The Stanley Cup Final is set, with the Chicago Blackhawks and Tampa Bay Lightning ready to battle for a championship starting June 3. It will be a matchup between one of the NHL‘s powerhouses since 2010 in search of a third title in six years and a young team at the start of something that could be equally as special.
There appears to be an obvious Conn Smythe favorite on each squad; Duncan Keith of the Blackhawks and Tyler Johnson of the Lightning have the inside track on playoff MVP honors should their respective teams win four more games.
Chicago’s Patrick Kane and Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos are probably the players on each side with the potential to overtake their teammates with a strong final. With the way Jonathan Toews played in the conference final, he can’t be ruled out either.
There have been other players who have made their marks through three rounds, and not all of them are still around in the postseason. Here are the second- and first-team All-Playoff Team members as we enter the season’s final two weeks, with players chosen based on overall numbers, underlying numbers and how well they’ve performed as the playoffs have progressed.
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Left wing: Rick Nash, New York Rangers
Stats: 19 games, 5 goals, 14 points
That’s right; stinky, bad, invisible Rick Nash was the second-leading scorer among left wings in the postseason. That may sound strange to you, since you couldn’t get through an NBC intermission without hearing how bad Nash is, but of all the reasons the Rangers fell a game short of reaching the Cup Final, he wasn’t among the top 10.
Center: Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks
Stats: 17 games, 9 goals, 18 points
Toews went five games without a goal between the second and third rounds but has otherwise been a dominant figure. He got the best of the Ducks’ Ryan Kesler during the Western Conference Final, posting five goals over the final four games of the series, including two in Game 7. As the pressure increased, Toews got better against the Ducks.
Right wing: Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks
Stats: 17 games, 10 goals, 20 points
Coming off a broken clavicle that cost him the final 21 games of the regular season, Kane resumed what could have been a Hart Trophy season by dominating in the playoffs.
Kane has also done a nice job of remaining consistent throughout each round, registering seven points in six games in the first round against Nashville, six points (five goals) in the second round vs. Minnesota and seven points (three goals) in seven games against Anaheim.
Defenseman: Ryan McDonagh, New York Rangers
Stats: 19 games, 3 goals, 9 points
The Rangers’ captain played on a broken foot during the Eastern Conference Final, which may have hindered his team’s chances in Game 7 and partly why he had zero points over the final four games. McDonagh was still a force for most of the postseason, averaging 23:30 per game while facing the likes of Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin and Tyler Johnson on a regular basis.
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Defenseman: Anton Stralman, Tampa Bay Lightning
Stats: 20 games, 1 goal, 7 points
The offensive numbers aren’t eye-popping, but Stralman’s value has always been in his underlying numbers. According to war-on-ice.com, Stralman has a 53.6 percent Corsi in the postseason, which is no small feat considering he faces elite competition nearly every shift.
Goaltender: Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals
Stats: 6 wins, 1.71 GAA, .944 save percentage
Holtby is the only player listed who didn’t make it through the second round. Despite this strike against him, his numbers are just too good to ignore or put behind a goaltender who won a few more games. Of the four goaltenders to reach the conference finals, only the Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist (.928) has a save percentage north of .921. This is not the postseason of the goaltender.
Left wing, Center, Right wing: Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning
Stats: 20 games, 28 goals, 48 points
There’s no separating or stopping this trio, so why do it here? Palat (seven goals, 15 points), Johnson (12 goals, 21 points) and Kucherov (nine goals, 19 points) comprise one of the deadliest lines in recent postseason memory, and those numbers alone are impressive.
It’s even more impressive when you realize the Lightning didn’t get much out of Steven Stamkos until the end of the second round and haven’t received an even-strength goal from a third- or fourth-line forward since Game 2 of the second round. The Johnson line has done almost all of the heavy lifting for the Lightning.
Defenseman: Duncan Keith, Chicago Blackhawks
Stats: 17 games, 2 goals, 18 points
Keith is the blue-line version of the triplets line in Tampa, practically carrying the Blackhawks with very little support. He’s logging massive minutes, especially since the start of the conference finals, thanks to injuries that have left the Blackhawks with four regularly used defensemen. He leads all blueliners in scoring and is tied for eighth overall. He’s played a league-high 537 minutes this postseason.
New York Rangers
New York Rangers
Tampa Bay Lightning
Defenseman: Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning
Stats: 20 games, 1 goals, 10 points
The 6’6″, 230-pound 24-year-old appears to be growing before our eyes in the playoffs. Hedman’s size benefits him in his own zone, while his speed allows to him join rushes on the offensive attack. Just like his regular defense partner Stralman, Hedman brings so much more to the table than goals and points.
Goaltender: Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers
Stats: 11 wins, 2.11 GAA, .928 save percentage
Lundqvist had two hiccups in the conference final, when he allowed six goals in Game 2 (not a bad one among them) and six goals in Game 3 (a few bad ones among them). He was otherwise brilliant in besting Holtby in the second round and given zero support as the Rangers were shut out in Games 5 and 7 by the Lightning. Only Holtby has a better save percentage among goaltenders to play at least two rounds.
Dave Lozo covers the NHL for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @DaveLozo.