CHICAGO -- Suddenly, the four-round marathon that is the Stanley Cup Playoffs has morphed into a best-of-3 sprint to the finish line.
After four games of the 2013 Stanley Cup Final, the favored Chicago Blackhawks and the Boston Bruins are tied at two games apiece with Game 5 in the best-of-7 series Saturday at United Center (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS).
So many players on each side have been responsible for delivering his team to within two wins of the championship. So NHL.com thought it would be interesting to revisit the race for the Conn Smythe Trophy as the Most Valuable Player of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Four members of the NHL.com staff -- NHL.com senior managing editor Shawn Roarke, LNH.com managing editor Arpon Basu, senior writer Dan Rosen and staff writer Corey Masisak -- voted for their top three candidates prior to Game 5.
Here is how the voting went, awarding three points for a first-place vote, two for a second-place vote and one for a third-place vote:
Bergeron was the most popular choice among the panel, garnering 11 points, including three first-place votes.
He has been deployed as a checking center throughout the postseason but it has not hurt his offensive production. He has nine goals and 15 points in 20 games. Four of his goals have come on the power play, and two have been game-winners
Among Boston forwards, only leading scorer David Krejci has played more minutes than Bergeron. Also, Bergeron has won 62.2 percent of the League-high 474 faceoffs he has taken, allowing the Bruins to establish the puck-possession game that is at the core of their philosophy.
Chara has been a tower of power for the Bruins, so it is no surprise he earned a first-place vote and a second-place vote from the panel, finishing with five points.
No player who advanced past the first round has played as much hockey per game as Chara, who is averaging 29:59 throughout Boston's 20-game run. He constantly is deployed against the best line from the other team yet is a plus-10.
Chara is not a one-dimensional player -- he has two goals and 14 points, the second-highest total among defensemen in the playoffs.
Rask has been the best goalie in the playoffs, playing to a League-low 1.83 goals-against average and a League-best .941 save percentage. His 658 saves are 77 more than the second-place goalie, Corey Crawford of the Chicago Blackhawks, has faced.
Rask has three shutouts, tied for the League lead with Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings. One of Rask's shutouts came in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final, with the others in the Eastern Conference Final against the Pittsburgh Penguins, who were the highest-scoring team in the regular season and the playoffs. He held the Penguins to two goals in a four-game sweep.
Rask received a second-place vote and a third-place vote from the NHL.com panel to finish with three points.