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Conn Smythe Trophy

Conn Smythe Trophy favorite debated by NHL.com

Bruins goalie Rask favored by panel for MVP at halfway point of Stanley Cup Playoffs

NHL.com @NHLdotcom

We're at the midpoint of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Though two more rounds remain before the Cup can be raised, it's the perfect time to take a closer look at the field for the Conn Smythe Trophy, awarded to the most valuable player in the postseason.

We polled each of the writers that have covered at least one game in the first two rounds to get their Conn Smythe favorite now that the competitors in the conference finals have been set.

 

[RELATED: NHL Conn Smythe Trophy Winners]

 

The Boston Bruins and Carolina Hurricanes meet in the best-of-7 Eastern Conference Final, with Game 1 at TD Garden on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS). In the best-of-7 Western Conference Final, it will be the San Jose Sharks against the St. Louis Blues, who each survived a seven-game struggle in the second round. Game 1 is at SAP Center on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS).

The early Conn Smythe field is a diverse one, featuring seven players, with each team and each position represented; goalies are the leaders at the clubhouse turn, receiving the vote from six of the 12 panelists.

 

Amalie Benjamin, staff writer

Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins: I was there in 2011, when goalie Tim Thomas cemented his place in Bruins lore by brilliantly leading Boston to the Stanley Cup Final. It's one of the reasons Rask has never gotten his full due in Boston; he's simply not Thomas, for many reasons. He never got enough credit in helping the Bruins to the Final in 2013, even with a 14-8 record, 1.88 goals-against average and .940 save percentage. His numbers in this postseason are comparable: He is 8-5 with a .938 save percentage (best among goalies with more than three appearances) and 2.02 GAA, best among the goalies remaining in the tournament. Now, perhaps he can get the accolades he has always warranted and the vindication he has always deserved. 

 

Tim Campbell, NHL.com Staff Writer

Tomas Hertl, San Jose Sharks: The center is part of a deep Sharks team that seems to be building some karma in this postseason and he has been Mr. Clutch for San Jose so far. He has 14 points (nine goals, five assists) in 14 playoff games and shares the NHL playoff scoring lead with two teammates -- defenseman Brent Burns and center Logan Couture -- and Colorado Avalanche forward Mikko Rantanen. Most importantly, the Sharks have won five straight games when Hertl has scored a goal. If that continues, there will be hardware ahead.

 

Nick Cotsonika, columnist

Logan Couture, San Jose Sharks: Couture, Hertl and Burns each has 14 points in the playoffs and a case can be made for each; Couture and Hertl are tied for the playoff lead in goals. Burns leads playoff skaters in average ice time (29:13). But Couture edges Hertl. When the Sharks scored four goals during a major penalty, coming back from being down 3-0 in the third period of Game 7 in the first round against the Vegas Golden Knights, Couture, a center, had two goals, including the first one that sparked the others. Hertl had one.

Video: SJS@COL, Gm3: Couture earns first playoff hat trick

 

Brian Compton, deputy managing editor

Jaccob Slavin, Carolina Hurricanes: The 2019 playoffs have been Slavin's coming-out party; his days of being considering underrated are no more. The defenseman hasn't scored a goal in the postseason but has 11 assists in 11 games and is turned to by Hurricanes coach Rod Brind'Amour in every key situation. He has been a workhorse on the back end and picked things up another notch in the Eastern Conference Second Round against the New York Islanders after Carolina defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk sustained a shoulder injury in Game 2 of that series, which Carolina swept in four. Slavin help shut down the Islanders forwards, including Jordan Eberle, who failed to score after having four goals in as many games in the first round against the Pittsburgh Penguins. 

 

William Douglas, staff writer

Jaccob Slavin, Carolina Hurricanes: For someone who has never experienced Stanley Cup Playoffs pressure before, the 25-year-old looks pretty composed offensively and defensively (plus-8), averaging 26:36 minutes and 32.2 shifts per game.

 

Tom Gulitti, staff writer

Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins: Rask might finally be winning over the Bruins' fanbase after his performance in the Eastern Conference Second Round against the Columbus Blue Jackets. In the six games, Rask went 4-2 with a 1.71 GAA and .948 save percentage to outplay two-time Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky (2-4, 2.66 GAA, .921 save percentage). Rask finished the series with a 39-save shutout in a 3-0 win in Game 6.

Video: CBJ@BOS, Gm5: Rask robs Atkinson in the final seconds

 

Mike G. Morreale, staff writer

Jordan Binnington, St. Louis Blues: Why not? Let's not forget, these playoffs have been anything but predictable, so the obvious pick might not be the best choice. Fact is, Binnington has been rock solid for the surging Blues. The goalie is a finalist for the Calder Trophy as NHL rookie of the year and has played a tremendous role in helping St. Louis survive a six-game series against the Winnipeg Jets in the Western Conference First Round and seven-game series against the Dallas Stars in the second round. He has allowed the third-fewest even-strength goals (23) in the playoffs among goalies having faced at least 325 even-strength shots and is the 24th different rookie goalie in NHL history to win a Game 7.

 

Tracey Myers, staff writer

Jordan Binnington, St. Louis Blues: My biggest question surrounding Binnington was how he would handle the pressure of the playoffs. So far, he's doing just fine; he's 8-5 with a 2.39 GAA and .915 save percentage through the first two rounds. He could have faltered in Game 7, when he faced four shots on goal from the Dallas Stars through the second and third periods, he remained sharp. And now he's headed to his first Western Conference Final.

Video: DAL@STL, Gm7: Binnington stops Benn's wraparound bid

 

Dan Rosen, Senior Writer 

Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins: Rask is the biggest reason why the Bruins are in the Eastern Conference Final and has been at his best when they needed him to be. He allowed three goals on 57 shots (.947 save percentage) to help the Bruins win Games 6 and 7 against Toronto after they fell behind 3-2 in the series. He was brilliant against Columbus in the second round, particularly in the series-clinching 3-0 win in Game 6, when he had a 39-save shutout. He also made 39 saves in a 4-1 win in Game 4 to help the Bruins tie the series 2-2.

 

David Satriano, NHL.com staff writer

Jaden Schwartz, St. Louis Blues: After having 11 goals in 69 regular-season games (one game-winner), Schwartz leads the Blues and is third in the NHL with eight goals (two game-winners) in 13 playoff games. He had four goals, including a hat trick in the Game 6 clincher against the Winnipeg Jets in the first round and four goals in seven games against the Dallas Stars in the second round. Schwartz has taken the pressure off several teammates, including forward Vladimir Tarasenko and centers Ryan O'Reilly and Brayden Schenn. He has been one of the biggest difference-makers for St. Louis during the postseason and would be a big factor if they win the Stanley Cup.

 

Dave Stubbs, columnist

Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins: The goalie was a Twitter hashtag for many Boston fans heading into this postseason, and not in a good way. But Rask outdueled Frederik Andersen of the Maple Leafs in the Eastern Conference First Round and Bobrovsky of the Blue Jackets in the second round, frustrating opponents and inspiring confidence among his teammates. He has been the Bruins' best player through 13 games, one of the best stories this spring and a sarcastic hashtag no longer.

 

Mike Zeisberger, staff writer

Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks: Burns (five goals, nine assists) is tied for the scoring lead in the 2019 playoffs with Couture, Hertl and Rantanen, but where he differs from the others is this: He's the only defenseman in the group and leads all players in playoff ice time with 29:13 per game. Burns seems to thrive on logging big minutes and is the Sharks catalyst in each end of the ice.

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