NHL Playoffs 2013: The 5 Most Underappreciated Stars in the Postseason
In the playoffs, a dynamic under-the-radar leader can often prove an even more dangerous weapon than the flashiest big-name superstar.
Just look at Bryce Salvador and Braden Holtby in 2012.
Just look at Alexandre Burrows and Dwayne Roloson in 2011.
Just look at Ville Leino, Dustin Byfuglien and Joe Pavelski in 2010.
This year should be no different. In fact, 2013 could be even more dominated by the unheralded than usual, as four new teams join the top 16 and even more top scorers slipped under media coverage in what was a lockout-shortened season.
We point out five particularly underappreciated stars who could come to the forefront this postseason on the coming slides.
2013 Stat Line: 48 GP, 13 goals, 36 assists, 49 points
Mike Ribeiro proved essential down the stretch as the Washington Capitals made their playoff run, keeping the Caps' offense alive even when Alexander Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom were slumping.
The 33-year-old center made up for the loss of and perhaps even exceeded Alexander Semin's production, finishing sixth in the league with 36 helpers and tied for 10th with 49 points.
Ribeiro has become one of the NHL's most consistent top-six forwards over the years. In his first season in a big hockey market since 2005-06 with Montreal, however, Ribeiro took advantage of his low-profile character to reach a truly elite tier of scoring.
More Points Than: Nicklas Backstrom, John Tavares, Henrik Sedin, Alexander Semin, Thomas Vanek, many others
2013 Stat Line: 48 GP, 11 goals, 26 assists, 37 points
Seeing Minnesota Wild captain Mikko Koivu ahead of such high-profile stars as James Neal, Corey Perry and Jarome Iginla on the NHL scoring leaderboard is shocking to many, but truthfully 2013 was just another typical season for Koivu.
The former sixth overall pick has spent his entire career in the State of Hockey, compiling 398 points through 536 games but making only his third playoff appearance in 2013. He fell just one point short of headline-grabbing addition Zach Parise for the team's scoring lead and ranked 40th in the league, but actually recorded a lower point-per-game pace (0.771) than his average (.844) over the past five seasons.
Putting up solid, consistent production is something Koivu does on an incredibly consistent basis. Perhaps the 2013 playoffs can be the moment in which that reliability finally comes into the spotlight.
More Points Than: James Neal, Brad Marchand, Corey Perry, Jason Pominville, many others
2013 Stat Line: 46 GP, 17 points, plus-18, 115 blocked shots, 115 hits
For a player with 52 career playoff games, a Stanley Cup ring and major nightly minutes on one of the NHL's most heavily followed teams, Dennis Seidenberg is unbelievably underrated.
The 31-year-old defenseman can chip in substantially and effectively in every zone. He ranked second in the league in plus/minus rating, eighth in blocked shots and 38th in hits. He chipped in offensively, too, with the second-highest point total among Bruins blueliners, and took just five penalties in more than 1,094 minutes of ice time (23:47 per game).
With 20 points and a plus-10 rating in five combined playoff campaigns, we don't expect Seidenberg to fade back to mediocrity in the bright lights of the postseason, either.
We just aren't sure when that bright light of respect and admiration will, at long last, be turned on him.
More Blocked Shots Than: PK Subban, Kris Letang, Ryan Suter, Duncan Keith, Mike Green, Zdeno Chara, many others
2013 Stat Line: 48 GP, 18 goals, 18 assists, 36 points
After exploding for 28 goals and 64 points in 2009-10 with Colorado, it had begun to seem as if Stewart's days of first-line production were something of a fluke.
However, the 25-year-old former first-round pick rebounded for 36 points in 2013, which is good for more than any of the past three seasons despite playing only a 48-game campaign. He led the St. Louis Blues in goals, power-play goals and overall points, topping second-place David Backes by eight points despite playing almost four fewer minutes per night.
The Blues in general are an underappreciated team, but their conservative, hard-working style has already paid off for a 2-0 series lead over the defending Stanley Cup champions. Stewart has an assist and a plus-one rating in the playoffs so far.
More Points Than: Brad Richards, Jeff Carter, Jarome Iginla, Patrice Bergeron, Patrick Marleau, many others
2013 Stat Line: 44 GP, 15 goals, 24 assists, 39 points
PK Subban and Tomas Plekanec steal a lot of the Montreal Canadiens' headlines for their play on both ends of the ice, but over the last two seasons it's been 24-year-old Max Pacioretty making arguably the biggest impact for the Habs.
Pacioretty has led Montreal in scoring for two regular seasons running, detonating for a career breakout campaign of 33 goals and 65 points a season ago before tallying 15 goals and 39 points this year. At 6'2", 219 pounds, he's a solid defensive player, too, ranking seventh on the Canadiens with 59 hits and first with 24 takeaways.
All things considered, Pacioretty isn't just one of the most underappreciated stars in the league, he's also one of the best two-way forwards, heralded or not.
More Points Than: Zach Parise, Pascal Dupuis, Jordan Eberle, Corey Perry, Evander Kane, Jarome Iginla, many others