by Patrick Hoffman on 04/11/11 at 05:18 PM ET
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.
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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.
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org.