3 Stars of the Night: April 21

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 21, 2016

#3) Matt Murray, Pittsburgh: 31 saves/31 shots, Win/Shutout

After missing Games 1 & 2 with an injury, all Murray (a rookie) has done is hold the Rangers to one goal on 48 shots over 120 minutes at MSG.  The 21-year old had one shutout in the 13 games he played this season as an NHL newbie and now he has matched that total in his second Stanley Cup playoff game and he can close out New York when the series shifts back to Pittsburgh for Game 5. Murray was dominant in the AHL last season, so this isn’t too big of a surprise, but living up to high expectations is never easy. His performance has been crucial in the Pens not having to rush Marc-Andre Fleury back into the lineup.

#2) Ben Bishop, Tampa Bay: 34 saves/34 shots, Win/Shutout

Big Ben made 25 saves over the final two periods in a scoreless game and with the Wings fighting for their playoff lives. In his fourth career playoff shutout, Bishop made three crucial stops on Detroit breakaways in that middle period. Finally late in the game after Bishop matched Petr Mrazek save for save, the Bolts capitalized on the Red Wings netminder’s errant pass that became a huge Alex Killorn goal with just 1:43 left in regulation. Tampa is not only showing that they can win without Stamkos, but Bishop and his mates have let the league know that last season’s playoff run was no fluke. The Game 5 win ensures the Bolts a few days off while the Panthers and Islanders continue their battle in a series that is 2-2 and guaranteed at least two more games.

#1) Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh: 2 PP goals, 2 assists

With a four-point performance on Broadway, Malkin was the star among stars and now has six points in three games after sitting out Game 1. He pumped six shots on goal, even blocked two shots and his first goal on the man advantage early in the second period chased the so-called king from his crease for good in Game 4 and pushed the Rangers to the brink of elimination. New York hasn’t had an answer for the re-energized Russian star and if they don’t find one on Saturday, the Penguins will be advancing to Rd. 2. Oh and Geno did all this while playing only 12:56, which was fourth-lowest among all Pittsburgh forwards.

Honorable Mentions)

Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis: 3 assists, Patrick Kane, Chicago: GWG, assist

The Blues’ workhorse defenseman had the primary assist on all three of their goals in regulation, spearheading their rally from being down 0-1 and 1-3 in Game 5.  He was also their ice-time leader, logging a whopping 39:49 (that’s almost two full periods worth!) in the multiple overtime thriller and had five shots on goal. Kane had been quiet early in the series, but as always seems to be the case, he shows up in prime-time games (Games 5, 6, 7). His extended effort in double OT saved the Hawks’ season and pushed the series to a Game 6.

3-Stars Standings:

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

Evgeni Malkin (Pitt): 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

Ben Bishop (TB): 2