Players Who Drastically Exceeded Scoring Expectations in 2014 NHL Playoffs

Rob Vollman@robvollmanNHLContributor IMay 15, 2014

Players Who Drastically Exceeded Scoring Expectations in 2014 NHL Playoffs

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Some players have what it takes to put up big points in the postseason. Whether it's due to more ice time, great linemate chemistry, soft opponents, good luck or clutch play, some NHLers know how to light the lamp when the time is right.

    Who is doing it this year?

    Calculating which players exceeding expectations in the postseason is simple. Everyone's regular-season scoring rate was multiplied by the number of games they played in the postseason. The result was then compared to each player's actual points total and then ranked in order from highest to lowest.

    How did they do it? Some players like Bryan Bickell got promoted to the top line, and others like Anze Kopitar got great new linemates. Also, depth players like Shawn Horcoff took advantage of some mistakes, while a couple of Canadiens just simply caught fire.

    Whatever the reason, each of the 10 players featured on this list exceeded their regular-season scoring rate by a wide margin of at least four points in the postseason.

    Let's begin!

    All advanced statistics courtesy of Extra Skater or writer's own original research, unless otherwise noted.

     

10. James Sheppard, San Jose Sharks

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    Chris Carlson/Associated Press

    Postseason Production

    After posting 20 points in 67 regular-season games, James Sheppard caught fire with six points in seven playoff games, which is 3.9 points more than would have been expected.

    The Secret to Success

    Sheppard gets some of the team's easiest minutes. Of San Jose 12 forwards, Sheppard was ninth in quality of competition and fifth in the percentage of shifts he got to start in the offensive zone.

    But do easy minutes really explain his scoring increase? Because it's the same way Sheppard has always been used.

    Sometimes, these types of players come alive in the playoffs. The top players cancel each other out with more mistake-free hockey, and the secondary players are the ones who get more opportunities.

    It could also just be good timing; Sheppard also had six points in seven games in one stretch in early February.

    Net Impact

    Sheppard's extra scoring was a bonus given how it's not really his job to fill the net. He had one point in 17 previous postseason games, and just 73 in 323 career regular-season games.

    He nevertheless finished one point back of Patrick Marleau for the team's postseason scoring lead, and that was in only 12 minutes a game instead of 20. That is not bad for a checking-line player with a cap hit of $830,000.

    His offense was also really spread out. Sheppard's four assists all went to different players, with four different players providing the other assist, and his two goals had four different players assisting them. Tomas Hertl was the only player that was a member of all three groups of four.  

9. Torey Krug, Boston Bruins

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    Francois Lacasse/Getty Images

    Postseason Production

    Torey Krug had 10 points in 12 games this postseason, which are 3.9 more in total than what you would expect from someone who scored 40 points in 79 regular-season games.

    The Secret to Success

    Krug is deployed exclusively for scoring. He was on the Bruins' top power-play pairing, for instance, working 52.1 percent of such minutes for a team with a 26.5 power-play percentage. He consequently scored half of his points on the power play and is tied for fourth most in the NHL

    He gets the edge at even strength as well, starting 67.4 percent of his non-neutral shifts in the offensive zone, the highest mark on the team after rookies Justin Florek and Matt Fraser (in limited action). Krug was also kept away from top opponents wherever possible, as those minutes were capably handled by Zdeno Chara and Dougie Hamilton.

    Net Impact

    Boston's 23-year-old rookie is developing into a Keith Yandle-like role. Since the Bruins have other defensemen who are capable of handling the tough minutes, the skilled 5'9" blue liner can be focused on an almost purely offensive role. 

    Unlike Yandle, however, Krug was only fifth on the team in even-strength ice time. Further development of his defensive game could eventually result in a greater share of the ice time and a larger impact to the team overall. 

8. Shawn Horcoff, Dallas Stars

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    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    Postseason Production

    With only 20 points in 77 regular-season games, one would only have expected 1.6 points in six playoff games for Shawn Horcoff. He instead scored six points.

    The Secret to Success

    Horcoff scored 19 points in 24 games in his last postseason appearance with Edmonton in 2006, but of course he was nearly a point-per-game player during the regular season back then. He now has 29 points in 41 career postseason games.

    It is anyone's guess where his scoring surge came from this year. He got his name on the scoresheet just once in the final 17 games of the regular season before registering a point in each of the last five of playoff games against Anaheim.

