Ranking the Top Stars in the 2014 NHL Playoffs
The beauty of the NHL playoffs is in watching a team come together over a grueling four-round ordeal, and no team wins the Stanley Cup without total commitment and brilliant performances from players all over the roster.
With that said, every year there are also some incredible individual performances. Whether it's a goalie shutting the door or a skater taking over games and sometimes entire series, it's a joy to watch an exceptionally talented player work his magic as his team strives to win it all.
Who are the top stars of this year's Stanley Cup playoffs? Read on for my list of 10, based on production in the regular season, career accolades and the overall skill of the player.
10. Duncan Keith, Chicago Blackhawks
2013-14 numbers: 79 games played, six goals, 61 points
Career hardware collection: Norris Trophy (1), NHL First All-Star Team (1)
In brief: Keith, who was second among all defencemen in scoring this year and is one of a couple of names in serious contention for the Norris Trophy, narrowly edges out Los Angeles Kings centre Anze Kopitar for the final spot on this list. Keith's a do-it-all rearguard with blinding speed and smarts to match.
9. Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings
2013-14 numbers: 45 games played, 17 goals, 37 points
Career hardware collection: Lady Byng Trophy (4), Frank J. Selke Trophy (3), NHL Second All-Star Team (1)
In brief: Perhaps the finest two-way player in the NHL over the last decade, a player with Datsyuk's reputation shouldn't be able to take players by surprise, and yet somehow, he still does. Very, very few players in the game are his equal when it comes to puck wizardry; he's a brilliant stick-handler and a gifted playmaker. He also has a unique gift for stealing the puck off his opponents' sticks.
8. Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings
2013-14 numbers: 78 games played, 10 goals, 37 points
Career hardware collection: NHL Second All-Star Team (1), NHL All-Rookie Team (1)
In brief: Few defencemen have the ability to control a game the way Doughty does. He's a brilliant puck-mover, even under pressure, and his offensive numbers don't do justice to how pivotal he is in keying the Kings' attack. He routinely takes on tough competition and handles it with a mixture of speed, aggression and intelligence.
7. Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers
2013-14 numbers: 82 games played, 28 goals, 86 points
Career hardware collection: Empty (he's twice finished in the top three in NHL scoring, though).
In brief: A controversial omission from Canada's 2014 Olympic hockey team, Giroux was coming off a terrible start to the season that saw him go goalless in his first 15 games. He caught fire after knocking his first goal home, though, and once again was among the NHL's scoring leaders. Over the last four seasons, no player in the league has more points than Giroux's 303.
6. Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks
2013-14 numbers: 77 games played, 31 goals, 87 points
Career hardware collection: Empty (he did finish second in NHL points this season)
In brief: Anaheim's big, grinding pivot is well-known as a physical presence and a defensive threat, but this season he led the Western Conference in scoring and finished behind only Sidney Crosby overall in the league. He's an archetypal power centreman.
5. Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins
2013-14 numbers: 77 games played, 17 goals, 40 points
Career hardware collection: Norris Trophy (1), NHL First All-Star Team (2), NHL Second All-Star Team (3)
In brief: The mammoth rearguard, listed at 6'9", 255 pounds, is a physical specimen like no other in the league and is probably the NHL's most effective defenceman at controlling the front of his own net. Chara's more than just a big frame, though; he boasts surprising mobility and an ability to move the puck even when pressured.
4. Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks
2013-14 numbers: 76 games played, 28 goals, 68 points
Career hardware collection: Conn Smythe Trophy (1), Frank J. Selke Trophy (1), NHL Second All-Star Team (1), NHL All-Rookie Team (1)
In brief: Toews is renowned as one of the best two-way players in the game today and as an exceptional leader. He's a fast, powerful pivot who does virtually everything well and who manages to play the role of both an elite checking centre and still pile up the points.
3. Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning
2013-14 numbers: 37 games played, 25 goals, 40 points
Career hardware collection: "Rocket" Richard Trophy (2), NHL Second All-Star Team (2)
In brief: There isn't a better pure goal scorer in the game of hockey than Steven Stamkos, who combines not only incredible power and accuracy, but also a willingness to shoot. His career 17.5 shooting percentage is far and away the best number in the game; only two other players (min. 1,000 shots) are over 15.0 percent since the 2004-05 NHL lockout.
2. Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins
2013-14 numbers: 60 games played, 23 goals, 72 points
Career hardware collection: Art Ross Trophy (2), Hart Trophy (1), Ted Lindsay Award (1), Conn Smythe Trophy (1), Calder Trophy (1), NHL First All-Star Team (3), NHL All-Rookie Team (1)
In brief: Malkin is a perfect marriage of size (6'3", 195 pounds) and lightning speed. He excels in traffic and combines offensive unpredictability with a full arsenal of scoring tools, all of which make him incredibly difficult to defend against.
1. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
2013-14 numbers: 80 games played, 36 goals, 104 points
Career hardware collection: Art Ross Trophy (2), Ted Lindsay Award (2), Hart Trophy (1), "Rocket" Richard Trophy (1), NHL First All-Star Team (2), NHL Second All-Star Team (1), NHL All-Rookie Team (1)
In brief: The best player in the NHL excels at everything; the only reason he hasn't racked up more career awards is health. His career 1.40 points-per-game average is miles ahead of the competition (teammate Evgeni Malkin is second since 2005-06 with a 1.22 points-per-game total) and translates to 115 points over an average 82 games.
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