NHL Playoffs 2011: Top Overtime Player to Watch on Each Postseason Team
There is absolutely nothing in the world like overtime playoff hockey. Every shift could be the last, and every shot could end the game.
For some reason, certain players seem to thrive on this pressure. Players who might not be the biggest stars of their teams step up to the plate and deliver when the time is right. These are the players who bring fans to their feet an opponents to their knees.
Heading into the NHL playoffs, one thing is for certain: Someone is going to get their heart broken.
Washington Capitals: Mike Knuble
The 38-year-old right winger has had something of a career resurgence in Washington, scoring 24 goals and earning himself a new contract with his gritty play and timely goals.
Knuble is someone who might not be able to snipe you from the slot like Ovechkin or Semin, but he does the things that allows teams to win hockey games. He goes to the corners, parks in front of the net and scores garbage goals—all necessary playoff actions.
While the opposing defense is focused on the Russian contingent, Knuble could shock everyone by burying a shot from about five feet out to end the game.
New York Rangers: Ruslan Fedotenko
Ruslan Fedetenko might be light on the score sheet this year, but his track record speaks for itself. He is a Cup winner with both the Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins, and scored the Lightning's only two goals in their Game 7 win in 2004.
The Rangers have lots of guys capable of scoring, but none have done it on a bigger stage than Fedetenko. With the Rangers playing the No. 1 seed Capitals, they might need a few lucky bounces to advance in the playoffs.
Although, the East is so tight that only four wins separated the No. 1 Capitals from the No. 8 Rangers this regular season, so you never know.
Philadelphia Flyers: Daniel Briere
It wasn't that long ago that Danny Briere was one of the most feared shooters in the NHL. Although his career has had some ups and downs since then, the scoring touch seems to be making a comeback in a big way.
Briere was a big part of the Flyers' run to the Stanley Cup Finals last year, scoring 30 points in 23 games and logging some big-time minutes.
While he might get pushed around by bigger opponents, Briere still manages to find space on the ice and is a threat to score every time he shoots.
Opposing teams would be wise to keep an eye out for him if they ever head to OT with the Flyers.
Buffalo Sabres: Drew Stafford
Drew Stafford might be a relative unknown to casual hockey fans, but to the Buffalo Sabres, he's a potential hero. Stafford scored 30 goals this season for the first time in his young career, and that was while playing in only 62 games.
Stafford leads a Buffalo offense that has struggled with goal support for Ryan Miller at times this season. And if they head to overtime against the defending Eastern Conference champions, someone is going to have to step up.
What people have overlooked about Stafford this season is his shooting percentage. His percentage trails only two guys not named Sidney Crosby, meaning that, when he shoots, it has a great chance of going in.
Boston Bruins: Nathan Horton
Stuck in Hockey Hell in Florida for the beginning part of his career, Nathan Horton is just entering his prime and seems poised to break out in Boston.
The 25-year-old has never played in a playoff game before this year, so he really doesn't have a track record in the postseason to speak of...but would you bet against him? The same guys can't keep scoring all the big goals, so why can't Horton step up this year?
Another guy to watch on the Bruins would be Mark Recchi. The Recchin Ball has been through countless playoff games during his long career and knows exactly what it takes to move on in the tournament.
Montreal Canadiens: Scott Gomez
Never a huge goal scorer, the Alaskan-born Scott Gomez has been the foundation of many solid playoff teams throughout the years. Two Stanley Cup rings prove that he is a winner and can help his team get to the next level once the postseason begins.
Two years ago, while playing for the Rangers, Gomez scored 17 goals during the year, but seven of them were game winning goals. This year, the 31-year-old has struggled to rack up the tallies, but it only takes one shot in the playoffs to change things.
Another former New Jersey Devil to watch would be Brina Gionta, who led the team in goal scoring this year.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Chris Kunitz
With Sidney Crosby out this season, two guys stepped up huge for the Penguins: Chris Kunitz and Tyler Kennedy. Kunitz himself was hobbled with an injury this season as well, but still managed to score 23 goals and contribute in other areas as well.
Kunitz is a great puck retriever, and isn't afraid to go to the dirty areas on the ice. Mix that in with a scoring touch he found this year, and Kunitz is a dangerous player come playoff time.
