Take a little gander at the overall point standings in the playoffs, and at first you won’t notice anything especially unusual. The top ten includes names like Michael Cammalleri, Patrice Bergeron, Danny Briere, and Corey Perry. Some of those players have now traded in their hockey sticks for golf clubs, but they’re all plucked from the usual suspects of top playoff performers.
But go just a little further, and you’ll see Chris Kelly and Marc Andre-Gragnani tied with Alex Ovechkin. That certainly doesn’t mean Ovechkin is performing poorly–he has four goals in seven games–but instead shows how much some role players have stepped up and made major contributions. As exciting as it’s been to watch players like Kelly excel early, they’re doing it to make up for the shortcomings of elite but silent snipers.
And there’s been a lot of them.
Milan Lucic: Kelly’s outburst (four goals and seven points) has clearly been a welcome surprise in Boston given how timid Lucic has looked at times. Kelly has scored at the level of a third line secondary contributor throughout his career, averaging 12.6 goals over his past five seasons. And that was the role Boston envisioned when he was acquired at the trade deadline, with Kelly supporting the likes of Lucic, Bergeron, and Nathan Horton.
Instead his four goals put Kelly in a tie for the lead on Boston’s roster. After leading those bruising B’s with 30 goals this season, Lucic still doesn’t have a tally in the goal column despite Boston scoring a combined 14 goals over their last three games. Lucic recorded just over two shots per game throughout the season, a pace he’s carried over into the playoffs. And as I noted in Yesterday’s jitters, he seems to be moving his feet more since Game 7 against Montreal and going back to being the aggressive Lucic we all know and love/hate.
Tomas Kaberle: The former Leaf has never been a dominant scoring threat from the back end, finishing with double-digit goals only three times in his 12-year career. That’s not his game; he’s a playmaker capable of cradling golden eggs on his stick, and turning them into goals with his swift powerplay passing and quarterback skills that would make Johnny Unitas swoon.
Now Kaberle has turned into Akili Smith, and he simply hasn’t contributed anything to Boston’s powerplay. The Bruins have been infamously putrid with the opposition shorthanded during the playoffs, stretching their goose egg streak to 0 for 29 last night. They already became the first NHL team to win a series without scoring a powerplay goal, and Kaberle–Boston’s prized deadline acquisition brought in to right the sinking powerplay ship–has just three powerplay points in 33 games. It’s been a puzzling spiral for the same player who had 22 powerplay points over 58 games in Toronto earlier this season.
The Sedins: Take your pick. Be careful, they look the same.
Everything was going just fine for the Vancouver twins who were both in the top five in points this year until Game 4 against Chicago. Since then Henrik and Daniel–who combined for 198 points in the regular season–have just four points, a -13 rating, and they’ve been held entirely off the scoresheet for the past three games.
A lack of chemistry on Vancouver’s top line could be part of the problem in the mysterious case of the disappearing Sedins. Most of their points were scored this season with Alex Burrows as their running mate, and now that Burrows is thriving on the second line with Ryan Kesler, head coach Alain Vigneault is understandably hesitant to move the winger back up to his former perch. If yesterday’s line combinations at practice mean anything, Vigneault may have overcome his fears after moving Burrows up and sliding Mikael Samuelsson down to the fourth line.
Kesler has been producing in other areas (five assists), but he also continues to struggle in the goal scoring category. The forward who finished tied for the team lead with 41 goals still hasn’t scored in the playoffs.
After leading the league with 258 goals, the Canucks have scored 18 times in nine playoff games, a total that’s behind the Ducks, Kings, and Blackhawks, and tied with the Sabres. Yes, all of those teams have been eliminated from the playoffs, and only Washington’s scoring pace is worse among the teams still in the hunt. Speaking of which…
Nicklas Backstrom: The dreary year for Backstrom has predictably spilled into the playoffs. For most forwards, 65 points would be a fine season, but not when you had a breakout 101-point season last year. Backstrom’s ascent in 2009-10 included a career-high 33 goals, and he took a steep tumble down to 18 this year.
Backstrom has four goals in his last 32 games after averaging a goal every 2.5 games last year, a nightmarish trend that’s bound to turn around soon enough it he keeps launching pucks at the net. He’s registered 11 shots so far on Dwayne Roloson in Washington’s two games against Tampa Bay.