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Stanley Cup Final

Conn Smythe Trophy discussed by experts if Blues win Stanley Cup

Support for Binnington, O'Reilly, Pietrangelo heading into Game 6 of Final against Bruins

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

ST. LOUIS -- If you had a vote for the Conn Smythe Trophy, who would be your favorite right now from the St. Louis Blues and why?

"Now you've got me thinking," replied NHL Network and TSN analyst Mike Johnson, a former NHL forward.

The question was posed either in person or in a text message to a group of 21 coaches, executives and broadcasters from around the NHL, some who are here covering the Stanley Cup Final and others who are watching from home or a studio.

 

[RELATED: Binnington's place in history debatedComplete Stanley Cup Final coverage]

 

Blues goalie Jordan Binnington was the favorite with 12 votes, but center Ryan O'Reilly (five), defenseman Alex Pietrangelo (two), forward Vladimir Tarasenko (one), and defenseman Colton Parayko (one) also received support.

Forward Jaden Schwartz received what would be the equivalent of an honorable mention, meaning he was discussed but never given a top spot.

The various answers should indicate the challenge the 18 actual voters for the Conn Smythe Trophy, all members of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association, will have if the Blues win the Stanley Cup, which they can do in Game 6 against the Boston Bruins at Enterprise Center on Sunday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS).

"It's a testament to the type of team we've built here," Pietrangelo said.

Video: STL@BOS, Gm5: Binnington stones Coyle with pad save

The case for Binnington was based on his consistency and clutch play throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs, so much so that Hall of Fame forward Mike Modano called him a "layup" to win the trophy.

"For the duration of the playoffs it's Binnington," Modano said.

ESPN analyst Barry Melrose had the same thought.

"It's the overall trophy, four rounds," the former Los Angeles Kings coach said. "The one steady is Binnington, so that's why he'd be my pick."

The goalie is 15-9 with a 2.46 goals-against average and .913 save percentage. He has set the NHL record for most road wins by a rookie goalie in a single postseason (nine) and tied the record for most wins by a rookie goalie.

Video: Rosen shares picks for possible Conn Smythe winners

Binnington is 7-2 with a 1.86 goals-against average and .933 save percentage in the game following a loss, including 2-0 in the Cup Final.

"Unflappable," TSN analyst and former Calgary Flames general manager Craig Button said. "Responded to every challenge after a loss."

The Blues were tied with the Winnipeg Jets in the Western Conference First Round, but Binnington won Games 5 and 6. They were down after five games against the Dallas Stars in the second round and Binnington won Games 6 and 7. They trailed the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference Final and Binnington won the next three games. They also trailed Boston in the Cup Final before winning two in a row.

NBC Sports' Jeremy Roenick also supports Binnington and specifically mentioned his 38 saves in Game 5 against Boston, a 2-1 win.

"The biggest game of the year was his best game," Roenick said.

Toronto Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock is on the Binnington bandwagon too, putting him first ahead of Pietrangelo and Tarasenko.

"They'd be down in the Cup Final without the goalie," Babcock said.

Video: BOS@STL, Gm4: Tarasenko buries rebound from the slot

NHL Network analyst Kevin Weekes said his vote right now is for Tarasenko, who has 16 points (11 goals, five assists), including three goals in the Cup Final, but he left himself an out.

"Tarasenko by a whisker now," said Weekes, a former NHL goalie. "But if Binnington is all world again in Game 6, though …"

NBC analyst and former NHL goalie Brian Boucher said he doesn't think Binnington even belongs in the conversation.

"Great Game 5, but otherwise not a great Cup Final," said Boucher, who instead went with Pietrangelo.

Sportsnet analyst Kelly Hrudey, another former NHL goalie, also said Pietrangelo.

Pietrangelo leads St. Louis defensemen with 16 points (two goals, 14 assists) and plays a Blues-high 25:43 per game. He is second behind Tarasenko in shots on goal (85-71). In the Cup Final, Pietrangelo, the Blues captain, has three assists and is a plus-5, averaging 26:22.

"He plays huge minutes and he's reliable in every situation," Boucher said. "There's no real reason I shouldn't consider him. He's had a huge impact in the Cup Final. I know he's not the sexy pick, but he's just so solid and reliable."

The vote of Arizona Coyotes assistant John MacLean went to O'Reilly, whose stock has risen in the past two games.

O'Reilly had two goals, including the game-winner, in Game 4. He had a goal and an assist on David Perron's game-winning goal in Game 5, when he won 19 of 28 face-offs, had three blocks and three takeaways in 19:19 of ice time.

"Big-time two-way player stepping up at the right time," MacLean, a former NHL forward, said.

Video: STL@BOS, Gm5: O'Reilly scores off Sanford's nice feed

O'Reilly has a Blues-high six points (three goals, three assists) in the Cup Final and leads them with 20 points (six goals, 14 assists) in 24 playoff games.

"The man has been the picture of consistency," NBC Sports analyst Pierre McGuire said. "It's not always about points. His steady hand and constant ability to perform in pressure situations is off the charts. He's the Blues' version of (Bruins center) Patrice Bergeron."

Parayko would then be the Blues' version of a healthy Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara, which is why Stars coach Jim Montgomery gave Parayko his thumbs up for the Conn Smythe ahead of Schwartz and Binnington.

"Parayko has neutralized [Stars forward] Jamie Benn, [Sharks forward] Timo Meier and [Bruins forward] Brad Marchand," Montgomery said. "All while being a 200-foot force."

Opinions might change in Game 6. The topic of the Conn Smythe Trophy favorite would likely sway toward the Bruins if they win and force Game 7 at TD Garden on Wednesday. Boston goalie Tuukka Rask would likely become the favorite at that point.

However, on the eve of Game 6, when only the Blues can win the Cup, it appears Binnington is the favorite, but with a healthy amount of competition for the trophy.

"The fallback when you have questions is the goaltender who got you there," Sportsnet broadcaster Craig Simpson said. "Now, if Game 6 is 6-5 and the Blues win, the goalie isn't winning it. If it's a shutout or a 2-1 win, that tilts it for him."

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