Stanley Cup Playoffs 2013: Star Performers Not Receiving Enough Attention
As we approach the second weekend of 2013 NHL Stanley Cup playoff action it's an appropriate time to put the events up to this point in perspective. There have been surprising outcomes, dominant performances and stunning individual efforts.
We've witnessed some of the sport's stars rise to the occasion once again on hockey's greatest stage, but it's often the role players who provide an extra push in the chase for championship immortality. Although the members of this list may be overlooked at times, each has played a tremendously crucial role in propelling their respective squads so far this postseason.
Here's a review of a few key team cogs who may not be soaking in the limelight of more popular counterparts, but currently command a tip of the cap for how they've performed during the playoff crunch.
Craig Anderson, Ottawa Senators
The Senators' netminder squelched Montreal's offensive attack throughout an impressive five-game series victory. Ottawa dismantled the second-seeded Canadiens 4-1 in an opening-round matchup between two teams north of the border.
Anderson was exceptional, surrendering just nine goals in the series. He stopped at least 31 shots in four of five matchups, highlighted by a 48-save performance in a 4-2 Game 1 victory.
In that contest, Anderson became the fourth NHL goalie in the last 30 years to prevail in a regulation playoff game while facing at least 50 on goal.
The 31-year-old missed 18 regular-season games with an ankle injury, but hasn't missed a beat since returning to the ice in April.
He now likely awaits the Pittsburgh Penguins, should they prevail in their series versus the New York Islanders.
David Krejci, Boston Bruins
The sixth-year center is off to a scintillating start in the postseason and is a big part of the reason why Boston leads Toronto 3-1 in the first-round series. Krejci tallied a hat trick in Game 4 and beat Maple Leafs goalie James Reimer for a game-winner in overtime on the road.
Th Czech is known as a savvy player and provided the team with 23 points during a 2011 playoff run that resulted in a Stanley Cup title. Aside from that impressive run, he's always been regarded as primarily an exceptional complementary player on a deep team.
During the 2013 regular season, Krejci accumulated 10 goals in 47 games. Through four playoff games, he's already netted five scores.
He leads the league in playoff scoring, points (10), plus/minus rating (plus-seven) and ranks second in assists (five). Krejci is simply a guy who steps up when the spotlight shines brightest.
Joe Pavelski, San Jose Sharks
He is occasionally lost in the shuffle of an outstanding San Jose center rotation that includes veteran stalwarts Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau and rising star Logan Couture. Pavelski, a 28-year-old Sharks lifer, looks like he's hitting his stride this postseason.
The Wisconsin native netted four goals in a first-round sweep of Vancouver. He notched two goals in both Games 3 and 4 as San Jose dismantled the third-seeded Canucks.
Pavelski didn't tally a single point in five contests during the 2012 playoffs, but is back on track this spring. He also notched four assists versus Vancouver, averaging two points per game.
Pascal Dupuis, Pittsburgh Penguins
Free agency looms on the horizon for Dupuis, and he's gaining leverage with each impressive performance. Overshadowed by superstar teammates Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jarome Iginla, the 34-year-old right winger leads Pittsburgh with four goals through five games against the eighth-seeded New York Islanders.
Dupuis picked up his second assist of the series in a 4-0 Game 5 victory. His six points give him 28 total points in six postseason stints with the Penguins.
Dupuis' four goals match a career playoff high, which he set in 2003 as a member of the Minnesota Wild. His two-goal performance in Game 1 against New York helped set an early tone for an exceptional individual series.
Further success is sure to treat Dupuis well at the bargaining table this summer.
Brian Elliot, St. Louis Blues
St. Louis may implement the least-known roster in these playoffs, and Elliot is among the team's under-the-radar standouts. Despite suffering three straight losses to reigning Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles, the Blues goaltender is making a name for himself.
Elliot, a five-year pro who has started more than half his team's regular-season games just once in his career (2010 with Ottawa) has stopped 93 percent of shots fired his way through five playoff contests and carries a minuscule 1.88 GAA.
The 28-year-old held the Kings to one goal in each of the series' first three games. He has made at least 20 saves in every game.
St. Louis suddenly finds itself down 3-2 in this wild opening-round collision, so Elliot will be expected to shoulder the load in a continued effort to unseat Los Angeles from the NHL throne. If he can get the job done opposite of 2012 Conn Smythe Trophy winner Jonathan Quick, expect to hear more about Elliot in the immediate future.
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