NHL Playoff's Top 10 Performances From The First Round

NHL Playoff's Top 10 Performances From The First Round
Photo: © Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
It was an exhilarating first round of the 2017 NHL Playoffs, as fans were treated to a record-setting 18 games that were decided in overtime.

That's what the NHL would call "parity," a word used hundreds of times over the past several seasons.

There were many admirable performances in the first round -- including some extraordinary examples of toughness. San Jose's Joe Thornton posted three assists in four games while skating with a torn MCL and ACL in his knee. Meanwhile, Ottawa's Erik Karlsson recorded six assists in six games despite suffering from two hairline fractures in his foot.

Here's a look at the first-round standouts who exploded at the start of the postseason, rebounded from rough regular seasons, or were the strong X-factors needed to kickstart their teams' playoff runs.

1. Pekka Rinne, Nashville (G)

Stats: 4 GP, 4 W, .976 SV%, 0.70 GAA, 2 SO
Rinne was simply dominant in Nashville's sweep of Chicago in the first round. He was just the fourth goalie in NHL history to win four games with a goals-against average of 0.70 or less. It was a rollercoaster season for Rinne, but he is playing his best hockey of the season.

Rinne recorded two shutouts and saved 123 of 126 shots, all against the heavily favored, Western Conference top-seeded Blackhawks. If Rinne continues this rate of play, the Predators will continue to be a dangerous team.

2. Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh (C)

Stats: 5 GP, 2 G, 9 A, 11 Pts.
Malkin has a dominant history of playoff performances, and this year is nothing different. The Russian sniper led all players with 11 points in the first round. Pittsburgh is a favorite to repeat as Stanley Cup champions, and Malkin could win his second Conn Smythe Trophy (2009).

Pittsburgh will be up against another high-powered team in Washington, which will do everything it can to cool Malkin's hot stick. But perhaps the bigger problem for the Capitals will be doing the same against Sidney Crosby.

3. Bobby Ryan, Ottawa (RW)

Stats: 6 GP, 4 G, 3 A, 7 Pts.
To say Ryan's season was forgettable would be an understatement. Ryan took his share of criticism after producing just 13 goals and 25 points in 62 games. The 29-year-old seemed to be saving it for the playoffs.

The American's compete level has been targeted in the past, but Ryan came alive in Ottawa's first-round matchup against Boston, leading the Senators in goals and forming a scoring duo with Derick Brassard, who comes in at No. 5 on this list. 

4. Jake Allen, St. Louis (G)

Stats: 5 GP, 4 W, .956 SV%, 1.47 GAA
Following a tandem year with Brian Elliott, Allen had a rough first half of the season in which he was the Blues' undisputed No. 1. After the All-Star break, Allen found his game and helped pull St. Louis up the standings.

Allen built on that success in the first round and shut down the NHL's second-highest scoring team of the regular season in Minnesota. His save percentage and GAA were second to only Rinne. The two are set to clash in the second round on Wednesday night. 

5. Derick Brassard, Ottawa (C)

Stats: 6 GP, 2 G, 6 A, 8 Pts.
Brassard was traded straight up for No. 10 on this list this past summer following a 27-goal, 58-point season with the New York Rangers. It was a move that signaled Ottawa believes its time is now. The 29-year-old had a slow first year with the Senators, registering just 14 goals and 39 points in 81 games.

Playing alongside Ryan, Brassard chipped in two goals and eight points in the Senators' six games against the Bruins, continuing his streak of strong postseasons.

6. Alex Radulov, Montreal (RW)

Stats: 6 GP, 2 G, 5 A, 7 Pts.
There was a lot of criticism directed toward Montreal general manager Marc Bergevin's signing of Radulov this summer. However, it proved to be a low-risk, high-reward move that paid off tremendously for both the former KHL superstar and Canadiens alike.

In Montreal's six-game, first-round loss, Radulov led the team in goals, assists, and points and had the second-best plus/minus (even), as well. Radulov, 30, will be looking for a raise on a long-term deal this summer, and Montreal would be crazy to let him walk.

7. Jake Guentzel, Pittsburgh (C)

Stats: 5 GP, 5 G, 1 A, 6 Pts.
Guentzel potted 16 goals and 33 points in the 40 games he played with Pittsburgh this season. Had he played more and continued his pace, he would have made more of an impression in the Calder Trophy race -- even in such a strong year for rookies.

Sure, the 22-year-old plays alongside Crosby, but that doesn't make his play any less impressive. He currently leads the postseason in goals and will be an integral part in a Penguins team looking to win consecutive Stanley Cups. 

8. Auston Matthews, Toronto (C)

Stats: 6 GP, 4 G, 1 A, 5 Pts.
Matthews followed up an impressive rookie year with strong playoff hockey against the regular season's best team in the Washington Capitals. The 19-year-old was held pointless in the first two games of the series before a four-game goal streak that kept the Capitals on their heels.

Matthews' season will likely see him rewarded the Calder Trophy. He showed a glimpse of what he's capable of and wasn't fazed at the speed, intensity, and dedication it takes to play postseason hockey.

9. T.J. Oshie, Washington (RW)

Stats: 6 GP, 3 G, 4 A, 7 Pts.
Is this finally Washington's year? Pending free agent Oshie had a career year in goals with 33, tied with the great Alexander Ovechkin. 

Oshie hasn't slowed down. He led Washington past a surprising Toronto team that just wouldn't quit against the big, bad Capitals, a team that held the advantage in nearly every aspect of the game. Oshie led the team in goals, assists, and points in the first round and played more ice time on average than any other Washington forward.
 

10. Mika Zibanejad, New York Rangers (C)

Stats: 6 GP, 1 G, 3 A, 4 Pts.
The swap of Brassard for the five-year-younger Zibanejad this past summer was an obvious long-term win for New York. Zibanejad opened the season with five goals and 15 points in 19 games before he missed the next month with a broken leg.

He was unable to duplicate his success upon his return, as he tried to get his feet and speed back under him. His four points are far from leading the postseason, but they are good enough to lead his team in a first-round victory over Montreal.

Have a question or a comment for Jacob Messing? You can find him on Twitter @JMessing23.
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