The two-time Stanley Cup winner is tailor-made for the postseason. Opposing goaltenders would be wise to mind him if he's carrying the puck in OT.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Steven Stamkos
The young superstar of the Lightning seems to be the obvious choice for someone most likely to end a game. His slap shot is wicked and can end a game before you can blink an eye.
Amazingly, even with all the attention he's receiving from defenses, Stamkos still manages to find open space on the ice to set up his shot. That's huge in OT, because open ice is usually at a premium and someone who can get there and get a shot off is a dangerous threat.
Vancouver Canucks: Ryan Kesler
The Sedins might be all the press, but if Ryan Kesler had a twin, Vancouver might be better off.
Kesler scored a quiet (if there is such a thing) 41 goals this season and played amazing all year long. His 15 powerplay goals helped the Canucks dominate the Western conference and lock up the No. 1 seed. Come crunch time, Kesler might be the guy who ends a team's run with a well-placed shot.
The only knock against Kesler is his lack of production in past postseasons. If Kesler is to be a big-time player in the league, he has to deliver when it counts. Why not this year?
Chicago Blackhawks: Patrick Kane
Hard to pick anyone but Patrick Kane.
The young scorer won a Stanley Cup last year with probably the most confusing Cup winning goal in recent memory. But hey...it went in and that's all that counts.
The Blackhawks have limped into the playoffs this year, but they still are the defending champions and that's certainly an intangible. Kane is going to have to come up huge a couple times against the mighty Canucks if Chicago wants another shot at Lord Stanley's hardware.
San Jose Sharks: Patrick Marleau
Patrick Marleau has had a great season so far, and has really taken the Sharks on his back in recent weeks. While Joe Thornton is notorious for disappearing come playoff time, Marleau has at least produced a respectable number of points.
But it's not the Sharks postseason production (or lack thereof) that has me selecting Marleau; it's the fact that he's simply on fire right now.
Marleau has 21 points in his last 13 games, with many of them being against playoff teams. With Dany Heatley drawing some attention, Marleau might be able to sneak one in past the goaltender.
Los Angeles Kings: Dustin Brown
Dustin Penner doesn't have a point in almost a month, Justin Williams is injured and Anze Kopitar is on crutches... I had to pick someone.
The former first-round pick has nine points in his last nine games, and has had a good season so far. He can bang bodies around and score goals off turnovers if you give him the chance.
In playoff overtime, one turnover can be the difference between playing on and going home. Brown can best the person who causes havoc on the forecheck and sends people home for the night.
Detroit Red Wings: Johan Franzen
Look where Franzen is in that picture and get used to it; he makes his living there.
Franzen is the prototypical Red Wing: Rough, smart and effective. He is a proven postseason producer, scoring 31 goals there in the past three seasons.
Rarely are you going to see someone be wide open in the slot for a shot during the playoffs. The ice is just too congested. Goals are going to be scored in scrums and in front of the net, somewhere Franzen thrives.
Detroit shouldn't need much help to beat the Coyotes, but if push comes to shove, Franzen can get it done.
Phoenix Coyotes: Ray Whitney
When in doubt, go with experience.
On paper, the Coyotes look like they are over-matched against the veteran Red Wings. But in the playoffs, you never know.
Ray Whitney won a Cup with the Hurricanes and managed to score 17 goals this season, even though he's well past his prime as a player. If a puck finds his stick and Jimmy Howard is off his angle, look out.
Another player to watch would be young Lauri Korpikoski. He has shown a nice shot and scoring touch during the season, and could be one of those surprise OT goal scorers.
Anaheim Ducks: Corey Perry
Gotta go with the hot hand, right?
Corey Perry has had a tremendous year and doesn't show any signs of slowing down. His 50 goals earned him the Rocket Richard trophy and the respect of goaltenders around the Western conference.
He also has 11 game-winning goals, proving that he can get it done when games are on the line.
Everyone talks about Stamkos, but the fact that Perry scored 50 goals as a 25-year-old is something that simply cannot be overlooked.
Nashville Predators: Mike Fisher
Zero Stanley Cup rings on this team, so someone is going to have to step up and get it done if a game goes to OT.
Mr. Carrie Underwood has eight points in his last seven games, and has extensive playoff experience as a member of the Ottawa Senators. In the postseason, experience counts more than you can imagine.
Fisher might not be a flashy name, but he's a proven 20-goal scorer in this league, and the playoffs seem like a good time for him to break out of his shell.
Besides, every year in the playoffs someone surprises you.