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Rookies shine in their Stanley Cup playoff debuts

Apr 27, 2012, 3:18 PM EDT

Braden Holtby Getty Images

Lost among the major storylines of this postseason (violence, suspensions and upsets, predominantly) is the fact several playoff rookies have broke onto the scene in style, performing like grizzled vets.

They include…

Braden Holtby, G, Washington Capitals

Key stats: 4-3, 2.00 GAA, .940 save percentage

After appearing in just seven games this season, the 22-year-old out-dueled Tim Thomas (you know, the reigning playoff MVP and Vezina winner) in a seven game stunner over the Bruins.

In doing so, Holtby joined Montreal’s Ken Dryden (1971) and Calgary’s Mike Vernon (1986) as the only rookie goalies ever to defeat the defending Cup champions in a playoff series.

Adam Henrique, C, New Jersey Devils

Key stats: 2G-1A-3PTS

Averaging over 16 minutes a game, the Calder Trophy nominee was a clutch performer for the Devils in Round 1. Henrique opened and closed the scoring in New Jersey’s series-clinching win over Florida, becoming the second rookie in NHL history to score an OT winner in Game 7.

The other? Montreal’s Claude Lemieux, in 1986.

Chris Kreider, LW, New York Rangers

Key stats: 1G-0A-1PT, 1 GWG

Kreider made history in Game 3, becoming the first player to win an NCAA title and make his NHL debut in the same year — in the playoffs — since Tony Hrkac did it in 1987 with the University of North Dakota and St. Louis Blues.

As New York’s opening-round series versus Ottawa progressed, so too did Kreider’s role. He scored the game-winning goal in Game 6, then received over 18 minutes of ice time in Game 7 — the only New York forwards that played more were Ryan Callahan, Brad Richards and Derek Stepan.

Brayden Schenn/Sean Couturier, C, Philadelphia Flyers

Key stats: (combined) 5G-5A-10PTS.

Schenn, 20, was a point-a-game player in the opening round against Pittsburgh (2G-4A-6PTS in six games.) Couturier scored a hat trick in Game 2, becoming the youngest player (19 years, 128 days) since Toronto Hall of Famer Ted Kennedy accomplished the feat in 1945.

Gabriel Bourque, LW, Nashville Predators

Key stats: 3G-1A-4PTS

The 21-year-old — who only made his NHL debut on Dec. 28 — was huge in the opening round, leading all Predators with three goals and finishing second in scoring (4PTS). Bourque also tied for the club lead and for third in the NHL overall with a +5 rating.

  1. bdfools - Apr 27, 2012 at 3:30 PM

    Hagelin is probably worth a mention too. Dude is totally noticeable out there and the Rangers surely missed him during his 3-game suspension. Rangers went 1-2 with Hagelin out and 3-1 with him in. It was also his speed that drew the final penalty in last night’s game that sealed the deal.

    Kreider and Hagelin give the Rangers an incredibly fast 1-2 rookie punch.

  2. broadstbully33 - Apr 27, 2012 at 3:30 PM

    couturier did so much more than score a hat trick( ask malkin) schenn was a hitting machine

  3. gmenfan1982 - Apr 27, 2012 at 3:49 PM

    Kreider looked much better on a line with Callahan and Stepan rather than the 4th line. The 4th line just slowed him down. Schenn and Couturier were incredible in the pens series. Legit NHL players. Hagelin has been great all year with the Rangers. He will be putting up more points for sure as his career progresses.

  4. ml3939 - Apr 27, 2012 at 3:50 PM

    What about Matt Read? 2-2-4. Kills penalties and plays the point on the second power play unit.

  5. pepper2011 - Apr 27, 2012 at 3:59 PM

    Holtby really hasn’t been that good. The Bruins were taking terrible shots and he was coughing up huge rebounds. Alzner and Carlson were cleaning up everything. He’s good positionally, but for a guy with a
    .940 save % I can only think of a handful of above average saves. I know Holtby’s the shinny new toy, but it’s all about how darn well that defense is playing. Hunter even has green & hamirlik looking like they know how to play. Until thomas crapped himself and gave up two softies in game 5; he was outplaying him. I don’t know… he has been there when needed – take a look at the shot charts- 75% of shots are outside the dots and above the circle. I am not some bitter Bruins fan. washington outplayed them and deserved to win, but it really wasn’t holtby’s doing. Washington is the only team with 3 dmen with more than 15 blocked shots. Also – Girardi on NYR has nuts of steel 30 blocks!

    • pepper2011 - Apr 27, 2012 at 4:03 PM

      correction- the Rangers have 3 too.

      • davidpcoelho - Apr 27, 2012 at 4:52 PM

        Holtby is a rookie goalie facing the defending champs withough home ice advantage. Sorry…this is an amazing feat.

        Not to mention how many more shots on goal he stopped over Tim Thomas.

        Not taking anything away from the Caps defense stepping up though.

    • critter69 - Apr 27, 2012 at 9:32 PM

      Homer much?

      Or just anti-Caps?

      Maybe both?

      • pepper2011 - May 2, 2012 at 3:37 PM

        actually neither. Holbty wasn’t that good. Still hasn’t been. The defense is playing very well. the system is working. realistic – there is not one bruins fan; myself included that thinks Holtby won that series or even stole a game. the bruins got bad shots; forced by a great gameplan and great defense. an AHL goalie could have stopped 96% of those shots… oh wait…

        if you notice I did say the Caps deserved to win. Please learn to read. Game 1 against the rangers was perfect. they got three decent shots on net. 3 goals. the bruins were just firing away looking for the rebounds – they just were’t paying the price to gather them. Most if not all non capitals fans will tell you the same thing. He’s made about 4 great saves and let in about 8 soft goals.

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