San Jose Sharks v Vancouver Canucks

In the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the line between winning and losing is awfully thin. Teams rarely dominate their opponents, so when a team does sneak past another, there’s usually a player or two who do the extra work to drag their team through, or at the very least, to the very brink.

This year has been no different, so given that round one comes to a close tonight and round two is on the horizon, today seems like a good day to look at the three players who’ve made all their difference for their respective teams. 

Your game-changers:

Name: Patrick Marleau

Team: San Jose Sharks

Stats: 4 games, 4 goals and one assist for five points. Plus-two with a powerplay goal and a game-winner, 20 shots for an average of five a game.

What he’s accomplished: Patrick Marleau is a huge reason the San Jose Sharks swept the Vancouver Canucks. When you hear “sweep” you usually think a team dominated, but that was anything but the case in the Vancouver/Sharks series, and had the Canucks been able to steal a game or two, who knows what happens as the series goes on. Marleau made sure that situation never came to be.

He scored in every game against Vancouver, including two of the biggest goals of the series. Down a goal in Game 2 in the final minute, it looked all but certain that Vancouver would knot the series up heading back to San Jose. Until…

Marleau scored in the final minute, pushing the game to overtime, where the Sharks eventually won.

And when the Sharks jumped out to a 3-0 series lead, they had the opportunity to put Vancouver away, to not risk injury by playing more games, and to rest up heading into round two. The needed a leader, which is exactly what they got.

There he is scoring his fourth in four (with a broom!), scoring the goal to put the Canucks away. Game. Changer.

Name: James Reimer

 Team: Toronto Maple Leafs

Stats: .932 save percentage, 2.58 goals-against average

What he accomplished: Over the course of Game’s 5 and 6 of the Leafs series against the Bruins, James Reimer stopped 72 of the 74 shots thrown his way, helping the Leafs to take two W’s and knot the series with the Bruins up at three wins apiece. Without Reimer, the series has been dead and gone for awhile now.

Over the course of the six games so far, Tyler Seguin and Jaromir Jagr have thrown 50 shots on him, and scored zero times. And, he hasn’t just been steady, he’s made some ridiculous saves in the process.

Without Reimer’s performance, the Leafs are licking their wounds and looking at next season. With him, they have a chance to upset the Bruins tonight.

Name: David Krejci

Team: Boston Bruins

Stats: Six games, five goals and six assists for 11 points. He’s plus-seven and averaging just shy of 20 minutes of ice per game.

What he’s accomplished: David Krejci has done everything but play goal for the Boston Bruins in their first round match-up against the Toronto Maple Leafs. In Game 5 he racked up a hat trick, including the overtime winner to put the B’s up in the series 3-1. He’s tied for first in playoff points with Evgeni Malkin, and has been a part of one of the best possession lines in hockey. His OT winner:

Krejci is one of the NHL’s most underrated players, as he’s proven by carrying the offensive load on a team with no shortage of skill.

The B’s have the chance to move on tonight, and a large part of the credit for that goes to their game-changer, David Krejci.