The Stanley Cup will be handed out Wednesday night following the final game of the 2018-19 NHL season. The night will end with the Boston Bruins celebrating their seventh title in franchise history or it will be the St. Louis Blues finally ending their championship drought of 52 years.
Whoever wins Game 7, the captains, Zdeno Chara and Alex Pietrangelo, will have a decision to make after their photo op with Commissioner Gary Bettman and Cup following the game. Once they hoist the trophy, who will they pass it off to first?
Here are three candidates for each team:
Tuukka Rask: The goaltender has been the best player of the playoffs and with the way he’s played it would not be surprising to see him win the Conn Smythe Trophy, win or lose. This is his third trip to the Cup Final. In 2011, he backed up Tim Thomas as the Bruins won the last Game 7 in Cup Final history. In 2013, he was in goal as the Chicago Blackhawks scored twice in 17 seconds to clinch Game 6 and the series. If Wednesday ends like 2011, he deserves top consideration to get the handoff from Chara as he has played a key role in their success.
David Backes: This one falls under the sentimental Old Guy Without a Cup category as those players always are favorites to get the first pass. Add in that he’s playing against his old team and you could have one of those memorable moments should the Bruins win. But Backes has played only four games in the Cup Final, and is likely to miss Game 7 as a healthy scratch yet again.
Patrice Bergeron: One of the main pieces of “The Perfection Line,” Bergeron’s speech during Game 6 had an impact on his teammates and helped the Bruins go out and force a Game 7. He’s been a force on the power play with seven goals and pretty much a co-captain with Chara with the way the Bruins respect him so much.
[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]
Jay Bouwmeester: Game 7 will be the 1,259th game of the 35-year-old blue liners career, regular season and playoffs. After taking 10 years just to play postseason hockey, Bouwmeester’s fallen short in his pursuit to add to Olympic, World Championship, and World Cup gold medals. Like Backes, he’s an Old Guy Without a Cup, and judging by captain Alex Pietrangelo’s comments last week, he’s the odds-on favorite for the Blues. “It’s probably not a difficult thing to figure out,” he said. “Just go down the roster.”
Ryan O’Reilly: If the Blues end up winning and Rask doesn’t join the list of losing players to win the Conn Smythe, it’s likely O’Reilly’s trophy. The forward is second in scoring this postseason with seven goals and 21 points and has been an engine on the both ends of the ice for the Blues. A year after losing his love for the game while toiling in Buffalo, he’s been re-energized during this season and the results on the ice speak for themself.
Patrick Maroon: It would have been a memorable moment had the Blues sealed the deal at home in Game 6 and hometown boy Maroon got to lift the Cup for the team he grew up rooting for, but it wasn’t meant to be. Last summer Maroon took less money to sign in St. Louis and come home. The decision has paid off so far.
Blues-Bruins Game 7 from TD Garden in Boston will be Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.
• Blues hoping road success continues in Game 7
• Win or lose the Conn Smythe should belong to Rask
• St. Louis newspaper gets roasted for ‘jinxing’ Blues before Game 6
• Bounce back Blues need one more rally
Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.