The first round of the NHL playoffs is at its midway point. And while many superstars have been missing in action – most notably, Penguins superstar Evgeni Malkin and many of the Vancouver Canucks – many NHLers have stepped up and contributed hugely to their team’s success. Who have been the best first-round performers thus far? That’s our focus in this week’s THN.com Top 10.
10. Brent Seabrook, Chicago
The Hawks defenseman is leading all NHLers in playoff time on ice with a whopping 32:08 per game (narrowly edging out partner Duncan Keith at 32:04) and his assist (off a shot) with regulation time expiring in Game 2 sent the contest to overtime before Chicago won it. He’s been everything the team has needed him to be and then some.
9. Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit
The Wings are on the verge of elimination, but it hasn’t been because of their star center. No playoff performer has won more faceoffs than Datsyuk (59), who also leads his team in takeaways (six) and points (three). Can he do more? Yes, but not that much more.
8. Braydon Coburn, Philadelphia
Many bemoaned the loss of Flyers defensive cornerstone Chris Pronger, but Coburn has eased the pain of his absence, averaging the most minutes (27:07) of any Flyer while having the second-most hits (12) and third-most blocked shots (4) of any Philly player.
7. Patrice Bergeron, Boston
Sure, Bergeron has just one point in three games thus far for the Bruins. However, his defense on Washington’s top players is a large reason the Capitals have scored just five goals in three games. And once again, Bergeron’s faceoff prowess is unmatched by any NHLer – he’s leading all playoff participants with a 59.5 win percentage.
6. Andy McDonald, St. Louis
McDonald put up four points in four games the last time the Blues were in the playoffs (in 2008-09). This year, he’s operating at twice that point-per-game pace, leading all St. Louis offense producers with four assists and six points in three games.
5. Kevin Klein, Nashville
Predators star defensemen Shea Weber and Ryan Suter receive most of the hype from hockey fans in Tennessee, but Klein is helping in a major way, leading the Preds in blocks (10) and being tied for the team lead in points (three) while scoring one game-winner. More impressively, he’s got two goals in four games – the same number of goals he had in 81 games last season and one more than he had in 81 games of the 2009-10 campaign. Great time to do so.
4. Dustin Brown, Los Angeles
It’s tough to believe the Kings might have considered dealing their captain at the trade deadline, especially now that he’s been so dominant for them against Vancouver. Brown is tied with Philly’s Max Talbot for the league lead in shorthanded playoff goals (two) and leads L.A. in goals (four), points (five) and is second in hits (11).
3. Dan Girardi, Rangers
Just as it was in the regular season, Girardi’s defensive excellence is pushing the Blueshirts to victory in the post-season. He leads all NHLers in blocks (17) and is seventh overall in average time on ice (27:36) and leads the Rangers in assists (three) and points (three). Pretty good from someone who won’t get much Norris Trophy voting love.
2. Max Talbot, Philadelphia
One of the reasons the Penguins are on the verge of elimination is the move Talbot made from Pittsburgh to Philly last summer. The defensive center is tied with star teammate Claude Giroux for the playoff plus/minus lead (plus-5), despite averaging more than two fewer minutes per game. That, and his relentless speed and physicality on the ice, has his former team on its heels and his current one a single win away from the second round.
1. Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles
Anyone who doubted Quick’s status as a most valuable player frontrunner in the regular season has to be a believer after seeing his play in the Kings’ first three games. Quick has the best goals-against average (1.33) and save percentage (.965) of any goalie who’s played all of his team’s games. His teammates have ensured Vancouver hasn’t made his job hell, but Quick has been as consistently amazing as he was before the playoffs began.
The THN.com Top 10 appears Wednesdays only on TheHockeyNews.com.