What a shame for Miro Heiskanen that the Calder Trophy race ends after Game 82. If post-season performances had any bearing on voting, the Dallas Stars defenseman might have narrowed the gap between himself and projected winner Elias Pettersson with a first-star performance on the opening night of the post-season.
In Game 1 of the Stars’ first-round series against the Predators, a series some expected to come down to a tete-a-tete between Dallas keeper Ben Bishop and Nashville netminder Pekka Rinne, it was Heiskanen who took centerstage with a two-goal performance. Both tallies, one in the second and one in the third, came on pinpoint accurate wrist shots that beat Rinne high, and by finding twine twice on the night, Heiskanen entered some exclusive company.
With two goals, Heiskanen became the 14th rookie defenseman and 11th in post-expansion NHL history to have a multi-goal post-season game. Not only that, but by scoring his pair a few months before his 20th birthday, Heiskanen became the third-youngest blueliner to achieve the feat. Only then-Buffalo Sabres defenseman Phil Housley (19 years, 44 days) and former Boston Bruins defenseman Glen Wesley (19 years, 235 days) were younger than Heiskanen, whose two-goal debut came at 19 years and 266 days. (Editor’s Note: Heiskanen’s second goal was later credited to Alexander Radulov.)
Who else belongs to the two-goal freshman defenseman club? Here’s a look at those who’ve lit the lamp twice as rookie rearguards in the post-season:
Phil Housley, Buffalo Sabres – April 22, 1983 vs. BOS
A 66-point rookie campaign was a sign of things to come for Housley, and he sparked the Sabres’ to a series-tying Game 6 victory in the 1983 Adams Division final against the Bruins. Down 2-0 early, Housley’s power play goal in the first brought Buffalo within one and spurred on a comeback that was capped when he scored an insurance marker with seven minutes remaining that sealed the Sabres’ 5-3 victory.
Glen Wesley, Boston Bruins – May 24, 1988 vs. EDM
Wesley’s two-goal game came in one of the most bizarre games in Stanley Cup final history. Midway through the contest, with fog hanging low over the ice and a power outage resulting in a lengthy stoppage in play, the decision was made to suspend play. Though it was technically the fourth game of the series, the contest was never finished and Wesley’s pair didn’t officially reach the record books. The Oilers won the official Game 4 two nights later in Edmonton.
Brian Leetch, New York Rangers – April 9, 1989 vs. PIT
The Rangers were swept by the Penguins in the first round of the 1989 post-season, but Leetch did everything he could to ensure that didn’t happen. His pair came as New York attempted to claw out of a 4-1 hole in the third period, though his second tally was too little and far too late, coming with 11 seconds remaining in Game 4. Pittsburgh skated to a 4-3 win to send New York packing.
Sergei Gonchar, Washington Capitals – May 6, 1995 vs. PIT
Gonchar is one of two rookie defensemen on this list whose two-goal game included a game winner. His first of the game pulled the Capitals within one of the Penguins in the second frame, while his second, scored roughly two minutes into the third, propelled Washington to victory in Game 1. (As is tradition, the series against Pittsburgh went to seven. The Penguins won the series-deciding game.)
Jon Klemm, Colorado Avalanche – June 6, 1996 vs. FLA
Klemm’s pair came in the most lopsided game of one of the most lopsided Stanley Cup final sweeps in NHL history. In an 8-1 thrashing of the Panthers in Game 2 of the final, Klemm scored twice. His pair of goals were two of the seven he scored in 105 career post-season games.
Andy Delmore, Philadelphia Flyers – May 2, 2000 vs. PIT
Bookend goals put Delmore on this list. He opened the scoring in the first with his first career playoff goal, and after the Flyers and Penguins battled to a 3-3 tie through regulation of Game 3, Delmore blasted home the overtime winner midway through the first extra frame. He’s arguably the most obscure player on this list, which is hilarious because…
Andy Delmore, Philadelphia Flyers – May 7, 2000 vs. PIT
He did it again five days later in Game 5 of the same series! This time, Delmore became the first and only rookie rearguard in NHL history to net a hat trick in the post-season. He scored once in each frame as Philadelphia skated to a 6-3 win. The Flyers went on to win the series in six. As for Delmore, he played 254 games beyond the 1999-00 campaign, scoring 41 goals and 93 points. His only other playoff goal came in one of his two games during the 2000-01 playoffs with the Flyers. (Also, how is it that four of the 11 two-goal games by rookie defensemen came against the Penguins? Bizarre.)
Francois Beauchemin, Anaheim Ducks – April 25, 2006 vs. CGY
Offensively, Beauchemin was the only one going for the Ducks during Game 3 of the first-round meeting between Anaheim and Calgary. Both power play goals, his first was a game-tying tally in the first, his second another tying tally in the second frame. The Flames went on to win the game, but the Ducks took the series in seven before eventually being ousted by the Oilers in the conference final.
Paul Ranger, Tampa Bay Lightning – April 25, 2006 vs. OTT
Ranger will fondly remember Game 3 of the first-round series against the Senators for his two goals. He won’t for the end result. Scoring twice in the third period, Ranger’s goals only ensured the Lightning were slightly less embarrassed in a contest they dropped 8-4. It was a sign of things to come, as Ottawa ousted Tampa Bay in five games.
Shea Theodore, Anaheim Ducks – April 17, 2017 vs. CGY
The Flames looked to have their first win of the post-season in the bag when they went ahead 4-1 midway through the second, but that was before Theodore donned his conductor’s hat and got the comeback train rolling. A late second period goal followed by a game-tying tally in the waning minutes of the third sent the game to overtime, where Corey Perry won Game 3 for the Ducks in what would eventually be a series sweep for Anaheim.
Brady Skjei, New York Rangers – April 29, 2017 vs. OTT
The game is remembered best for Jean-Gabriel Pageau’s fantastic four-goal night, which spoiled Skjei’s two-goal output that nearly included the game winner. His first of the night put the Rangers ahead 4-2 minutes after the Senators had pulled within one and Skjei again stretched New York’s lead to two when Ottawa trimmed the lead early in the third. The Rangers lost the game and eventually the series to a Senators club that fell one goal short of the Stanley Cup final.