2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Who's Hot After the First Round of Action
As the conclusion of the very exciting, and somewhat surprising, first round of the 2010 NHL postseason comes to a close, individual players are starting to break away from the pack.
From the masked men between the pipes to the big goal scorers putting their teams over the top, it’s time to take a quick look at who’s hot heading into the second round of action.
8. Patrick Kane, Chicago
The youngster is making it happen with some timely goals, including a late third-period tally in game five to send the game to overtime. The shorthanded goal would lead the Hawks to win in overtime, and eventually take the series in six games.
Kane had four goals and three assists in the six games against Nashville. Kane and fellow teammates Jonathan Toews and veteran Marian Hossa are going to have to pick up the scoring in the second round if they want to make another appearance in the conference finals.
7. Tuukka Rask, Boston
Stepping in for Tim Thomas during the regular season, Tuukka Rask has had no problems continuing the trend in the playoffs thus far. Rask has a .927 save percentage and a 2.18 goals against average in the first six games of the postseason.
The match up between Rask and Brian Boucher in the second round of action will likely be what propels one team ahead of the other and ultimately to the conference finals.
6. Jimmy Howard, Detroit
Rookie goaltending is a crazy thing. Despite the lack of experience, Howard has been making all the right moves for the Red Wings.
Expected performers like Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk are doing their jobs too, but with the insurance marker in the form of great goaltending, the Red Wings are preparing to storm through the postseason, again.
Howard has a huge task ahead of him, however. After a grueling matchup with the Phoenix Coyotes, he will be seeing a much more talented group of snipers headed his way with the San Jose Sharks.
If his teammates are able to score more than two goals in a game, chances are he will be able to keep them in the race.
5. Brian Boucher, Philadelphia
Once again we see how much the power of the goaltender can swing the series in one's favor. The battered and bruised Philadelphia Flyers are happily embracing the health and the stellar performance from Brian Boucher.
A .940 save percentage and a 1.59 goals against in five games, Boucher has allowed his team to get plenty (or maybe too much) rest before starting up the next round against the Boston Bruins.
While Philadelphia may be heading into the second round a little offensively challenged, their defensive end might have enough power to steal the show.
4. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh
To no one's surprise, Sidney Crosby is doing what he does best—play like Sidney Crosby.
The young captain and Hart Trophy candidate isn't taking any chances when it comes to striving for a Pittsburgh repeat, and if that means doing it all himself, so be it.
He's leading all players in points with 14 (5+9=14) and is currently a plus seven. Basically, if Crosby is on the ice, get him the puck.
Get ready Montreal, you may have stopped one offensive monster, but are you prepared for the "next one?"
3. Mikael Samuelsson, Vancouver
Surprisingly the big man for Vancouver isn't one of the Sedin's, it's Mikael Samuelsson. Leading the all players in the playoffs with seven goals in six games against the Los Angeles Kings, it's Samuelsson who was providing offense when the twins weren't.
Having the best postseason of his career, Samuelsson was an edition to the lineup that might be what the Canucks need to get past the second round for the first time since they lost in the Stanley Cup finals in 1994.
Ultimately, anyone other than Henrik or Daniel Sedin performing above par, and Vancouver might be unstoppable.
2. Joe Pavelski, San Jose
Shocking that we're talking about Joe Pavelski and not Joe Thornton, but then again, this is the postseason.
Pavelski's timely scoring in the first round of the playoffs (5+3=8), is the best of his career. Without key scoring from Pavelski, the Sharks might be golfing right now instead of preparing for a battle with Detroit.
A late goal in game two from Pavelski was enough to send the game into overtime, where the Sharks would even the series.
His overtime winner in game four was pivotal in turning the series in San Jose's favor for good. More importantly, it helped even things up once again after teammate Dan Boyle's blunder in the previous game's overtime.
San Jose definitely appreciates depth scoring in any form. But it'd probably much rather see the big guys getting hot at this point in the playoff fight.
(Right on cue—Pavelski netted two goals to start off the second round of action)
1. Jaroslav Halak, Montreal
The hottest playoff story thus far is the outstanding performance from Jaroslav Halak in the first round against the offensively dominating Washington Capitals.
After shutting down the best, Halak is going to be hard pressed to repeat this feat in the second round when facing Sidney Crosby and the Penguins, but now is the time for the young net minder to prove his worth.
Against the Capitals, with each game being a do-or-die situation, Halak only allowed one goal in each of the final three games. Simply, he gave his teammates the ultimate opportunity to win. And, surprising to many, they did just that.
It may be too soon to start handing out the Conn Smythe, but it's definitely not too soon to say that Halak is getting a huge consideration.