Seeing goalies take center stage in the Stanley Cup finals isn’t really a new development. Last year we saw Jonathan Quick stymie everyone on his way to winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP. Three of the last seven Conn Smythe winners have been goalies, including the past two years in a row.
This year figures to be no different with both Boston’s Tuukka Rask and Chicago’s Corey Crawford roaring into the finals on a tear.
Rask’s Herculean effort in stopping the Penguins holding the league’s top offense to just two goals in four games is the kind of thing legends are made of. His .986 save percentage over the four-game sweep has made people in Boston completely forget about what Tim Thomas did back in 2011.
Crawford, on the other hand, was outstanding in his own right in stopping the defending champion Los Angeles Kings in five games. Chicago captain Jonathan Toews said Crawford is “doing it all” for the team and he’s not one known to joke around.
So who stays hot in the finals? It’s tough to ignore what Rask has done and while we might normally wonder if he can stop Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, and Marian Hossa… He just got done shutting down Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, and Kris Letang. So much for the easy question. If he continues at the same level he was in the Eastern Conference finals, it’s tough to see how Chicago breaks through.
Crawford did well to survive Jeff Carter, Anze Kopitar, and Dustin Brown in the last round and already survived Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. Will he be able to handle Brad Marchand’s nose for the net or Milan Lucic threatening to blow through the crease while David Krejci tries to find holes? That could be all up to how guys like Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook handle business in front of him.
As for what Vegas thinks, they’re leaning on Crawford and the Hawks to stay on course for the Conn Smythe and Stanley Cup. Would you want to call Rask and the Bruins an underdog at this point?