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 26, 2016
#3) Matt Murray, Pittsburgh: 16 saves/17 shots, Win
The recently turned 22-year-old Penguins netminder wasn’t very busy in his first NHL Game 7 appearance, but he made the saves he needed to make, and was a rock behind a ferociously aggressive team that is playing shorthanded defensively with Trevor Daley now out. I don’t know if it was his best save, but his most memorable for me was easily the save on Steven Stamkos’ slap shot during a four-on-four that could have tied the game and sent it on a completely different course. Murray has been phenomenal this postseason and likely is forcing Pittsburgh to make some tough future decisions in their crease.
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) May 27, 2016
#2) Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay: 37 saves/39 shots, Loss
This kid played out of his mind and kept the Lightning in a game they likely had no business being in, on the road, in a Game 7, with saves like the one pictured below. Maybe he could be faulted on the second Rust goal that came just thirty seconds after his team had tied the game 1-1, but he played so stellar throughout the entire game that his performance can’t be ignored. Many thought that Tampa would be toast once Ben Bishop went down with an injury in Game 1, but Vasilevskiy, at 21-years-old, played at a world class level during the series and the elimination loss. Over the last six games of the series he faced at least 33 shots in every game.
— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) May 27, 2016
— Kristen Shilton (@kristen_shilton) May 27, 2016
#1) Bryan Rust, Pittsburgh: 2 goals, GWG
I’m all about the little guy rising up to be a star in a situation like a Game 7. Someone that no one expected, or could have predicted without a wild guess. That’s exactly what we saw in Pittsburgh when Bryan Rust netted his fourth and fifth goals of this postseason (17 games). That would be the same Bryan Rust that had just four goals in the 41 regular season games he played in. It wasn’t Crosby, Kessel, Hagelin, Hornqvist or Letang who was the hero in Game 7, it was Rust — and he likely could have had four or five goals if he had buried his other chances. He heads into the Final with four points over his last three games (3g-1a).
and we were worried about Stamkos being rusty. Guess we should have worried about Rust being Stamkosy
— Winging It In Motown (@wingingitmotown) May 27, 2016
— NHL (@NHL) May 27, 2016
— NHL (@NHL) May 27, 2016
Joe Pavelski (SJ): 17
Brian Elliott (StL): 11
Nikita Kucherov (TB): 9
Braden Holtby (Wash): 8
Victor Hedman (TB): 8
Troy Brouwer (StL): 8
Tyler Johnson (TB): 8
Phil Kessel (Pitt): 7
Matt Murray (Pitt): 7
Andrei Vasilevskiy (TB): 7
David Backes (StL): 6
Martin Jones (SJ): 6
Sidney Crosby (Pitt): 6
Michal Neuvirth (Phil): 5
John Tavares (NYI): 5
Pekka Rinne (Nash): 5
Patric Hornqvist (Pitt): 5
Ben Bishop (TB): 5
Carl Hagelin (Pitt): 5
Joel Ward (SJ): 5
Logan Couture (SJ): 5
Alex Ovechkin (Wash): 4
Nick Bonino (Pitt): 4
Kris Letang (Pitt): 4
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.