Chris Kreider and the 15 Best Rookie Performances in Playoff History

Ryan Gerbosi@@RyanGerbosiCorrespondent IIJune 15, 2012

Chris Kreider and the 15 Best Rookie Performances in Playoff History

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    In the New York Rangers 2012 Stanley Cup playoff run, fans were enamored with the emergence of the young Chris Kreider. 

    The Boston College product signed with the Rangers just days after leading BC to a national championship.

    Kreider's emergence in the 2012 playoffs was special for New York's fans and gave Rangers fans something to look forward to in the years to come. His jump from college to the pros at the most crucial time of the year gave the Rangers a spark and helped them reach the Eastern Conference Finals.

    Kreider finished the playoffs with five goals and two assists in 18 games. Had the Rangers moved on, Kreider could have had one of the best rookie performances in playoff history.

    While Rangers fans will not forget Kreider's performance any time soon, here are 15 rookie performances that will be etched in our memories as the best ever.

15. Steve Vickers

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    New York Rangers forward Steve Vickers took home the Calder Trophy in 1973. The 10th overall pick scored 30 goals in only 61 games that year, establishing himself as an offensive threat.

    In the playoffs, the Rangers fell in the semifinals to Chicago, but not before Vickers left his mark. In 10 games, Vickers scored five goals and added four assists, giving New York a fighting chance to play for the cup.

    Vickers played all 10 years of his career in New York, including a 42-goal season in 1974-75.

14. Joé Juneau

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    After the 1992 Olympic Games, Joé Juneau joined the Boston Bruins and made an immediate impact. In just 14 games, Juneau recorded 19 points.

    When the playoffs started, Juneau continued to score. Juneau helped Boston reach the Prince of Wales Conference Finals by scoring 12 points in 15 games. The Bruins were swept by eventual Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins.

    Juneau was eventually traded to Washington, where he had a shot at the cup in the late 1990s, but he never was able to win a championship.

13. Chris Kreider

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    Chris Kreider's performance in the 2012 playoffs was special not because of his production, but because of how he got there. 

    Kreider had just finished his NCAA title run with Boston College and without skipping a beat, came directly to the New York Rangers.

    Without playing a minute in the regular season, Kreider gave energy to a team that had already been the best in the Eastern Conference all season. In limited ice time in 18 games, Kreider scored five goals, including a key goal in the Game 6 elimination game against Ottawa and the game-winner in Game 1 against Washington.

12. Patrick Flatley

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    Patrick Flatley joined an Islander team in 1984 that had won four straight Stanley Cups. Despite already having a strong team, Flatley made a major impact immediately.

    In 21 playoff games, Flatley scored nine goals and had five assists. He helped the Isles reach the finals before losing to Wayne Gretzky and the Edmonton Oilers.

    Flatley never made it back to the finals, but he was one of the top Islanders for the rest of the 1980s.

11. Don Maloney

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    Don Maloney had a solid 26 points in 28 regular season games in his first year with the New York Rangers. But Maloney made his real impact in the postseason.

    In the 1979 playoffs, Maloney scored 20 points, setting a rookie record at the time. His seven goals and 13 assists helped the Rangers reach the Stanley Cup Finals.

    The Rangers lost to Montreal in the finals, but Maloney set himself up for a decade of success in New York.

    Maloney is now the general manager of the Phoenix Coyotes, leading them to the Western Conference Finals in 2012.

10. Félix Potvin

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    In 1992-93, Félix Potvin established himself as a franchise goaltender for Toronto by recording a .910 save percentage in his first season. 

    Potvin continued to play well in the postseason, bringing the Leafs one win away from the Stanley Cup Finals before losing to Los Angeles.

    Potvin allowed 2.84 goals per game in the playoffs, winning 11 games in the process.

9. Martin Brodeur

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    Before Martin Brodeur became a future Hall of Famer, he was a rookie trying to earn the starting job for the New Jersey Devils

    After a Calder Trophy-winning regular season, Brodeur was dominant in the Devils playoff run.

    New Jersey reached the Eastern Conference Finals before losing to eventual Stanley Cup champion Rangers, but Brodeur had incredible numbers before their elimination.

