There's no shortage of players in the NHL who can bury an empty-net goal or tack on the seventh marker in a 7-3 blowout victory. Those aren't tough plays to make. There's no pressure when you're just padding a lead or sealing a win.
On the other hand, there's only a handful of guys in the league who can truly be described as clutch. The kind of player who makes the opposition cringe every time he gets the puck on his stick when the game is on the line.
There are more ways to be a pressure player than piling up game-winning goals, though. Games can be won and lost on a single blocked shot or spectacular save.
Clutch players find ways to contribute when the game is on the line and are completely necessary and vital to any Stanley Cup run.
One of the top goal scorers in the NHL over the last few seasons, Corey Perry is no stranger to lighting the lamp. More impressively, he's shown a knack for scoring goals when the game is still up for grabs.
Perry scored five game-winning goals in 2013, which paced the Anaheim Ducks. He's also lead the team in game-winners through the last two seasons, making it three years in a row that Perry has been the go-to guy for Anaheim.
Toss in the fact that Perry is also capable of changing the complexion of a game via a big hit, and he's an outstanding clutch player for the Ducks.
If David Krejci were invisible during the regular season, it's likely that he'd get a pass from the Boston Bruins based on what he's capable of doing come playoff time.
There hasn't been a more effective player in the postseason over the last three years, and Krejci has pushed the B's to two Stanley Cup Finals in that time frame.
While the team came up short in 2013, it certainly wasn't because Krejci didn't do his part. After posting three game-winners during the regular season, he potted two during the playoffs. He was also good for a league-leading 26 points in 22 games while the Bruins ran to the Stanley Cup Final, proving that Krejci is one of the most clutch players in the NHL.
Steve Ott probably isn't a guy that comes to mind when you think of clutch performers, but maybe he should be. He lead the Buffalo Sabres in game-winning goals in 2013 with three and is always eager to do whatever it takes to win a game.
He's willing to throw the big hit and sacrifice the body—invaluable traits when trying to close out a game in the final minutes.
Ott was also good for several game-winners a season while playing mediocre minutes with the Dallas Stars. He has 15 career game-winning goals under his belt and is one of just a handful of players who Buffalo can turn to when the game is down to the wire.
The Calgary Flames pay Mike Cammalleri buko bucks to score goals for them. If only they'd make the postseason, maybe they could see what he's really made of. He scored three game-winning goals in 2013 and has an impressive resume when it comes to clutch goal scoring come playoff time.
When the Montreal Canadiens took their out-of-nowhere run in the playoffs in 2009-10, it was Cammalleri who did much of the heavy lifting. Three of his 13 goals that postseason were game-winners, and Montreal had him out on the ice in all situations at the end of those games.
Cammalleri has only been to the playoffs three times in his career, but when he gets there, he's rock solid in the third period.
With 43 game-winning goals in his career, Eric Staal has put the finishing touches on a lot of victories for the Carolina Hurricanes. He scored three in 2013 but has scored as many as eight in a season twice in his career.
When the 'Canes won the Stanley Cup in the 2005-06 season, it was Staal that did a lot of the work in the offensive zone. He put up 28 points in 25 games for Carolina and was a central part of everything that the team did on its way to the final.
Teams don't pay a player more than $8 million in a season for no reason (according to Capgeek.com), and Carolina knows that the squad lives and dies by what its captain manages to do in the points column.
While players like Marian Hossa and Jonathan Toews may score more game-winning goals than Patrick Kane, it's hard to ignore his track record when it comes to important markers.
Who can forget Kane finishing off the Philadelphia Flyers in 2010? For a split second, no one else on the planet knew where the puck was. It was just Kane, throwing his gloves into the air, the only person on the ice that knew who the best hockey team in the world was.
Kane has 24 game-winning goals in his career and has proven to be the man when it comes to timely, clinching goals.
The Colorado Avalanche struggle to win games these days, but when they do manage to put a slash in the W column, Matt Duchene usually has something to do with it. He scored three game-winning goals in 2013 and is always the guy that hits the ice when the goaltender is pulled for the extra man.
During his OHL career, the Brampton Battalion learned that they could rely on Duchene in the waning moments of a game. He scored six game-deciding goals during his junior career and showed that he could dominate during championship runs in 2008-09, when he posted 26 points in 21 playoff games.
The Avs won't always be bad, and Duchene's clutch numbers will only rise as the talent around him improves.
Forget a clutch game. How about a clutch season?
Whether Sergei Bobrovsky is a flash in the pan or not, he did something very important for the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2013. He reinvigorated a fanbase that can best be described as tired and gave them something to cheer about for the first time in a long while.
He captured the Vezina Trophy, winning an individual award for a team that doesn't typically take that kind of extra hardware home. It'll be interesting to see if he can repeat his stellar 2013 performance, but right now he's the most clutch performer on the roster for the Jackets.
