It’s the most, wonderful time, of the yearrrrrrrr! Who doesn’t love playoff hockey right? This is what we wait all season for, this is why most of us became fans of the game, as the postseason captivates us year after year after year. 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 some nights we’ll have an honorable mention.
April 20, 2016
#3) Jason Demers, Dallas: 2 assists
Almost went with the easy choice in Spezza here, as he had the crucial game-winner that gave Dallas their first lead of the night, but Demers’ two helpers were both primary (second was on the GWG) and he had three hits and one blocked shot. Despite playing the fifth most minutes (out of six) among the Stars’ blueliners he still had quite the impact in a game that sets them up to knock out the Wild with just one win over the final three games of the series.
— NHL on NBC Sports (@NHLonNBCSports) April 21, 2016
#2) Michal Neuvirth, Philadelphia: 31 saves/32 shots. Win
In a must-win situation and their season on the line Neuvirth made his first start of the series (and first postseason start in five years) after only playing one game (April 10) since mid-March. His teammates limited the Caps high quality chances, only giving them two power plays after they had 17 over the first three games. Given a two-goal lead, their first of the series by the way, the Flyers tender was able to withstand Washington’s third period surge and made 12 saves in all in the final frame to avoid a first round sweep.
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) April 21, 2016
#1) Antti Niemi, Dallas: 28 saves/30 shots, Win
In the third period, when it mattered most and his team was clinging to a one-goal lead, Niemi was found shutting down everything the Wild through at him to the tune of 14 saves. Dallas has flip-flopped their goalies all season long as Niemi (43 starts) and Lehtonen (39) have formed a nice duo for the Stars, and it would seem that coach Lindy Ruff will continue to do this alternating in the postseason. They did finish with the most points in the West, so maybe there is some merit to this strategy. With the win, Dallas can eliminate Minnesota in the North Stars Cup series in Friday’s Game 5 in Texas.
— SportsCentre (@SportsCentre) April 21, 2016
Jason Spezza, Dallas: GWG, assist and Wayne Simmonds, Philadelphia: 2 assists
Simmonds registered his first two points of the playoffs and Spezza was an x-factor that the Wild had no answer for in Game 4. Both players stepped up to the plate and delivered for their squads in big time moments and will need to be a little more consistent going forward if their teams are to have more success this spring.
Joe Pavelski (SJ): 5
Brian Elliott (StL): 5
Nikita Kucherov (TB): 4
Tyler Johnson (TB): 3
Braden Holtby (Wash): 3
Thomas Hickey (NYI): 3
Alex Ovechkin (Wash): 3
Antti Niemi (Dal): 3
John Tavares (NYI): 2
Patric Hornqvist (Pitt): 2
Roberto Luongo (Fla): 2
Tanner Pearson (LA): 2
Frederik Andersen (Ana): 2
Michal Neuvirth (Phil): 2
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.