At the midway point of the Stanley Cup Playoffs’ second round, there have been heart-warming, heroic stories of players stepping up when their teams need them most. Brian Elliott and Joe Thornton exorcised demons against the Blackhawks and Kings, respectively. John Tavares helped the Islanders win a playoff series for the first time in two decades. And Jamie Benn pushed the Stars to the second round for the first time since 2008.
But who cares! Let’s talk about the players currently acting like anchors around the necks of their drowning teams!
Here are five (OK, technically six) players that are murdering their teams when they are needed most.
5. Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks
Hey, not for nothing, but did anyone notice the Blackhawks have already been eliminated and this guy with a $10.5 million cap hit had zero goals and six assists (three at even strength) in a seven-game, first-round loss? Leadership, grit and toughness and blah blah blah, but if you make up nearly 1/7th of your team’s salary cap, don’t you have to drive possession and score a goal or two every seven games?
I know this breaks every rule in The Hockey Bible but J Toews didn't have a great regular season and had a bad postseason. (So, what gives?)
— Travis Yost (@travisyost) April 26, 2016
You know who has an $8 million (shared) cap hit with three goals and eight points in nine games in these playoffs? Phil Kessel of the Penguins. Sure, he may not look Canadian, wear a scarf or be serious like a noted “winner” such as Toews, but he scores and creates goals at a great rate. That can be just as valuable as nebulous intangibles like toughness, but who can really say?
Was this entire opening a way to point out this stupid John Buccigross piece about the physical appearance of Auston Matthews in relation to Toews and Kessel? You bet!
(But also, Toews wasn’t very good.)
4. Mike Ribeiro, Nashville Predators
One point in nine games for Ribeiro, who didn’t play a 10th game because he was a healthy scratch for it. The 36-year-old playmaker had 50 points in 81 regular season games, but has just one assist this postseason. For a team that doesn’t have an abundance of offense, this is a killer.
Peter Laviolette on scratching Mike Ribeiro: "It's just a lineup decision that I made."
— Adam Vingan (@AdamVingan) May 4, 2016
The Predators are getting scoring from just about all their key forwards but are down 2-1 in the second round against the Sharks. Every game has been close, so getting zip from a $3.5 million, top-six center could be the difference between losing or winning in six.
3. Kariantti Lehtoneniemi, Dallas Stars
During the regular season, Kari Lehtonen (.906) and Antti Neimi (.905) were both way below average, but the Stars won the West in spite of them because of their league-leading 267 goals. They have both found a way to be worse in the postseason.
Lehtonen (.903) and Niemi (.872) aren’t getting much help from their defense, but they have been dreadful — especially in the second round against the Blues. They have combined to post an .896 save percentage in three games and each has been pulled from a start the past two games.
With Tyler Seguin missing all three games against the Blues, the Stars are averaging just two goals per game. Lehtonen and Niemi have been asked to raise their game in Seguin’s absence and have instead found a way to lower it.
2. Brock Nelson, New York Islanders
According to war-on-ice, Nelson has a 38.9 percent Corsi in nine games. There are many ways to illustrate the terrible nature of that number, but let’s go with this: Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi, one of the worst regular players in the league in this regard, finished the regular season at 41.7 percent.
I know Hickey got hit in the face, but just watch Brock Nelson float through that shift just before the GWG. Cruise control. #Isles
— Alan Hahn (@alanhahn) May 4, 2016
There are a slew of players killing the Islanders, who have been carried this far by John Tavares and Thomas Greiss. But one goal from Nelson after he scored 26 in the regular season is brutal. It’s possible that coach Jack Capuano scratches Nelson for Game 4 against the Lightning on Thursday, which would be an understandable move.
1. Justin Williams, Washington Capitals
You know it’s early May because Game of Thrones is back for another season and the Caps are on the verge of elimination before the conference finals. They are coming off a dominant 120-point regular season with a team that was designed to get Alex Ovechkin beyond the second round for the first time in his career. Yet here they are, one game from elimination by the Pittsburgh Penguins.
And it’s not Ovechkin’s fault, although someone will write that column. He has four goals and eight points in 10 games. He’s carrying his weight. You know who isn’t?
Williams, whose name is in bold at the top of this section, thus removing any drama by the stupid build-up in the previous paragraph.
Someone tell Justin Williams that if he doesn't get it together, there might not be a Game 7 for him to Mr. in.
— Japers' Rink (@JapersRink) May 5, 2016
Mr. Game 7 has been Mr. Bad Hockey Player in these playoffs with one goal in 10 games. He failed to convert on numerous chances against the Flyers in the first round, which was a minor annoyance. But he’s failing to score in round two against a superior opponent and it’s killing the Capitals.
Williams stole a Conn Smythe Trophy from Anze Kopitar in 2014 and now he’s stealing any chance the Capitals have of winning a Stanley Cup in 2016.