After an up-and-down 2013 year that eventually saw all the veterans traded out of town and an upheaval in the front office, the Dallas Stars are now Jamie Benn's team. The bruising forward is the kind of player that you love to have on your team but hate to play against.
He's good for big-time body checks and timely goals. He has 16 game-winners over his four-year career, and while he's never been to the playoffs, his history indicates that he can do some damage there.
The Texas Stars played in 24 playoff games in 2009-10, and Benn posted 26 points and four game-securing markers.
Pavel Datsyuk hasn't always been considered a clutch performer. Early on in his career with the Detroit Red Wings, there were questions about whether or not he was a player that was capable of stepping up when it mattered the most.
That's no longer the case for Datsyuk, and he's one of the most dangerous players in the NHL when the game is on the line.
He scored six game-winners in 2013 and has 43 in his career.
The Edmonton Oilers are loaded with young talent and always seem to be one player away from reestablishing their dynasty days from the 1980s.
Of all the kids that the Oilers employ, though, Taylor Hall seems to be the guy with the killer instinct.
He scored four game-winning goals in 2013 and already has 15 in his short career. That should come as no surprise, as he put up 16 game-winners in three years while skating in the OHL. Hall had five playoff game-winning goals while playing for the Windsor Spitfires as well, proving that he'll be the go-to guy once Edmonton makes its long awaited return to the postseason.
Like the Colorado Avalanche, the Florida Panthers had a forgettable campaign in 2013. As such, Brian Campbell seems to be their most clutch player after scoring just two game-winners, though no one on the squad fared much better.
While he's never been an over-the-top goal scorer, Campbell brings a lot of leadership to the ice and is one of the most skilled defenders in the league when it comes to skating the puck out of trouble—a skill that's valuable when you're playing counter-punch as often as Florida has over the last few seasons.
There wasn't a more dangerous player late in games than Jeff Carter in 2013. He led the entire NHL in game-winning goals with a whopping eight. The Los Angeles Kings won 27 games total, which means that Carter was the one sealing the deal on a lot of nights.
That was the second time that Carter had led the league in game-winners, and he has 48 through his career.
Carter has been clutch in the playoffs as well, as five of his 27 career postseason goals were game-winning markers.
The Minnesota Wild wouldn't have splurged on Zach Parise if he was just a goal scorer. He brings more to the table than that and is one of the most effective late-game players in the NHL. His shot is lethal, and he has a knack for being at the right place when rebounds pop out.
He has 41 game-winners in his career and managed to post four in the shortened 2013 season. Parise also has three career playoff game-winning goals and a last second Gold Medal game-tying goal on his impressive late-game resume.
The Montreal Canadiens were one of the most surprising teams in 2013, fighting their way out of the basement and landing in the playoffs. Several youthful players led the charge for the Habs, and none of them may have been more important than Brendan Gallagher.
The smallish forward emerged as a never-say-die captain-esque player out on the ice, always having a push-back when it was needed.
He scored four game-winning goals in 2013 and likely has more where that came from as the Canadiens continue to evolve and improve.
The Nashville Predators have always been a team that scores by committee. That doesn't change much when you look for a leader in game-winners, but David Legwand is almost always among the top performers on the team in that regard.
He scored two in 2013, adding to a solid total of 39 for his career.
Legwand also has a handful of playoff game-winners, having notched three in 47 games played. Not too shabby considering he only has 13 postseason goals total.
If you polled a room full of random hockey fans and asked them who they'd want in net with the game on the line, at least 50 percent of them would check Martin Brodeur's name. He's been one of the best closeout performers since arriving in the NHL as a full-timer in 1993.
The track record is staggering and speaks for itself: He's led the league in shutouts five times and has 121 for his career. Brodeur also has 24 playoff shutouts and a sparkling 2.02 GAA in the postseason.
That's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to one of the top clutch performers ever.
John Tavares scored five game-winning goals in 2013 and is just beginning to come into his own as a go-to guy for the New York Islanders. He got a tantalizing taste of the postseason last year, and while the Isles were bounced in the first round, that brush should be enough to push Tavares to the next level of superstardom.
He has 19 game-winners so far in his four-year career and has improved that aspect of his game in every season so far. Tavares had two winners as a rookie, four as a sophomore, eight in year three and would have scored close to 10 in 2013 had there been an 82-game season.
The Islanders are a young team on the rise, but they have already established their top clutch performer in Tavares.
Ryan Callahan is both revered and loathed for the amount of "intangibles" that he brings to the ice on a nightly basis. Love him or hate him, the guy is willing to do whatever it takes to win, even if only because he's under the microscope constantly for that very reason.
He'll lay down in front of a Zdeno Chara slap shot to preserve a victory and has been known to close out games occasionally himself. He's scored 23 game-winners in his career—an impressive chunk of Callahan's 121 goals overall.
