Conn Smythe watch: A new front runner

One win away from the Stanley Cup, Corey Crawford is the new front runner in the Conn Smythe race. (AP/Bruce Bennett)

The Chicago Blackhawks are one win away from the Stanley Cup, and while our Conn Smythe watch includes five players, both netminders are well ahead of the rest of the pack.

1. Corey Crawford

Thanks in large part to Corey Crawford, the Blackhawks are one win away from their second Stanley Cup in the last four years. Crawford may have had a shaky showing in Game 4, but so did fellow playoff MVP candidate Tuukka Rask. Like he always does, Crawford bounced back with a sound performance in Saturday’s pivotal Game 5. He made 25 saves and the only goal he surrendered was a titanic blast from Zdeno Chara that few goalies would stop.

As the rest of the team has been up and down all post-season, Crawford has been the one constant for the Blackhawks. Crawford’s post-season goals against average of 1.83 is tied at the top with Rask.

2. Tuukka Rask

You can make a case for Rask to win the Conn Smythe even if the Bruins fall short of 16 wins. Before Game 4, in which Rask allowed six goals, Boston’s pillar between the pipes had a tremendous nine-game stretch dating back to the second round. Rask had a 0.83 GAA and .972 save percentage in that span, carrying the Bruins to a 2-1 series lead over Chicago.

However, Rask and the defence in front of him have been a bit exposed in the last two games. Rask was crazy good against Pittsburgh in the conference finals and he’ll need to channel that success if the Bruins are to prevail and win the Cup. His .941 save percentage still leads the way in these playoffs.

3. David Krejci

There’s a considerable gap between the two goalies and the rest of the pack. From start to finish, David Krejci has been Boston’s best forward. He will likely finish as the post-season’s points leader, and the Bruins wouldn’t be in the Cup final without his efforts. Krejci came up big in the first round against Toronto, notching a hat trick in Game 4 of that series. That said, Krejci has been contained by Chicago as he hasn’t scored in any of the five games. Spanning over his last three post-seasons, he has 51 points, good for most in the NHL.

4. Patrick Kane

Through the first two rounds it didn’t seem like Patrick Kane would come close to the playoff MVP conversation. His clutch gene has shone through in the last two series, though, as he has nine points in the last seven games. On the heels of Chicago’s offensive breakthrough in Game 4 in Boston – Kane had a goal and an assist in the 6-5 win – the dynamic scorer tallied two enormous goals that were the difference in Game 5. Kane even finished off the Kings with a hat trick, including the overtime winner, in the series-clinching victory. His nine goals are tied for second in the playoffs.

5. Patrice Bergeron

You could definitely make an argument for Zdeno Chara or Duncan Keith to be on this list, but Patrice Bergeron has been too clutch this post-season to not be in the conversation. With Krejci and the top line leading the way offensively, Bergeron’s production has been sporadic this spring. But he has come through when the Bruins needed him most. He netted the dramatic overtime winner in Game 7 against Toronto, as well as the sudden-death dagger in Game 3 against Pittsburgh. Six of his nine playoff goals have been recorded in the last two rounds.

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