Five for Fighting: Conn Smythe contenders going into Cup Final

Rask was close to perfect in the Eastern Conference finals. (USATSI)
Tuukka Rask was close to perfect in the Eastern Conference finals. (USATSI)

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Every day, we'll have a top-five list that is pretty self-explanatory, all in this man's opinion. Today: The update on the Conn Smythe Trophy race going into the Stanley Cup Final.

No. 5: Zdeno Chara. Being realistic, Chara likely won't get the Conn Smythe because his offensive numbers are good but not great and that certainly does matter; it's the most visible thing on a player's Conn Smythe resume. But I'll be damned if he hasn't been sensational in the playoffs, drawing the tough assignment every round defensively and doing an awesome job. One major reason why Sidney Crosby was quiet in the Eastern Conference finals was this big man. If he is able to replicate that against Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews -- or whomever the Bruins decide to put him against -- and the Bruins have success he should get more love but alas probably won't.

No. 4: Marian Hossa. There are probably four Blackhawks forwards that are in this conversation, but I'll give Hossa the slight nod going into the Final over Patrick Sharp, Patrick Kane and, yes, Bryan Bickell. Hossa is tied with Kane and Sharp with 14 points (seven goals, seven assists) and has the best plus/minus among Blackhawks forwards (I know, I know, but it is a still a stat). For my money, he has been the best forward this postseason for the Blackhawks, good at both ends of the ice and one of the few players to have some power-play success as well.

No. 3: David Krejci. The Bruins forward is the points leader in the postseason and rather comfortably to boot. Krejci has been a monster with nine goals and 12 assists in just 16 postseason games so far. In total the entire line of he, Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic has been simply sensation in the playoffs but Krejci has been the best of them all. Not to mention he has been playing 20:57 per game, most among Boston forwards in the playoffs. The stats are impressive but they aren't the only thing. Krejci has been at his very best in the playoffs and will give the top two a run with a good Final.

No. 2: Corey Crawford. We all know the Conn Smythe is an award biased toward goaltenders; more often than not the winner of the award will be the goalie from the winning team. But it's far from just a token recognition of Crawford, who has been labeled as a weak link for Chicago in seasons past. In the playoffs he has a 1.74 goals against average and a .935 save percentage, both spectacular numbers. He is blessed to play behind a very strong team but he has been every bit as strong as the guys in front of him.

No. 1: Tuukka Rask. There can't be much doubt about this one, can there? Rask was already performing well in the playoffs before hitting the Eastern Conference finals and then he took it up about 10 notches. He faced 136 Penguins shots in the four-game sweep and he stopped 134 of them. That's simply absurd. Overall, Rask has a .943 save percentage in the playoffs and has to be the clear front-runner at this point. He couldn't do much more when the biggest games have come so far; he just has to keep it up for another series.

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