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Players Under Pressure This Postseason

Over at RLD Hockey today, I look at five players who wll be under a considerable amount of pressure to step up their games to the next level to help their respective clubs in the playoffs.

Click here to read more or continue below.

Top 5 Players Under Pressure This Postseason
By Patrick Hoffman

When it comes to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, every single player needs to step up their game in order to try and get their team to the Finals for a chance to win the Cup. With that said, there are five players who will be under more pressure than others to perform when it matters most in this year’s playoffs:

1. Roberto Luongo, Vancouver Canucks
For the last few postseasons, the pressure has always been on Vancouver Canucks’ goaltender Roberto Luongo to perform.

It will be no different this season as the Canucks, the league’s President’s Trophy winner, are the favorites to win the Cup this season. Luongo has not been exactly stellar in the last two postseasons, especially against the Chicago Blackhawks, but did put together a great regular season.

As it turns out, the Canucks will end up facing the Blackhawks in the first round; so hopefully for the Canucks and their fans, their star netminder will be ready to raise his game to the next level.

2. Joe Thornton, San Jose Sharks
It was a weird season for the San Jose Sharks, considering how much they struggled out of the gate, only to find themselves as the second seed in the Western Conference at the end of the regular season.

Every single postseason, it seems like the Sharks have what it takes to win the Cup but they always end up falling short. One player that has shouldered a lot of that responsibility is captain Joe Thornton. His 70 points this year was the lowest total since arriving in San Jose, but he did turn it on down the stretch.

Thornton will need to do everything he can to raise his game because should the Sharks fall short again, who knows how much longer the Sharks’ nucleus will be together for.

3. Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
After having quite the roller coaster season, the Washington Capitals find themselves where they did at the end of the last regular season, the top of the Eastern Conference.

This is one of those clubs that has the right pieces in place to win the Cup but there is one player that makes it go and that’s team captain Alex Ovechkin. For Ovechkin, his offensive output this season was low by his standards (32-53-85) but still good enough to more than likely finish in the top 10 in scoring.

Ovechkin is out to prove that he can be a “big-game player” in these playoffs. If he can turn it up a notch, look out because this could be quite the finish for the Capitals.

4. Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens
This one should come as no surprise because when it comes to the Montreal Canadiens and the Stanley Cup Playoffs, there is always pressure on the netminder to perform.

That will especially be true for Carey Price this season given how former Habs goaltender Jaroslav Halak played in the tournament last season. Price certainly had a terrific regular season in going 38-28-6 with a 2.35 goals against average, a .923 save percentage and 8 shutouts.

It will be up to Price on how far the Canadiens go in the postseason and should he play like he did in the regular season, it would not be a surprise to see them make a similar run to what they did last year.

5. Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning

This will be the first NHL playoff experience for Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos and based on how he has played of late, he will certainly be under pressure from the organization and its fans to step up his game.

While Stamkos finished the regular season with 91 points (45 goals and 46 assists), he was cold for the last month or so. In his last five games, Stamkos only had a goal and an assist while others like Vincent Lecavalier and Martin. St. Louis really stepped up their games. Stamkos also only scored four goals since the calendar turned to March.

With the team taking on the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round, you know that Stamkos will want to show Sidney Crosby, whether he is on the ice or in the press box, that he can be a big-time player.

Filed in: | Goal Line Report | Permalink
  Tags: alex+ovehckin, carey+price, joe+thornton, roberto+luongo, stanley+cup+playoffs, steven+stamkos

Comments

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Roberto Luongo has never lost a playoff series to a team with lower regular season point total.  He simply has to repeat that performance this year.

Posted by Kel on 04/11/11 at 05:46 PM ET

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unfortunately kel, Luongo has lost to the blackhawks two straight years. I don’t care if you wanna quote stats at me, the hawks are in his head until proven other wise.

Posted by Jesse on 04/11/11 at 05:54 PM ET

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Alex Ovechkin: 1.41 pts per playoff game in his career. HIGHEST of any active player. The Caps failures have not been his fault.

Posted by flacco5 on 04/11/11 at 05:58 PM ET

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I don’t know that Ovechkin needs to show that he can be a big-game player in the playoffs. His career playoff numbers are pretty strong. He might be the only Capital that’s shown he can step it up in the playoffs, but he has shown that.

Posted by steviesteve on 04/11/11 at 06:01 PM ET

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And we will find out very soon.  Especially last year, the decimated D group (that was not deep to start with) made things very bad for Luongo.  With a team built to address problems seen in previous losses to Chicago, Vancouver will find out very soon whether the GM did his job well.  It’s too bad that his prized signing Malhotra is out , but the improvement in depth for the D and other positions bolstered the team enough to face off a Chicago team without Byfuglien, Ladd, Versteeg, Sopel, Madden, Eager, Niemi, etc, not counting injuries to Bolland and Brouwer.

