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Under Pressure: 5 Players Feeling the Heat

Monday, 10.03.2011 / 9:21 AM

By Barry Melrose - NHL Network Analyst / Melrose Minute

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Melrose Minute
Under Pressure: 5 Players Feeling the Heat
5. Roberto Luongo, G, Vancouver Canucks: Luongo was outplayed by Tim Thomas in the Final. He was pulled from games [and passed up for starts] earlier in the playoffs. So is the year that Luongo shows he is as great as we thought he could be or does he show he is one of most overrated goalies?

I think he has lost the invicibility tag. He has a lot of flaws in his game. We can see that now.

Goaltenders feel the most pressure of any position. If a forward makes a mistake, the defensemen can pick him up. If a D-man makes a mistake, the goalie can make up for it. If the goalie makes a mistake, the puck is in the net. Plus, the goalie plays the entire 60 minutes. Luongo will be feeling the pressure in goal this season.

4. Dany Heatley, LW, Minnesota Wild: Heatley had a terrible regular season and playoffs last year. Now he’s going to Minnesota. The Wild gave up their best player to get Heatley.

Heatley is going to a hockey place, where everybody knows you. I think that will be good for Dany. He has to respond to the pressure and I think he will. Minnesota need goals. Look where Heatley played his best–in Ottawa, another hockey place where everybody knows you. Some guys need the fear of pressure of performing. Heatley is one of those guys.

Chris Pronger
Defense, 2010-11 SEASON STATS
GOALS: 4 | ASST: 21 | PTS: 25
SOG: 112 | +/-: 7
3. Chris Pronger, D, Philadelphia Flyers: It’s his team now. A few years ago, Mike Richards was the next Bobby Clarke who was going to lead the Flyers to numerous Stanley Cups. Now Richards is gone, traded to L.A., and if the team falls flat, wow, it’s on Pronger.

You look at Prongs, here is a guy who wins. He always plays well and means so much to his team. We saw that last spring during the playoffs when Pronger was not in the playoffs. He is under a lot of pressure. It’s his team and his locker room. I think he will respond.

2. Alex Ovechkin, LW, Washington Capitals: Ovi wants to be in the same conversation as Sidney Crosby. But his team needs to win for the conversation to be legit. Ovi has played well in the postseason, but not good or great enough. The Caps are a talented team, but making a run at the Cup is up to Ovechkin. It doesn’t make sense for him to score 60 again and Washington to fall short in the playoffs.

Ovi needs to bring other guys up to his level. He needs to get Semin and Backstrom going in a big way. It’s Ovechkin’s room in Washington. He’s in there more than Bruce Boudreau. Ovi needs to get in the dressing room and put demands on this team and this team’s core players.

1. Brad Richards, C, New York Rangers: Richards could have gone anywhere and he chose the media capital of the world. He thinks Gaborik is the perfect linemate; Richards likes a lefty shot on the right side.

Richards can play the point on the power play, something the Rangers couldn’t figure out with their group of defensemen. Richards can be on the point and help that power play. He has won a Cup and a Conn Smythe. He can turn the Rangers into legitimate Cup contenders in the Eastern Conference. But that comes with the most pressure of any player in the League this season.
Quote of the Day

This is a big year for us in a lot of ways. You can see Garth and management really trying to find that solution to get us into the playoffs and consistently have that. The pressure is great. You have to enjoy it. It just means there's a great opportunity ahead of you.

— Islanders captain John Tavares