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No Heroes Out West

Depth proving to be key in the western confrence

The playoffs are proving to be two different animals in each conference. The East has been a show of superstars, with players such as David Pastrnak and Sidney Crosby pocketing an obscene amount of points during their first round match-ups. While Jake Guentzel deposited four goals to finish off the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 6, no player in the West has even scored that many goals in the entire first round. In fact, there are 12 players in the East that have as many points as the leader(s) do so far out west.

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While teams look to rely on their regular-season studs to keep them in games offensively, the driving force out West seems to be the collective effort of the bottom-six players. Not only is each skater making sure he isn’t leaving the ice as a negative plus/minus player, but he is making sure he puts up points during limited time on ice.  

No Shortage or Predators

Out in Nashville, Austin Watson and Colton Sissons, two wingers playing in the bottom six, are tied with Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog at seven points for the most in the conference. Both players, if Nashville got to the cup, could be on pace to have as many points in the post-season as they did the entire regular season. 

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Watson and his center Nick Bonino are both at a +7 plus/minus, tied for third out of all players that have hit the ice this postseason. Together with Sissons, they have created the best offensive line in the Western conference this post-season in terms of points, and are providing an extra punch to a team that has spread their goal scoring among all four lines and their outstanding defense. 

Spreading The Wealth In Vegas

While Vegas can thank goalie Marc-Andre Fleury for posting a ridiculous .977 save percentage and two shutouts through their first four games, they are getting help from nearly every player on the ice. As Boston and Pittsburgh are getting superstar performances from their juggernauts up front, only Reilly Smith has more than two points for the Golden Knights. Of the 20 total points scored by the Knights so far in the post-season, 13 players can claim at least one of them. 

Beyond the scoresheet, William Carrier made a difference in Game 1 by pestering Norris-finalist Drew Doughty. Doughty’s retaliation landed him a suspension for Game 2, helping Vegas win both of its home games on its way to a first-round sweep.

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The skaters in Sin City may need more than seven goals to defeat the San Jose Sharks in round two, but if they can continue their balanced attack and have Florida native Ryan Carpenter and former Red Wing Thomas Nosek chip in a goal or two, they have a lot to be happy about. 

Soarin’ in San Jose

Although goal scoring has been a group effort in San Jose, with familiar names such as captain Joe Pavelski and mid-season acquisition Evander Kane near the top, depth has played a big role in their success so far this post-season. In particular, fourth-liner Marcus Sorensen has pocketed three goals and an assist in only 9:25 of ice time per game. His four points are more than half of his seven in 32 regular-season games this year.

The play of the fourth line has helped the Sharks both score and keep pucks out of the net. Sorensen is helped by Melker Karlsson and Eric Fehr on a line that is posting a positive plus/minus at +3. Having players that can fill out the bottom two lines and provide a scoring touch, San Jose poses an interesting matchup for a team in Las Vegas that has played a similar game so far this postseason.

Unlikely Pilot For The Jets

Even with the runner-up for the Rocket Richard trophy in Patrik Laine and the regular-season assist leader in Blake Wheeler, the scoring for Winnipeg has been spread out through all four lines and the defenseman. The third line of Andrew Copp, Bryan Little, and Jack Roslovic has been effective, posting only one fewer goal than Laine’s line and a +3 plus/minus as well. 

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If their third-line can match up defensively against Nashville’s aforementioned dynamic third line, this series could be won and lost in the bottom-six. Winnipeg’s depth players posses the same attributes as the Preds, in that they are taking care of business on both sides of the puck and remain stout defensively as they continue to score.

What’s To Come?

With all next matchups in the West decided and a true hero yet to emerge, any single player could pick up the Conn Smythe trophy for playoff MVP if a team from the conference can win the Stanley Cup. Guys like Marcus Sorensen and Austin Watson have put up numbers that would rival any skater from the conference. If one of these bottom-six guys stays hot, or the chemistry of a line continues to grow, the hero of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs could end up being someone who has been an afterthought all season. 

Edited by Emily Berman.

The Predators, Jets, Sharks, and Golden Knights have how many combined cups, prior to the start of the second round of the 2018 NHL playoffs
Created 4/23/18
  1. 0
  2. 1
  3. 3
  4. 5

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