As an Oilers fan, I fondly remember our last playoff appearance in 2005-06, where we went from the eighth seed to the Stanley Cup Finals.
One of the biggest stories during that run was Fernando Pisani, a third liner during the regular season who put away 14 goals in 24 games, almost the same total he had in the regular season, and helped lead the Oilers to within one game of the Stanley Cup.
So who will be that little-known player this year that lights it up? Here are five candidates for the Fernando Pisani Award for the 2011 second season.
He may be only 5'5" tall, but Gerbe has some game, as was seen by his two goals in five seconds against the Islanders this season. He totaled 16 on the year, not bad for someone who only plays 13:19 a game. Add to the fact that Gerbe has seven goals and 10 points in his last 12 games going into the playoffs, and Gerbe could play a big role if Buffalo goes the distance.
With the injury to Anze Kopitar, the LA Kings will be in tough against the San Jose Sharks. One player who might be able to help lift some of the burden is Wayne Simmonds.
Simmonds scored 14 goals this year, down from 16 last year, but he plays a rough style of hockey that will be huge for the Kings in the postseason. Simmonds has shown he can score in the past, and if he can get hot, he could be the X-factor in LA's drive for the cup.
Wolski seems to be an enigma: He has tons of skill, but doesn't always bring it. The fact that he has been on three teams in the last two years seems to show that. However, when Wolski does bring it, he is dangerous and he seems to bring it in the playoffs with five points in seven games each of the last two seasons. With Ryan Callahan out with an injury, the Rangers will rely more heavily on Wolski to bring his A game.
After being cast off from the LA Kings system, Purcell quietly had a breakout year with the Lightning, scoring 17 goals and 51 points. While the Lightning do have Steven Stamkos, Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St Louis to carry the load offensively, Purcell could still play a role for the Lightning if they go far in the playoffs, especially since most teams will be focusing on shutting down the big three, leaving more room for Purcell.
After the trade that sent Pouliot to the Canadiens from the Minnesota Wild for Guillaume Latendresse, Pouliot potted 15 goals and 24 points in 39 games with the Canadiens and looked to be a great addition. He fell off in the playoffs, however, and only had two assists in 18 games during their run to the Eastern Conference Finals.
This year wasn't much better for Pouliot, as he only scored 13 goals and 30 points in 79 games while playing only 11:32 a game. He does have tremendous skill and if he can get going during the playoffs, he may still become that player he looked to be when he was first traded to the Canadiens and help take them back to the Eastern Conference Finals sans Jaroslav Halak.