    The 35-year-old veteran plays against the depth lines only, and his quality-of-competition numbers are the second lowest among Dallas forwards. Sometimes, those types of players do well in the postseason after the top players cancel each other out with largely mistake-free hockey.

    Net Impact

    Though it wasn't enough to upset the Anaheim Ducks, Horcoff's scoring kept the Stars in the mix. Each of his five assists were to a different player, and four were primary assists.

    The long-time Oiler was picked up last summer along with his $5.5 million cap hit, a contract on which one more year remains. He was of relatively limited usefulness in the regular season. 

7. Jack Johnson, Columbus Blue Jackets

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    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    Postseason Production

    Jack Johnson scored 33 points in 82 regular season games and then seven points in six postseason games, which was 4.6 more than would be expected.

    The Secret to Success

    Johnson enjoyed an extra 4.7 minutes of ice time per game this postseason. A lot of those minutes came on the power play, where he worked 70.2 percent of the team's minutes, the eighth-highest percentage in the NHL. Columbus had a power-play percentage of 25.9 percent.

    He also scored on 21.4 percent of his shots.

    Net Impact

    Acquired from Los Angeles in the Jeff Carter trade, Johnson's postseason scoring is nothing new. He had 12 points in 12 games in two previous postseason appearances with the Los Angeles Kings, and he registered a point in five of six games against Pittsburgh with Columbus this postseason.

    The 27-year-old former third overall selection is the very antithesis of a possession-based player, but he is nevertheless assigned the bulk of Columbus' toughest minutes. 

6. Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche

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    Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

    Postseason Production

    Nathan MacKinnon surprised everyone by scoring 10 points in seven games this postseason, which were 4.6 more than would be expected given his 63 points in 82 games in the regular season.

    The Secret to Success

    MacKinnon got off to a quick start, and might have taken opponents by surprise.

    The 18-year-old rookie enjoyed over three more minutes of ice time per game, a lot of which was on the power play. MacKinnon worked 52.7 percent of power-play minutes, which was the highest mark on the team apart from Matt Duchene's two-game sample.

    He also developed great chemistry with Paul Stastny, whose postseason scoring was also much higher than expected.

    Net Impact

    MacKinnon scored seven points in the first two postseason games and then had another three-point night when Colorado returned to Minnesota for Game 5. He was otherwise kept pointless.

    The Avalanche were 3-0 when last year's first overall selection scored and 0-4 when he didn't. He was minus-6 over the last two games of the series. 

5. P.K. Subban, Montreal Canadiens

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    Charles Krupa/Associated Press

    Postseason Production

    P.K. Subban scored 53 points in 82 regular-season games, which would work out to an expected total of 7.1 points in 11 postseason games. Instead, the high-scoring talent leads the Canadiens with 12 points so far this postseason.

    The Secret to Success

    Subban is an amazing offensive talent who was actually only a second-round selection in 2007.

    He is currently handling 82.7 percent of Montreal's power-play minutes, which leads the league. A league-leading seven of his points have been with the man advantage, helping the team's power play to hum along at 26.3 percent.

    It also helps that partner Josh Gorges is taking on most of the shutdown responsibilities, and it also helps that the Alexei Emelin/Andrei Markov pairing is taking on more of the defensive-zone assignments. Among Canadiens, only David Desharnais and Max Pacioretty get to start a higher portion of their shifts in the offensive zone than Subban.

    Net Impact

    After being shut out in Game 1 in the first round against Tampa Bay, Subban started a six-game scoring streak where he scored three goals and eight assists. The Habs lost only one of those games.

    The 25-year-old defending Norris Trophy-winner and first-team All-Star scored 38 points in 42 games in 2012-13. He is a rough and scrappy player with 16 points in 26 postseason appearances with Montreal going into this year. 

4. Lars Eller, Montreal Canadiens

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    STEVE NESIUS/Associated Press

    Postseason Production

    Lars Eller has nine points in 11 games, which is 5.3 more points than would be expected based on his regular-season scoring rate of just 26 points in 77 games.

    The Secret to Success

    Unlike many others on this list, Eller has achieved his scoring without working the power play.

    He does, however, take on the team's easiest opponents, other than Montreal's fourth line with Dale Weise and Daniel Briere. Eller's duties do tend to be defensively-oriented, however.

