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.
May 18, 2016
#3) Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay: 44 saves/48 shots, Loss
The Tampa tender was the hard luck loser again in Game 3, not getting a tremendous amount of support from his teammates until it was too late in the game. Vasilevskiy kept the game scoreless for nearly two periods before a few bad decisions enabled the Pens a great scoring chance that they capitalized on with 10 seconds left in the second period. The Lightning were outshot 21-6 in that period and Pittsburgh rode that momentum to a 4-2 win that wasn’t nearly as close as the score might indicate.
Cooper: "It's extremely disappointing to give up 48 shots. You feel bad for the kid. He's keeping us in there. We're not bailing him out."
— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) May 19, 2016
#2) Carl Hagelin, Pittsburgh: goal, assist
Speed kills and Hagelin’s speed has been killing the teams in the Eastern Conference playoffs this spring. We always knew he was fast, but now he is showing signs that he can be a complimentary scorer, which is something he never truly became, at this level, with the Rangers who gave up on him for some reason. For another unknown reason he never fit in with Anaheim either, but those two teams’ losses have become Pittsburgh’s gain and he has been a vital weapon in leading the Pens within two wins of the Cup Final.
Hagelin has two speeds:
— Beth (@pghgirl15222) May 19, 2016
— NBC Sports Bet (@NBCSportsBet) May 19, 2016
#1) Phil Kessel, Pittsburgh: goal, assist
Amanda’s brother had a helluva game in Game 3 and was by far the best player on the ice in leading Pittsburgh to a 4-2 win. His shot created the game’s first goal in the dying seconds of the second period and then he netted a goal of his own in the third period to double the lead. The HBK line has been one of, if not, the best lines in these NHL playoffs and Tampa better figure out some plan of action to slow them down. He led all players in the game with eight shots on goal and had at least 10 scoring chances throughout the night.
Phil Kessel is three points off the NHL playoff scoring lead.
— James Mirtle (@mirtle) May 19, 2016
We are feeling the thrill and Phil Kessel is on FIRE tonight. 🔥https://t.co/Hv2OPKAv8X
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) May 19, 2016
Joe Pavelski (SJ): 12
Brian Elliott (StL): 11
Braden Holtby (Wash): 8
Nikita Kucherov (TB): 7
Victor Hedman (TB): 6
David Backes (StL): 6
Phil Kessel (Pitt): 6
Michal Neuvirth (Phil): 5
John Tavares (NYI): 5
Pekka Rinne (Nash): 5
Tyler Johnson (TB): 5
Matt Murray (Pitt): 5
Patric Hornqvist (Pitt): 5
Ben Bishop (TB): 5
Troy Brouwer (StL): 5
Carl Hagelin (Pitt): 5
Andrei Vasilevskiy (TB): 5
Alex Ovechkin (Wash): 4
Nick Bonino (Pitt): 4
Kris Letang (Pitt): 4
Martin Jones (SJ): 4
Thomas Hickey (NYI): 3
Antti Niemi (Dall): 3
Evgeni Malkin (Pitt): 3
Artemi Panarin (Chi): 3
TJ Oshie (Wash): 3
Radek Faksa (Dall): 3
Mike Fisher (Nash): 3
Kari Lehtonen (Dall): 3
Robby Fabbri (StL): 3
Ondrej Palat (TB): 3
Sidney Crosby (Pitt): 3
Logan Couture (SJ): 3
Brent Burns (SJ): 3
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.