The Stanley Cup Final has been incredibly back-and-forth so far. Neither team has been able to string wins together and we’re tied at two games apiece. This seems as good a time as any to look at who the biggest difference makers have been in the playoffs so far. We went through the top candidates for the Conn Smythe trophy earlier in the playoffs, but with less than a handful of games left, it’s time to dive back into it so here they are: the top playoff MVP candidates.
So far, Tuukka Rask seems to be the odds on favorite to be crowned playoff MVP and, looking at his numbers, it’s easy to see why.
Rask has been by far the best goaltender in these playoffs. He’s held the opposition to two goals or fewer in 14 of his 21 games and he’s one of just two goalies in this postseason to record multiple shutouts, surprisingly tied with Petr Mrazek with two.
His inner slot save percentage is actually identical to Vezina candidate Andrei Vasilevkiy’s total save % in Round 1. You could even make a case he deserves the nod regardless of the outcome of the series, a la Jean-Sébastien Giguère, but that’s a debate for another time.
If you asked me who was going to be the Blues playoff points leader before Round 1, Jaden Schwartz probably wouldn’t have cracked my top 3, or even my top 5. He was the 7th-highest scoring Blues player in the regular season, even behind defenseman and captain Alex Pietrangelo. That all changed once the playoff started. He already has more goals in 23 postseason games (12) than he had in 69 regular season games (11) and leads the Blues with 18 points, tied with Ryan O’Reilly.
Schwartz also has a newfound nose for the front of the net. His nine deflections trail only Patrice Bergeron in the playoffs and his four deflection goals lead all players. That’s a surprising development after he deflected nine shots (0 goals) in the regular season.
Brad Marchand may be a controversial player, but there’s no denying his on-ice talent. He leads all players with 21 playoff points and is one of the catalysts of the Bruins’ scorching powerplay. He’s got 11 points on the man advantage, tied with Torey Krug for the playoff lead. He also has a pair of game-winners to his credit, with only Nathan MacKinnon’s three winning scores ahead of him. His passing and puck-moving abilities are invaluable to his team, making him arguably the most important offensive player on the Bruins.
Jordan Binnington’s stats don’t jump off the page (.909 sv%, 2.52 GAA) but he’s kept the Blues in games time and time again, as evidenced by his nine wins in one-goal games. Ryan O’Reilly has completed more passes in the offensive zone than any other player and is always a force defensively. If he has a few more performances like Game 4, he could quickly rise to favorite status for the Blues. Charlie Coyle has had plenty of clutch performances in the playoffs, but he’s more of a support player than a bona fide Conn Smythe contender. Alex Pietrangelo leads all players in total ice time in the playoffs and is fourth among defensemen with 15 points. The Blues captain is an anchor defensively for the Blues, ranking second in blocked shots and blocked passes.