NHL Playoffs 2013: Power Ranking the Most Underrated Players of the Postseason
The 2013 NHL playoffs have been a coming-out party for the grinder, the power forward, the wily defenseman and the unheralded goaltender.
Among the four remaining teams, underrated players have performed the best in helping to get their teams to the conference finals, where their presence has continued to make major impacts.
Star players need not apply as these 10 players have gone under the radar for too long and have made a major difference as their teams vie for the chance to play for Lord Stanley's Cup.
10. Corey Crawford, Blackhawks
After a late-season injury to Ray Emery solidified Corey Crawford's status as the Blackhawks' starting goaltender, some fans still had their doubts. They recalled Crawford's play in the 2012 Western Conference quarterfinals against the Phoenix Coyotes.
Crawford has responded by silencing his naysayers and leading the Blackhawks to a 3-1 lead over the L.A. Kings in the Western Conference Final.
His play has been outstanding, especially in tight situations. His stats are near the top among netminders with a 11-5 record, 1.72 goals-against average and .936 save percentage.
Crawford has no qualms about standing up for his teammates either, as evidenced by his coming to the defense of captain Jonathan Toews in Game 2, when Crawford grabbed the head of Kyle Clifford of the Kings' forward after Clifford had messed with Toews.
Billed with a tall order against Conn Smythe winner Jonathan Quick, Crawford has outplayed his counterpart so far. The Blackhawks will need him to continue to play well to increase their chances of getting back to the Stanley Cup Final.
9. Slava Voynov, Kings
Slava Voynov has been remarkable for the Kings this season, firing away at the blue line every chance he gets and finding the back of the net five times.
Voynov is a staple on the Kings power play and is tied for the team scoring lead with 12 points in the postseason. He trails only partner Drew Doughty in ice time, logging 21:13 through the Kings' first 16 playoff games.
He's also developing a penchant for broken-stick goals, with his most recent being the game-winner against Chicago in Game 3 of the Western Conference Final.
Voynov also leads Los Angeles in plus-minus with a plus-10.
8. Kris Letang, Penguins
Tied for the team lead in points this postseason with 16, Kris Letang is one of the unquestioned leaders of the Penguins.
His team-high 13 assists have fueled Pittsburgh's offense, which has grown stagnant against the Boston Bruins.
If the Penguins are to turn the Eastern Conference Final around, look for Letang to be at the forefront. The veteran defenseman is playing nearly half of each game, averaging 27:37, and his physical game is paramount to the Penguins' success.
Letang has been too quiet so far against Boston and hasn't registered a point. He will need to start lending a scoring hand in order for Pittsburgh to have any shot at a comeback.
7. Niklas Hjalmarsson, Blackhawks
Niklas Hjalmarsson exemplifies the unheralded blueliner this postseason, as he remains in the top-10 for blocked shots this postseason with 28.
His most recent one came against the L.A. Kings in Game 3 of the Western Conference Final, a vicious one that took him out of play temporarily. Hjalmarsson is a hockey player though, and returned to the ice later in the period after barely being able to skate off.
Hjalmarsson leads the Blackhawks in plus-minus this postseason at plus-8 and is second in ice-time, averaging 21:21 per game.
He was at the forefront of the Blackhawks' controversial waved-off goal call in Game 7 of the Detroit series after burying one past Jimmy Howard, but still has five assists this playoffs.
6. Andrew Shaw, Blackhawks
Andrew Shaw is a true grinder, who at just 21 years of age, plays with his heart on his sleeve in every game.
That has gotten the young center in trouble a few times this postseason with repeat trips to the penalty box, but Shaw's passion has also invoked inspiring play.
Shaw was a main player in the comeback series against Detroit and got Chicago's scoring started early—as in two shots—against Los Angeles in the Blackhawks' 4-2 win in Game 2 of the Western Conference Final.
5. Tuukka Rask, Bruins
Tuukka Rask has been the breakout star among goaltenders this postseason after weathering the Toronto storm in the first round and then outperforming Henrik Lundqvist in the second round.
Rask has been simply brilliant Against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference Final and is the main reason why the Bruins stand just one win away from returning to the Stanley Cup Final.
Rask stopped 53 of 54 shots the Penguins threw at him in Boston's 2-1 double-overtime win in Game 3 and has only allowed two goals in 100 shots fired against him for the series.
He will certainly be in the running for the Conn Smythe Trophy this postseason unless Boston falls victim to a monumental collapse and fails to close out the Penguins.
4. Justin Williams, Kings
Justin Williams has been the catalyst of the Los Angeles Kings' offense and has been their most clutch player this postseason.
Williams scored the only two goals L.A. needed to sneak past the San Jose Sharks and earn a Western Conference Final berth for the second straight year. His six goals are tied for the team lead, with his most recent one injecting some life into Los Angeles and fueling a 3-1 win over Chicago in Game 3.
Williams consistently steps up for the Kings in big-time situations and they'll look for him to continue that benign trend as they battle for the right to defend their 2012 Stanley Cup.
3. David Krejci, Bruins
David Krejci has been the star of the show for Boston in its series with Pittsburgh and is a big reason why the Bruins find themselves one game away from a return to the Stanley Cup Final.
Krejci's nine goals lead the league, as does his team-high 21 postseason points. Centering a line with Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton, Krejci has terrorized opponents on the glass and by constantly finding the back of the net.
Often sent out against the opponents top-lines, Krejci and the B's grinders are skating circles around some of the Penguins' stars, resulting in Boston's 3-0 series lead in their Eastern Conference Final.
2. Bryan Bickell, Blackhawks
Bryan Bickell's contract with the Chicago Blackhawks is up at the end of this season, and he is making one heck of a case for Blackhawks' management to keep him in Chicago.
Bickell has been the biggest impact player for the Blackhawks in the postseason. He was crucial in their comeback from a 3-1 series deficit against Detroit and his scoring hasn't stopped since.
He was the Blackhawks' best player in Game 3 of the Western Conference Final in a 3-1 loss to Los Angeles, and is one of the main reasons the Blackhawks hold their 3-1 series lead.
His physical play has been outstanding, as he routinely takes the body and can take a hit to make a play.
Bickell's eight postseason goals are among the leaders for Chicago, and just one off the pace set by Krejci. He's also outscored star teammates Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane—who have combined for four goals—while making a fraction of their contracts.
1. Nathan Horton, Bruins
No player has had more of an impact on the 2013 NHL playoffs than Nathan Horton of the Bruins.
The winger has been on the ice for nearly 60 percent of his team's goals this playoff run, an unprecedented amount of postseason duty. His plus-20 leads the Bruins and the league as he has teamed with David Krejci and Milan Lucic to form the most feared line of the playoffs.
Horton has racked up seven goals and 10 assists in the postseason and has terrorized opponents with his body and tricky passing game, often setting up Krejci for his league-leading nine postseason goals.
Horton will be a major factor as the Bruins look to close out Pittsburgh and try to win their second Stanley Cup in three seasons.