The NHL playoffs’ top 10 unsung heroes and why they’re so valuable

Playoff success is what elevates an NHL star to hero or legend status. The reverse is also true. It doesn’t matter how dominant your regular season was — if you shrink when the spotlight is brightest, it will stand out as a black mark.

Just as Leon Draisaitl is becoming immortal for Oilers fans, the pedestal for Toronto’s star players is crumbling.

Playoff storylines are understandably centered around the performance of teams’ big guns, but this isn’t the NBA where a couple of stars can singlehandedly will a team to a championship. Every core needs a strong supporting cast to go deep. And when the games become tight, you need your secondary players to hold the fort.

It’s a world of a difference when your second or third line chips in with some offence on the off night when your stars just don’t have it.

It’s a world of a difference when you can trust your third or fourth line to take key defensive zone draws.

It’s a world of a difference when you have a third pair that can play a reliable shift in overtime instead of anxiously praying that they don’t lose the game with a costly turnover on the rare occasion they step on the ice.

It’s a world of a difference when your defensive players clutch up for an important penalty kill, or even swing the momentum with a short-handed goal.

These are the unsung heroes that are essential for a Stanley Cup push. Who are these players on each remaining playoff team? In some cases, they’re bottom-of-the-lineup contributors who are dominating their minutes. In other cases, they’re playing at the top of the lineup and have elevated their games but continue living in the shadow of teammates that are garnering the headlines. Here are 10 players in the 2023 playoffs who deserve more recognition, including at least one name for each team still alive.

When the playoffs begin, head coaches typically restrict the bottom pair’s ice time. Seattle’s different. The ridiculous balance they have from lines one to four up front has been lauded so much that it’s easy to forget that they’re just as deep on the blue line.

Justin Schultz is second among all Kraken players with three goals and eight points in 10 playoff games despite playing on the third pair. That offensive punch has been critical because Vince Dunn, who had 64 points in the regular season, has only had four points so far.

In Game 1 against Dallas, it was Schultz who turned the momentum. Joe Pavelski, in his return to the Stars lineup, had already notched two early goals. The building was electric and Dallas was off to a dream start. Moments later, Schultz made an excellent read to jump up and sniped a goal past Jake Oettinger which sparked a three-goals-in-52-seconds sequence that was critical for Seattle’s victory.

Schultz and Carson Soucy have driven excellent defensive results as well. Colorado’s bottom six combined for zero goals in Round 1 and a big reason for that was that pair’s stingy defensive play…

Read More: The NHL playoffs’ top 10 unsung heroes and why they’re so valuable 2023-05-09 19:16:54

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