The 2013 Stanley Cup Final is set, with the Eastern Conference champion Boston Bruins taking on the Western Conference champion Chicago Blackhawks. While the hype is leading to the belief that this will an extraordinary series, there are players facing the other edge of the sword, the players who are under pressure to produce or face a summer of blame and agonizing regret.
Certain players have garnered the reputation of a superstar but haven't put forth the performances that warrant the label. Other players have started hot but cooled off in recent games, but have the opportunity to reaffirm their status amongst the elite.
It's all about stepping up when they're needed.
Tyler Seguin, Boston Bruins
In 2010, the Boston Bruins made center Tyler Seguin the second overall draft choice. During the 2012-13 regular season, Seguin began to display that upside, tallying 32 points in 48 games as a 21-year-old thrust into the postseason picture.
During the playoffs, however, Seguin has disappeared.
Seguin has tallied four points in 12 appearances, thus resulting in a significant drop-off in terms of his time on the ice. At 21, the pressure is hardly present for a superstar outburst, but Seguin is setting himself up for a summer of question marks.
He failed to score a single point against the Pittsburgh Penguins and managed just one in a seven-game series against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
If the Bruins are to beat the Blackhawks, they'll need Seguin to help match Chicago's extraordinary offensive depth. Should Seguin put up yet another dud, however, the Bruins will have trouble countering Chicago's elite offensive attack.
Keep in mind, this isn't a stage where surrounding factors are irrelevant—if Seguin fails to show up again, he'll hear about it.
Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks
No player is under more pressure entering this series than Chicago Blackhawks captain and 2010 Conn Smythe Trophy winner Jonathan Toews. For those unfamiliar with the NHL, that means Toews was the MVP of the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs, as he led Chicago to the title.
In 2013, he just hasn't been the same.
Toews has registered nine points in 17 games, scoring his lone goal on May 25. For those keeping track, that's seven games without a goal, which comes after he failed to find the back of the net for the first nine games of the playoffs.
That simply won't be acceptable if Chicago is to overcome the Bruins.
With Tuukka Rask dominating the net for the Bruins, it's on Toews to create for himself and others. Fortunately, the 25-year-old had two huge assists during the Blackhawks' series-clinching Game 5 victory over the Los Angeles Kings.
That includes the feed on the game-winner to Patrick Kane.
If Toews is able to take over as we know his talent permits, the Blackhawks will win this series. If he fails to show up, however, Chicago will not be as lucky as they were when they escaped the Detroit Red Wings.
No player has as much pressure on him as the 2010 Conn Smythe Trophy winner.