NHL Playoffs 2011: Ranking the Best Rookie Performances of the Postseason

Alison MyersCorrespondent IMay 9, 2011

NHL Playoffs 2011: Ranking the Best Rookie Performances of the Postseason

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    When the Stanley Cup playoffs roll around, players are fighting for more than getting their team into the next round. Several players may be playing their hearts out to earn a new contract or a spot on a top line.

    But some players are playing for a spot on a team of the future. They are hoping to make a strong impression on the coaching staff and their team leaders. This group of players, of course, is made up of NHL rookies who are getting their first taste of the chase for the Cup.

    Not all rookies get a chance to play in the playoffs. On some squads, they practice with the team but are usually sent to the press box to watch the game from above.

    However, the players in this slideshow are fortunate. They are given game action and sometimes, major responsibilities.

    Here are the top performing rookies to date in the NHL playoffs. All statistics are as of the end of games on Sunday, May 8.

18. Yannick Weber, Defenseman, Montreal Canadiens

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    Weber only played in three games during the Canadiens' quarterfinal series against the Boston Bruins, but he still put up two goals and a plus-one rating.

    He finished first on Montreal with a 40.0 shooting percentage (third in the league in that category), and one of his goals came on the power play.

17. Michael Sauer, Defenseman, New York Rangers

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    Sauer posted just one assist over the Rangers' five-game quarterfinals series with the Washington Capitals.

    However, he was getting big minutes for the Rangers. He averaged 23:16 of ice time per game, which was fifth on the Blueshirts and third among defensemen.

    He was also ranked sixth with 1:48 of ice time on the penalty kill and was fourth on the team with seven blocked shots.

16. Blake Geoffrion, Left Wing, Nashville Predators

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    Geoffrion has two assists and a plus-one rating through 11 playoff games with the Predators. Nashville is currently facing the Vancouver Canucks in the Western Conference Semifinals.

    He is second on the Predators in faceoff wins with a 56.8 percent success rate. That gives him a 25-19 record, and his total is also second among rookies.

    Geoffrion has hockey in his blood. His great-grandfather is Hockey Hall of Famer Howie Morenz, and his grandfather is Canadiens great Boom-Boom Geoffrion. His father Dan also played three seasons in the NHL with Montreal and the Winnipeg Jets.

15. Michal Neuvirth, Goaltender, Washington Capitals

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    Neuvirth was one of the best players for the Capitals during their playoff run, even though it ended way earlier than most expected.

    He posted a record of 4-5 in nine playoff games and finished in the top 10 among goaltenders in save percentage (.912, ranked 10th) and goals-against-average (2.34, ranked sixth). He also posted one shutout.

14. Marcus Johansson, Center, Washington Capitals

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    Johansson ended the playoffs with six points, which was tied for third on the Capitals with Jason Arnott, Alexander Semin and Mike Green. His four assists were also third.

    He ranked eighth on the Capitals with 1:58 of ice time on the penalty kill and was also fourth in scoring among rookies.

13. Jonathan Blum, Defenseman, Nashville Predators

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    Blum currently has two assists and a plus-one through 11 playoff games as the Predators fight to stay alive against the Canucks.

    He is eighth on the team with 18:56 of ice time and seventh with 2:49 of ice time on the power play. In addition, he is third on the Preds with 21 blocked shots.

12. Bryan Bickell, Left Wing, Chicago Blackhawks

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    Bickell was tied for third on the Blackhawks roster with four points in seven playoff games. He shared the spot with team captain Jonathan Toews.

    He was also tied with Niklas Hjalmarsson with a plus-four rating, and he accomplished this despite playing in only five games in the playoffs.

    Bickell showed a physical edge in the playoffs, finishing third on the team with 22 hits.

11. Corey Crawford, Goaltender, Chicago Blackhawks

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    Crawford finished his first postseason run with a record of 3-4 to go with a 2.21 GAA and .921 save percentage.

