs. Before the series, I would have given this spot to Charlie McAvoy. Things have changed and now its clear Krug is the MVP of the defensive unit. Krug, alongside Brandon Carlo, are a formidable tandem playing on the second pairing after McAvoy and Zdeno Chara. While that entire group has been more than solid in their own end, Krug finds himself on this list based on his offensive production. Krug leads all players with 16 assists over 23 games with six points in his last four games. He plays quarterback on a Bruins power-play which has been lethal this spring scoring on 33% of their chances. He made a perfect pass to Brad Marchand for the first goal on Sunday, once again on the power play. He currently sits at 5th all time for single playoff points by a US born defensemen and can move up to third with a big game seven performance.
4. Vladimir Tarasenko- Left Wing, Blues
Tarasenko was looking like the favorite for this award (if the Blues win) until O’Reilly’s last three games. This is to take nothing away from Tarasenko who is putting together quite the postseason. He has 16 points in 25 games including 11 goals. Those numbers are good, but he truly dominated during a stretch extending from game three of the third round against San Jose until the middle of this series against the Bruins. During that time, he had 11 points in 10 games. His goals came at important times, too including a penalty shot snipe against the Sharks in game five. Without Tarasenko leading the offensive, they may not have beaten San Jose. Additionally, from game five against the Sharks to game two against Boston, he was a +6.
5. Alex Pietrangelo- Defense, Blues
Like the Bruins, the Blues defensive unit has been the backbone of their team this spring. While Colton Parayko and Jay Bouwmeester may be their best unit, Pietrangelo has been their best d-man. Pietrangelo is logging first-pairing minutes as a second pairing defenseman which gives the Blues great depth in that unit. It’s allowed Blues coach Craig Berube to rotate Pet’s defensive partner and ride the hot hand. He’s been immovable not allowing Bruins’ forwards to hang out in front of the net and create traffic in front of Jordan Binnington. He’s one of the main reasons Boston’s top six forward group has struggled the way that it has. On the offensive side, he only trails Torey Krug by one for the assist lead and has one in each of his last three games.
Photo Source: nhl.com
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