With the NHL playoffs in full swing, and with all of the first round series having been determined with the exception of the Leafs/Habs series, I thought this would be as good a time as any to do a little recap of the first round and highlight some of the players who stood out over the past week or two. I will highlight one player from each division that I thought stood out from the pack during round one. Without further ado, let's get into it!
North Division: William Nylander
So as mentioned, the Montreal/Toronto series is still ongoing, and won't wrap up until Monday, but with that in mind I think Nylander has been the biggest difference maker in this series offensively. The Habs have effectively shut down the Leafs’ top duo of Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews, but luckily the second line has stepped up. Despite losing their second line center and captain John Tavares to a gruesome injury in Game 1, Nylander and linemate Alex Galchenyuk have had some nice chemistry and provided some much needed offense for the Buds. Nylander has seven points thus far, with four of them being goals as he was able to score a goal in each of the first four games of the series.
The Habs were able to keep Nylander off the board in Game 6 which saw the Leafs mount a third-period comeback only to come up short in overtime for the second straight game. With Carey Price seemingly back on his A-game, and with the Habs effectively neutralizing the Leafs top line, the Leafs could really use a big game from Nylander on Monday to finally push them over the first round hump and win their first playoff series in over 16 years.
Central Division: Nikita Kucherov
If you had your doubts about Kucherov heading into the playoffs, I think those doubts would have been totally warranted. Having been held out of action for the entirety of the 2020-21 season after opting to undergo hip surgery, it was announced in early May that Kucherov would be back just in time for the playoffs. After not playing since last year's playoffs, Kucherov picked up right where he left off by putting up three goals and eight assists for 11 points in just six games, which leads the league in playoff scoring. The Panthers had no answers for the big guns of the Lightning, especially when it came to the power play, which is where Kucherov did most of his damage.
Had Kucherov come out slow and showing rust and the L