Although one of those teams is still four wins from a championship, the first three rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs have provided us with more than enough to evaluate the field for the Conn Smythe Trophy, which is awarded to the most valuable player of the postseason.
We polled a dozen NHL.com writers for their Conn Smythe favorite heading into the Cup Final, which begins with Game 1 at Boston on Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS). Seven players received at least one vote, but Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask, who is 12-5 with a 1.84 goals-against average and .942 save percentage, was the leader with five.
Amalie Benjamin, staff writer
Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins: As if I could pick anyone else. The numbers are all there, all incredible, on the run that the Bruins have put together. But there's also something to be said for the ways in which Rask has shut out all the noise, all the doubters, all the questions, and put together a playoff performance that could quiet any remaining naysayers, especially if he claims the Conn Smythe and gives the Bruins their second Stanley Cup this decade (2011). As he said in the 2013 playoffs, as a goalie, "You're either a hero or an [expletive]." This time, he gets to be the hero.
Video: Rask amongst the greats for most playoff shutouts
Tim Campbell, staff writer
Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins: The Toronto Maple Leafs, Columbus Blue Jackets and Carolina Hurricanes each presented the Bruins with a strong challenge. I'd go so far as to say each embodied an underdog mentality with hopes of winning the Stanley Cup. And in each series, Rask was responsible for demoralizing the opposition before eliminating it. He is riding a seven-game winning streak heading into the Final, and in Boston's three series-clinching games, he is 3-0 with a .990 save percentage (95 saves on 96 shots) and two shutouts.
Brian Compton, deputy managing editor
Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins: Where would the Bruins be without the pesky Marchand, who has the ability to get under an opponent's skin like no other? But Marchand has contributed offensively, too. He is second in NHL postseason scoring with 18 points (seven goals, 11 assists) in 17 games and is also averaging 20:36 minutes of ice time per game, which shows the faith coach Bruce Cassidy has in playing Marchand in all situations.
Nicholas J. Cotsonika, columnist
Logan Couture, San Jose Sharks: Is Couture going to win it in the end? Of course not. But at this point he deserves recognition. The Sharks came within two wins of the Cup Final, and in my opinion, no one was more valuable to his team in the first three rounds. Couture leads the Stanley Cup Playoffs in goals (14) and points (20). Most years, 14 goals would be enough to lead the playoffs through four rounds, and some of his goals were huge.
Editor's note: No player has won the Conn Smythe from a team that failed to reach the Cup Final.
Video: Logan Couture ties Sharks playoff goal record
Tom Gulitti, staff writer
Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins: Rask appears to have finally won over Bruins fans with his impressive postseason run. His leads the NHL in GAA (1.84) and save percentage (.942) in the postseason, and during his seven-game winning streak, he has a 1.29 GAA, a .961 save percentage and two shutouts. Rask posted those shutouts to eliminate the Blue Jackets in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Second Round (39 saves) and to eliminate the Hurricanes in Game 4 of the conference final (24 saves).
Mike G. Morreale, staff writer
Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis Blues: The top-line right wing is heating up at the right time with eight points (three goals, five assists) in an six-game point streak. He has 13 points (eight goals, five assists) in 19 playoff games and is playing with renewed confidence of late. Tarasenko leads the Blues in power-play points (seven), goals (five) and shots (23). St. Louis generates 53.72 percent of all shots attempted at 5-on-5 with Tarasenko on the ice, and he's fourth on the team in points per 60 minutes (2.17) and second in goals per 60 (1.33), behind Jaden Schwartz (2.17).
Video: SJS@STL, Gm6: Tarasenko roofs PPG from the circle
Tracey Myers, staff writer
Jaden Schwartz, St. Louis Blues: There are a couple of deserving candidates for the Blues, but Schwartz has been a steady producer throughout the playoffs. He leads the Blues with 16 points, and his 12 goals are second in the NHL and four more than Tarasenko, who is second on St. Louis. Schwartz saved his most productive day for a critical road game, scoring a hat trick in a 5-0 win against the Sharks in Game 5 of the Western Conference Final.
Shawn P. Roarke, Senior Director of Editorial
Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins: The top-line center does everything for the Bruins. He sets up his teammates (five assists), scores goals (eight), including six on the power play, and is a stalwart on the penalty kill, which is 86.3 percent. He is not the flashiest player on the team, but he is the steadiest. Boston is at its best when Bergeron is on the ice. Among the Bruins regular players, Bergeron leads the team in SAT percentage (56.85) and shot attempts (plus-53) while 5-on-5.
Video: BOS@CAR, Gm4: Bergeron finishes give-and-go for PPG
Dan Rosen, senior writer
Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins: Rask is the biggest reason the Bruins are in the Cup Final. What he has done goes beyond the numbers. Look at his first period in Game 3 against the Hurricanes. The Bruins were getting outplayed, but Rask didn't let it show on the scoreboard by making 20 saves, including 12 on the penalty kill. His play gave the Bruins life, gave them a chance, as it has all postseason. Oh, and as was mentioned above, in Boston's three clinching games, Rask is 3-0 with one goal allowed on 96 shots. I find it amazing that he's not a unanimous choice.
David Satriano, staff writer
Jaden Schwartz, St. Louis Blues: I had Schwartz as the winner of this award after two rounds and he only helped his case against the Sharks in the conference final. Schwartz led the Blues with four goals, including a hat trick in Game 5 with the series tied 2-2. He has scored 12 goals in 19 playoff games after scoring 11 in 69 regular-season games, and he's been the best offensive player on the Blues not named Tarasenko.
Dave Stubbs, columnist
Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins: When the playoffs began, my pick for the Conn Smythe was Brayden Point of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Pretty slim odds, I'll be right with that, so I'm sticking with Rask, who was my choice halfway through the postseason. With a League-leading GAA (1.84) and save percentage (.942), Rask has been dialed in since the playoffs began. His statistics are wonderful, but there's one vital intangible that will carry the day now: the Bruins' swagger. Rask's brilliance has provided the Bruins with that commodity in bulk.
Mike Zeisberger, staff writer
Jordan Binnington, St. Louis Blues: Patrik Laine. Mark Scheifele. Blake Wheeler. Dustin Byfuglien. Tyler Seguin. Jamie Benn. Alexander Radulov. Mats Zuccarello. Logan Couture. Joe Pavelski. Brent Burns. Erik Karlsson. Evander Kane. Impressive names. They all faced Binnington (12-7, 2.36 GAA, .914 save percentage) this postseason. He is going to the Cup Final, they are not. And think about this, he had as many NHL regular-season wins (0) and playoff victories (0) as you or I did 12 months ago. I don't need any overload of stats to connect the dots here. This rookie's Cinderella story, based on consistently overcoming every challenge he's faced, parallels that of a Blues team that was last in the NHL standings on Jan. 3.
Video: Binnington joins an elite group of NHL goaltenders
Listen: Stanley Cup Final preview episode of NHL Fantasy on Ice podcast