Disappointing Players with Chance for Redemption in 2014 NHL Conference Finals
The NHL's final four are established, and the Stanley Cup Final are in view. Players can spend an entire career never getting into the final, so the stakes are very high for everyone this week.
Each team has a couple of players who are looking to contribute in the semifinals. Things haven't gone well so far, as injuries have kept them from playing at optimum levels.
This is their chance at redemption. Here are the most disappointing players who still have a chance to make a difference during the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Andrei Markov, D, Montreal Canadiens
What Was Expected? Andrei Markov plays the big minutes and does plenty of heavy lifting for the Montreal Canadiens. More of the same was expected during the postseason.
What Was Delivered? The Canadiens are on a terrific run this spring, but as indicated by Extra Skater, the possession numbers for Markov are down considerably. It's is a small sample size, but this has been a high-event postseason for the veteran.
The Future: Markov is going to get plenty of opportunities to show he can still do the job. At 35 and with free agency looming, a strong May will impact his next contract.
Travis Moen, LW, Montreal Canadiens
What Was Expected? Travis Moen's job is to play a support role in the bottom six for the Montreal Canadiens. Bringing defensive coverage, energy, physical play and penalty-killing acumen are the extent of his game.
What Was Delivered? The Canadiens have had to make do without Moen for much of the postseason. This Rod Perry article for CBC tells us about his injury. Moen missed the last nine games of the season and the first four games of the playoffs with a concussion. He has been in and out of the lineup since his return from injury.
The Future: Montreal needs healthy and productive players, but Moen is having a hard time getting back into the lineup consistently. When he is given his next opportunity, it'll be very important to establish himself in the role he's relied on to fill.
Rick Nash, LW, New York Rangers
What Was Expected? Rick Nash scored 26 goals for the New York Rangers this season—his 10th season in a row scoring 20 or more tallies. He's a sniper and a big man, and he impacts the offense.
What Was Delivered? Nash scored his first goal of the postseason Saturday, the final one in a 7-2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens. It's been a long drought, and his shots-per-game total is down from 3.97 in the regular season to 3.6 in the playoffs.
The Future: New York needs its scorers to deliver, and Nash has been a severe disappointment. Some of this is bad luck—his career shooting percentage towers over this playoff season's 1.9—but Nash is well-paid and needs to find a way.
Raphael Diaz, D, New York Rangers
What Was Expected? Raphael Diaz was a deadline pickup for the New York Rangers. He was added for experienced depth and would fit in on the third pairing. Kevin Klein and John Moore were his competition.
What Was Delivered? Diaz can't get into games, and it's difficult to impress as a healthy scratch. He had a fine game against Pittsburgh, including six shots on goal, and he earned the chance to play the next game. Diaz hasn't been in action since the two contests against the Penguins.
The Future: He's a good defenseman, but he is a free agent at the end of the year and has played for three NHL teams this season. Diaz will likely get a chance sometime this spring and will need to make the most of it to make a good impression.
Kris Versteeg, RW, Chicago Blackhawks
What Was Expected? Kris Versteeg is a responsible-scoring winger for the Chicago Blackhawks. He was on the 2010 Stanley Cup champion 'Hawks team and was reacquired during the regular season.
What Was Delivered? Versteeg has been in and out of the lineup this spring with Chicago. The team has exceptional depth, and he has been unable to push his way into a consistent role.
The Future: He's signed for two more seasons after this one, but the 'Hawks have so many options that Versteeg needs to make the investment worthwhile. He'll need to have more impact in the rest of the playoffs to ensure he's retained over the summer.
Patrick Sharp, LW, Chicago Blackhawks
What Was Expected? Patrick Sharp is one of the reliable veterans on the Chicago Blackhawks. He enjoyed a brilliant regular season, leading the team in points. More of the same was expected in the postseason.
What Was Delivered? Sharp is still playing heavy minutes, but his offense has dried up. Chicago is still winning, and Sharp is part of an effective line and power play, but his current stats are below average. He suffered a late-season shoulder injury, which may be impacting his play.
The Future: The Blackhawks are the most successful team in the NHL, and one of the reasons is that everyone pulls their share of the load. Sharp is 32 years old, signed long-term and not performing at peak level. The 'Hawks are extremely unlikely to unload him in the summer, but he'll want to chip in more on offense through the rest of the playoffs.
Jordan Nolan, LW, Los Angeles Kings
What Was Expected? Jordan Nolan makes his living by playing an aggressive style. He's not a goal scorer, but he tries to disrupt and agitate the other side. The Kings are a very difficult team to play against, partly because of their big, heavy wingers and punishing physical play.
What Was Delivered? Nolan can't get in the lineup during these playoffs. So far this spring, he's played in only three games. Some of it is due to youngsters Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson playing more and giving the team more offense.
The Future: This has to be a frustrating postseason for Nolan. He'll have to wait until his next opportunity and to make a difference.
Dustin Brown, RW, Los Angeles Kings
What Was Delivered? Brown has gained more consistently in the postseason, especially at even strength. If Brown can continue the spike in offensive production, it'll make a difference to the goal-starved Kings.
The Future: Dustin Brown begins a monster long-term contract next season, and his offensive downturn this season was a concern. If he can maintain his even-strength scoring through the playoffs, the Kings will be breathing easier about the future.
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