The playoffs are no time for the meek. Players who can't thrive under the most intense conditions don't get an audience with the Stanley Cup.
There are many in the NHL who play the game with passion and drive worth the potential reward at the end. There are others who take that passion and drive and bring it to a whole different level.
They are called playoff heroes. They make dreams happen.
Here are five of the foremost playoff heroes from Eastern Conference playoff teams:
Chris Drury, New York Rangers: The money man
Going back to his days as the star of the 1989 Little League World Series, Drury has done nothing but win at every level. He does it by sending daggers into the opposition with heartbreaking goals. His 15 career playoff game-winners (44 in the regular season, too) make him the ultimate clutch performer, the ideal money player.
Drury, then with the Sabres, burned the Rangers last season by sending Game 5 of the Eastern Conference teams’ second-round playoff series into overtime by scoring with 7.7 seconds left in regulation. The Sabres won the game and eventually the series two nights later. This season, the Rangers are hoping fortune turns in their favor and Drury can make his magic happen for the boys in blue.
Daniel Alfredsson, Ottawa Senators: The latest greatest
Before last season one of the knocks on Alfredsson was he didn't show up in the playoffs. That's pretty hard to say about a guy who had 58 points in 79 career playoff games, but the folks were hard on poor old Alfie. Not anymore.
He showed up in a big way last season, compiling 22 points in 20 games and leading the Senators to their first Stanley Cup Final in the modern era. Alfredsson scored four game-winners, giving him 11 in 99 career playoff games. Consider that Drury has 15 in 114 games, and you can see Alfie is not far behind the player known as one of the foremost playoff performers in the League.
Alfredsson likely is out for the early going in this tournament, so the Senators will have to survive against the Pittsburgh Penguins
without their long-time captain. If they do, and Alfredsson returns healthy, look out, because he knows what it means to be at his very best at this time of the year.
Alex Kovalev, Montreal Canadiens: The rejuvenated Russian
Kovalev had his doubters. Many thought he was well past his prime. They thought he couldn't play in coach Guy Carbonneau
's system. They figured he was, for all intents and purposes, a washed up former star. The evidence today is so striking to the contrary that now it would be no surprise if Kovalev once again raised his game when it matters. He has a history of doing that in the postseason.
Kovalev has 84 points and a plus-9 rating in 100 career playoff games. He helped the Rangers snap their 54-year Stanley Cup drought in 1994 by recording 21 points in 23 playoff games. He has been to the playoffs eight times in his career, and only once was his team eliminated in the first round. If he can do it in Montreal, one of hockey's legendary cities, and bring the Stanley Cup back to the place where all Quebecois feel it rightfully belongs, they might well build a statue in his honor.
Jaromir Jagr, New York Rangers: The giant
Pundits around New York City and the Rangers will tell you the veteran right wing has lost a step. They'll say his passion isn't there. They'll argue he's on his last legs. Could the real reason for Jagr's somewhat sub-par 2007-08 be that he has been training his body for the playoffs all along?
It's certainly possible, because there aren't many who have handled the NHL postseason better than this superstar, who scored four goals in the last three games and finished first on the Rangers with 71 points.
Jagr has been to the playoffs 14 times, producing 166 points in 159 games. He won back-to-back Stanley Cups with Pittsburgh in 1991 and 1992, and has been to the conference final four times. He has 72 goals and 94 assists. He has 14 game-winners. He has 22 power-play goals. He's a plus-35. He is a playoff legend.
Sergei Fedorov, Washington Capitals: The voice of reason
|Sergei Fedorov's past playoff performances suggest he may be one of the most important players in this postseason.
Fedorov may not be the same player he once was when he was winning three Stanley Cups with the Detroit Red Wings
. However, his past playoff performances and his current rebirth in Washington as a veteran second-line center who serves as the experienced locker room leader suggest he may be one of the most important players in this postseason, as well.
Fedorov is a point-per-game playoff performer with 163 points in 162 games. He has won three Stanley Cups (1997-98, 2002), producing a combined 23 goals and 36 assists for 59 points in 65 games during those championship campaigns. He has scored 11 game-winners in the playoffs, including four during the 1997 Cup run. He has played to a plus-38 rating in his postseason career.
These are impressive numbers, and the 38-year-old Fedorov should be pumped to add to them this postseason. He hasn't been to the tournament since 2003, his last season in Detroit. He played only four games that season as the second-seeded Wings were swept by the seventh-seeded Anaheim Ducks
. Now Fedorov is one of the few playoff vets on the exciting Washington Capitals
Contact Dan Rosen at email@example.com.