    Sometimes, such players can take off in the postseason, when the top lines cancel each other out. This is especially true when they score on 21.1 percent of their shots.

    Net Impact

    Thanks to players like Eller, Montreal is able to roll several scoring lines. The flexibility that he offers enables them to scratch players like Daniel Briere, though the wisdom of that move can be questioned.

    The 25-year-old Dane started the playoffs with a five-game scoring streak wherein Montreal went undefeated. In fact, Montreal is 8-0 when he scores and 0-3 when he does not.

    Acquired in the Jaroslav Halak trade, Eller had only eight previous career postseason appearances, all with Montreal, wherein he had no goals and two points. His offensive upside was showcased in 2012-13, though, when he scored 30 points in 46 regular-season games. 

3. Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings

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    Uncredited/Associated Press

    Postseason Production

    Anze Kopitar led the Kings in scoring once again with 70 points in 82 regular-season games. That would normally work out to 11.1 points in 13 playoff games, but Kopitar instead leads the postseason with 17 points.

    The Secret to Success

    The Kings picked up Marian Gaborik, a creative offensive player that can unleash the full potential of virtually any linemate, at the trade deadline this season. Gaborik is scoring on 20.5 percent of his shots, and Kopitar is converting on 16.7 percent of his.

    The 26-year-old Slovenian, who ended the regular season on fire as well, is working 60.7 percent of the team's power-play minutes, where he has earned four of his points. Los Angeles has a 23.1 power-play percentage.

    Net Impact

    Kopitar led the NHL with eight goals, 12 assists, 20 points and a plus-16 rating in the Kings' victorious 2012 Stanley Cup run. This year, he scored in 10 straight games to open the postseason, with John Gibson's shutout in Game 4 being the first and only time he's been kept off the scoresheet.

    There are no easy minutes for Kopitar, however. The big two-way player takes on top opponents with duties in both the offensive and defensive zones. He is truly a game-changing presence at both ends of the ice. 

2. Bryan Bickell, Chicago Blackhawks

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    Bill Smith/Getty Images

    Postseason Production

    Bryan Bickell had only 15 points in 59 games this regular season, but he has scored nine points in 12 games so far this postseason. That's a rate of 65.9 more than would be expected based on his more modest regular-season scoring rate.

    The Secret to Success

    Bickell was promoted to the top line with Jonathan Toews, where he is also enjoying over four more minutes of ice time per game. That would boost anyone's scoring!

    He also starts a whopping 73.5 percent of his non-neutral shifts in the offensive zone, second only to Patrick Kane among the team's forwards. It has come against top opponents and has not been supplemented by any power-play time, though, unlike Kane.

    Bickell is also scoring on 22.2 percent of his own shots.

    Net Impact

    Bickell had a five-game scoring streak that started in Game 4 against St. Louis in the first round and wrapped up in Game 2 against Minnesota in the second round. That hot stretch included five goals and three assists, and Chicago was undefeated in that time.

    He is 28 years old and a very big man who is nevertheless reasonably disciplined. Bickell landed his rich $4 million contract after last year's postseason success, where he scored 17 points in 23 games on the way to Chicago's second Stanley Cup victory in four years. 

1. Brent Seabrook, Chicago Blackhawks

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    Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    Postseason Production

    Despite a three-game suspension, Brent Seabrook has still managed 11 points in nine postseason games. Based on his 41 points in 82 games in the regular season, he would normally have scored only 4.5 points.

    The Secret to Success

    It's easier for Seabrook to get assists when his teammates are scoring on 13.9 percent of their shots while he is on the ice during 5-on-5 play, the 11th highest rate in the league.

    Furthermore, not everyone realizes that Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya have actually been handling the toughest assignments for a couple of years now. That opens up the ice for Seabrook and Duncan Keith to take on more offensive responsibilities against players other than ones on the opponent's top lines.

    Net Impact

    The 29-year-old big man has scored in each of his first five postseason games, the first of which were two-point nights.

    He previously scored 15 points in 45 combined games in Chicago's two Stanley Cup victories, but his best offensive postseason was his first career appearance in 2009, when he scored 12 points in 17 games.

      

    Rob Vollman is author of Rob Vollman's Hockey Abstract and co-author of the annual Hockey Prospectus guides. He is also a featured ESPN Insider writer. @robvollmanNHL.

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