The NHL playoffs are off to a tremendous start. The excitement level is already sky high and should continue to rise heading into a busy Sunday of action. It's exactly what the league needed after a season shortened by a lockout.
Teams still searching for a spot in the second round are going to need big performances from their key players. Several of them have failed to make an impact so far and must find a way to become more heavily involved before it's too late.
With that in mind, let's examine three players in need of a strong performance today. All of them are off to slow playoff starts, but possess the talent necessary to break out at any moment. Now would be an ideal time to get back on track.
Rick Nash (New York Rangers)
Rick Nash is one of the league's most explosive goal-scoring threats. He's also streaky. Right now he's going through a dry spell and the Rangers can't afford for it to continue if they're going to advance. He's too important to their offensive attack.
The biggest issue over the past couple games is a lack of assertiveness. Nash recorded just four total shots in Games 4 and 5 despite nearly 37 minutes of ice time. Less than a shot per period is not nearly enough for a player of his caliber.
All told, Rick has tallied one point in five games. The Rangers need him to come out with a much more aggressive attitude in Game 6, looking to pepper the net early and often. If he does that, it's only a matter of time before one finds the net.
Nazem Kadri (Toronto Maple Leafs)
Nazem Kadri was one of the breakout stars of the regular season. The 22-year-old center scored 18 goals en route to 44 points in 48 games. He had just seven points in 21 games last season. The success hasn't carried over to the playoffs, though.
Which of these players will have the best game on Sunday?
The Ontario native only has one point in five games. Shutting him down was clearly one of the most important keys for the defensively-minded Boston Bruins. He hasn't been able to adapt to the added attention, leading to the lackluster point total.
He should be getting used to the tactics by now, though. To have success against the Bruins he must start making quicker decisions. A split second of hesitation is all it takes for them to shut down a play. Kadri needs to have faith in his natural ability and let it dictate his play.
Corey Perry (Anaheim Ducks)
Two-thirds of Anaheim's dynamic trio is playing well. Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan are both holding up their end of the bargain. Now the Ducks need Corey Perry to elevate his level of play in order to survive a tough challenge from the Detroit Red Wings.
Perry scored 15 goals during the shortened regular season, but has yet to find the net in the series' first six games. The struggles have been a surprise because Perry has usually excelled in the postseason. He had 25 points in 22 games over the team's last three playoff trips.
The past success bodes well for his chances of having a more effective Game 7. If Perry can carry the team into the second round with a strong showing, the lackluster first six games will be an afterthought. Anything less and the Ducks are in trouble.