The Stanley Cup Final is officially set as the St. Louis Blues eliminated the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday night. Now, it is a rematch of the 1970 Cup Final as the Blues will clash with the Boston Bruins who shut down the Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Prior to the Conference Final round, we took stock of the race for the Conn Smythe. Now, we will once again look at the players leading the race as we enter the final series of the season.
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1. Tuukka Rask
Tuukka Rask maintains his top spot from the previous set of rankings. The Bruins netminder was stellar in the four-game sweep of the Hurricanes, which included a shutout in game four. Through three rounds, Rask’s .942 save percentage is tops among all goaltenders this postseason. In addition, only Martin Jones has faced more shots and no goalie has made more than Rask’s 517 saves so far. When the Bruins have had a chance to close out a series, Rask has been nearly unbeatable, turning away 90-of-91 shots he faced in those three games.
2. Jaden Schwartz
If you didn’t know, the Blues were dead in the water in January of this year as they sat in last place. Perhaps there is no one more representative of the Blues turnaround than Jaden Schwartz. The eight-year veteran had an incredibly subpar season, totaling just 11 goals and 36 points in 66 games. It was his lowest point total since he played just 33 games during the 2015-16 season. However, the playoffs have been a whole different animal and so has Schwartz. Currently, Schwartz’ 12 goals are second to only Logan Couture’s 14 and his second hat trick of the postseason was crucial in the game five thumping of the Sharks. The Blues will need him to continue on his tear if they want to beat the Bruins.
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3. Brad Marchand
Despite the national narrative, Brad Marchand does more than just ‘be a pest’. In fact, he does a lot more. Currently, he ranks second to Joe Pavelski in total points during this postseason with 18. In 2011, teammate David Krejci led the league with 23 points as the Bruins hoisted the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1972. His seven goals this postseason is tied with linemate, David Pastrnak for second on the team and his 11 assists are tied for first on the Bruins with Torey Krug and is most among players currently active in the playoffs.
4. Jordan Binnington
The save percentage and goals against numbers are nothing special but numbers do not tell the true story when it comes to Blues goaltender, Jordan Binnington. Despite having limited NHL experience, let along playoff experience, Binnington has been rock-solid between the pipes, especially in game’s five and six against the Sharks as he held them to just one goal over those six periods. His 492 saves are third to only Rask and Martin Jones. A pair of 6-3 losses, first against the Jets in round one and then in game one against the Sharks skews his numbers a bit. However, he has been the most consistent netminder behind Rask this postseason. He will have to continue to be the calming presence against the high-powered Bruins offense.
5. Patrice Bergeron
Patrice Bergeron continues to remind everyone why is one of, if not, the best two-way player in the NHL. Not everything he does shows up on the scoresheet but his six power play goals, including two in the series clincher against Carolina, lead all players this postseason. It has helped the Bruins maintain their torrid pace on the power play, especially in the first round series against the Maple Leafs and the Conference Finals against the Hurricanes. Back in 2011 when the Bruins last won the Stanley Cup, Bergeron was behind only David Krejci and Henrik Sedin in total points with 20. He isn’t quite on that pace this postseason but he has been just as important nonetheless.