There is still plenty of time for teams to overcome deficits in the second round of the NHL playoffs, but they won't be able to until their stars begin playing at an elite level.
Successful postseason teams certainly need strong role players and great coaching; however, superstars ultimately rule the day. Most of the eight remaining teams have players capable of taking games over. That is paramount when time and space are at a premium in the postseason.
Here are three players in particular who must perform in the coming games in order for their respective teams to avoid a disappointing end to their Stanley Cup pursuit.
Things were initially looking great for the New York Rangers in their second-round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins, as they stole Game 1 on the road and seemingly had the Pens reeling. The Blueshirts were shut out by Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury in the ensuing two contests, however, and now find themselves in dire straits.
Every forward on the team needs to share some blame in terms of failing to score in consecutive games, but big-ticket winger Rick Nash is under the spotlight more than anyone else. New York gave up a lot of assets to acquire him a couple years ago, and he was expected to be a cornerstone player who could be counted upon in key moments.
Unfortunately, that hasn't been the case, as Nash has just four assists in 10 playoff games and has yet to score a goal. That is despite the fact that he leads the league in shots on goal during the playoffs, according to Matt Cubeta of NHL.com:
Rick Nash leads playoffs with 41 shots on goal. As we all know, he is still without a goal. Will the breakthrough come in Game 4? #NYR— Matt Cubeta (@NHLQubes) May 6, 2014
Although Daniel Friedman of WFAN doesn't believe that Nash has been an abomination, he rightly points out that the power forward hasn't been the stud that the Rangers so desperately need:
Rick Nash has been better than the pundits suggest, but he needs to be great. He needs to be a superstar and right now, he simply isn't.— Daniel Friedman (@DFriedmanOnNYI) May 6, 2014
If the Rangers are to have any hope of keeping up with offensive juggernauts like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, then Nash needs to get hot. If he doesn't, then Pittsburgh will advance to the Eastern Conference Final in short order.
Along with Ryan Getzlaf, winger Corey Perry was the driving force behind the Anaheim Ducks' ability to outlast the Dallas Stars in the first round. The Ducks find themselves in a 2-0 hole in their second-round series against the Los Angeles Kings, and Perry's struggles have a great deal to do with it.
Perry racked up seven points in the first round, but he has yet to get on the scoresheet in the second round thus far. In fact, Anaheim's success has been in direct correlation with Perry's production during the playoffs, as he has no points and is a minus-three in the Ducks' four losses this postseason.
He had a golden opportunity to put the Ducks up 1-0 in the series during overtime of Game 1, but Kings defenseman Alec Martinez thwarted his attempt. Per ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun, missing that chance was a tough pill for Perry to swallow.
I've seen it a few times. I've thought about it. He made a great play. He went down, and I thought I had it, it was an empty net. I tried to put it in, and he just got his leg on it. Those things happen, and it was the difference in (Saturday) night's game. ... It makes it frustrating, but it makes it exciting for the next game. You kind of want to play right away and get after it again. (Monday) night, you do the same thing and hopefully it's a different outcome.
Unfortunately for Perry, things didn't get much better in Game 2. The Ducks are in grave danger of falling into an insurmountable hole, but if Perry can potentially go on a goal-scoring binge, then all bets are off.
Which struggling star is most likely to bounce back in the second round of the NHL playoffs?
The Minnesota Wild hoped that they were adding a considerable offensive punch when they acquired forward Matt Moulson from the Buffalo Sabres at the trade deadline, but he hasn't lived up to expectations. Even in Minnesota's first-round upset of the Colorado Avalanche, Moulson simply wasn't productive.
While Moulson isn't a dynamic offensive player, he is a guy who doesn't often get mired in slumps due to his willingness and ability to go to the dirty areas and score goals. Moulson hasn't been able to cash in on his chances, though, and that is a major issue for the Wild, who are facing a dominant offensive force in the form of the Chicago Blackhawks.
As pointed out by Chad Graff of the Pioneer Press prior to Minnesota's Game 3 clash with the Blackhawks, Moulson's scoring production was equal to that of fourth-line grinder Cody McCormick:
Cody McCormick has any many playoff goals (one) as Matt Moulson. Just as we thought when they were traded together from Buffalo.— Chad Graff (@ChadGraff) May 4, 2014
In addition to hurting his team's chances of advancing, Moulson has also damaged his value has an upcoming free agent, per Craig D. Schroepfer of WCCO:
Matt Moulson is making the decision whether or not to bring him back next year easy with his play so far in the playoffs. #Demoted4thLine.— Craig D. Schroepfer (@CDS830) May 4, 2014
Moulson has a lot riding on the remainder of this series and the playoffs as a whole, so it's time for him to get back to basics and add some much-needed scoring punch to Minnesota's lineup.
Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.