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 23, 2016
#3) Matt Cullen, Pittsburgh: GWG, assist
Savvy veteran Matt Cullen assisted and then scored on the first two Penguins goals of the four they scored in the second period. His goal was on his only shot on net, and he also had one hit and one blocked shot. Those two blows were too much for the Rangers to handle after they had already blown leads of 1-0 and 2-1 in the first period. A move that had some scratching their heads during the summer, Cullen’s addition to Pittsburgh’s bottom-six and given some of their youngsters a hard-working/less talented role model than some of the (likely unattainable, for them) star power that is on the roster.
— NHL (@NHL) April 23, 2016
Rust on Cullen: "He's been kind of the glue that holds us all together." pic.twitter.com/huHsTjwS6P
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) April 23, 2016
#2) Sami Vatanen, Anaheim: GWG, assist
I know my good buddy MD on the left coast was loving this…not only her favorite team but her favorite play! A player, coming out of the penalty box and scoring a goal. The smooth skating defenseman came to play on Saturday night and helped the Ducks win a pivotal Game 5, delivering the game-winning goal immediately after serving a penalty and adding an assist on the crucial PPG that came a few minutes after the Predators tried to claw back into the game. He fired five shots on goal, which was a team-high and helped to bring Anaheim to the cusp of advancing to a matchup with San Jose.
#1) Artemi Panarin, Chicago: 2 assists
Facing elimination, again, the Blackhawks got at least one shot on goal from every skater except Gustafsson & Hjalmarsson (both d-men) and Panarin — who has been separated from his usual linemate/hockey twin Patrick Kane — became a playmaker in their most important period of the season. Trailing 1-3 entering the second period it was the Bread Man who went full Yeast Mode, assisting on the first and third Chicago goals of that middle period which sent the United Center into a frenzy and has Blues fans saying, ‘here we go again.’
In which Dutch Gretzky tallies his first as a Hawk pic.twitter.com/3McHyO4FUd
— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) April 24, 2016
Joe Pavelski (SJ): 5
Brian Elliott (StL): 5
Michal Neuvirth (Phil): 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
Artemi Panarin (Chi): 3
John Tavares (NYI): 2
Patric Hornqvist (Pitt): 2
Roberto Luongo (Fla): 2
Tanner Pearson (LA): 2
Frederik Andersen (Ana): 2
Ben Bishop (TB): 2
Mikko Koivu (Minn): 2
Sami Vatanen (Ana): 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.