2010 NHL Playoffs: 10 Potential Top Performers
The playoffs have finally arrived!
The normal teams like the Detroit Red Wings and the Pittsburgh Penguins are in the mix, as well as a couple of new contenders, like the Phoenix Coyotes and the Los Angeles Kings.
There is also a ton of talent entering this year’s postseason. Most players you may have expected to make this list, but some you might not have.
Goalies are obviously the most important player on any team, so I tried to stay away from them—but there was one goalie who had to make the list.
Other than that, you’ll just have to see for yourselves.
In no specific order, here are 10 potential top playoff performers.
Not enough can be said about the job Miller has done in goal this season for the Northeast Division champion Buffalo Sabres.
Miller’s .928 save percentage and 2.23 GAA are among the best in the league, and have made him a front-runner for the Vezina Trophy. His 40 wins match a career-high and a franchise-best.
Miller’s playoff experience is extensive and deep. He has been to the conference finals twice and has a number of playoff wins under his belt.
Not to mention, he helped lead Team USA to the silver medal in the Olympics, beating Team Canada in the process—the same type of game Miller will have to play many of in the postseason.
The silver medal is still fresh on Miller’s mind, and he would love to do nothing more than to make up for it with the Stanley Cup.
Doughty has had a very impressive sophomore season with the Los Angeles Kings.
The 20-year-old is fourth in defensive scoring with 57 points and is first with five game-winning goals. He also played on Team Canada during the Winter Olympics.
Doughty is the youngest player on this list, and thus, his only playoff experience is in the OHL, where he had 27 points in 28 games.
The Winter Olympics should have given Doughty a good taste of the type of hockey to expect in the playoffs—and if that was any indication of how he will play in the postseason, then the Kings are in great shape.
The Kings will more than likely match up against one of the top three seeds in the Western Conference, which means Doughty is going to have his work cut out for him both offensively and defensively.
I know it’s no surprise that Ovie made the list, but the man can shoot like no other.
Alex “The Great” only went two rounds in last year’s postseason and managed to accumulate 21 points; with a stronger Washington Capitals lineup, I can’t wait to see what he can do if they make it to the Cup.
Despite missing time this season due to injury and suspensions, Ovie has still put up over 100 points and is among the favorites for league MVP. He is also just two goals short of reaching the 50-goal plateau for the fourth time in five years.
Ovechkin has scored 15.5 percent of the Caps' league-leading 310 goals.
Washington has to be a favorite for the Cup right now, and Ovie is a year older and has learned from some of the mistakes he may have made in last year’s playoffs.
The Sedin Twins
They are so incredibly identical that it’s physically impossible to choose just one of them—it’s borderline creepy how identical they really are.
Henrik and Daniel Sedin have exceeded expectations this season and are looking to continue their fantastic pace into the postseason.
Henrik is a front-runner for the Hart Trophy and leads the NHL with 107 points in 80 games, while Daniel has 80 points in just 61 games; but they are averaging 1.34 and 1.31 points per game respectively.
But wait, it gets even more identical.
In last year’s postseason, Henrik and Daniel each had four goals and six assists in 10 games.
If Vancouver wins the Stanley Cup, it is going to be quite interesting to see which Sedin takes home the Conn Smythe.
Like Ovie, there’s no surprise here.
In the last two seasons, Crosby has distinguished himself as one of the best postseason players in the game.
Sid “The Kid” finished with six goals and 21 assists in 20 games for the Pittsburgh Penguins back in the 2008 playoffs.
And last season, he finished with a much more balanced 15 goals and 16 assists in 24 games, leading the Pens to their first Stanley Cup since 1992.
Crosby’s 48 goals this season marks the first time in his five-year career that he has broken the 40-goal plateau.
Evgeni Malkin’s return from injury couldn’t have come at a better time. His return, coupled with Crosby’s talent, may see the Pens return to the Cup Finals for a third consecutive year.
The reason the Detroit Red Wings are consistently one of the top teams in the NHL season after season is because of their core players.
Henrik Zetterberg has been the big point-producer for the Detroit Red Wings in the playoffs over the last two seasons; in 45 games he has 51 points.
There’s Pavel Datsyuk, who had a career-best 23 points in 22 games during the Red Wings’ 2008 Stanley Cup run.
And then there’s Johan Franzen, who has been a scoring machine for Detroit during the Red Wings’ last two playoff runs; he has 25 goals over that stretch.
But don’t forget about Nicklas Lidstrom. In 235 career playoff games, the greatest European defenseman of all time has 165 points.
Lidstrom turns 40 this month but will be a huge factor for the Wings in the postseason.
Assuming Mueller recovers from his concussion in time for the playoffs, he is going to be a very valuable asset to the Colorado Avalanche if they make any kind of run.
Before being traded on Mar. 3 to Colorado, Mueller was having another disappointing season with the Phoenix Coyotes.
Mueller’s rookie season in Phoenix was promising, but his point totals have gotten progressively worse each season.
In 53 games with Phoenix this year, Mueller had just 17 points; but the trade to Colorado was just what Mueller’s needed.
The eighth-overall pick in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft had 20 points in only 15 games with the Avalanche before his injury.
Hopefully Mueller’s concussion doesn’t impact his sudden revival in Colorado. If he returns in time, then the Colorado youth movement may be poised for a few potential upsets.
Nobody in their right mind thought that the Phoenix Coyotes would make the playoffs—let alone finish with over 100 points—but Stempniak is a big reason for the Coyotes’ recent success.
Stempniak is in an eerily similar situation to that of Mueller.
Stempniak was having another disappointing season with the Toronto Maple Leafs before being traded on March 3 to the Coyotes. He had 14 goals and just 30 points in total in 62 games with the Leafs this season.
And like Mueller, a change of scenery was all Stempniak needed to spark his play.
In only 16 games with Phoenix, Stempniak has 13 goals and 17 points altogether. While he has cooled down as of late, he will be an intricate part of the Coyotes’ playoff hopes.
Unfortunately, like Mueller, Stempniak has no playoff experience.
As established a player as Kovalchuk is, he has played in just one playoff series—and it was rather disappointing.
Kovalchuk’s Atlanta Thrashers were swept by the New York Rangers in the first round of the 2007 playoffs. He had just two points in those four games.
There is no doubt that on a proven winner like the New Jersey Devils, Kovalchuk will look for success in the postseason.
But since Kovalchuk joined the team on Feb. 5, the Devils have gone just 11-8-5.
Regardless, it seems the Devils have finally found how to use Kovalchuk in their lineup. He has scored 40 goals or more in six straight seasons, and would like to take that kind of production into the playoffs.
Combined with youngster Zach Parise, Kovalchuk’s scoring ability may be able to lead New Jersey back to the Stanley Cup.
I questioned Toews’ place on the Canadian Olympic team, but he ended up being one of Canada’s most consistent and impressive players. He finished with eight points in seven games.
Having proven himself in the Olympics, it’s going to be interesting to see how Toews, the third-youngest captain in NHL history, handles the playoffs.
The young Toews is the face of the Chicago Blackhawks and has put up another great season for the well-balanced Hawks. He has 65 points in 73 games.
Last season, Toews finished with 13 points in 17 games, as the Blackhawks fell just three games short of reaching their first Stanley Cup Final since 1991-92.
If the Hawks make a deep playoff run this year, you can bet Toews’ performance will be a big reason why.