The first round of the NHL playoffs is history – and the personal histories of a number of NHLers have been improved with stellar showings. Who stood out the most on an individual basis? That’s the focus of this week’s THN.com Top 10, which is based on the three stars THN staffers selected after every first round game (three points for first star, two points for second star, one point for third star):
10. Daniel Briere, Philadelphia (6 points)
The 13-year veteran, who hasn’t missed the playoffs since 2003-04, was a calming influence on his younger Flyers teammates in their first-round series against Pittsburgh and was second on the team in goals (five) and points (eight) in six games. In 103 career playoff games, the 34-year-old has 104 points.
9. Andy McDonald, St. Louis (6 points)
A concussion limited McDonald to just 25 regular-season games for the Blues, but he was a beast in the opening round against San Jose, recording one game-winning goal and leading his team in goals (four), assists (four) and points (eight) in just five games.
8. Martin Brodeur, New Jersey (7 points)
He isn’t in his prime anymore, but the future first ballot Hockey Hall of Famer – who turns 40 May 6 – still can be a playoff difference-maker. In the Devils’ seven-game series win over Florida, he posted a shutout, .922 save percentage and 2.06 goals-against average and led all playoff goalies in points with a pair of assists.
7. Craig Anderson, Ottawa (7 points)
One of seven goalies to make this list, Anderson may have been on the losing end of the Sens/Rangers series, but it wasn’t his fault. The 30-year-old recorded a shutout and his .933 save percentage (ninth-best among playoff goalies) was identical to the number he posted in his only other NHL post-season experience (which came in six games with Colorado in 2009-10).
6. Claude Giroux, Philadelphia (7 points)
With a playoff-best eight goals and 14 points – five more than the next most productive post-season performer – Giroux set a new Flyers record for points in a series and continued to build his reputation as one of the league’s brightest young superstars. He already has more points in six games than he did for Philly in 11 last post-season (when he had 12 points) and is just seven points behind the 21 he amassed for the Flyers in 23 games on their run to the Stanley Cup final in 2010.
5. Henrik Lundqvist, Rangers (8 points)
The Swedish netminding star – already nominated for this season’s Vezina Award and Hart Trophy – had the third-best goals-against average (1.70) and fourth-best save percentage (.945) of any goalie moving on to the second round. The 30-year-old added a shutout in the first round and will be aiming to move on to the Eastern Conference final for the first time in his career.
4. Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles (8 points)
Quick played six games in each of the Kings’ past two playoff campaigns, posting a 3.50 goals-against average and .884 save percentage in 2009-10 and a 3.16 GAA and .913 SP last spring. This year, his 1.59 GAA and .953 SP is best among any playoff goalie who’s played five games or more. He is clearly the Kings’ MVP – and at this stage, arguably the league’s.
3. Pekka Rinne, Nashville (9 points)
Some have argued Rinne’s outstanding play is based in part on the Preds’ ultra-stingy defense and commitment to blocking shots. But Nashville’s blocked-shot total in the first round against Detroit was only the 12th-best of any playoff team, making Rinne’s .944 save percentage and 1.81 GAA that much more impressive.
2. Braden Holtby, Washington (15 points)
At this time in last season’s playoffs, Holtby had played six American League post-season games and registered a bulky 3.01 GAA and .893 SP for Hershey. This year, the 22-year-old has been nothing short of a revelation, posting a .940 SP and 2.00 GAA and nearly winning Washington’s series against the defending-champion Bruins all by himself. That’s what you call a quantum leap in performance.
1. Mike Smith, Phoenix (15 points)
Speaking of goalies who turned their individual fortunes around in a major way, Smith was approaching journeyman status (if he wasn’t there already) when he signed a two-year contract with the Coyotes last July. Since then, he has been an irreplaceable component of Phoenix’s success – and in the team’s first-round series win over Chicago, the 30-year-old was often the only thing separating the Yotes from an early elimination, amassing a .950 save percentage, 1.81 GAA and one shutout.
The THN.com Top 10 appears Wednesdays only on TheHockeyNews.com.