And then there were four. The 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs has reached the Conference Finals. To celebrate – we look at a legendary characteristic from one (or two) players from each of the four remaining team.
Anaheim Ducks | Ryan Getzlaf – Resilience
There likely isn’t a better word to describe the Anaheim Ducks than resilient. Prior to this season, the Ducks suffered a string of heart-breaking defeats, losing in game 7 on home ice at the Honda Center in 4 consecutive years. They finally ousted their game 7 demons by beating the Edmonton Oilers in the 2017 second round, with a 2-1 win in game 7 at the Honda Center.
Led by their captain Ryan Getzlaf, this team has been resilient. No team has suffered more disappointment in the last 4 years of the Stanley Cup Playoff (yes, not even the Washington Capitals) than the Anaheim Ducks. And their leader is squarely in the line of fire. Getzlaf has constantly had to prove himself – with the Ducks and with Team Canada on the international stage. Despite his almost playoff point per game scoring rate, and worldly skill – his leadership, determination and big-game pedigree have all come into question after the aforementioned 4 straight game 7 losses. His ability to put that all behind him and lead the Ducks to the Western Conference Final showcases just how resilient Ryan Getzlaf is.
Nashville Predators | Pekke Rinne – Confidence
When you hear the name Pekke Rinne the term confident probably comes to mind. His superior athleticism, wicked glove-hand and adventurous attitude (handling pucks outside the crease) are all some of Rinne’s signature characteristics, but it’s when they are all combined that the magic really happens. When Rinne is in the zone and exuding confidence, he is near impossible to beat. Through the first two rounds of the playoffs Rinne has spotted a 1.37 goals against per game average, well below the league average of 2.38. His .951 save percentage is also tops so far this playoffs. To boot, he shut out the high-powered Chicago Blackhawks twice in the first round.
The young elite talent in front of him, further boosts the Nashville netminder’s confidence. When he’s confident, he’s a beast and right now his performance has taken the Nashville Predators to new heights – their first trip to the Western Conference Finals in franchise history.
Pittsburgh Penguins | Sidney Crosby & Evgeni Malkin – A Lethal Dual Threat
They say you can’t win a championship alone. For the most part in sports history, every great quarterback has a had an equally dynamic receiver, every point guard has had a complementary strong forward, every legendary pitcher has had decent run support. A balanced attack makes them that much greater. Taking nothing away from either Crosby or Malkin individually (they’d both make this list for different reasons otherwise) – but together, these two provide the best 1-2 punch in modern day hockey. Having both player as the Penguins 1A and 1B centremen provides nightmares for opposing teams’ defences - as no matter who they match up against one, the other will likely see a few favourable opportunities against their second defence pairing.
Each have a Conn Smythe Award (given to the playoff MVP) to their name – Malkin in 08/09 and Crosby in 15/16. Together, they’ve combined for 1,859 regular season points and 298 post-season points. And finally – to really push the point, there’s only 2 active players that have a playoff points per game average above 1 – we’ll let you guess who they are…
Ottawa Senators | Erik Karlsson – Composure
Arguably no team feels more comfortable with a single skater on the ice than the Ottawa Senators do with Karlsson. The fact that he’s been on the ice for every one of his team’s game-winning goals this off-season shows just how much the Senators’ captain means to his team. His 13 points in 12 games played through 2 rounds is just the tip of the iceberg. At even-strength, the Senators dominate 57.1% of the shot attempts with Karlsson on the ice. More impressive is the fact that he’s on the ice for almost have the game - averaging 28:56 minutes per game. The next highest time on ice of players left in the Stanley Cup is Anaheim’s Cam Fowler at 26:06 minutes per game – almost a full 3 minutes less.
Going beyond the numbers, Karlsson’s presence on the ice brings calmness to the rest of his team. His smooth composure with the puck in the defensive end (even in dangerous areas) and ability to ignite the play in the offensive zone has springboarded the Ottawa Senators to the Eastern Conference Final. All it takes is one play for Karlsson to change the trajectory of a game. From jaw-dropping blueline to blueline saucer passes to highlight reel goals, he seems to come through when his team needs him the most. All while working through an ankle injury.