The second round of the 2017-18 playoffs are in the books and the four teams that finished highest in the regular season have moved on to their conference finals. As I did after the first round, I have named players who had the best round.
Chuck’s Second-Round Heroes
F- Derek Stepan, Madrid – The guy outscored everyone in the EURO League through two rounds of the playoffs with 25 points in 12 games. He was awesome. In the 5-game series against the Smurfs, he put up 7 goals and 11 points, with 14 takeaways to just 5 giveaways. MVP-type numbers but now just a spectator like you and me.
F – Claude Giroux, Belfast – The former Capital offered points and leadership against Moscow; 2 goals and 8 assists in 5 games to go with 8 blocked shots and 9 takeaways.
F – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Berlin – Eight points including 6 assists in 5 games against Madrid and he was judicious with the puck, having been charged with just one giveaway in the series. Having third-line production like that was huge for the Smurfs.
D – Mike Green, Berlin – After earning just an assist in the first round of the playoffs, Green broke loose, scoring 3 goals and 5 assists in 5 games. He was also plus 6 in the series.
D – Dan Girardi, Gothenburg – Despite playing for a team that got themselves eliminated, Girardi produced a great two-way performance (-1 for the series) and was one of the main reasons Frolunda was able to stick around with Minsk as long as they did. In 6 games, Girardi scored 3 goals and added 2 assists and his takeaway-giveaway ratio was 8-5. He and fellow Gothenburg defensemen John Carlson and Kevin Dallman were physical, with 16 hits each in the series.
G – Tuukka Rask, Paris – He leads all goalies in the playoffs with a miniscule 1.26 goals against average and a stellar .953 save percentage. Rask shut out Athens twice in the second round and in the 6 games, he allowed just 10 goals and only 6 at even strength.
F – Jordan Staal, Minsk – The top line for the Hussars sat in the back seat against Gothenburg and let Staal’s line drive. Staal, Thomas Powell and Gustav Nyquist combined for 13 goals in the 6 games. Staal and Powell shared the team lead in points during the series (11) and Staal fired 32 shots on goal in the 6 games. Staal scored the overtime winner in Gothenburg to end the series.
F- Evander Kane, Belfast – Kane scored 5 goals in 5 games and added 4 assists. Playing with Giroux and James Neal, Kane was lethal on the left side.
F – Evgeny Malkin, Paris – The big guy had 6 goals and 6 assists in 6 games and was plus 7, working particularly well with Joffrey Lupul to give Athens fits. In Game 5, Paris was trailing 4-2 with less than 10 minutes to play and could have gone down by a game in the series. Malkin assisted on two goals to tie it and on the winner in overtime.
D- Alex Goligoski, Athens – A lot of Athens players had a lot of minus shifts against the Rouge Eiffels, but Goligoski had a respectable series. He was minus 5 through six games, but he blocked 14 shots and had a takeaway-giveaway ratio of 7-2.
D – Andrei Markov and Nick Leddy, Moscow – Don’t blame defense partners Andrei Markov and Nick Leddy for Spartak’s failure to advance in the playoffs. Each player was plus 6 in the 5-game series. Markov scored one fewer point than Leddy’s 5 points but he had one more blocked shot and one more takeaway. Neither was whistled for a penalty in the series and they accounted for a total of 15 shots on goal and 13 hits.
G – Pekka Rinne, Gothenburg – Next to Rask, all other goalies had mediocre numbers, so we’ll shine some light on Rinne, who stole a game from Minsk and did really well while getting a real workout from the Hussars’ shooters. Four times in the series, Rinne faced 40 or more shots and twice – in Games 1 and 2 – he was peppered with 55 or more shots. Frolunda left Belarus tied in the series 1-1 after Rinne stopped 59 shots and helped his team win Game 2 by a 4-3 score.