It’s the most, wonderful time, of the yearrrrrrrr! Who doesn’t love playoff hockey right? My personal favorite part is the dying minutes of a one-goal game when everything is a scramble, bodies are diving everywhere, pucks are zipping around the zone and the intensity is as high as can be. Until we get to overtime that is, when it become full-on, tighten your butt cheeks, gasp and cringe with every shot end-to-end action (WITH NO COMMERCIALS!!).
Who will hoist the 2016 Stanley Cup?
With the team I cover out of the playoffs (again), I relish the opportunity to write a little out of character and enjoy the playoffs as a fan of the game, and pick my three stars of each night like our friends over at Yahoo!/Puck Daddy blog do throughout the season. You can find player standings at the bottom of each post with three points for being the no. 1 star, two for no. 2 and one for no. 3 and on most nights in the first round at least we’ll likely have an honorable mention.
April 14, 2016
#3) Reilly Smith, Florida: 2 goals, assist
Smith had four goals over 12 career playoff games with the Bruins and netted half of that in his first postseason game with the Florida Panthers, first staking the Cats to a 3-2 lead in the early stages of the second period and then bringing them back within one at 4-5 during a wild third period. With Jaromir Jagr in the midst of a 32-game goal drought in the playoffs, the Panthers may need more performances like Smith’s from the supporting cast if they have hopes of eliminating the Islanders.
Reilly really relishes rebounds. 👍 pic.twitter.com/0kHOZzWkFX
— Florida Panthers (@FlaPanthers) April 15, 2016
#2) John Tavares, NY Islanders: goal, 2 assists
JT took his game to the next level in Game 1; with Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo on his wings, the Isles top-line was too much for the Panthers to handle in the series opening game. Just like Tampa’s Triplets line, the N-O-T line racked up seven points in Game 1. Tavares is continuing to show us all why he was a no. 1 overall pick and why New York, smartly, named him their captain. As Okposo said afterwards, “He wears the C for a reason.” If Florida has hopes of surviving this series, or avoid going down 0-2 at home, they will have to find a way to slow down the Isles’ top trio.
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) April 15, 2016
#1) Joe Pavelski, San Jose: 2 goals, GWG
The man they call the Big Pavelski willed the Sharks to a big road win against the mighty Kings. The captain’s goal to start the third period (17 seconds in) was the eventual GWG and propelled the regular season’s best road team to a Game 1 road win in Hollywood. This is Pavelski’s sixth playoff game with two goals for San Jose, who also got strong performances from Joel Ward (2 assists) and Brent Burns (goal, assist).
Joe Pavelski with one hell of a wraparound for his second goal pic.twitter.com/xf2IB9j2kr
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) April 15, 2016
Joe Pavelski (SJ): 3
Brian Elliott (StL): 3
John Tavares (NYI): 2
Patric Hornqvist (Pitt): 2
Nikita Kucherov (TB): 1
Reilly Smith (Fla): 1
Dan Rice is in his 9th year of reporting for THW & has covered NJ Devils home games for 15+ years at various websites. He began his journey working for legendary broadcaster/writer Stan Fischler from 2002-04 & completed an internship at the ECHL; he also has been writing features for the NWHL (nwhl.zone) website since 2016.