The 2013 NHL playoffs kick off on Tuesday night as the league has finished its shortened regular season. Superstars are obviously always important for a team’s success, but in the NHL playoffs, it’s necessary.
No matter how good someone’s numbers may be in the regular season, the playoffs are what truly matters. Players gain recognition and fame based on postseason success and how many Stanley Cup titles they earn.
Unlike any other sport, individuals can take over NHL playoff series. Forwards can go on scoring streaks and goalies can be unbeatable at times, increasing their team’s chances significantly.
Although there are many skilled talents in the league, these are the players that can take their teams all the way.
Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks
Kane can be considered to be the best player on the best team in the league. Chicago locked up the West’s No. 1 seed by accumulating 77 points this season, good enough for tops in the NHL.
In the regular season, Kane ranked in the top five in scoring with 55 points. The 24-year-old had 23 goals and 32 assists this year.
In order for Chicago to return to the Stanley Cup finals, they’ll need their leading goal-scorer to continue to light the lamp. Scoring droughts occur in the playoffs and Kane is there to prevent that. If he gets on a roll, watch out.
Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers
Time and time again, we’ve witnessed goalies absolutely take over the playoffs. Patrick Roy and Martin Brodeur were examples of this about a decade ago. More recently, guys like Jean-Sebastien Giguere and Jonathan Quick have gone on streaks that have led their teams to success.
Henrik Lundqvist is the next player on this list. The Rangers goalie had a fantastic 2013 campaign, tying for the league lead in wins. He also ranked fourth in saves and in the top 10 in goals against average.
The Rangers look to continue their winning ways in the playoffs after going down in Game 7 of the conference finals to rival New Jersey last year. Lundqvist has plenty of skill and a lot of good players surrounding him to make a run to the finals.
Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
Before suffering multiple head injuries that put him out of commission, Sidney Crosby was regarded as one of the best players in the league. This year he proved he still has what it takes with a fantastic season that propelled Pittsburgh to the East’s No. 1 seed.
In 2013, Crosby ranked third in points with 56 and was also ranked in the top five with a plus-26 rating. He seems to be back to his old ways, playing confidently and not watching out for knockout blows.
If Crosby stays healthy with the amount of talent on the Penguins' roster, there’s no reason Pittsburgh won’t be back to contend for the Cup.