NHL Power Rankings: Conn Smythe Watch entering Stanley Cup Final

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In this week’s NHL Power Rankings we take an updated look at the Conn Smythe Trophy race as the Stanley Cup Final gets under way.

With two teams remaining the list of potential candidates is entirely Lightning and Canadiens players, with each team’s starting goalie near the top of the list.

Carey Price would seem to be the front-runner at this point given how he has helped drive this stunning run for the Canadiens, but Tampa Bay’s Brayden Point and Andrei Vasilevskiy are also right there as favorites.

Who leads the Conn Smythe Trophy race in this week’s NHL Power Rankings?

To the NHL Power Rankings!

The Favorites

1. Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens. If Montreal actually makes this happen and wins the Stanley Cup it is hard to imagine anybody other than Price winning the Conn Smythe. Adding that and a Cup to his resume is going to make him a slam dunk Hall of Famer. He has been great this entire postseason, but the most incredible statistic might be the .952 save percentage he has in shorthanded situations. That is driving an historic penalty kill for the Canadiens in the playoffs and is a huge part of their success.

2. Brayden Point, Tampa Bay Lightning. He scored a goal in nine consecutive games and is leading the league in playoff goal scoring for the second year in a row. His playoff goal scoring for his career is among the all-time greats. A magnificent player and another star for the Lightning.

3. Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning. The best goalie in hockey, and he is playing like it. He also has an NHL record with shutouts in four consecutive series-clinching games, which is absurd. The Lightning have relied on him to win games a little more often than their run a year ago, and he has been up to the challenge. Great, durable, clutch. Everything you want in a goalie. The Conn Smythe would be another individual honor to add to his trophy collection.

[NHL ON NBC STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

4. Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning. He is leading the league in postseason scoring and again making a huge impact offensively. He is helping to drive a historic power play performance by the Lightning as they have converted on nearly 38% of their attempts.

In The Discussion

5. Tyler Toffoli, Montreal Canadiens. Montreal’s most consistent player all season offensively and its leading scorer in the playoffs. He has two game-winning goals, including a series-clincher, this postseason.

6. Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning. He is not having his best season, but he is still great and plays a crucial position on the roster. He is logging 25 minutes a night on defense in all situations and averaging nearly an assist per game. The reigning Conn Smythe winner, he would be the rare player to win it two years in a row. Bernie Parent, Mario Lemieux, and Sidney Crosby are the only players since 1965 to accomplish it.

[Lightning vs. Canadiens: 2021 Stanley Cup Final Preview]

7. Cole Caufield, Montreal Canadiens. He is quickly blossoming into a star and an impact player. He was a game-changer in the semifinals and a repeat performance in the Cup Final could rocket him up the rankings. Especially if Montreal keeps winning.

8. Nick Suzuki, Montreal Canadiens. Suzuki was Montreal’s most impressive forward in the bubble a year ago and he has followed it up with a great sophomore season and playoff. He is one of Montreal’s key building blocks for the future and one of their most important players right now.

The Wild Cards and Underdogs

9. Alex Killorn, Tampa Bay Lighting. He does not get a lot of headlines given all of the star power in Tampa Bay, but he is having a wonderful postseason. He enters the final with 17 points in 18 games and has been one of the top scorers in the league.

[Stanley Cup Final Roundtable: Series difference, why each team can win]

10. Phillip Danault, Montreal Canadiens. He has no goals and three assists, so seeing him anywhere near the discussion might be a shock. Maybe you think it is nuts. But Danault’s impact is so much more than his offensive contributions. He has played an absolutely massive role in helping the Canadiens stop Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, Kyle Connor, Nikolaj Ehlers, Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty. That group has four goals in 17 games against Montreal in the playoffs. That is worth a lot.

2021 NHL playoff schedule: Stanley Cup Final – series livestream link

Game 1: Mon. June 28: Canadiens at Lightning, 8 p.m. ET (NBCSN / Peacock)
Game 2: Wed. June 30: Canadiens at Lightning, 8 p.m. ET (NBCSN / Peacock)
Game 3: Fri. July 2: Lightning at Canadiens, 8 p.m. ET (NBC)
Game 4: Mon. July 5: Lightning at Canadiens, 8 p.m. ET (NBC)
*Game 5: Wed. July 7: Canadiens at Lightning, 8 p.m. ET (NBC)
*Game 6: Fri. July 9: Lightning at Canadiens, 8 p.m. ET (NBC)
*Game 7: Sun. July 11: Canadiens at Lightning, 7 p.m. ET (NBC)

*if necessary

Bruins set NHL record with 12 straight home wins to start season

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
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BOSTON — The Boston Bruins set the NHL record for most home victories to start a season with their 12th straight, topping the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 in overtime with a power-play goal from David Pastrnak.

The Bruins broke the mark of 11 that was set by the 1963-64 Chicago Blackhawks and equaled by the Florida Panthers last season.

“That felt awesome,” Bruins first-year coach Jim Montgomery said. “We talked about it after the second (period) going into the third. There’s been a lot of great teams in this league and you’re able to set a precedent, break a record. It’s pretty special and it doesn’t happen if those guys don’t believe in themselves like they do.”