Posted by Kel on 04/11/11 at 06:02 PM ET

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Exactly steve. It’s been Semin,Green and others that have choked. This team has what the previous have not: a shutdown duo on D with Carlson/Alzner and quality at Center with Backstrom/Arnott/MarJo. Now it’s about this team handling adversity and selfdoubt.

Posted by flacco5 on 04/11/11 at 06:05 PM ET

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Not sold on Alzner, but that second line with Arnott looks like a big improvement over the disappearing acts that were there in years past, and Johansson’s got some of the best wheels this side of Grabner. I’ve usually picked Washington for upsets in playoff pools the last few years, and done well because of it. This year I’ve got them in the conference finals, for what that’s worth.

Posted by steviesteve on 04/11/11 at 06:31 PM ET

SK77's avatar

Is Gaborik not listed here because you just can’t pressure someone who doesn’t give a f#¢k?

Posted by SK77 on 04/11/11 at 07:43 PM ET

SYF's avatar

I think Carey Price is gonna do some great things this playoff year.  He’s gonna have a much thicker skin.

Posted by SYF from The Revenge of Johnny E on 04/12/11 at 01:45 AM ET

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Joe Thornton is certainly not without fault for his team’s playoff success (or lack thereof) but he’s actually been a pretty decent playoff performer as an individual since he arrived in San Jose.  In fact since his dud performance in 03-04 for the Bruins (when I believe he was hurt), he’s been scoring .84 pts/gm in postseason.  That’s a mark a lot of players would love to have so I’m not sure it’s totally accurate to place all of the blame on him for the fact the Sharks haven’t won the cup or even made it to the finals.  As long as he’s the biggest star on the team he’s going to get the credit and the blame, whether fair or not, but the idea of Joe Thornton as a playoff disappearing act is both tired and inaccurate.  Thornton hasn’t played his best in the playoffs, but he hasn’t gone totally AWOL either.

There are a lot of players who have failed to get into the playoffs and/or failed to get their team over the top and they don’t take nearly as much of a beating as Thornton does.  One guy that comes immediately to mind is Jarome Iginla, who has done relatively little since the Flames went to the finals in 03-04 and yet his reputation never suffers (since the lockout the Flames have not won a playoff series, and have missed the playoffs in consecutive years).  It’s a team game and no matter how good any one player is it takes a lot of guys playing at their best to win a cup.

Posted by RoneFace on 04/12/11 at 04:25 AM ET

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Agree about the team game part, but Joe Thornton’s career regular season point is much higher than .84 pts/game.  Until this regular season (and since he’s 21 years), his worst production was 73 points in 77 games, and many seasons he was way above the 1 point per game mark.  He had 125 points in his first season in San Jose, 114 in his second season.  His excellent production in the regular season made him a disappointment in the playoffs, at least so far.

Posted by Kel on 04/12/11 at 04:57 AM ET

Matt Fry's avatar

I really don’t think there’s as much pressure as previous years for Thornton.  The Sharks had seven 20 goal scorers and seven 50 point plus producers.  They have more scoring threats this time around with better secondary scoring (and better goaltending in my opinion).

I know it’s a different animal, the playoffs, but they seem to have grasped the concept of a team game, and Ovechkin seems to be somewhat grasping that concept as well.

Posted by Matt Fry from Winnipeg on 04/12/11 at 01:34 PM ET

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Until this regular season (and since he’s 21 years), his worst production was 73 points in 77 games, and many seasons he was way above the 1 point per game mark.  He had 125 points in his first season in San Jose, 114 in his second season.  His excellent production in the regular season made him a disappointment in the playoffs, at least so far.

I think it’s tough to hold most players to their regular season standards in the playoffs because goals are so much harder to come by.  For better or worse Thornton is a set up man not a goal scorer which makes it tougher for him to simply take over a game by himself.  If his teammates aren’t putting the puck in the net his numbers will take a big hit and he’s had some bad luck with guys getting hurt.  Cheechoo’s productivity fell off a cliff, against Edmonton Michalek was knocked out of the series, and last year Heatley was struggling with an injury as well.  I agree with Matt Fry though, with the depth the Sharks have this year Thornton doesn’t have to rely on just a couple of potential linemates to deposit his feeds.

Posted by RoneFace on 04/12/11 at 02:55 PM ET

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About Goal Line Report

Patrick has a tremendous passion for hockey. Besides covering the Rangers and the NHL for Kukla's Korner, you can also find Patrick's work over at Sportsnet.ca, The Red Light District Hockey Blog, NHL Home Ice, and Liam Maguire's Ultimate Hockey web site.

Prior to writing for the above mentioned outlets, you could find Patrick's musings at hockey web sites/outlets such as TheHockeyNews.com, TheFourthPeriod.com, Spector's Hockey, Hokeja Vestnesis, Blueshirt Bulletin, SNYRangersBlog.com and many more.

For questions, comments and hip checks, feel free to e-mail Patrick at patrickhoffman3530@gmail.com.