There’s two players whose performance make them a natural for this feature.
Just making it to the NHL was a victory for the former punchline of the 2007 draft. For more than half a decade, it was a running joke that the 4th pick of the draft was clearly a flub, a mistake, or pure incompetence on the part of the Los Angeles King’s draft team. At the start of this season, Patrick Kane who went first overall in that draft had already won a Cup, Sam Gagner had a 8 point game, and the second defenseman taken in the draft had already played 220 regular season games. Thomas Hickey on the other hand languished in Manchester getting jumped over by Slava Voynev, Jake Muzzin and others. And then things changed.
January 15th the Los Angeles Kings waived him. The New York Islanders pounced. After playing nearly every game of the regular season Hickey could look at his NHL stats and say “I belong”. On a team that despite lacking a training camp, and having turnover on its blueline improved it’s penalty kill rank year over year, as a rookie he contributed over a minute of ice time there. He also boasted a better plus-minus than any of the teams defenders save Vishnovsky. On a team whose total goal differential was a minus-4, Hickey put up a plus nine tying him for third among all rookie defensemen. Most importantly, he helped an NHL team to the playoffs.
The other guy who needs some public adulation today, if less of an introduction is Brian Elliot. The resurgence of the Saint Louis Blues goaltender has him making a startling leap over last years numbers through four games. In last years team wide second round meltdown against the eventual Cup winners, he struggled to put up a .904sv%. This year, his four games is the most of any goaltender, and his .935sv% is hands down the best of his playoff career.