Say what you will for the big hits, miraculous saves and outstanding goals from the regular season, when highlight reels are put together about some of the best and brightest moments in hockey history, a healthy portion comes from the post-season.
That’s with good reason, too. A gorgeous goal means more in the playoffs, as does the how-did-he-stop-that save in what can be a playoff life or death situation. Think about Doug Gilmour’s work behind the St. Louis Blues net in the 1993 playoffs. Had that been in the regular season, it would have been an amazing highlight, but that it came in the playoffs made it an iconic moment in Gilmour’s career.
The same can be said for Steve Yzerman’s Game 7 overtime winner against the Blues or, more recently, Alec Martinez’s Game 5 overtime Stanley Cup clinching goal for the Los Angeles Kings.
Following the first round, here are the 10 moments that will live on after this post-season:
10. Michael Ferland gets the Flames going in Game 6
Ferland might not ever have a better stretch of games in his career than he did over the six-game series against the Vancouver Canucks. He hit everything that moved, was the ultimate pest and, when the Flames needed a shot in the arm to turn the tide in Game 6 with the chance to eliminate the Canucks, it was Ferland who got them on the board.
Ferland would go on to a two-goal, three-point night as Calgary clawed back from a 3-0 deficit in Game 6 to win 7-4 and eliminate division-rival Vancouver.
9. Kevin Hayes lifts Rangers over Penguins in OT
Hayes made this moment possible not by burying the overtime winner, but by losing his mind after scoring the goal that sent the Rangers to a 3-1 series lead. It’s hard to blame him considering it was his first career playoff goal.
The celebration following Hayes’ overtime goal in Game 4 was met with all the normal cheers from the Rangers players, but if you watch closely, by the time the entire team has gathered around Hayes, he’s already been knocked to the ice by teammates and is trying to pick himself back up. All that pent up nervous energy from overtime was enough to put Hayes on his pants.
8. Matt Dumba destroys a puck for first playoff goal
The nets in St. Louis must be made out of stronger mesh than anywhere else in the league, because Dumba’s power play goal in Game 1 of the first-round tilt between the Wild and Blues was a cannon. After a great save on one side of the blueline, Jared Spurgeon served Dumba a perfect pass and, well, just watch:
Price was nominated for the Vezina and Hart Trophies and he’ll definitely be taking home at least one piece of hardware at the NHL Awards in June. With how Price played against Ottawa, though, it wouldn’t be inconceivable to picture him coming into Las Vegas for the awards show with some hardware already in tow.
In Game 6, with the Canadiens leading 1-0, Price made the kind of stop he’s been making all season. Sometimes you have to be lucky to be good, and Price’s performance in the final game of Montreal’s first-round series against Ottawa was the perfect example of that.
The stick stop was one of 43 saves Price made en route to shutting out the Senators in Game 6.
6. Winnipeg goes wild after Lee Stempniak goal
There was only one place to be April 20, and it was the MTS Centre for the third game of the first-round tilt between the Anaheim Ducks and Winnipeg Jets. After the first post-season goal by the Jets since relocating to Winnipeg from Atlanta, the crowd reached noise levels of 124 decibels. That’s the same noise level as an actual jet.
Hard to imagine Stempniak could hear a word his teammates were saying to him.
Tarasenko netted a hat trick in Game 4 of the Minnesota-St. Louis series and he made sure to net one of those goals with a little bit of style. After taking a breakaway pass, Tarasenko fended off two defenders and drew Wild netminder Dubnyk to the short side before tucking the puck back the other way with one hand.
If he keeps this up, by the time Tarasenko’s career is over in the NHL, it’s going to take weeks to sift through his gorgeous goals to pick the best of the best.
Few series featured as much back and forth action as the first-round matchup between Chicago and Nashville, so it’s no wonder one of the best saves of the post-season thus far comes from those games.
With the Blackhawks already leading the series 2-1 and tied 2-2 in Game 4, Hossa and Brandon Saad managed to break free for a 2-on-1 with less than 20 seconds remaining in the third period. Saad slipped the puck over to Hossa who had nearly the whole net to shoot at before Predators goaltender Rinne slid across to save the game for Nashville.
2. Evgeny Kuznetsov’s Game 7 winner is all skill
Throughout the final games of the Islanders-Capitals series, no player looked as dangerous with the puck as Kuznetsov and, following a three-point Game 5 performance and pointless Game 6, he found the score sheet again when it mattered most.
Kuznetsov collected a puck on the boards, waited patiently to draw Islanders center Frans Nielsen in, then turned on the jets and made a move to the middle of the ice that ended with a perfectly placed wristshot over the outstretched bodies of New York goaltender Jaroslav Halak and defenseman Johnny Boychuk.
As far as goal celebrations go, Kuznetsov takes the cake. We think he might have been excited.
2. Brent Seabrook ends marathon Game 4 with triple overtime-winner
It’s hard to believe, but it took nearly another full game before Rinne allowed anything to get by him in Game 4 – it was like the save on Hossa was a sign of things to come.
Nashville and Chicago battled through two scoreless overtimes, but finally, almost five hours after the game had begun, Seabrook received a pass at the blueline from Patrick Kane less than a minute into the third overtime. Without hesitation, Seabrook launched a blast that knuckled through a mess of bodies before hitting the post and finding net behind Rinne.
How could this not be the best moment from the first round? This is a save that never should have been made and defies all logic, yet somehow Mrazek was able to reach back and absolutely rob Boyle with the paddle.
Sure, the Detroit Red Wings lost the series to the Tampa Bay Lightning in seven games, but if Mrazek didn’t stake his claim to the starting role in Hockeytown with his performance, we’re not sure what else he could have possibly done. When the playoffs are over and clips are being shown of the months of action leading up to a champion being crowned, this save will be front and center among the clips used.