Thursday, June 16, 2011

Around the Rinks: NHL Playoffs – Top 10 Goals of 2011

It was quite an end to the NHL season on Wednesday night in Vancouver, riots aside, with the Boston Bruins providing a huge upset at Rogers Arena to capture the 2011 Stanley Cup.

Now, when I say “upset,” it’s not so much that the Bruins beat the Canucks, it’s how they did it. Did anyone honestly predict that Boston, who had scored three times in Vancouver over the first three games there, would come out and put up a four-spot in game seven? I certainly didn’t!

One thing that wasn’t a surprise at all was the awarding of the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP to Bruins goalie Tim Thomas – he earned his second shutout of the final in the deciding game and ends up with a 1.14 goals against average against Vancouver. He was absolutely ridiculous during the playoffs and many people were convinced that he would win MVP honors regardless of the outcome on Wednesday.

Here’s the bad news though: that’s it for the season! We’ve got the NHL awards coming up, the draft a few days later, free agency kicks off a week after that and then we’re into the dog days!

Before we completely close the book on the season that was though, I feel it’s only fitting that we look back at the top 10 goals (as chosen by me) of the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs:

10. Michael Frolik

Coming in at number ten is a goal by Chicago’s Michael Frolik in game four of the first round against the Canucks. Frolik is sent in on a breakaway, he kicks the puck up from his skate to his stick and dangles Roberto Luongo while being hooked from behind. Not bad.


9. Villie Leino

At number nine we’ve got a game seven snipe from Philadelphia’s Villie Leino. The Flyers forward walks down the left wing and picks the top corner on the far side with a bullet of a slap shot. Sick! Gotta love the fist pump celebration afterwards too.


8. Bryan Bickell

In the eight spot: Chicago’s Bryan Bickell, who makes Vancouver’s Kevin Bieksa look like a pylon before cutting across the face of goal and coolly slotting it home in game four of the first round.


7. Alex Burrows

Alex Burrows takes seventh place on my list with that huge overtime winner in game seven against the Hawks. It’s not quite as intense as the Leino slap shot, but the Burrows clapper meant a lot more. I bet Chris Campoli is still having nightmares about that clearing attempt.


6. Todd Bertuzzi

With the Detroit Red Wings facing the prospect of a sweep at the hands of the San Jose Sharks, Todd Bertuzzi weaved a bit of magic in game four to keep the series alive. Big Bert earns number six on my list for his spin-o-rama top-shelf backhander, which helped kick off a huge Detroit comeback.


5. Ryan Kesler

Canucks forward Ryan Kesler really played his way into the Conn Smythe Trophy discussion in the first couple of rounds, before slowing down a bit as the playoffs went on. A good example of that play is the number five goal on this list, which came in game four of Vancouver’s second round series against the Predators.


4. Pavel Datsyuk

Players like Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk only come around every now and then, and his disgusting skill set was on display in these playoffs right to the bitter end against San Jose. Datsyuk earns the number four spot for this backhand snipe late in a game seven loss to the Sharks.


3. Thomas Vanek

At first glance, you might disagree with my selection here of a Thomas Vanek goal as the third best tally of the 2011 playoffs, but don’t judge it until you see the replays. The Sabres forward takes a pass at the side of the net, pulls the puck between his legs and then slides it between the pads of Michael Leighton.


2. Tyler Seguin

Bruins rookie Tyler Seguin took everyone by storm when he was finally given a chance to play in the Eastern Final against Tampa Bay. He scored right away and then put up four points the next game, including this beautiful breakaway goal on Dwayne Roloson.


1. Bobby Ryan

Was there ever any doubt that this would be number one on the list? Anaheim’s Bobby Ryan made David Legwand and Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators look downright silly in game five of the first round with this ridiculous goal to break a 1-1 tie in the third period. The Ducks went on to lose, but what a goal this was!


Honorable mention: Darren Helm (via Pavel Datsyuk), Mason Raymond and Nick Lidstrom.

Do you agree with my top 10? Was there a beauty goal that I missed? Let me know!

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