Murphy: Rask Deserves Conn Smythe Win Or Lose
Even if the Boston Bruins blow their 2-1 series lead and eventually lose the 2019 Stanley Cup Final to the St. Louis Blues, Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask deserves the Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP of the 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs. As long as Rask doesn’t get lit up like a Christmas tree – as Blues goalie Jordan Binnington did in Game 3 – and completely unravel, he has clearly been the most valuable player to his team since they embarked on this playoff run back on April 11. If the B’s lose the series, he still should become only the sixth player ever and first since Anaheim Mighty Ducks goalie Jean-Sébastien Giguère in 2003 to win the Conn Smythe Trophy, despite not winning the Stanley Cup.
In 2003, Giguère won the Conn Smythe despite his team losing the Stanley Cup Final to the New Jersey Devils in seven games. Giguere finished the playoffs 15-6 with a 1.62 GAA and a .945 save percentage and was clearly the main reason the seventh-seeded Mighty Ducks even sniffed the Final. The underdog Mighty Ducks wouldn’t have even made it past the first round that season if not for Giguere. Through 20 games this postseason, Rask is 14-6 with a 1.91 goals-against average and .939 save percentage. Since 1956 – with a minimum of 20 games played – only five goaltenders have finished a postseason with a higher save percentage (Rask was one of them with a .940 save percentage in 2013).
While the Bruins were considered a favorite to hoist Lord Stanley this spring, it could be argued that they wouldn’t have beaten the Maple Leafs in seven games and advanced to the second round of this playoff season. With his team facing elimination on the road in Game 6, Rask was sensational in a 22-save performance and 4-2 Bruins win. Then in Game 7, Rask made 32 saves in a 5-1 series-clinching win. Rask has also been huge on the road in the 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs going 7-2 and winning two series-clinchers at Columbus and at Carolina.
“This playoffs, he’s been phenomenal,” Bruins forward David Krejci said Saturday. “He’s kept us in the game so many times … he’s been at another level.”
Only three goalies have won the Conn Smythe Trophy since Giguere did in 2003: Cam Ward in 2006, Tim Thomas in 2011 and Jonathan Quick in 2012. Thomas (.940) and Quick (.946) had better save percentages and were both on teams that won the Cup. Rask broke Quick’s 2012 run for the most consecutive single-season playoff games with a .900+ save percentage in NHL history (18 games) in Game 2 of the Final. Even if the Blues win the Cup, Rask will likely have a better save percentage than Binnington, who enters Game 4 at .909. In comparison, in 2003, Martin Brodeur finished with a .934 save percentage for the Cup-winning Devils and still didn’t win the Conn Smythe so it’s very unlikely Binnington would win if the Blues come back to beat the Bruins in this series.
Right now, Blues forward Jaden Schwartz (12g, 6a) would be the likely winner for the Blues and even then, a strong argument can be made he was not as valuable as Rask unless Schwartz has a couple multi-point games or scores a game-winner in any of the remaining Final games. So, while the Bruins and their fans want to hoist the Stanley Cup soon, win or lose, Rask and the Bruins should bring home some hardware as Rask is the clear cut MVP of the 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs.