We’ve crossed the halfway point in this year’s playoffs, which means we’re down to four teams left battling it out for the Stanley Cup. Making it this far is an enormous accomplishment, and we should take some time to celebrate the excellence of the players who are making it happen.
We should, but we won’t, because it’s way more fun to point fingers at the guys who didn’t get it done. So today, let’s assemble a dream team of playoff busts from the first two rounds.
One obvious disclaimer here: “disappointment” is relative. A first-liner who suffers through an awful series may still be more productive than a fourth-liner who meets expectations, but the star still gets the dreaded bust label. Fair? Maybe not, but that’s why these guys get paid the big bucks.
These lists are always tricky, since you’re dealing with a small handful of games and the boxcar stats can be misleading; I fully expect to wake up tomorrow to find the words “small sample size” spray-painted on my garage door. But I’m willing to take that chance, mainly because I just want to write a post about disappointing hockey players that doesn’t include any Leafs.
We’ll pick a full roster of centers, wingers, defensemen, and goalies. Spoiler alert: This is going to end up being a pretty impressive group that would win an awful lot of games under normal circumstances (if you could squeeze them under the salary cap). But if you had many of them in your playoff pool, you’re already out.
Evgeni Malkin, Penguins — Let’s start with an easy one. The Penguins bowed out to the Rangers in five, but all were one-goal games. An extra goal or two could have turned the series around, which is why it was so frustrating to watch a superstar talent like Malkin struggle through a point-less series. That slump extended beyond the playoffs — he had no goals and just three points in his final 10 regular-season games — and it’s contributed to calls for the Penguins to trade him. (So far, it sounds like the team will stay the course.)
Paul Stastny, Blues — Stastny was the league’s biggest UFA signing last summer, at least in terms of average annual salary, and while his 46-point season was well under his career best, his solid two-way play still made him a key component of the Blues’ hopes. But his playoff numbers — just one goal and no assists in six games — were even worse. He didn’t play badly (his lined outscored and outchanced their opponents), and he certainly wasn’t alone, as pretty much every Blues forward not named Tarasenko could make an appearance on this list. But after yet another disappointingly short playoff run in St. Louis, it’s hard to argue that the Blues got what they paid for.
Tomas Plekanec, Canadiens — That Plekanec is, in theory, the Canadiens’ no. 1 center probably says more about the way the roster has been built than it does about the player. But that’s where he’s slotted in, and one goal and four points in 12 games doesn’t really cut it.