Orr capped off that remarkable 1969-70 campaign by being awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy after finishing the post-season with 20 points in 14 games – no other defenceman had more than seven playoff points that year.
Will the eventual 2019 Conn Smythe winner also have a moment like Orr’s that leaves an indelible mark on hockey fans?
There’s no blue-liner currently operating at an Orr-like level but there have been a number of memorable playoff performances.
We’re down to two teams and only a handful of viable Conn Smythe contenders. Here they are.
Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins
17 GP | .942 SV% | 1.84 GAA | 2 SO
The clear frontrunner among remaining players, Rask has won seven in a row dating back to Boston’s second-round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Finnish netminder has stopped 220 of 229 shots during this stretch. He’s also getting plenty of help from his teammates, as the Bruins have scored at least thrice in all but six games these playoffs – all five of Boston’s losses have occurred under these circumstances.
“This guy’s unbelievable to be honest,” David Pastrnak told Sportsnet’s Kyle Bukauskas after the Bruins completed their sweep of Carolina. “I’ve never seen anybody play like him and the whole playoffs, this guy’s just on another level.”
The only other time during the salary cap era that a goalie had a save percentage that high and a GAA that low in the same post-season was back in 2012 when Jonathan Quick played lights out en route to the Los Angeles Kings’ first Stanley Cup championship.
Patrice Bergeron on the performance of Tuukka Rask: "Right now he's in the zone. He's been amazing." pic.twitter.com/poa2GYLwbp
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) May 15, 2019
Rask is rising in the record books as well. When he blanked the Hurricanes to complete the Eastern Conference Final sweep, he passed Miikka Kiprusoff for most playoff shutouts by a Finnish-born goaltender in NHL history.
Even in a losing effort, if Rask can maintain or even improve on these numbers it might be good enough to warrant him being named the Conn Smythe recipient. The last time a player on the losing team was named playoff MVP was in 2003 when Jean-Sebastien Giguere did it with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.
Jordan Binnington, St. Louis Blues
19 GP | .914 SV% | 2.36 GAA | 1 SO
It has been more than three decades since hockey fans last saw a rookie netminder do as well as Binnington has done this year. In fact, the last rookie to earn each of his team’s first 12 wins during a playoff run was Ron Hextall with the Flyers in 1987. Hextall just happened to win the Conn Smythe in a losing effort that year.
If the Blues can earn the franchise’s first championship and Binnington is between the pipes for all four wins, he’ll become the first rookie goalie in NHL history to record 16 wins during a playoff run.
Jaden Schwartz, St. Louis Blues
19 GP | 12 G | 4 A | 16 Pts | 2 GWG
The pride of Wilcox, Sask., has had to overcome plenty of injury setbacks during his young NHL career and his 2018-19 campaign was his worst regular-season performance since his sophomore year. He scored only 11 goals in 69 games.
That’s why it’s so refreshing to finally see him playing some of his best hockey of his life, already scoring 12 times and adding four assists in just 19 playoff games. He’s just two goals and four points back of Logan Couture for the league lead in both categories.
The franchise record for points during a single playoff run is a three-way tie at 21 points between Brett Hull, Doug Gilmour and Bernie Federko. A strong showing in the Stanley Cup Final could see him surpass those three Blues legends.
It’s not a difficult argument to make that Ryan O’Reilly has been the Blues best forward overall, not to mention Vladimir Tarasenko has come on strong with a point in every game against the Sharks, but Schwartz has been the team’s most clutch goal scorer and that often sets a player apart when it comes to award voting. Schwartz became the first player to record multiple hat tricks during a single playoff run since Johan Franzen did it with the Detroit Red Wings in 2008.
Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins
17 GP | 7 G | 11 A | 18 Pts | 2 GWG
Coming off his first 100-point NHL season, Marchand started his 2019 playoffs impressively with nine points in his first six games. Then he went quiet. A four-game pointless skid resulted in him pulling some classic Marchand antics against the Blue Jackets – stepping on Cam Atkinson’s stick, punching Scott Harrington, etc. – which helped him and his team get back on track.
The Bruins haven’t lost since they fell behind 2-1 to Columbus in that second-round series and Marchand has put up nine points in the seven games since to lead his team.