Early Stanley Cup playoff MVP candidates

Goalies Tuukka Rask and Corey Crawford have posted almost identical post-season statistics, while David Krejci leads all NHL players in scoring and Bryan Bickell has been a surprise standout performer. But only one player will win the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.

Goaltenders Crawford, Rask in the mix

Betting that a goaltender will skate off the ice at Boston’s TD Garden or Chicago’s United Center with the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP later this month isn’t much of a stretch.

Since Patrick Roy won it for the third and final time in 2001 as a Colorado Avalanche, a netminder has been a recipient four times, with Jean-Sebastien Giguere prevailing for the Anaheim Ducks, who lost the 2003 Stanley Cup final to New Jersey.

So, you have to like the chances of Boston’s Tuukka Rask or Chicago’s Corey Crawford, whom many would consider in a dead heat for the award as the teams prepare for the start of the Cup final on Wednesday (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 8 p.m. ET).

Rask is only competing in his second NHL playoffs but has performed like a post-season veteran. He has a 1.75 goals-against average and .943 save percentage in 16 games, thanks in large part to his stopping of 134 of 136 shots (.985) in a four-game sweep of Pittsburgh in the Eastern Conference finals.

Crawford is no slouch, either, with his NHL-leading 1.74 GAA and .935 save percentage in 17 starts.

But are Rask and Crawford more worthy at this point than playoff scoring leader David Krejci of the Bruins or hulking Boston defenceman Zdeno Chara, who has held offensive stars Sidney Crosby, Evgeni and Rick Nash in check the past month?

Then there’s the under-the-radar forwards like Nathan Horton (Boston) and Patrick Sharp (Chicago) who have been key performers this post-season.

Which player do you feel has carried his team on their back and led them to the Cup final?

Have your say by voting in our poll above and tell us in the comment section below.