2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs: 10 Most Surprising Performances Thus Far
Heading into the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, there were certain expectations that were thrust upon a number of players.
Daniel Sedin was expected to be leading the playoffs in scoring—which he is, Martin St. Louis was expected to shine with the Tampa Bay Lightning—which he has and Sergei Bobrovsky was expected to be replaced by Brian Boucher at some point—and he has!
Along with the expected performances of a few players, there have been a number of unexpected performances thus far.
Let’s take a look at the 10 most surprising performances thus far—for better or for worse...
Mike Fisher: Forward, Nashville Predators:
Few people had Mike Fisher’s name penciled in as one of their top fantasy playoff picks. If you did draft Fisher, you are reaping the rewards, as, through three games, Fisher has emerged as a top performer with five points.
Fisher’s five points puts him in a tie for second overall in playoff scoring—a place few had Fisher when the playoffs started.
Further, Fisher brings an element of leadership and experience that the Nashville Predators needed, helping to give the Preds the confidence to be up two games to one in their playoff series against the Anaheim Ducks.
Add all of that to the fact that Fisher is even dropping the gloves, and you have a player that is dialed into the playoffs.
Jason Arnott: Forward, Washington Capitals:
Since arriving in Washington, Jason Arnott has helped to take the Capitals to another level.
His veteran leadership and experience look to be a huge asset to the Washington Capitals organization—especially the younger players, who, in some people’s minds, have not yet learned how to win.
The play of Alexander Ovechkin elevated the moment Arnott arrived. Ovechkin appears to be looking up to Arnott and has shown a measure of respect to the Stanley Cup winner.
Arnott is also getting it done on the score sheet, registering one goal and three points in his first three playoff games.
Carey Price: Goaltender, Montreal Canadiens:
Let’s face it, Carey Price has been phenomenal throughout the playoffs. Price leads the NHL in save percentage (.956), is second in goals against average at 1.34 and appears to be embracing the leadership role both on the ice and in the locker room— where he has been very vocal throughout the playoffs.
Price has played with a confidence and purpose that few young goalies are capable of. Without a doubt, despite his team's game three loss to the Boston Bruins, Price has been the best goalie in the playoffs, leading his team to two road wins in the very tough Boston Garden.
Despite a very strong regular season, Price still had his fair share of doubters that wanted to see how he would respond to the pressure of the playoffs—an area Price has struggled with in the past.
It appears as if Price is answering his critics with every big save. Clearly, Price’s play has surprised more than a few fans, including myself.
Keith Yandle: Defenseman, Phoenix Coyotes:
How do you follow up a career year in which you post 11 goals and 59 points in 82 regular season games? You start the playoffs with four assists in three games.
When you think of offensive defenseman Keith Yandle’s name is rarely at the top of your list. Through three games, Yandle is ahead of the likes of Nik Lidstrom, Brian Campbell, Dan Boyle, Jack Johnson and Shea Weber, while holding his own in a tie for points with the likes of Drew Doughty, Christian Erhoff and Eric Brewer—each of whom have four points in the playoffs as well.
Patrick Sharp, Teemu Selanne, Martin St. Louis:
What do Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp, Anaheim Ducks forward Teemu Selanne and Tampa Bay Lightning forward Martin St. Louis all have in common?
Well, for starters, each of these players were expected to have big playoffs and each of them owns a share of the lead with three power play goals in the playoffs thus far.
Many feel that special teams often determine the outcome of a playoff series—funny then, that all three of their teams are trailing in their round one matchups, huh? Therein lies the surprise.
Arron Asham: Forward, Pittsburgh Penguins:
Known more for chucking the knuckles rather than his scoring prowess, Pittsburgh Penguins forward Arron Asham looks to have found his scoring touch.
Through three playoff games, Asham has two goals on four shots. To put his performance into perspective, Asham registered five goals in 44 games with the Pens during the regular season. Asham is also a plus three, which speaks volumes for his defensive prowess and compete level thus far.
For the record, after posting 24 points in 72 games with the Philadelphia Flyers last season, Asham scored four goals and registered seven points in 23 games in last year's playoffs—maybe the playoffs is his time to shine?
Michal Neuvirth: Goaltender, Washington Capitals:
Heading into the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Washington Capitals appeared to have some goaltending issues to deal with.
It’s not that the Capitals goaltending was expected to be poor, but with Henrik Lundqvist staring them down in the New York Rangers net night-in, night-out, many felt that Washington's netminder/s would have to be near perfect if they were going to win their series against the Rangers.
To his credit, Neuvirth has been exactly that—near perfect. His league best 1.22 goals against average and equally impressive .951 save percentage (second amongst all playoff goalies) has been a pleasant surprise to the Caps and their fans.
Tomas Plekanec: Forward, Montreal Canadiens
For the most part, Montreal Canadiens forward Tomas Plekanec has been asked to put his offensive prowess on the shelf in favor of shutting down the Boston Bruins first line of Milan Lucic, Nathan Horton and David Krejci.
While Plekanec (who has one goal and is a plus one thus far) cannot shut down all three of these players on his own, he has done an exceptional job of keeping Krejci at bay, limiting the creative forward to just one goal in his first three games and limiting the chances afforded to his linemates.
Horton has one goal thus far, while Lucic is yet to register a point. Clearly, Plekanec’s defense has played a huge role in shutting down the Bruins—especially on the penalty kill, where the Bruins have yet to score a single goal.
Dany Heatley: Forward, San Jose Sharks
While Patrick Marleau (perhaps unfairly) and Joe Thornton (rightfully so) often get the brunt of the blame for the San Jose Sharks playoff struggles, it appears as if Dany Heatley continues to get off easy.
Through three games, Heatley has one goal and two points to his name. That said, if you watch the games closely, Heatley is all but invisible, rarely going into the tough areas and rarely looking as if he is willing to pay the price to win.
A sniper of Heatley’s pedigree should have a lot more than six shots on goal in three games, and, in a series that has often featured wide open hockey, his one goal just doesn’t cut it.
Of note: The Sharks scored seven goals Tuesday night. Dany Heatley failed to score and emerged from the game with one measly assist. Just say’in...
Steven Stamkos: Forward, Tampa Bay Lightning
Steven Stamkos finished second in the NHL with 45 goals and ranked fifth with 91 points during the regular season.
While he would be the first to tell you that he struggled down the stretch with a paltry four goals and 13 points in his final 20 regular season games, many playoff poolies were looking for Stammer to have a big playoff.
Through three games, Stamkos started the playoffs where he left off in the regular season—struggling to score goals and looking completely out of sorts on more nights than not.
Stamkos has registered a total of five shots in three playoff games and has been a non-factor on the power play.
Needless to say, while there may have been some doubt as to how good Stamkos would be in the playoffs, I think we’d all agree that his performance thus far has been underwhelming.