    Brodeur posted a 1.95 GAA and a .926 save percentage in 17 games. Although he didn't win a cup in 1994, Brodeur and the Devils returned to the playoffs the next season to take home the hardware.

8. Brad Marchand

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    In his first full season with the Bruins, Brad Marchand played a major contribution to Boston's Stanley cup victory. 

    Marchand had a solid 41-point season, but his impact in the playoffs helped him win the hearts of Boston fans everywhere.

    In 25 games, Marchand had 11 goals and eight assists, an effort that allowed Boston to win their first cup since 1972.

7. Ville Leino

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    Ville Leino is an interesting case in this discussion. Despite being 26 years old and having played in the playoffs previously for Detroit, Leino was still considered a rookie.

    Still, the forward had an incredible postseason. Leino had the most playoff assists by a rookie ever with 14 and added seven goals, tying him for the all-time rookie points record.

    The Flyers couldn't pull out the victory, however, losing to Chicago in the Stanley Cup Finals.

6. Claude Lemieux

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    In 1986, Claude Lemieux played in only 10 regular season games for the Montreal Canadiens. In the playoffs, however, Lemieux showed why he would become a staple of the NHL for the next two decades.

    In 20 playoff games, Lemieux scored 10 goals and added six assists. Four of Lemieux's goals were game winners, giving him a reputation for being a clutch performer.

    1986 was the first of four Stanley Cup wins for Lemieux.

5. Ron Hextall

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    Ron Hextall finally won a Stanley Cup as a member of the Kings front office. But despite not winning the Cup as a player, he still had one of the greatest performances in playoff history as a rookie in 1987.

    Hextall won the Vezina Trophy in his rookie year, but his performance in the playoffs was even more impressive.

    Hextall went 15-11 in the playoffs, coming one win from a championship. His dominating performance and 2.77 GAA contributed to him winning the Conn Smythe despite not winning the Cup.

4. Dino Ciccarelli

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    Dino Ciccarelli was a major contributor to the North Stars' appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals in 1981. 

    Minnesotta lost to the New York Islanders in the finals, but Ciccarelli cemented his legacy nonetheless.

    In 19 games, Ciccarelli recorded a rookie record 21 points. Ciccarelli scored 14 times, another rookie record. Ville Leino tied his points record in 2010, but he still stands alone for most playoff goals by a rookie.

    Ciccarelli never won a Stanley Cup, but he will forever be remembered for his performance in the playoffs.

3. Ken Dryden

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    Ken Dryden was drafted in 1964, but elected to pursue his degree at Cornell instead.

    By the time he reached the NHL in 1971, he was an experienced goaltender with a winning track record.

    In 1971, he played only six regular season games for Montreal, but his 1.65 GAA was impressive enough to earn him the starting job in the playoffs.

    In the postseason, Dryden went 12-8, leading the Canadiens to the Stanley Cup with a 3.00 GAA. His performance earned him the Conn Smythe Trophy.

    Dryden played eight seasons with the Canadiens, making the playoffs each year and winning six Stanley Cups.

2. Patrick Roy

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    Patrick Roy grew up a Quebec Nordiques fan, but he was drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in 1984. He joined Montreal for the 1985-86 season and made an immediate impact.

    Roy lead Montreal to the playoffs in his first season. Much like Dryden before him, Roy dominated the competition in the playoffs. In 20 games, Roy had a 15-5 record. His GAA of 1.92 helped Montreal win the Stanley Cup. His .923 save percentage also helped him earn the Conn Smythe Trophy.

    Roy split his career between Montreal and Colorado, winning three more championships.

1. Cam Ward

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    Cam Ward's rookie season was spent on the bench providing support for starter Martin Gerber. In 28 regular season games, he went 14-8 with a 3.68 GAA.

    In the playoffs, Carolina fell behind in Game 2 of the first round. Head Coach Peter Laviolette made the decision to remove Gerber and play the rookie Ward. 

    Ward thrived in the high-pressure situation. Coming out of nowhere, Ward won 15 games en route to a Stanley Cup victory. His 2.15 GAA and .920 save percentage gave the rookie the Conn Smythe Trophy.

    Ward's emergence mid-playoffs to take the team from a possible sweep to Stanley Cup Champions was unprecedented. Ward's performance will go down as not only one of the greatest rookie postseasons, but one of the best postseasons of all time.