Most valuable player of each first-round series selected by NHL.com

One of the most amazing first rounds in the history of the Stanley Cup Playoffs ended Sunday with overtime decisions in each Game 7 played. Three other Game 7s were decided Saturday.

The eight first-round series – seven of which required at least six games – were filled with amazing individual performances and clutch heroics.

So, picking the most valuable player of the first round is no easy task. Yet, that is just what we asked a panel of NHL.com writers to do, identify the MVP from the series they covered in the first round before the second round begins with two games Tuesday.

Here are their selections:

Victor HedmanTampa Bay Lightning

The defenseman averaged 25:42 of ice time, more than three minutes more than any other Tampa Bay skater, in a seven-game win against the Toronto Maple Leafs. He led the Lightning with 27 shots and had seven points (two goals, five assists), one fewer than forward Nikita Kucherov for the team lead. As usual, Hedman was a beast, playing big minutes in all situations and impacting the game all over the ice. Perhaps no defenseman in the NHL uses size and skating the way the 6-foot-6 Hedman does, taking away time and space from opponents defensively and jumping into the play offensively. – Nicholas J. Cotsonika, columnist

Video: TBL @ TOR, Gm5: Hedman scores PPG: 52 after Stamkos

Cale MakarColorado Avalanche

Makar had 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in a sweep of the Nashville Predators, the most in the playoffs at that point and the most in NHL history by a defenseman through four games in a postseason. He has 41 points (10 goals, 31 assists) in 39 NHL playoff games. Among NHL defensemen who have played that many playoff games, only Bobby Orr (1.24) has more points per game than Makar (1.05) does. “The way he dominates from the back end is amazing,” teammate Nathan MacKinnon said. – Cotsonika

Video: NSH @ COL, Gm2: Makar buries game-winner in OT

Connor McDavidEdmonton Oilers

When the Oilers entered an elimination situation, their captain found another gear. He played a game-high 24:02 in Game 6 and had three points in the 4-2 victory against the Los Angeles Kings. In Game 7, McDavid played a game-high 27:23 and had a goal and an assist to drive his team to a 2-0 win. With a playoffs-leading 14 points (four goals, 10 assists) in the first round, McDavid was easily the best player in the series. – Tim Campbell, staff writer

Video: LAK @ EDM, Gm7: McDavid stays with puck, nets backhand

Jake OettingerDallas Stars

You better believe I’m going with the Stars goalie, despite the fact he was on the losing end of the seven-game series against the Calgary Flames. Oettinger was superb, going 3-4 with a 1.81 goals-against average, a .954 save percentage (best among goalies getting at least one start in the Stanley Cup Playoffs) and one shutout. Oettinger faced 285 shots over the seven games, most of any playoff goalie, including 67 in Game 7, a 3-2 overtime loss. He just about got the Stars to the second round, so he gets my vote. – Tracey Myers, staff writer

Video: DAL @ CGY, Gm7: Oettinger stands on head in Game 7

Antti RaantaCarolina Hurricanes

Other players in the series may have been flashier or generated more buzz (or more controversy), but none were more important to the Hurricanes than Raanta in their first-round win against the Boston Bruins. He made two huge saves early in crucial games – on Brad Marchand in Game 5 and Taylor Hall in Game 7 – which settled the team down and allowed it to score first, something Carolina did in six of the seven games. He wasn’t perfect, but he was the most valuable player on a team that could have been rattled by the loss of one of the best goalies in the NHL this season in Frederik Andersen. Instead, they had Raanta, who put up a 2.37 GAA and .927 save percentage, a goalie who was everything they needed him to be. – Amalie Benjamin, staff writer

Video: BOS @ CAR, Gm7: Raanta denies Hall on B’s 2-on-1 rush

Ryan O’Reilly, St. Louis Blues

The Blues captain tied for the team lead with forwards David Perron and Vladimir Tarasenko with five goals in six games in the first-round series against the Minnesota Wild. But O’Reilly’s impact went far beyond the offense he produced (eight points, second to Perron’s nine). He averaged 20:37 per game, more than any other Blues forward. He played the penalty kill and the power play, which scored in each game. O’Reilly was tasked with shutting down one of Minnesota’s big two lines throughout the series and excelled. Oh, he also won 57.1 percent of face-offs and was the emotional leader when St. Louis fell behind 2-1 in the series. – Shawn P. Roarke, senior director of editorial

Video: MIN @ STL, Gm6: O’Reilly finishes Schenn’s feed for PPG

Carter VerhaegheFlorida Panthers

The forward outperformed everyone on the Panthers’ star-filled roster against the Washington Capitals in the first round. Verhaeghe set team records for a playoff series with six goals and 12 points in six games and scored the winning goal in each of the final three games of the series. He scored two goals, including the overtime winner, in Florida’s 3-2 victory in Game 4, set a Panthers record with five points (two goals, three assists) to help them rally from 3-0 for a 5-3 win in Game 5 and scored the overtime winner and also had an assist in a 4-3 victory in Game 6. – Tom Gulitti, staff writer

Video: FLA @ WSH, Gm6: Verhaeghe ends Game 6, series in OT

Mika ZibanejadNew York Rangers

Zibanejad did not score in Games 1-5, and his line (with Chris Kreider and Frank Vatrano) struggled in its matchup against the top line of the Pittsburgh Penguins. But when the Rangers needed their No. 1 center to step up, Zibanejad did in a massive way. He’s as big of a reason why the Rangers came back from 3-1 down in the series to advance to the second round. Zibanejad had four points (two goals, two assists) in Game 6, a 5-3 win. His goals 1:16 apart in the second period erased Pittsburgh’s 2-0 lead. He had the primary assist on Kreider’s two goals that provided leads of 3-2 and 4-3. Zibanejad had three points (one goal, two assists) in Game 7, a 4-3 win. He scored the tying goal with 5:45 remaining in the third period and won 18 of 25 face-offs (72.0 percent). Zibanejad led all players in the series with 11 points (three goals, eight assists). – Dan Rosen, senior writer

Video: PIT @ NYR, Gm7: Copp connects with Zibanejad

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