Stanley Cup Final: Bruins, Blues players who can win Conn Smythe as playoff MVP
Examining which players could win some extra hardware after Game 7
Regardless of what happens in Game 7 at TD Garden on Wednesday night, there will be hardware to hand out. Not only will the Stanley Cup be raised but the Conn Smythe will need to be awarded as well.
As is usually the case, there are several possible candidates that could take home the Conn Smythe as MVP of the playoffs, but there also seems to be a clear favorite as well. At this point it seems like it might be Tuukka Rask's award to lose, as the Bruins' goalie has been exceptional throughout Boston's playoff run.
Let's take a look at the case for Rask and some other names as well.
If the Bruins win on Wednesday, the Conn Smythe will almost certainly go to Rask. The 32-year-old goaltender has been Boston's MVP in net all postseason long and he heads into the final game with a .938 save percentage and a 1.93 goals against average in 23 playoff games.
Rask has been especially dominant in potential closeout games, going 5-0 with a .973 save percentage -- including 3-0, 1.33 GAA, .953 save percentage in games where the Bruins faced elimination. He's been a rock for the Bruins, staying solid and consistent as the last line of defense throughout their entire run. There's no other real contender for the Bruins.
In fact, there's already some chatter about Rask winning the Conn Smythe even if the Bruins lose in Game 7. The last time the MVP went to a player on the losing side was when Ducks goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere won it in 2003 (.945 save percentage, 1.62 GAA) so it's not totally out of the question and it's hard to argue against Rask deserving the honor.
However, there tends to be quite a bit of recency bias when it comes to Conn Smythe voting, and Rask hasn't really been the story during the Stanley Cup Final. He's been very good but not so overly dominant that he's a lock to win even if the Bruins lose.
The Blues center is one of the more respected two-way players in the game and is up for the Selke trophy this year as the league's best defensive forward. He didn't have a particularly great run through the Blues' first three rounds but he's caught fire at the right time for St. Louis.
In the Final, O'Reilly has scored four times (all coming in the last three games) and has seven points. He's averaging just over 20 minutes a night and has been the Blues' best forward in terms of possession, with the team owning nearly 61 percent of shot attempts at 5-on-5 when he's on the ice. He also has a 71 percent goals share (five goals for, two against) at 5-on-5.
He heads into the final game with 21 points (seven goals, 14 assists) in 25 games, tops among all Blues skaters. With his offensive production paired with the defensive work he's done in this series, recency bias could override a relatively pedestrian opening three rounds from O'Reilly and earn him the Conn Smythe if the Blues hoist the Cup.
Realistically, the Blues MVP could be Parayko. The 26-year-old defenseman has been a shutdown monster on the blue line but his stat line (two goals, 10 assists) probably isn't sexy enough to earn him the consideration he deserves.
Still, Parayko has averaged over 25 minutes of ice time throughout the team's run and has essentially served as an elite shutdown pillar for the Blues' second defensive pairing. He's gotten the toughest matchups and has done an excellent job at limiting the damage done by opponents' top talent, especially in the Stanley Cup Final going up against Boston's "Perfection Line" of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak. That top line had zero 5-on-5 points through the first five games of the series.
Again, he probably won't win because his numbers don't jump off the page. But anyone paying attention should recognize how valuable he's been for St. Louis.
Schwartz has been largely invisible during the Cup Final and hasn't produced much at all, picking up just two assists in the first six games. However, his first three rounds were outstanding and he still leads the Blues in postseason goals with 12, which exceeds his regular season total (11). A number of those goals came in huge spots as well.
Schwartz is tops among all Blues forwards with a plus-seven rating in the playoffs and he has a 67 percent goal share (22 for, 11 against) at 5-on-5, so he's got impressive numbers to back up his candidacy despite his recent quiet streak.
With that in mind, he's someone that could still earn consideration -- especially if he comes through in a big spot during Game 7.
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