The final four in the Stanley Cup Playoffs is set. Out East, the Boston Bruins will clash with the Carolina Hurricanes and out West, the St. Louis Blues will face off with the San Jose for the right to play for Lord Stanley’s Cup.
With just four teams remaining, who are the favorites for the Conn Smythe Trophy?
1. Tuukka Rask
This has not been a good playoff season for the select few that don’t consider Tuukka Rask a ‘big game’ goalie. Rask has been phenomenal, particularly in out-dueling Sergei Bobrovsky in a six-game series win over the Columbus Blue Jackets. Rask tops all goalies with a .938 save percentage and only the recently departed Ben Bishop has faced more shots than Rask’s 435 through 11 games. After falling behind two games to one to Columbus, Rask allowed just one goal in the final two games in Columbus. In reality, it should have been zero as the one goal came after the puck went out of play but was not called correctly on the ice.
2. Tomas Hertl
In addition to sharing the lead in playoff points through two rounds, Tomas Hertl has had a knack for scoring big goals at the most crucial moments. Hertl, as well as other Sharks, have had to step up in the absence of Joe Pavelski with both of their first two series heading to do-or-die game sevens. Hertl had a goal in each of those two games. However, none was probably bigger than his Game 6 double-overtime winner over the Vegas Golden Knights in round one that forced game seven. What made it even more special was the fact that he guaranteed the Sharks would force the decisive seventh game and he was the one to do it.
3. Teuvo Teravainen
After a seven-game slugfest with the defending champion Washington Capitals, the Hurricanes made quick work of the New York Islanders in a four-game sweep to secure their spot in the Eastern Conference Finals. Teuvo Teravainen has been one of the biggest reason for this success. Despite only playing 11 games to this point, Teravainen’s six goals put him right at the top of the goalscorers list behind a pair of Sharks and the Blues’ Jaden Schwartz. All of whom have played at least two more games than Teravainen.
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4. Jaden Schwartz
Jaden Schwartz eight goals is second to only the Sharks’ Tomas Hertl and Logan Couture’s nine. In addition to his hat trick in game six to help eliminate the Jets in round one, Schwartz tallied a pair of points in a crucial Game 6 victory over Dallas to force a decisive game seven. He is tied for second among all players with two game-winning goals through the first two rounds of the playoffs and is one of three players to tally a hat trick in this postseason.
5. Logan Couture
Just like the second name on this list, Logan Couture is leading all players with 14 points throughout the playoffs. His nine goals are also tied with Hertl for the league lead. Couture has a reputation for stepping up at the biggest moments and he was a critical piece in the Sharks comeback from a 3-1 series deficit in the first round against the Vegas Golden Knights, scoring a goal in games five, six, and seven. His hat trick in game three against the Avalanche help steal back home ice advantage in the series for the Sharks and helped carry the load in the absence of Joe Pavelski.
Honorable Mention: Jordan Binnington (G Blues) and Brad Marchand (LW Bruins)
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