Star players

Who has been the most pleasing in the NHL’s post-season? Good question.

During these playoffs, The Hockey News has endeavored to rate the best players by constructing a points system based on the three stars of each game (as judged by a THN staffer). The first star of the game is awarded three points, the second star gets two and the third star receives one point.

With that in mind, here are the statistical leaders for our Top 10 Star Players heading into the Cup final. (It should be noted that there were four players tied for ninth spot with 10 points, but we excluded Detroit’s Jimmy Howard and Montreal’s Carey Price because their teams did not make it as deep into the playoffs as the teams of the players who finished ninth and 10th on our list.)

10. Sean Bergenheim, Tampa Bay, 10 points

A virtual afterthought in the minds of hockey people, Bergenheim netted nine goals through three rounds. Only Bolts teammate Martin St-Louis and Boston’s David Krejci (both with 10) scored more.

9. Joe Thornton, San Jose, 10

The Sharks captain has been criticized in previous seasons for not elevating his game in the playoffs. Although San Jose was eliminated quickly by Vancouver in the Western Conference final, there will be no such criticisms of Thornton this year. He led the Sharks with 17 points and his 14 assists were behind only Henrik Sedin’s 19 helpers for the best total of the post-season.

8. Martin St-Louis, Tampa Bay, 11

Tampa Bay’s heart-and-soul, St-Louis was tied for most playoff goals and was 11th in assists, with 10. Vancouver’s Henrik Sedin had one more point than St-Louis’ 20, but no player had as much of an emotional connection to his team than the veteran right winger.

7. Antti Niemi, San Jose, 12

The Finnish goaltender was hot and cold in San Jose’s first and third series of the post-season, but he was instrumental in pushing the Sharks past Detroit in a very tough Western Conference semifinal, posting a .950 save percentage in San Jose’s four wins during that round.

6. Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit, 12

Datsyuk was a one-man wrecking crew for Detroit against the Phoenix Coyotes in the first round, posting two goals and four assists before adding nine points in the second round against the San Jose Sharks. He finished the post-season with seven more points than the Red Wings’ next best playoff producer. Even more impressive: despite playing only 11 games, the two-way wizard still has the second-best plus-minus rating (plus-10) of this post-season.

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5. Pekka Rinne, Nashville, 12

Rinne deserved his Vezina Trophy nomination as the NHL’s top regular-season goalie and his post-season was no letdown (although he did post a few sub-par save percentage statistics in the middle of the Predators first round series against Anaheim). In his first three games against Vancouver in the second round, Rinne had a save percentage that was at least .925 or higher, but could not get the goal support necessary to win and move on to the Western final.

4. Dwayne Roloson, Tampa Bay, 12

Granted, the 41-year-old Roloson appeared to wear down as the Lightning fought through the first three rounds of these playoffs. But he was regularly spectacular in the first and second round – and even in Tampa Bay’s final game of the season, he posted a .974 save percentage in a losing cause.

3. Roberto Luongo, Vancouver, 13

It seems as if Luongo never will get the respect of being a big-money goalie until he wins a Stanley Cup. However, look at his numbers through the first three rounds – a 2.29 goals against average, .922 save percentage and a pair of shutouts – as well as Vancouver’s appearance in the Cup final and it appears the days of doubting Luongo soon will be at an end.

2. Ryan Kesler, Vancouver, 16

Kesler is the favorite to take home the Selke Trophy for his stupendous two-way game and he might very well add a Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP if he continues to excel in the Cup final. He has two game-winning goals (one behind Chris Higgins for the team lead), 18 points (second on the team behind Henrik Sedin’s 21 points) and is tied with Jannik Hansen for the best plus-minus mark among Canucks forwards (plus-6).

1. Tim Thomas, Boston, 19

The Bruins veteran hasn’t been as consistent from game-to-game as he had hoped to be, but among playoff goalies who’ve lasted past the second round, his numbers (including a .929 save percentage, 2.29 GAA. and two shutouts) are as impressive as anyone’s. It is easy to envision him winning the Conn Smythe even if the Bruins fail to beat the Canucks.


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