Predicting the Conn Smythe Trophy winner

Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask is congratulated by teammate Patrice Bergeron after defeating the...

Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask is congratulated by teammate Patrice Bergeron after defeating the Blackhawks in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final at TD Garden in Boston, June 17, 2013. (WINSLOW TOWNSON/Reuters)

ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:32 AM ET

BOSTON - Now that the Stanley Cup final is down to a best-of-three, there is plenty left to be settled for the big trophy.

But how about the smaller one, the Conn Smythe awarded to the MVP of the playoffs?

You can argue that as the Hawks and Bruins get set for Game 5 Saturday night at the United Center there is no clear candidate on either team, let alone overall.

For a while, goaltenders Tuukka Rask and Corey Crawford were looking like potential frontrunners and the Bruins' Rask is still in that race.

More than likely, though, someone will step up over the remaining games to make the picture clearer. With that in mind, here's our top three from each team.

BRUINS

1. David Krecji

The centre of the Bruins top line has been relatively quiet in the final, recording just three points (and no goals). But the line of Krejci, Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic continues to be Boston's top unit.

Remember as well that the Smythe is awarded for the best overall performance throughout the playoffs and without Krejci, it is unlikely that the Bruins would have got past the Toronto Maple Leafs in the opening round.

Krejci had 13 points in that Eastern Conference quarterfinal and added four goals against the Penguins. And if he contributes some big points that lead to a Bruins Cup win over the next handful of days, he should be the man.

2. Tuukka Rask

It would be a rush to overreact and dismiss Rask based on one questionable effort, Game 4 back in Boston in which he allowed six goals in the 6-5 overtime defeat.

Prior to that, however, Rask was putting up -- and still is -- insane numbers in both save percentage and goals-against average.

He has three shutouts already this post-season, including one in Game 3, and is as strong a candidate as any.

3. Patrice Bergeron

Because of the game favoured by the Bruins, Bergeron's two-way play cannot be underestimated. A superb faceoff man, some of his best work is also done in his own end and in the neutral zone making Bergeron one of coach Claude Julien's most reliable bodies.

But as a number of Bruins pointed out this week, Bergeron's offensive side cannot be underestimated as well, as his two goals in Game 4 would attest.

Honourable mention: Nathan Horton (the playoffs leading plus-minus man has 19 points, second only to Krejci.) Zdeno Chara (the towering defenceman was average in Game 4, but the fact that teams have to scheme around him speaks volumes), Milan Lucic (his physical presence sets a tone.)

BLACKHAWKS

1. Patrick Sharp

The Hawks leading goal scorer with 10 has had a strong post-season, picking up the slack from the lack of production provided by Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.

Sharp has a tendency to come up big when needed most, which is a factor and his goal total is impressive. He's definitely in the mix should the Hawks claim the Cup and he plays a big role in the next two wins.

2. Duncan Keith

Every playoff team, it seems, needs a workhorse defenceman capable of logging huge minutes and playing against the other team's top offensive threats.

Keith is the man in this regard for Hawks coach Joel Quenneville with the added bonus that his quickness at moving the puck is key to the Chicago transition game.

3. Jonathan Toews

Would consider him a darkhorse candidate to win based on the theory that if the Hawks are to claim the Cup, it is likely that their captain will have played a serious role in making it happen.

The problem heading into Game 5 is that he has just two goals in the entire playoffs. While scoring is only part of his game, compared to Sharp's totals it will be a stretch. Right now, he's tied for 26th in playoff scoring.

Honourable mention: Patrick Kane (it would be a reach for the flashy forward given his lack of consistency throughout the playoffs.) Corey Crawford (a couple of shutouts down the stretch would be about the only thing that could get the Hawks goalie the award.)

rob.longley@sunmedia.ca

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