Here's a look at 10 players who really impressed me in the first round of the 2009 Stanley Cup playoffs.
10. Matt Walker, Chicago - I knew nothing about this gigantic defenseman before the playoffs. He has shown some real nice poise in his first post-season, never, unlike his finger, getting bent out of shape. He's shown heart, toughness, and a good first pass.
9. Ryan Johnson, Vancouver - Another finger-impaired player, Ryan Johnson was plagued all season with a bad finger injury which will require surgery in the off-season. He did not show Vancouver fans a lot during the season for that reason, but he has upped his game significantly in the post-season. He is a shot blocking machine and, regardless of the finger, is winning key face-offs.
8. Keith Tkachuk, St. Louis - Mr. Tkachuk has a terrible playoff reputation, and statistically he did not much as his Blues were swept in four games. But aside from Andy McDonald, Tkachuk was the Blues' most noticeable player, providing a great physical presence.
7. Brent Seabrook, Chicago - This guy has been, as TSN's Pierre McGuire would say, a monster! Walker, Seabrook and Cam Barker are all maturing on Chicago's blue line right before our eyes. That is not to mention Ducan Keith and Brian Campbell, and you can see why the Blackhawks are a very dangerous team this spring.
6. Eric Staal, Carolina - Staal is not a true surprise, as he's a pretty special player to begin with. That being said, after winning the Cup as a 21 year old his play levelled of a bit. At times against New Jersey he returned his game to that rare superstar level. If he can keep this up it will be hard to keep him off Team Canada 2010.
5. Paul Martin, New Jersey - At the other end of that series is New Jersey. Long gone are the days of big name defensemen in New Jersey - Niedermayer, Stevens, Rafalski. Paul Martin is now the guy on the blue line. Watching him up close definitely gives us a great appreciation of Paul Martin's abilities.
4. Ryan Callahan, New York - I've never really watched this pint sized player before. He's noticeable because of his size, but the more I watch the more obvious it is he can really play in this league.
3. Jonas Hiller, Anaheim - Not too many people knew of Jonas Hiller before this playoff. He has been hot down the stretch of the regular season, but has not tapered at all under the pressure of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
2. Claude Giroux, Philadelphia - The Flyers' first round was over quick, but Flyers fans have to excited about Giroux. He oozes potential.
1. Simeon Varlamov - Great story here, as the young Russian goalie dares to recreate Ken Dryden's fairy tale beginning to his career.