Brian Boucher had a .940 SP and 1.59 GAA in a five-game series win over New Jersey. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
The hockey gods aren’t doing our Top 10 many favors by having a Game 7 tonight, but unless something crazy happens Wednesday in the Canadiens-Capitals finale – like Alex Ovechkin or Mike Cammalleri netting three or four points – we can already take a gander back at Round 1 and rank individual performances.
Pretty self-explanatory. So without further ado, we present THN.com’s Top 10 performances of the first round.
10. John Carlson, D, Washington
He’s just 20 years old and played more games in the American League than the NHL this season, but the rookie pro has shown poise beyond his years, playing 20-plus minutes for the Caps and looking like the next great young NHL defenseman.
9. Mark Recchi, RW, Boston
From the youngest on the list to the oldest, Recchi, 42, was a heart-and-soul player for the Bruins in their upset of Buffalo. He didn’t net any game-winners in the series, but set up a beauty and scored dagger goals that just sucked the life out of the Sabres.
8. Mike Richards, C, Philadelphia
Not that he needed to, but Richards showed why he is the Flyers captain during Philly’s five-game dismantling of New Jersey. He was a buzz saw on the ice, leading his squad in scoring, playing 22-plus minutes per game and winning well over half of his faceoffs, many of which were of the uber-important variety.
7. Henrik Zetterberg, C, Detroit
Zetterberg showed form similar to that of his Conn Smythe Trophy-winning performance in 2008 against Phoenix: six goals (including two game-winners), 11 points; plus-6; more ice time than any other Wings forward; and three points in Game 7.
6. Joe Pavelski, C, San Jose
‘Little Joe’ is fast taking over from ‘Big Joe’ in San Jose. Pavelski potted five goals and eight points in six games versus Colorado, effectively taking the No. 1 center spot away from Thornton. In San Jose, they’re already writing that the Sharks are Pavelski’s team now.
5. Jaroslav Halak, G, Montreal
Halak’s 53-save performance in Game 6 against the vaunted Washington snipers was the best single performance of the first round. He’d be higher on this list if not for allowing nine goals on 50 shots during Games 2 and 3. If he wins Game 7 Wednesday, a top-three position here is a no-brainer.
4. Mikael Samuelsson, RW, Vancouver
Allowed to leave Detroit as a free agent in favor of Jiri Hudler (who then defected to the Kontinental League, anyway) and then snubbed by the Swedish Olympic team, Samuelsson went on a tear, scoring nine goals in 12 post-Olympic contests and seven more in six playoff outings. He is second in post-season points with a game to play in the first round.
3. Tuukka Rask, G, Boston
The rookie picked up in Round 1 just where he left off in the regular season. After usurping the reigning Vezina Trophy winner to take the No. 1 job in Boston, Rask stared-down this year’s likely Vezina winner in Ryan Miller to backstop the sixth-seeded Bruins over the third-seeded Sabres.
2. Sidney Crosby, C, Pittsburgh
Crosby’s five goals and 14 points in six games against Ottawa are numbers reminiscent of Wayne Gretzky’s playoff performances in the 1980s and ’90s. That’s 2.3 points per game, folks. Over an 82-game schedule, you’d be looking at 68 goals and 191 points. And this is the playoffs, when the physical and defensive intensity is ratcheted up.
1. Brian Boucher, G, Philadelphia
After leading his team to the playoffs on the final day of the regular season by besting none other than Henrik Lundqvist in a shootout, no player had more to prove than Boucher, who was considered the weak link in Philly’s chain. And what did he do? Oh, not much. Just led all goalies in save percentage and goals-against average while getting his team past Zach Parise, Ilya Kovalchuk and the rest of the Devils in five games.
Feeling Lucky? Subscribe or renew your subscription to The Hockey News and you and a guest could be going to the NHL Awards in Las Vegas!
The THN.com Top 10 appears Wednesdays only on TheHockeyNews.com.
If you enjoy this feature, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine for the exclusive countdown, Starting From 5, and other great features from the world of hockey.