No-Brainer Adjustments for Every Struggling NHL Playoff Team
The race for a league championship remains wide open for eight squads still participating in the NHL postseason frenzy. The tournament is especially intriguing this year since no team appears head and shoulders above the fray, leaving the door open for improvement in each locker room.
A few teams in particular have seen their efforts limited by shortcomings of different sorts. Rallying and rising above these issues can make the difference between playoff survival and elimination.
No team is facing dire straits just yet, so there's still time to pull things together and perform at full throttle.
Here's a look at corrections that can make a substantial difference in Stanley Cup hopes for several squads.
Ottawa Senators: Rely on Veterans to Rise Up, Pick Up Slack on Offense
Ottawa's roster is brimming with a bevy of young, promising players. Without their contributions, the Senators wouldn't have sniffed the postseason.
But when the spotlight grows brighter, it's time for the big boys to step up. That hasn't been the case for Ottawa through two games against Pittsburgh in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Goalie Craig Anderson was sensational against Montreal in the opening round, but he has suddenly hit a rough patch versus the top-seeded Penguins. The NHL regular-season leader in save percentage and goals-against average didn't even make it to the final horn of a Game 2 defeat.
Anderson allowed three goals on 21 shots in Pittsburgh before being pulled from the game. He surrendered four scores in Game 1.
Meanwhile, reigning Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson continues to struggle since returning from an Achilles injury. He carried a minus-two rating in Game 2 and picked up more penalties than shots and hits combined.
Reversing the fortunes of these players is pivotal in order for Ottawa to rebound from a two-game deficit.
Chicago Blackhawks: Keep Jonathan Toews Involved to Work Through Slump
The Blackhawks captain is in an absolute slump through seven postseason contests. He has three assists, two of which came in a Game 5 victory over Minnesota.
Jonathan Toews tallied 48 points in 47 regular-season games and carried a team-best plus-28 rating. So far in the playoffs, he hasn't been the offensive catalyst Chicago fans are accustomed to watching.
Toews continues to compete with tenacity and has the ability to shut down playmakers with standout defense, but those dimensions of his game are only part of what makes him such a superstar.
During the Blackhawks' 2010 run to the Stanley Cup, Toews put up 29 points. He has a long way to go to come close to matching that feat.
Chicago is tied 1-1 with Detroit in the Western Conference semifinals. If Toews returns to form, it would give the Blackhawks a major boost toward advancing one step closer to another Stanley Cup.
New York Rangers: Stop Letting Opponents off the Hook with Man Advantage
New York needs to figure out how to regain any shroud of respectability on the power play. The Rangers are clearly the worst special teams squad in the postseason, and it nearly sent the team packing in the opening round.
The Rangers were just 2-of-28 with a man advantage against Washington, bailed out by back-to-back Henrik Lundqvist shutouts in Games 6 and 7. Through eight playoff games, New York has scored on 6 percent of power-play chances.
In a Game 1 overtime loss to Boston, the Rangers tallied just three shots on goal in 5:35 of power-play action. The Rangers also won only one faceoff during that span.
A star-studded squad opened the regular season with Stanley Cup expectations. New York has no chance to meet them if the team doesn't make the necessary adjustments with the man advantage.
San Jose Sharks: Start Fast, Avoid Early Holes
The Sharks swept aside Vancouver in the opening round, but that feat required a lot of resolve. San Jose mounted three comebacks in the four-game series.
The Canucks had no problem pulling ahead on several occasions before stalling out offensively. Vezina Trophy finalist Antti Niemi stood tall and gave the Sharks an opportunity to rally each time, but that's a dangerous life to live during the pursuit of a Stanley Cup.
San Jose stumbled out of the gates in Games 1 and 2 against Los Angeles in second-round action. The Kings built a 2-0 advantage in the second period of each matchup en route to claiming a 2-0 series lead.
San Jose scored three unanswered goals to take a lead in Game 2 before Los Angeles tallied two goals in a 22-second span, ultimately winning 4-3. The Sharks were able to cruise by the Canucks despite rough starts, but they can't afford to count on that to continue against the reigning NHL champions.
They got back into the series with a 2-1 overtime win in Game 3, but head coach Todd McLellan still has to be concerned. The Sharks had chances galore and thoroughly dominated the Kings, but they couldn't put the game away until Logan Couture scored on a power play early in the extra session.