Round one of the Stanley Cup Playoffs has officially ended, and it proved to have a little bit of everything. A whiteout, some kissing, a catfish tank, and a token game seven. The first round also included some standout performances from a few unlikely sources. Our MVPs from each and every first-round series are listed below.
Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Boston Bruins – MVP: Torey Krug
When talking about the veterans on the Boston Bruins, the names Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand typically come to mind. One name that is often overlooked is Torey Krug, who has now been a stalwart on Boston’s back-end for the past five seasons. After enjoying one of the most underrated seasons in 2018, tallying 14 goals and 59 points, Krug continued his scoring success in the post-season.
The undrafted Bruins defenseman finishes up round one tied with Capitals’ John Carlson for the lead in points among D-men with nine. Krug’s ability to quarterback the power play also made him a lethal weapon as his puck-moving prowess played a key factor in Boston’s series win against Toronto. The former Michigan State Spartan was also responsible for the game-tying goal in game seven, which helped shift the momentum back in Boston’s favour.
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) April 26, 2018
New Jersey Devils vs. Tampa Bay Lightning – MVP: Nikita Kucherov
Not much has changed for the Tampa Bay Lightning between the regular season and post-season. Despite all of the talk that Taylor Hall should be the front-runner for the Hart Trophy, Nikita Kucherov was the best player on the ice throughout Tampa’s first-round series against the New Jersey Devils.
Kucherov notched five goals, with three of them turning out to be game-winners, including the series-clinching goal. The fifth-year veteran recorded ten-points in total and was able to play with a physical edge throughout the entire series, which saw him lay a massive hit on Devils defenseman Sami Vatanen.
Philadelphia Flyers vs. Pittsburgh Penguins – MVP: Sean Couturier
It takes a special effort to be named MVP of a series while playing for the losing team, but Sean Couturier’s performance simply couldn’t be ignored. Anything the Flyers did through the regular season and playoffs went through their centreman.
For starters, Couturier played games five and six with a torn MCL — a torn MCL for crying out loud! This is where the story gets extraordinary, as he didn’t just play with a torn MCL, he dominated with the injury. Couturier scored the game-winning goal in game five and then went on to score a hat-trick while picking up five points in game six. And he did it all on one knee.
Sean Couturier you filthy animal pic.twitter.com/zLvr0oO1bX
— Bar South N Celly™ (@BarSouthNCelly) April 22, 2018
Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Washington Capitals – MVP: Braden Holtby
Until Braden Holtby entered the crease for the Capitals in Game 2, the sky was falling in the nation’s capital. The Caps lost Game 1 and by the time Holtby stepped foot on the ice in Game 2, Washington had already allowed four goals. The Capitals needed someone to rescue them from another playoff failure, and Holtby was their guy.
Despite faltering mightily down the stretch of the regular season with a 3.35 goals against average and .868 save percentage over his last 17 contests, Holtby graced the crease with great success against Columbus. The Lloydminster, Saskatchewan, native led the Capitals to four straight victories over the Blue Jackets with an astounding .932 save percentage.
— NBC Sports Capitals (@NBCSCapitals) April 20, 2018
San Jose Sharks vs. Anaheim Ducks – MVP: Marcus Sorensen
The name nobody knew heading into the playoffs, Marcus Sorensen was a key contributor for the Sharks in round one. Having the ability to roll four lines in the playoffs is such an advantage for a head coach and Sorensen allotted Sharks coach Peter Deboer that luxury in round one.
After bouncing between the minors and the big league team all year, Sorensen finally found a spot on the Sharks at the end of the season. The Swedish forward does not have a real track record of prolific scoring at any level, but his ability to pot three goals in four games during the Sharks round one series aided the team in their sweep of the Ducks.
— NHL Daily 365 (@NHLDaily365) April 17, 2018
Los Angeles Kings vs. Vegas Golden Knights – MVP: Marc-Andre Fleury
The Vegas Golden Knights scored seven goals in four games, yet the team somehow managed to walk away with a series sweep. And the one player who deserves much, if not all of the credit, is three-time Stanley Cup Champion Marc-Andre Fleury.
The former Penguin hasn’t always had a reputation of being a reputable playoff performer, despite all of his Lord Stanley hardware. In fact, he once had the exact opposite said of him. During six of his 11 playoff runs with Pittsburgh, the ‘Flower’ had a save percentage below .900. But in 2018, Fleury nearly single-handedly stole round one for the Golden Knights with a sterling .977 save percentage, two shutouts and a 0.65 goals against average. He simply could not be beaten.
Vegas G coach Dave Prior: "I am looking for people who have demonstrated the courage to wait out situations longer … that can get over the discomfort of when a shooter gets in so close you start to lose time to react + it’s unsettling + you want to back off”
Marc-Andre Fleury: pic.twitter.com/JWSk42eZD6
— Kevin Woodley (@KevinisInGoal) April 18, 2018
Minnesota Wild vs. Winnipeg Jets – MVP: Dustin Byfuglien
Big Buff was a big-time player in round one against the Minnesota Wild. The 6’5″ defenseman averaged more than 25 minutes a game through five games in round one and led the Jets with 16 shots on goal in their quarterfinal matchup. Byfuglien had no goals and five assists, but it was his play when he didn’t have the puck which made him such a valuable performer.
To put it simply, Dustin Byfuglien was an utter and total wrecking ball in the first round. The 260-pound defenseman threw the body 25 times against the Minnesota Wild. Anytime the Wild were in Byfuglien’s vicinity, the menacing defenseman punished his opponent. It is no doubt that his physicality helped wear down Wild shooters who were held off the board in Games 4 and 5.
— NHL Daily 365 (@NHLDaily365) April 14, 2018
— NHL Daily 365 (@NHLDaily365) April 18, 2018
Colorado Avalanche vs. Nashville Predators – MVP: Austin Watson
The Nashville Predators truly have the deepest roster of any of the playoff teams. The Preds roll three lines that on any given night can take over a game and wreak havoc on opposing defenses. Unfortunately for the Avalanche in round one, it was the third line spearheaded by Austin Watson which created nightmares.
Watson slipped in at right wing on a potent third line for Nashville and was a dangerous player. The former Windsor Spitfire recorded four goals and seven points through six games of the first round, with none of them coming on the power play. The other side of Watson’s game is the ability to get under opponent’s skin. He goes under the radar as one of the better agitators in the National Hockey League.
Predators Austin Watson: Professional Pest pic.twitter.com/J22PSGxrnV
— Born Salty (@cjzero) April 23, 2018
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