No series went to Game 7 but in no way did that mean the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs was lacking in drama. Of the 42 games we saw, 28 were decided by one goal and a record 18 required overtime.
Wedged into all the tension were some standout individual performances. With that in mind, here’s a quick look at our Conn Smythe power rankings as we head into the second round.
1. Jake Allen
Save percentage: .956
The St. Louis Blues were outshot 182-133 in five games and the Wild dominated puck possession throughout their series yet the Blues finished them off in five games. Quite simply, Mike Yeo’s team wouldn’t have advanced to the second round were it not for his netminder. Allen has only had one poor outing since the beginning of March — allowing five goals against the Jets on April 4 — and has clearly carried the momentum into the post-season, averaging 34.8 saves per game.
2. Pekka Rinne
Save percentage: .976
Most hockey fans and pundits had the Chicago Blackhawks advancing to the Stanley Cup Final. Rinne and his Nashville Predators teammates must not have gotten the memo because he enjoyed one of the best four-game stretches of his career, posting two shutouts and only allowing three goals in the entire series.
Not only that but he also added two assists, which was the same amount of points both Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews had in the series.
3. Erik Karlsson
TOI per game: 30:23
Skaters can’t steal games the way a goalie can, which is why Karlsson sits third and not first, but you can argue no player has been as dominant or as impressive as the two-time Norris winner has been thus far in the post-season. The Ottawa Senators captain has been all over the ice at both ends of the rink. He leads all defencemen with eight takeaways and all skaters in total ice time and ice time per game.
“He deserves all the credit that he gets because really he pushes our team, he drives our team, he plays at both ends of the rink and he plays important minutes — the last minute of a close game, he’s out there and he does his job,” Dion Phaneuf said of his teammate.
What makes his first-round performance all the more awe-inspiring is the fact he said he’s playing with two hairline fractures in his left heel after suffering an injury on March 28 against the Philadelphia Flyers.
He has assisted on 40 per cent of his team’s goals with a handful of his passes being of the remarkable, jaw-dropping variety.
4. Evgeni Malkin
TOI per game: 19:44
Out with a shoulder injury, Malkin hadn’t played in a month when the playoffs began. The layoff didn’t seem to affect him in the slightest. Malkin has been lights out playing between Phil Kessel and Bryan Rust, registering 11 points in just five games as the Pittsburgh Penguins outclassed the Blue Jackets. His 2009 Conn Smythe Trophy and 140 points in 129 career playoff games suggest no one should’ve been surprised that he took his game to another level once the post-season began.
5. Henrik Lundqvist
Save percentage: .947
Even at the ripe old age of 35, when “King Henrik” is on his game he’s still among the NHL’s elite netminders. The Montreal Canadiens were reminded of this in their first-round series, especially in games four, five and six. The New York Rangers leader is poised and focused heading into a series against the Sens.
Honourable mentions: Cam Talbot, Braden Holtby, Sidney Crosby, Ryan Johansen, T.J. Oshie, Bobby Ryan.