Boston, which trailed 2-0 late in the second period, tied it with 9:33 left in regulation when David Krejci scored his second of the game on a shot from the right point.

“It’s never fun being down going into the third, you’re sitting in here (in the locker room) trying to figure it out,” Krejci said. “You want to come out and do the job, something special on the line. It’s hard to win in this league. To get 12 in a row at home is pretty special.”

In overtime, Carolina was playing shorthanded after being called for too many men on the ice when Pastrnak one-timed a pass from Brad Marchand inside the far post from above the left circle.

“It was a big win for us, obviously, coming from behind,” Pastrnak said.

Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Stefan Noesen each scored a power-play goal for Carolina, and Pyotr Kochetkov made 38 saves. The Hurricanes lost their fifth straight.

In a rematch of last spring’s opening-round playoff series that the Hurricanes won in seven games, Carolina shutout the NHL’s highest scoring team for nearly two periods and jumped ahead a pair of power-play goals in the opening period.

“We took too many penalties. That’s hurting us right now,” Kotaniemi said. “I think 5-on-5 we’re doing a really good job. We started good tonight and couldn’t keep that up.”

Boston’s tying goal was originally disallowed because of goaltender interference on Nick Foligno but overturned on a coach’s challenge after it was ruled that he was nudged into the crease by Carolina defenseman Brett Pesce.

Boston starting goaltender Linus Ullmark made 28 saves but had to leave with 13:03 left in the third period with an undisclosed upper-body injury. Teammate Connor Clifton had jumped on him to block a shot during a scramble. Jeremy Swayman made six stops in relief.

Carolina’s Noesen scored at 6:34 in to make it 1-0. And with five minutes left in the period, Kotkaniemi collected the puck near the side of the net after Seth Jarvis‘ shot bounced off the back glass and slipped it inside the post at 15:05.

Krejci scored for Boston with 31 seconds left in the second.

Boston came in with a league-high 82 goals in 20 games (4.10 per game), but it was held to relatively few chances despite getting a 5-on-3 power-play advantage early on.

TAKE NOTE

The Bruins honored captain Patrice Bergeron, who recorded his 1,000th career point when the team was on the road against Tampa Bay, with a message on the Jumbotron. The crowd gave him a standing ovation.

Bergeron became just the fourth Bruin to reach the mark, joining Hall of Famers Ray Bourque (1,506), Johnny Bucyk (1,339) and Phil Esposito (1,012).

UP NEXT

Hurricanes: Host the Calgary Flames.

Bruins: Host the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Predators postpone 2 games due to Nashville water main break

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. —  The Nashville Predators postponed two home games because of a water main break that soaked their downtown arena.

Hours after the Predators decided they couldn’t play against the Colorado Avalanche, the team announced it also postponed the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Makeup dates for the two games will be announced later.

The NHL said the water main break that occurred “significantly impacted the event level” of Bridgestone Arena. Team locker rooms and the ice surface are on the event level.

Predators President and CEO Sean Henry told reporters that the water in the event level ranged from 3 inches to 3 feet.

“We’re assessing it right now. We’re remediating it,” Henry said. “The good thing is, the water got shut off, the city responded in a pretty fast manner. I don’t think anyone is ready for things like this the Friday after Thanksgiving.”

Video posted by a WTVF-TV reporter shows the water puddled up on the main floor’s concourse area and the team store. The team was forced to close the store until further notice, pointing shoppers online for Black Friday specials.

The Predators’ next home game is now scheduled for Tuesday against the Anaheim Ducks.

The water issue also resulted in a switch to a different venue for a college hockey game between Northeastern and Western Michigan. They also had been scheduled to play at Bridgestone Arena, a game that was moved to Ford Ice Center Bellevue.

Rangers trade Ryan Reaves to Wild for 5th-round pick in 2025

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ST. PAUL, Minn. — The New York Rangers traded enforcer Ryan Reaves to the Minnesota Wild for a 2025 fifth-round pick.

Reaves had been a healthy scratch for eight of the past 12 games for the Rangers. He gives struggling Minnesota some extra muscle and a veteran presence.

The 35-year-old is signed through only the rest of this season at a $1.75 million salary cap hit. He has no points and 12 penalty minutes in 12 games of his second season with New York.

Reaves has played in 869 NHL regular-season and playoff games for the St. Louis Blues, Pittsburgh Penguins, Vegas Golden Knights and Rangers. He was with the Golden Knights during their inaugural season in 2017-18 when the reached the Stanley Cup Final.

Toronto’s Morgan Rielly placed on long-term injured reserve

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TORONTO — The Toronto Maple Leafs placed defenseman Morgan Rielly on long-term injured reserve with a knee injury.

Rielly was hurt in a collision with with New York forward Kyle Palmieri early in the third period of Toronto’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Islanders at home.

Rielly has no goals and 16 assists in 20 games this season and is averaging 23 minutes of ice time.

Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said following practice that the 28-year-old Rielly doesn’t need surgery, adding there’s no firm timeline for his return beyond the minimum 24 days and 10 games required for going on long-term injured reserve.

Toronto’s defense is also missing Jake Muzzin with a neck injury and T.J. Brodie with an injured oblique.