In the lead-up to Wednesday’s post-season kickoff, we took a take a look at the gamers who could blast, block or cease their option to Conn Smythe Trophy glory, however one MVP-caliber efficiency is rarely sufficient for a workforce to seize the Stanley Cup. So, with that in thoughts, listed below are the gamers whose playoff performances could be the final x-factors and make or break the upcoming post-season for each of the 16 Stanley Cup contenders:
ANAHEIM DUCKS: The Ducks have their share of weapons with Rickard Rakell and Ryan Getzlaf serving as the 1-2 punch up entrance that may information Anaheim’s offense, but when there was ever a time for Ondrej Kase to have his breakout, it’d be now. Kase wasn’t closely utilized in the common season, averaging lower than 14 minutes per outing, however the sophomore winger nonetheless managed to web 20 objectives and 38 factors, with all however three of his factors coming at even energy. If he escapes the high defensive pairings, he could be a helpful weapon for the Ducks.
BOSTON BRUINS: Charlie McAvoy has already seen playoff motion, averaging 26 minutes throughout six video games throughout final 12 months’s first-round assembly between Boston and Ottawa. After his rookie marketing campaign, although, it’s evident that McAvoy has the kind of potential that may make or break a playoff run. If he performs as he did by way of the common season, which is to say like a blossoming No. 1, potential Norris Trophy-contending defenseman, he could take over a collection from the again finish. If he stumbles or hesitates in his second go-round in opposition to high competitors in the playoffs, Boston might have to shuffle their blueline and reduce into McAvoy’s minutes.
COLORADO AVALANCHE: All eyes are on Nathan MacKinnon. Mikko Rantanen, regardless of flying below the radar throughout the common season, goes to have the highlight shone straight on him. But the true x-factor for the Avalanche goes to be Jonathan Bernier, who shall be tasked with beginning responsibility after Semyon Varlamov fell injured and was made unavailable for a minimum of the first spherical. Bernier can get the job accomplished, little question, and he may even get sizzling sufficient to steal a collection. Take the 14-game stretch by way of January and into February throughout which he posted an 11-2-1 report and .941 save share. But Bernier additionally closed out the season with a Three-Four-1 report and .892 SP throughout his closing 10 video games.
COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS: Artemi Panarin, Seth Jones, Zach Werenski and Sergei Bobrovsky will virtually definitely act as the cornerstones of any run the Blue Jackets piece collectively. But if Columbus goes to make any noise in the post-season, it’s going to be as much as rookie Pierre Luc-Dubois to show he can carry his second half of the common season into the playoffs. After beginning sluggish, Dubois discovered his approach onto the high line and proved himself a greater than succesful two-way, top-line pivot. He scored 14 objectives and 34 factors over his closing 50 video games and averaged upwards of 18 minutes per evening. If that’s the Dubois the Blue Jackets get in the post-season, he generally is a difference-maker in a seven-game collection.
LOS ANGELES KINGS: Jonathan Quick had an amazing season, however the playoffs generally is a totally different animal. We’ve seen two variations of Quick all through his profession when the post-season rolls round. The first is the unbeatable Gumby-esque goaltender who contorts his physique to cease pucks he should not have any enterprise stopping. That’s the Quick that gained the Conn Smythe Trophy with a .946 SP in 2011-12 and the Quick who posted a .934 SP throughout 18 outings the subsequent post-season. The different Quick is the one who posted a modest .906 SP throughout his subsequent 31 playoff video games — although he did win one other Cup with a mere .911 SP. But Quick’s play can, and fairly possible will, decide how far Los Angeles goes.
MINNESOTA WILD: Eric Staal could seem misplaced on a listing of playoff x-factors, significantly given he’s recent off of a 42-goal, 76-point marketing campaign, however current historical past tells a special story about Staal’s efficiency in the playoffs. Early in his profession with the Hurricanes, Staal’s efficiency was phenomenal as he scored 19 objectives and 43 factors in 43 video games. Staal’s previous two journeys to the playoffs, nevertheless, have been utterly forgettable. First got here the 2015-16 journey which adopted his blockbuster acquisition by the New York Rangers. Staal failed to search out the scoresheet in 5 video games. Then, final season, Staal made one other five-game journey to the playoffs solely to register a single help earlier than the Wild bowed out.
NASHVILLE PREDATORS: The enjoyable reply is Eeli Tolvanen, however the actuality is the rookie winger has come over simply forward of the post-season as nothing greater than a bit participant in a deep Predators lineup. A greater reply is Kyle Turris, who could turn into precisely the piece Nashville wanted to recover from the high. Turris was introduced in to supply the Predators extra depth down the center and he did precisely that in the common season, although he did stumble considerably down the stretch. Turris can do a little bit of all the pieces for Nashville, although, and his versatility could be as vital as his scoring contact.
