Quick: go to NHL.com, click on the stats home page, and check the league leaders in all major NHL stats categories heading into Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final. There, you will find the 2 leading Conn Smythe candidates, as well as an impressively old school plus/minus plateau.
Here, let me save you the trouble and share this tweet from yesterday with the relevant image:
Leading the charge offensively is David Krejci, with league highs in goals (9), assists (14) and points (23). Krejci has been kept off the score sheet over the past 2 games after a 2 assist performance in a Game 1 loss, but his performance to date has been nothing short of exceptional.
With 2-4 games left in the series, he has already matched his league high total from 2011 and passed last year’s co-leaders (Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar – 20). If he can net another couple multi-point games to secure Boston’s second Cup in 3 years, Krejci may just do enough to also nail down the Conn Smythe … were it not for his goalie.
Tuukka Rask finds himself all over the other half of the leader board, leading the NHL in wins (14), shutouts (3), GAA (1.64) & Sv% (.946). In this writer’s opinion, Rask remains first in line for Conn, as he is well on his way to matching or eclipsing marks sets by the past 2 playoff MVP’s.
In 2011, Tom Thomas posted a line of 16W, 4 SO, 1.98 GAA & .940, and in 2012, Jonathan Quick brought it all home with a line of 16W, 3So, 1.41 GAA & .946 Sv%. Tuukka’s performance to date is right there with these two seemingly legendary stat lines, and 2 more strong games should be enough to wrap up his MVP case.
The third member of the Boston Bruins that finds himself on this list is Nathan Horton, thanks to his +22. Say what you want about the plus / minus stat, but even with the advent of more magnified ways of evaluating on ice contributions, that’s still pretty impressive. In fact, that +22 puts him a clear 7 ahead of 2nd place Krejci, and marks the first time in the post-’04 lockout era that anyone has gone above +2o.
The next closest was Daniel Cleary in 2009 (+17), and Horton’s mark can’t be matched even if you track the stat as far back as 1998. Horton has been playing with a lingering shoulder injury, but it hasn’t kept him from scoring 7 goals and being out on the ice for a bunch of other Bruins goals over the course of this run..
I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention another key stats leader for the Bruins that doesn’t show up on this list. Take a look at the face off leaders and you’ll see Patrice Bergeron dominating the circle with an impressive 62.% success rate, boosted by his 24/28 performance in Game 3. He has done yeoman’s work in that area throughout the playoffs (on top of scoring a few massive goals), and could be right there in terms of any Conn Smythe discussion.
Game 4 goes tonight in Boston, and, of course, it would be a massive understatement to say that the Bruins would be well-served by holding serve on home ice. If the Blackhawks can find a way to win tonight, well … it’ll be a whole new series. But a 3-1 series lead with the possibility of winning at home still on the table would put Boston in the best possible spot moving forward.
If the players mentioned above can keep doing what they do, then the Bruins and their fans have every reason to be “cautiously optimistic” about another Cup victory.
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