Most teams would trade a good regular season out of their star players for outstanding work during the postseason. A good example of this would be Milan Lucic of the Boston Bruins, who has been terrific so far in the 2013 NHL playoffs.
He slept through the beginning of the year but has roared to life in the postseason. You won't find a single Bruins fan or executive that would reverse this.
For every example of a player elevating his game at the right time, there is an example of another guy getting paid several million dollars a year only to fall by the wayside and be a non-factor in the playoffs. Not surprisingly, the teams that failed to get production from their top guys have already been eliminated from the postseason (for the most part), while squads getting top-notch production from top-notch guys are still playing right now.
It's likely that the Anaheim Ducks would still be playing right now if Corey Perry hadn't been downright snake bit in the first round against the Detroit Red Wings.
He went goalless in the series despite taking 24 shots on net, as netminder Jimmy Howard seemed to know where Perry was going to shoot before the puck left his stick. Perry is the kind of player that can have an impact on a game without scoring goals, but he wasn't physically engaged, either.
While Ryan Getzlaf was tearing it up and trying the will the Ducks to victory, Perry had just two assists, including no points in Anaheim's Game 7 loss.
It'll be a long summer for Perry, and he'll have plenty of time to figure it out.
All the hoopla surrounding the reemergence of Alex Ovechkin quickly fell by the wayside, as the Washington Capitals fell to the New York Rangers in seven games despite having two chances to close out the Blueshirts.
He managed only one goal and one assist in the seven-game series and was shut down by Ryan McDonagh at every turn. After Game 2, Ovi would be held at bay, failing to light the lamp for the remainder of the series.
Ovechkin put plenty of rubber on the net and maintained a physical presence at times, but one goal in seven games after averaging a goal per game across the final 23 regular-season games is quite the disappearing act.
Not good enough for Ovi, not good enough for the Capitals and certainly not good enough to advance to the second round. One guy may not win a championship, but it doesn't help when a team's best player can't score, either (h/t the Washington Post).
The New York Rangers signed Brad Richards in 2011 to be a killer, plain and simple. In 2004, he'd shown just how deadly he can be when the game is on the line, scoring an NHL-record seven game-winning goals in the 2004 playoffs en route to securing the Stanley Cup with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
You'll have to forgive coach John Tortorella—who was the coach of the Lightning during that championship run—for having forgotten all about those game-winners by now. Because Richards has done squat for the coach lately.
Richards was on the fourth line in Game 6 against the Washington Capitals, likely a punishment for scoring all of one point in the series. The move didn't kick-start Richards, as he finished with two lousy shots on goal.
That kind of performance isn't why the Rangers signed him to a $58.5 million contract in 2011.
Marc-Andre Fleury was arguably the best player for the New York Islanders through the first four games of the first round. He single-handedly allowed the Isles to hang around way longer than almost anyone predicted, and if not for the solid play of Tomas Vokoun, the Pittsburgh Penguins could have been sent home early.
He was that bad.
Had Fleury been in net for Game 6—a game in which the Islanders peppered Vokoun with nearly 40 shots—there is a good chance that the Penguins would have lost and forced to play a Game 7.
Now the franchise goaltender is riding the pine while the backup tries to outduel Craig Anderson and the Ottawa Senators. If Vokoun falters, the Penguins might be better off rolling with a wooden netminder over Fleury.
They'd give up the same number of rebounds to the Sens, at least.
The Minnesota Wild are built for the long haul, and there's no doubt that they'll be a much tougher out next year than they were in 2013.
That said, Ryan Suter can't be a minus-five in the playoffs. If Ryan McDonagh can sport a plus-one rating after covering Alex Ovechkin for seven games, there's no reason that Suter shouldn't have been able to finish even against the Chicago Blackhawks.
It would be a different story if he was helping to set up goals or scoring, but he finished the first round with zero points and only 10 shots.
Suter did a solid job on Jonathan Toews, but the rest of Chicago's big guns had a field day with the Wild.
The Toronto Maple Leafs used their foot speed and smooth skating to push the Boston Bruins to a Game 7 OT. Still, a little bit of physicality and offense from captain Dion Phaneuf would have been nice.
Boston's top line torched the Leafs for 29 total points in the series, using its size and weight to push Toronto around. One of the few guys that could lean on the likes of Milan Lucic without giving up 20 pounds was Phaneuf, and while he was credited with 35 hits in the series, his defensive play was far from sound.
Not that he's ever been a stalwart, but the offense wasn't there, either. He posted just three points and was a minus-six in the series. He was also a minus-two in the decisive Game 7.
Receiving no goals from your top two players is a good way to get swept out of the postseason, if the outcome of the Vancouver Canucks and San Jose Sharks series is any indication.
San Jose's top scorers from the regular season continued to put up points, while Henrik and Daniel Sedin put up a total of six assists. That's not enough offense coming from the heart of the team. As the Sedins went, Vancouver's offense went.
And it all went down.
The team as a whole only managed eight goals total in the series.
As mentioned previously, the top line of the Boston Bruins dominated the Toronto Maple Leafs. The second line was held tightly in check, though, and Tyler Seguin's selection here represents the struggles of that group as a whole.
The New York Rangers aren't getting much from their top lines, either, which could save the Bruins in the second round. Yet the series would likely go much more smoothly for Boston if Seguin started to hit the back of the net.
Seguin finished the seven-game bout with one point, which came in the final game. Few players are shooting the puck as frequently as Seguin—he finished with 29 shots on goal—but the shooting percentage is still sitting at zero percent.
He'll have to be a lot more noticeable for Boston to survive into the later rounds.
Another big-dollar player for the New York Rangers that isn't getting it done, Rick Nash is currently being outscored by teammates Taylor Pyatt and Mats Zuccarello. The Rangers didn't trade for Nash so he could be out-paced by bottom-six penalty killers.
They acquired Nash to score goals, which he simply has not done.
Zero goals and two assists through seven games against the Washington Capitals isn't going to cut it. If the Rangers want to beat the Boston Bruins, Nash is going to have to rediscover his form quickly.
He looked downright funky for much of the series against Washington, whiffing on shots and losing edges all over the ice. Nash was only noticeable when he was falling down or blowing scoring opportunities—not a good sign for New York.