Well, we’re here. The playoffs start today!
There are a lot of youngsters in this year’s crop of playoff talent; players looking to prove themselves for the first time.
Drew Doughty will have his hands full against the Vancouver Canucks and Tuukka Rask will be trying to out-duel Vezina-favorite Ryan Miller.
And then there are the normal attention-getters. It’s tough to not focus on players like Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, and Henrik Zetterberg when the playoffs are getting started.
But don’t forget about the proven veterans who would still like to prove a little more.
Here are the top veterans to watch in this year’s postseason.
At the tender age of 36, Gonchar’s defensive and offensive skills are about as good as they have ever been.
The native of Russia has played in 105 career playoff games and has 68 points in that time.
He has also been a big part of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ last two Stanley Cup runs. Gonchar has scored 14 points in each of the last two postseasons.
While Gonchar struggled to put up big numbers in the Cup Finals last year, he did play some big minutes throughout the postseason. He played more than 25 minutes seven times in 22 games.
Despite an injury-shortened season this year, Gonchar still put up 50 points in just 62 games.
Gonchar, assuming he stays healthy for the playoffs, will be expected to play a pivotal role in the Penguins repeat hopes.
Alfredsson is the only player on this list to not have won the Stanley Cup—which means he might have the most to prove.
The 37-year-old is the Ottawa Senators’ franchise leader in just about every single statistical category, but would like nothing more than to give Ottawa its first Cup.
Alfredsson has 80 points in 101 career playoff games.
His best postseason was Ottawa’s 2006-07 Stanley Cup Final run; Alfredsson collected 14 goals and 22 points in 20 games, but the Sens fell short against the Anaheim Ducks.
In 2007-08, Alfredsson played just two games in the playoffs due to injury, as the Sens were swept in the first round by the Penguins—he finished with zero points in those two games.
If Ottawa has any chance of making a Cup run, Alfredsson is going to be a major part of it.
Do you think Anaheim not making the playoffs had anything to do with Pronger leaving for the Philadelphia Flyers?
Pronger’s 55 points is his best point total since his 2006-07 Stanley Cup season with the Ducks.
The 35-year-old has 102 points in 147 career playoff games. He had 10 points in 13 games last postseason with Anaheim.
But his best playoff year was during his short-lived days with the Edmonton Oilers back in the 2006 postseason. Pronger was a huge part of Edmonton’s unexpected Stanley Cup run, finishing with 21 points in 24 games.
Edmonton fell one game short of winning the Cup, but Pronger won it the next season by scoring 15 points in 19 games with the Ducks.
The Flyers chances are not that good, especially given their goaltending situation, but Pronger will be the backbone of not just the blue line, but the whole team, if they do make a run.
Arguably the best goaltender of all time, and he still has a lot to prove in this year’s playoffs.
After last year’s first-round debacle against the sixth-seeded Carolina Hurricanes, a lot of fingers were pointed at Brodeur. With the New Jersey Devils leading 3-2 in the final two minutes of Game 7, Brodeur let in two uncharacteristically “soft” goals which sent the Devils home much earlier than expected.
But at age 37, Brodeur is out to prove that he still has a lot of gas in the tank; this past season is just a testament to his greatness.
Brodeur’s .916 save percentage and his 2.24 GAA in 77 games played proves that old adage, “age is just a number.”
The Devils have not advanced past the second round since the 2002-03 when they won the Cup, but Brodeur’s 98-78 playoff record, along with his .920 save percentage, 1.98 GAA, and 23 career shutouts may bring the Devils back to the promised land.
With four Stanley Cups in 17 seasons with his lifelong team the Detroit Red Wings, the first European-born and trained captain to win the Stanley Cup still might not be done.
The Wings have never missed the playoffs in Lidstrom’s tenure.
The 39-year-old is the oldest on this list, and he is just 31 games away from breaking Chris Chelios’ record for most playoff games at 266—let’s hope Chelios finally hangs up the walker next season.
While his point totals did drop to 49 points this season, his lowest since the lockout, Lidstrom does have 165 points in his 235 playoff games.
Lidstrom also had 16 points in 21 games during last year’s playoffs and a plus-11 rating.
The Red Wings are currently the hottest team in the NHL heading into the playoffs, and there is a good chance that Lidstrom will be raising his fifth Stanley Cup at the end of the season.