With only the Stanley Cup Final remaining, the race for the Conn Smythe Trophy is wide open.
At least that is what a poll of nine NHL.com writers taken after the end of the conference finals shows. Brian Compton, John Kreiser, Mike G. Morreale, Arpon Basu, Dan Rosen, Corey Masisak, Adam Kimelman, Tal Pinchevsky and Shawn P. Roarke all selected their three favorites to win the award. First-place votes were worth three points each, second place two points and third place one.
Amazingly, not a single player was named on all nine ballots.
Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask came closest -- named on seven ballots -- to lead the voting with 14 points. Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford also was named on seven ballots, but garnered 10 points to finish in a third-place tie.
Rask, who allowed two goals while stopping 134 of 136 shots in a four-game sweep of the top-seeded Pittsburgh Penguins in the previous round, edged his teammate, center David Krejci, for first place. Krejci, who leads the playoffs with 21 points, finished with 13 voting points, but his four first-place votes were the most received by any of the eight players receiving votes.
The Bruins had four players on ballots.
Defenseman Zdeno Chara tied Crawford for third place with 10 points, but Chara earned two first-place votes to none for Crawford. Chara is playing more than 29 minutes a game, has 11 points and is a plus-12. He completely blanketed Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin in the previous round, holding the high-scoring Russian without a point.
Boston center Patrice Bergeron has 11 points, but two of his five goals have come in overtime, winning Game 7 of the first-round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs and scoring in double-overtime to win Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Penguins.
Crawford is the odds-on favorite among NHL.com voters to win the Conn Smythe if it goes to a Blackhawks player. Two other Chicago players were named on ballots. Forward Bryan Bickell received a second-place vote and forward Marian Hossa claimed a third-place vote. Bickell, who had nine goals in the regular season, has eight this postseason. Hossa is tied for the team lead with 14 points in 17 games.
Crawford certainly earned his votes, quietly backstopping the Blackhawks to their second Cup final in four years. He leads the postseason with a 1.74 goals-against average and is second in save percentage (.935) to Rask, who has a .934 save percentage, but has faced 53 more shots than Crawford.
Things have changed in the voting at the end of every series for the NHL.com panelists and likely will change again; seven of the eight players named this time around have anywhere from four to seven games to further build his candidacy.
When the Cup Final series is finished, the Professional Hockey Writers' Association will do the voting and have the final say on which player will be named the 2013 Conn Smythe winner.