Looking back at the first three rounds this spring, we’ve seen a number of goaltenders shine in these unpredictable Stanley Cup Playoffs. Robin Lehner stole the show against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Sergei Bobrovsky rewrote his playoff script, the Hurricanes’ duo set the stage for an impressive run in Carolina, and Ben Bishop played like the Vezina nominee he is.
In a post-season as unpredictable as this one, there’s one key to playoff success that proves true year after year: If you want to go far in this game, you have to be able to rely on the steady hand of the man in the blue paint.
It’s no surprise, then, that we’ve got a pair of netminders atop this week’s Conn Smythe Power Rankings two games into the Stanley Cup Final.
19 GP | .939 SV% | 1.91 GAA | 2 SO
When you look back at the Bruins’ journey to the Cup Final — their third this decade and the second with Rask as the No. 1 netminder — it’s Rask who has been the biggest difference-maker in all three rounds. The 32-year-old let just one puck past him in Game 7 against the Maple Leafs, halted the momentum of two of the hottest teams this spring when he posted back-to-back elimination game shutouts in Rounds 2 (vs. Columbus) and 3 (vs. Carolina), and went on an eight-game win streak that was finally snapped in Game 2 of the Cup Final against the Blues.
The higher the stakes, the hotter his play, and the cooler he gets. One of the most notable aspects of Rask’s performance this spring has been his calm, steady demeanour — something that has been put to the test already through two games against the heavy-hitting Blues.
“I just think he’s been real calm for a while now, on and off the ice, really even-keeled,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy told reporters earlier this week. “He’s gotten upset … but he always gets it right back. That’s typically Tuukka.”
21 GP | .915 SV% | 2.37 GAA | 1 SO
You want to talk about calm, cool, and collected in the crease? Binnington basically wrote the book on that.
The 25-year-old rookie set the league on fire with his incredible play to propel the Blues into the playoffs and while he hasn’t been quite as solid through three rounds as the guy across the rink from him, Binnington has been the biggest reason for the Blues’ first Cup Final run since 1970 — and their first ever win in a Cup Final game.
Wednesday’s Game 2 overtime victory to even the series at 1-1 was another impressive example of Binnington’s ability to leave a loss firmly in his past and come out on top a game later, improving his career record to 12-2-0 with a 1.82 GAA and .935 SV% following a loss (regular season and playoffs).
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) May 30, 2019
3. Jaden Schwartz, St. Louis Blues
21 GP | 12 G | 6 A | 18 Pts | 2 GWG
Vladimir Tarasenko finally found his scoring stride in the Western Conference Final and now has a point in eight straight games (including goals in four consecutive matchups), which earns him a mention in the Conn Smythe conversation if he’s able to keep that streak alive. But it’s his teammate, Jaden Schwartz, who remains on this list thanks to his steady scoring and elite offensive play this post-season.
The 26-year-old, who had just 11 goals in 69 regular season games this year, has a dozen markers through 21 playoff games this spring which is the most among players not named Logan Couture. He’s tallied 18 points to lead the Blues and ranks second in the category behind only Brad Marchand.
4. Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins
19 GP | 8 G | 11 A | 19 Pts | 2 GWG
Marchand was kept off the scoresheet in Game 2 against the Blues and admitted to reporters following the matchup that he hasn’t been at his best so far in this Cup Final.
“Yeah, we need to be better. Personally, I wasn’t good the last two games so we can’t be playing like that,” he said Wednesday.
When you look at the bigger playoff picture, however, it’s clear Marchand has had a pretty major hand in the Bruins’ third Cup Final appearance since his arrival in Boston — and should the Bruins claim the Cup, he’ll be a big reason why.
His 19 post-season points lead all active peers and he’s been a force on special teams with a league-leading 10 power-play points. Marchand has six multi-point games, including three games with three points this spring.