NEW JERSEY DEVILS: One has to marvel how Nico Hischier will alter to the elevated physicality of post-season hockey. The rookie pivot did nicely in his freshman season and completed second on the Devils in scoring with 20 objectives and 52 factors, and New Jersey’s greatest hope at advancing previous Tampa Bay is with Hischier firing on all cylinders. It shall be tough to get by the Lightning if the Devils stay a one-man workforce — that one man being Taylor Hall — so Hischier’s play in the post-season could be of paramount significance.
PHILADELPHIA FLYERS: All eyes are on Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek and Sean Couturier after the trio paced the Flyers’ offense with a minimum of 75 factors apiece, however these tuning in to observe Philadelphia’s battle in opposition to rival Pittsburgh shouldn’t be shocked if Travis Konecny makes his presence felt. The sophomore moved as much as the high line about halfway by way of the marketing campaign and his sport exploded as he went on to complete the season with 24 objectives and 47 factors. He affords Philadelphia the essential secondary offense to be a game-changer. That mentioned, he’s untested and the hope is he doesn’t fall again into his early season hunch at the most inopportune time.
PITTSBURGH PENGUINS: Surely there shall be no Penguins followers upset if we title Matt Murray as an x-factor as Pittsburgh will get set to start its chase of a three-peat. Murray’s playoff numbers communicate for themselves over the previous two seasons, as he’s posted a .928 SP and 4 shutouts in 32 video games. That’s the good facet of Murray. The unhealthy, nevertheless, is tough first marketing campaign as a full-time starter noticed him publish a .907 SP and he completed the season on an eight-game run by which he managed a subpar .898 SP. No one is doubting Murray’s means to get the job accomplished, however there are extra questions this time round.
SAN JOSE SHARKS: Can we title Evander Kane as each a possible Conn Smythe Trophy candidate and an x-factor? No one is aware of how Kane will carry out in the post-season but as a result of he has performed almost 600 video games in the NHL with out seeing even a single minute of playoff motion. That ends this week, although, as Kane will get his first style of the post-season. If he performs as we anticipate he can — with pace, talent, physicality and an edge to his sport — he could be unstoppable. If he succumbs to the strain of lastly seeing the playoffs, although, it is likely to be a special story.
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING: There’s a boatload of offensive expertise in Tampa Bay, too many weapons for most groups to comprise, however the x-factor isn’t a top-line expertise or secondary scorer. Rather, it’s Ondrej Palat, who will little question chip in to assist the offense however will stand out most for his play in opposition to the opposition’s high expertise. As a winger, Palat doesn’t get close to the credit score he deserves for his two-way means, however shutdown gamers can make or break a collection. Palat’s defensive accountability can neutralize the opposition’s high skills and permit the Lightning’s stars to go to work.
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS: Some are of the perception that if something goes to carry the Maple Leafs again in the post-season, it’s going to be the play of their blueliners. Tasked to select one defender, although, we’ll go along with Morgan Rielly. Rielly logged massive minutes, inching in direction of 22 per evening, throughout the common season and persistently performed in opposition to the different workforce’s high line. He’s going to be requested to principally shadow the opponent’s greatest gamers in the post-season, too, and shutting down the opposing offense goes to be key to Toronto’s success. The Maple Leafs can rating. No one doubts that. The query now’s if they’ll defend nicely sufficient to go deep.
VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS: Marc-Andre Fleury was glorious throughout the common season and put collectively what was virtually inarguably the greatest marketing campaign of his profession. The drawback, although, is that Fleury isn’t any stranger to post-season stumbles. Of his 115 playoff appearances, he has posted a .900 SP or decrease on 49 events, which helps clarify his profession .908 SP in the post-season. The excellent news is that the final time Fleury was tasked with beginning responsibility in the playoffs for a protracted stretch, he went 9-6 with a .924 SP, serving to information the Penguins to the convention closing en path to a Stanley Cup victory.
WASHINGTON CAPITALS: Secondary scoring issues in the playoffs. It issues loads. So, whereas Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov are certain to guide the offense, the Capitals are going to want somebody to down the lineup to contribute. How about Andre Burakovsky? Washington has been ready for him to essentially flip it on, and he could make up for a disappointing common season with a giant playoff efficiency. He has oodles of talent and he has the measurement and energy we regularly affiliate with post-season hockey. He’s not the first man who involves thoughts in the Capitals lineup, however there’s no purpose he can’t step up.
WINNIPEG JETS: No one goes to query the Jets’ means to attain and few would query the depth Winnipeg possesses on the blueline, so it looks like the solely factor that may change the Jets’ playoff trajectory is the play of Connor Hellebuyck. Winnipeg’s No. 1 netminder was glorious this season and bounced again from his sophomore struggles with aplomb. He’s by no means seen the playoffs earlier than and he’ll be dealing with a brand new degree of strain. If Hellebuyck performs like he has all season, Winnipeg goes to make a deep run. Should he stumble, although, the Jets will want each ounce of offense to get out of the Central.
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