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Dreger: 10 players on the NHL playoff hot seat

Darren Dreger
4/14/2009 10:02:44 PM
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The following players are on the "hot-seat" based on past postseason performance, regular season contribution and an overall expectation their individual success is key to their team's playoff success.

We begin with a former Stanley Cup champion.

10) Eric Staal:  The Carolina star recorded 29 points in the Hurricanes final 20 games and finished tied for fifth in goals in the NHL with 40. The New Jersey Devils will have to stop Staal if they are going to advance past the first round.

9) Scott Gomez: The New York Rangers veteran is expected to provide leadership while taking over the postseason scoring responsibilities previously held by Jaromir Jagr. He will have to overcome the scrutiny that is sure to follow and deliver with game breaking plays for the Rangers to succeed.

8) Zdeno Chara: Boston's designated leader will have to step up to move into a category that includes the likes of Lidstrom, Niedermayer and Pronger, all dominant defenseman who helped lead their team to a championship.  Plus, as terrific as Tim Thomas has been in goal for the Bruins, some remain unconvinced, so a solid "D" is essential.

7) Brian Campbell:  The Chicago Blackhawks paid big money for what so far has been a below average return. Campbell has struggled in his own end this season and didn't live up to billing in last year's playoffs, scoring just one goal for the San Jose Sharks in 2008.

6) Daniel Briere: If he maintains his postseason trend the Flyers can't be overlooked as a contender. Briere has points in 53 of 57 career playoff games, including nine goals, three of those game winners in the Flyers 17 playoff games last year.

5) Saku Koivu: The Montreal captain has never put up big numbers and has scored just three playoff goals in ten post-lockout playoff games. However, Koivu, who is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, has averaged more points per game in the playoffs than the regular season, a rare feat he will need to continue if the Canadiens are to advance. 

4) Henrik and Daniel Sedin:  Contract negotiations in Vancouver could be heavily altered by their playoff output.  Neither Henrik, nor Daniel registered a point in the deciding game in 06-07 Conference semi's against Anaheim and combined, have 15 goals in 86 playoff games.

3) Evgeni Malkin: The Art Ross winner scored eight goals in the first 10 games of the ‘07-08 Stanley Cup playoffs, but sputtered after getting crushed in game one by Mike Richards in conference finals versus Philadelphia. Malkin only scored twice the rest of the playoffs as he battled fatigue and the flu.

2) Joe Thornton:  Thornton has appeared in three conference semi-finals with the San Jose Sharks, yet the big centre has failed to record a point in the deciding games in each series.

1)Olli Jokinen:  Zero goals in 13 straight games with the Flames. Zero playoff experience.  Jokinen didn't deliver down the stretch when the Flames needed his scoring touch to clinch the northwest. All will be forgotten if Calgary's postseason virgin lives up to Mike Keenan's expectations.

Expectation is what this time of year is all about and each one of our "hot-seat" players recognizes his role and why he has the dubious distinction of being on this list.

 

Darren Dreger

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