Alexander Ovechkin, Patrick Sharp: The 5 Impact Players Teams Are Missing Most
The push for the playoffs is on hardcore in both conferences. This is the time of the regular season where the cream of the crop rises to the top, and those that just aren't going to cut it sink to the bottom.
For the teams, that means that their big time, impact players really step up for them when they need it, or they don't.
For some teams, it's just a bad stroke of fate that hits them at the worst possible moment and takes their star player from them, forcing others to shoulder the burden.
We're going to take a look at the top five players that teams rely on to make an impact, but that can't make that impact because they're not on the ice.
5. Evgeni Malkin
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It really is astonishing how well Pittsburgh has played without their two best players. As if losing Crosby wasn't enough, they also have been without one of their best playmakers, Evgeni Malking, with a major leg injury.
He came back from it once this year, only to be put down for good in February.
While Crosby really is the big time guy on this team, Malkin is still a big time, impact player that the team misses a lot.
Let's not forget that Malkin won the Conn Smythe trophy when the Penguins took home their Stanley Cup a couple of years back. Hard to replace a playoff MVP right when the playoffs are just around the corner.
4. Patrick Sharp
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Patrick Sharp has had a great year for the Blackhawks this year, scoring 34 goals. That currently leads the team.
He is also second on the team in points with 68. Sharp is a major go-to guy on this Blackhawks team. Without Sharp, people can focus on really shutting down Toews and Kane's line and worry less about a big second wave.
That's exactly what Sharp is, the big second wave. Toews and Kane get a ton of attention, as they rightfully should, but then you have to hope your second line of defense is just as good as your top line of defense or else Sharp will burn you.
On the Blackhawks home page, Patrick Sharp is listed as "Hopeful to return before regular season's end" with a lower body injury.
In their quest to defend their Stanley Cup Championship, the Blackhawks are definitely going to miss Patrick Sharp as they jockey for playoff positioning and home ice in the first round.
3. Alexander Ovechkin
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The Washington Capitals are solidly in the playoffs but are far from a sure thing in the playoffs as pretty much any Caps fan could tell you.
Alex Ovechkin, who has been the king of the NHL since he came into the league six seasons ago, has inexplicably struggled this year.
Just to give a picture of this, Ovechkin is in his sixth season in the NHL. Since he has been in the NHL, he has NEVER scored fewer than 46 goals in a season. He has also never had fewer than 92 points in a season.
This year, with just six games left to play, Ovechkin has 29 goals and a total of 77 points and is sitting out a few games to try and recover from an inury that he says he's been feeling for a while now.
The Capitals are vying for the top spot in the Eastern Conference and are definitely missing the impact that Ovechkin brings to the game even when he isn't scoring as prolifically as he has in the past.
Hopefully, Ovechkin will be able to get back in the lineup for a couple of games before the season ends, because you never like to go into the playoffs cold. Though if there is a player that can come back and make an instant impact regardless of how many games they have missed, it's Alex Ovechkin.
2. Anze Kopitar
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If you didn't see this injury happen, then count yourself lucky because this was something that was incredibly scary to watch. All you really need to see is the look on his face right after it happened.
Kopitar is tied for the team lead in goals with 25 and leads the Kings in points, with 73. The next closest point total to his on the team is 57. Kopitar has a near 20-point lead on his nearest teammate.
Kopitar's injury happened in the second period when he fell incredibly awkwardly on his right leg, which folded horribly underneath him. The word came after the game that Kopitar had broken his ankle and is going to miss at least six weeks.
This is a huge blow to the Kings as they are also jockeying for playoff position with every single team within their division. Losing their leading scorer, and one of their most clutch players, is something that could really harm them once the playoffs come around.
1. Sidney Crosby
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Love him or hate him, Sidney Crosby is still one of the two best players in the sport today, and you just don't replace guys like this.
Crosby has been out since January with a concussion and has been working towards making a safe return to the team.
The Penguins have managed to pull together as a team and are playing quite well right now. They are only two points behind the Philadelphia Flyers for the lead in their division, and for first place in the Eastern Conference.
Still, as well as the Penguins have been playing, there isn't a guy on the team that would seriously say that they wouldn't want Crosby back on the ice with them. He's their leader, their captain, their leading scorer—the guy they look to when they need a big play.
At the time he went out, Crosby had 32 goals. If he'd been healthy, he could be well over 50 by now. The Penguins miss Crosby right now, but realize that his complete recovery from a concussion is much more important than returning right away.
Time To Put Up or Shut Up
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Every team has injuries throughout the season, and every team loses some important players. Rarely do teams lose players that make the kind of impact that each of these individuals do for their team.
There are no doubts that their teams miss them, and the energy that each of them brings to their teams, but they must overcome.
Some of these teams will get these impact players back, some will not. Each of these teams will all have one thing in common, though. They will soon be playing for Stanley Cup, and no excuses can be made.
No matter what the impact these players have on the team, somebody is going to have to step up if they want to hoist Lord Stanley's Cup.