With only 11 game-winning goals in four years, there are plenty of players around the NHL who can claim to be more clutch than Erik Karlsson. Pause for a moment to consider what the fleet-footed defender managed to do during the 2013 season, though.
Sure, his near point-per-game average was impressive, but Karlsson showed a ridiculous amount of courage and toughness when he returned way, way earlier than expected from a severely severed Achilles tendon to help the Ottawa Senators get to the second round of the playoffs.
It doesn't get more clutch than skating around on a partially healed Achilles tendon—a sentence that still makes our skin crawl to this day.
While Claude Giroux typically grabs the spotlight for the Philadelphia Flyers, it was Wayne Simmonds who sent several teams packing in 2013. He scored four game-winning goals and was among the most effective Flyers late in games.
Like Ryan Callahan, he's willing to do whatever it takes to win and is on the ice in all situations as time winds down during most games. Simmonds has 15 game-winning goals in his career and will likely tack on several more this season as he skates alongside Vincent Lecavalier.
With Daniel Alfredsson leaving the Ottawa Senators and Jarome Iginla no longer with the Calgary Flames, there may not be a player more synonymous with his team than Shane Doan. Captain Coyote has spent his entire career with this single organization and is the most beloved player in team history.
Doan has scored a startling 61 game-winning goals for the Phoenix Coyotes across his lengthy NHL career and has always been willing to get to the dirty areas to win hockey games.
Anytime Phoenix has managed to make noise in the playoffs, Doan has been a big part of it as well. He's scored 15 postseason goals, four of them winning games.
Like it or not, Sidney Crosby is the rare kind of generational talent who also happens to be a cold-blooded killer out on the ice. He's clutch even though he has a shadow on him at all times late in games, and he always seems to be able to find the open seams when it matters the most.
He wasn't a big factor late in games in 2013 and was responsible for only one game-winner during the regular season. Still, if you had to pick between Crosby taking the final shot of a game or James Neal, who would you go with?
The San Jose Sharks have a reputation for not being able to finish teams off when they're on the ropes. They've consistently been one of the best regular-season teams in the NHL over the last decade or so but have never managed to do much damage in the playoffs.
That may be slowly changing as Logan Couture becomes a more and more important part of San Jose's attack. He scored five game-winning tallies in 2013 and already has 19 through a four-year career at the NHL level.
Couture's most impressive clutch stat line occurred during the playoffs last season, when he posted four game-winning goals in only 11 games.
Few teams in the NHL can spread the scoring around quite like the St. Louis Blues. They haven't had anyone assault the score sheets since the lockout, with players such as David Backes putting up healthy but not league-topping stat lines.
Alexander Steen has been incredibly steady for the Blues and is one of the most underrated finishers in the NHL. He has 25 game-winners to his credit, but 15 of those have come over the last four seasons with the Blues.
Not surprisingly, a goal-scoring machine like Steven Stamkos also manages to put up gaudy game-winning goal totals as well. He's only been in the league for five seasons, but Stamkos has already put up more than 200 goals in his career.
He's scored 208 to be exact. Of those 208 goals, 28 of them have won games. Stamkos was particularly dynamic late in games in 2011-12, when he lead the NHL with game-winners with 12.
Phil Kessel will never be able to do quite enough right to please the media in Toronto, but that comes with the territory of being the best player on the Maple Leafs. Despite the white noise that surrounds all things Kessel, it's tough to ignore how outstanding he's been late in games.
Since 2009, Kessel has never scored less than five game-winning goals in a season and has notched 30 all together. He also scored two game-winners as the Maple Leafs just about knocked the Boston Bruins out of the playoffs last season.
Two out of three winners isn't half-bad for a guy who supposedly can't get it done in the clutch.
It could be argued that the Vancouver Canucks have been only one killer away from a Stanley Cup for a half-decade now. They certainly needed one in 2011 and could have used one during the playoffs in 2013.
Of all the players that Vancouver rosters, Alexandre Burrows seems to be the guy who will always rise to the occasion. He has 24 game-winning goals in his career, most of them coming over the last few seasons.
Burrows was at his best in 2011-12 when he finished off seven games with goals.
We know, right?
When you think of who should be the most clutch player for the Washington Capitals, it certainly shouldn't be Troy Brouwer. He's been money over the last four seasons, though, having scored 22 game-winners (!) in that short span.
He paced the Caps with five in 2013, matching his total from the 82-game 2011-12 season in just 47 games. Brouwer is impressive in the closing minutes of the game, which is more than can be said for other members of Washington's roster.
Another ex-Chicago Blackhawk who knows how to get things done in the clutch, Andrew Ladd has really developed his game-finishing touch since being named captain of the Winnipeg Jets.
After scoring just 10 game-winners in eight years prior to moving to Winnipeg, Ladd has scored 10 in the last two seasons, emerging as an outstanding late-game option for the Jets. He'll look to continue his development as a strong leader this season, as his team looks to make the playoffs for the first time since the move from Atlanta.