    His GAA and save percentage were both ranked fourth among playoff goaltenders. In addition, he posted a shutout in Game 5 against Vancouver in the Western Conference Quarterfinals.

10. Cam Fowler, Defenseman, Anaheim Ducks

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    Cam Fowler was in a unique spot on this list. Not only was he in his first playoff run, he had broken into the Ducks lineup after being drafted last summer.

    Fowler led Anaheim defensemen with four points in six playoff games and posted a plus-one rating. He was fourth in total ice time and second among defensemen with 22:13 per game. In addition, he was third with four minutes of power play ice time per game.

9. Trevor Lewis, Center, Los Angeles Kings

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    Lewis was second on the Kings in scoring with four points and three assists. He was tied with Ryan Smyth and Brad Richardson in helpers. 

    He also posted an even rating and was fourth on Los Angeles with 3:01 of ice time on the penalty kill.

    The Kings were eliminated by the San Jose Sharks in six games in the Western Conference Quarterfinals. 

8. Ben Smith, Right Wing, Chicago Blackhawks

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    Smith had three goals in seven games in his first playoff run and was tied for second in goals with Patrick Sharp. 

    He scored the game-winning goal in Game 6 against the Canucks to force Game 7. Although the Hawks fell short, that goal will be part of a short but memorable playoff run for Chicago.

    Smith is also tied for third with Kyle Clifford of the Los Angeles Kings in rookie goal scoring.

7. Tyler Ennis, Left Wing, Buffalo Sabres

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    Ennis was tied for fourth on the Sabres with Rob Niedermayer and Jason Pominville for four points in seven playoff games. He equaled Nathan Gerbe for second with two playoff goals.

    He posted a plus-four rating, which was tops on Buffalo.

    Ennis finished the playoffs tied for sixth in rookie scoring

6. Kyle Clifford, Left Wing, Los Angeles Kings

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    Clifford was tied with Justin Williams for the Kings' goal scoring lead, as both put up three goals this postseason.

    He was also tied for the points lead with Ryan Smyth, Brad Richardson and Jack Johnson. Furthermore,  he won 50 percent of his faceoff wins to be ranked fourth in that category.

5. John Carlson, Defenseman, Washington Capitals

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    Carlson had three points in nine playoff games, which was second among Capitals defensemen. His points total was third among rookie defensemen.

    He led the team with 24:23 of ice time per game and was fifth with 2:38 of ice time on the penalty kill. His average ice time was second among rookies.

4. Logan Couture, Center, San Jose Sharks

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    Couture, a finalist for the 2011 Calder Trophy, has continued to be solid in the Sharks' playoff run.

    He is tied for second on the team in playoff scoring with nine points, a spot he holds with veteran Joe Thornton. He is also tied with Dany Heatley for three goals, which is second on the Sharks.

    Couture's plus-five rating is ranked third, and he is second among rookies in scoring.

3. Marc-Andre Gragnani, Defenseman, Buffalo Sabres

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    Gragnani had seven points in seven playoff games, including one power-play goal. He was the Sabres' scoring leader in the postseason. His points total also puts him third among defensemen and all rookies. 

    He was third on Buffalo with 21:53 of ice time per game and second with 4:32 on the power play.

2. P.K. Subban, Defenseman, Montreal Canadiens

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    Subban finished the postseason with four points in seven playoff games, which was tied for third on the Canadiens with Scott Gomez.

    He has led the Habs in all categories of ice time, logging 28:33 overall, 4:02 on the power play and 2:38 on the penalty kill.

    These totals are also first among rookies.

1. Brad Marchand, Center, Boston Bruins

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    Marchand has 11 points through 11 playoff games so far, which leads all rookies and is second on the Bruins.

    He is seventh in the NHL with five goals and shares Boston's goal-scoring lead with Nathan Horton and David Krejci. His goal total also leads all rookies.

    Furthermore, his 17:59 of ice time per game is eighth on the Bruins, and his plus-nine rating is second overall in the NHL.