Ranking the Biggest Disappointments of the 2014 NHL Playoffs So Far
There has been a lot to love about the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs—a slew of two-goal comebacks in the first round and a series being decided in overtime of Game 7 (Minnesota over Colorado) being a couple of them.
But there have also been some clear disappointments of varying degrees as well. Teams, players and even officials have failed to meet expectations, and it's time we examined those offending groups.
Which teams had the biggest letdowns? Which players didn't raise the bar in the postseason? Click through this slideshow to see them ranked from least to most disappointing.
(All statistics via NHL.com and ExtraSkater.com)
8. Claude Giroux
The Hart Trophy finalist was a nonfactor in the Philadelphia Flyers’ first-round loss to the New York Rangers. Considering that the Flyers’ weakness entering the series appeared to be goaltending and Steve Mason and Ray Emery rose to the occasion, few could have imagined Giroux’s lack of production would be their downfall.
In seven games against the Rangers, Giroux had two goals and four assists. Six points in seven games sounds great, but one goal came at the tail end of a Game 5 loss at Madison Square Garden with the other being an empty-net goal in Game 6.
In Game 7, with the Flyers’ season on the line, Giroux was held to three shots and zero points.
7. Semyon Varlamov
A Vezina Trophy finalist and someone who garnered Hart Trophy consideration, Semyon Varlamov carried the Colorado Avalanche all season. But his brilliance turned to mediocrity in the postseason, as he was outdueled by Minnesota Wild goaltenders Darcy Kuemper and Ilya Bryzgalov in a first-round loss.
During the regular season, Varlamov had a 2.41/.927 split; in seven postseason games, Varlamov’s numbers dipped to 2.78/.913.
His downfall had just as much to do with playing behind one of the NHL’s worst possession teams, but after overcoming that during the regular season, Varlamov couldn’t answer the bell in the postseason.
They certainly set the bar extremely low based on previous postseasons that always feature blown calls and inconsistencies, but it’s been more of the same in 2014. Whether it’s questionable goaltender interference calls, a missed offside infraction that led to goal or the always-popular losing sight of pucks everyone else in the building can see, it’s been a banner first two rounds.
It always seems like no two games are ever called with the same standards. Other times that standard shifts from period to period in the same game. It leaves players confused about whether they are playing in a tightly officiated contest or one where referees are going to let the boys decide the game.
This has been a problem seemingly forever in the NHL, but it doesn’t show any signs of improving in 2014.
5. Sidney Crosby
Twelve postseason games, one goal.
Crosby has dealt with more bad luck than bad play during the playoffs. He was great against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round and after struggling in Game 1 against the Rangers, he was dominant in Game 2 and scored the winning goal in Game 3.
But that’s been about it for Crosby in the second round. He has zero points in his past two games with the Penguins staring down a collapse in Game 7 on Tuesday. A loss to the Rangers will likely mean a big shakeup in Pittsburgh, but Crosby could prevent all that with a huge Game 7.
4. NHL Department of Player Safety
When Matt Cooke of the Minnesota Wild went knee-to-knee with Colorado Avalanche defenseman Tyson Barrie, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety did the correct thing by suspending Cooke for seven games.
But in that memorable first-round series between the Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks, the DOPS dropped the ball in a major way.
Los Angeles Kings forward Jarret Stoll delivered an elbow to the head of Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic in Game 5 of their series. Vlasic, the Sharks’ No. 1 defenseman, would not play again in the series, and despite the clear blow to the head with intent to injure, acting head of DOPS Stephane Quintal allowed Stoll go unpunished.
When Boston Bruins forward Milan Lucic used his stick to blast Detroit Red Wings defenseman Dan DeKeyser in the…well…the most sensitive of areas, the NHL chose not to suspend Lucic. It acted as a green light for players to do the same without fear of suspension, and Corey Perry and Sidney Crosby have been more than happy to oblige.
The suspensions and fines always become lighter in the postseason, but the NHL has turned a blind eye to some dirty plays that had nothing but intent to injure. Allowing Stoll to skate for his hit on Vlasic was by far the most embarrassing of judgments.
3. Rick Nash
Thirteen postseason games, zero goals.
No forward has underperformed in the playoffs quite like Rick Nash, who has two career postseason goals in 29 games and one goal in 25 games over two years with the New York Rangers. It became so bad that during the third period of Game 4 against the Pittsburgh Penguins, fans at Madison Square Garden booed Nash when he touched the puck.
The Rangers rallied to force a Game 7 with the Penguins after falling into a 3-1 series hole, but it had little to do with Nash, who missed a wide-open net during a Game 5 win in Pittsburgh.
If the Rangers lose Game 7 on Tuesday night and Nash fails to produce, he will be considered the scapegoat for the series loss, and rightfully so.
2. San Jose Sharks
They are a perennial disappointment, but they took it to a rarely seen level this year.
The San Jose Sharks surged to a 3-0 lead in their first-round series with the rival Los Angeles Kings and looked tremendous doing so. Then they lost Game 4. And Game 5. And Game 6. And with Game 7 in San Jose, the Sharks were blown out, becoming the fourth team in NHL history to lose a best-of-seven series after winning the first three games.
To be fair, this was a series many thought would go seven games, and the Sharks were severely weakened for Games 6 and 7 when Marc-Edouard Vlasic was unable to play due to a concussion.
No one would have had a problem with the Sharks losing to the Kings in seven games, but it was how they lost it that makes it so disappointing.
1. Ryan Miller
The St. Louis Blues fancied themselves Stanley Cup contenders and made a big move at the trade deadline, acquiring goaltender Ryan Miller from the Buffalo Sabres and dealing away starting goaltender Jaroslav Halak.
The Blues felt Miller was the missing piece for a Cup run, but was instead missing in action in a six-game loss to the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round.
Asked how he played, Miller said, per The Associated Press (via the Boston Herald): "I'm going to sit down and think about that. Not good enough, I guess."
After winning the first two games of the series, Miller lost the final four. He allowed one of the softest goals this postseason when a long, harmless shot from Jonathan Toews squeezed through his pads in what proved to be the only goal of Game 3.
Miller, an unrestricted free agent this summer, finished the postseason with a .897 save percentage. Meanwhile, Halak posted a .930 save percentage in his final 12 games of the regular season with the Washington Capitals.
With expectations through the roof in St. Louis, Miller was a major disappointment.