Postseason heroes, villains and ghosts

ByScott Burnside via ESPN logo
Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The playoffs are about to enter their second week, so it's time for a quick look at early postseason heroes, villains and ghosts.


Scott Darling, Chicago Blackhawks: How good has the Blackhawks backup goalie been since being thrust into the fire, first in Game 1 in relief of Corey Crawford and then as the Hawks' new starter? Three wins, two in multiple overtimes -- including Game 3's triple-OT affair -- a 1.05 GAA and .969 save percentage. Heroic, indeed.

Nicklas Backstrom, Washington Capitals:Here's a guy being fitted for a hero's hat in Washington. Backstrom entered the playoffs in the midst of a significant goal-scoring drought, but so far he leads the league with six playoff points, including a crucial overtime winner in Game 4 against the New York Islanders.

Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens: Not really a surprise to see Price's name on a list of heroes at this stage of the playoffs, but in a first-round series against Ottawa that is much, much closer than its 3-0 status, the Canadiens have managed to be just a hair better than the Ottawa Senators every night. In each case, the determining factor has been Price, who has continued his MVP ways from the regular season, allowing just six goals while turning in a .939 save percentage.

Kris Russell, Calgary Flames: The magic carpet ride continues for the Flames, who are up 3-1 against the Vancouver, and leading the way is defenseman Russell, who is second in blocked shots in the playoffs and leads the Flames with four points while averaging 26:37 a night in ice time.


P.K. Subban, Canadiens: You knew an Ottawa-Montreal series was going to be volcano-like in terms of the emotion, but Subban's slash to the forearm of Ottawa star rookie Mark Stone in Game 1 was a series-changer, because it's clear Stone is laboring as a result. Subban was fortunate to avoid further punishment after being ejected from the game, though it seems clear the Senators are continuing to pay the price.

Dustin Byfuglien, Winnipeg Jets: We asked rhetorically in our playoff previews whether the burly Winnipeg defenseman was going to bother to bring his brain to the postseason. Looks like the answer is "No." Having endured a four-game suspension late in the regular season that threatened his team's playoff chances, Byfuglien narrowly escaped more supplemental discipline after his late hit on Anaheim Ducks forward Corey Perry after Perry scored in another come-from-behind win for the Ducks in Game 3. Byfuglien, who has zero points and is minus-3 in the series, then repeated pretty much the same answer to every question he was asked by reporters about his incident and his overall play. Way to ante up, Big Buff.

Tom Wilson, Capitals:Islanders fans were none too pleased with the freight-train hit Wilson put on Isles defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky in Game 4. Wilson was given a minor penalty for charging after he barreled into Visnovsky, who'd just unloaded the puck in the Islanders' zone. The veteran defender was left bloody and shaken and did not return to the game, and his status moving forward is unknown.

Steve Ott, St. Louis Blues: There has been a lot of discussion about the agitating, yapping, needling Ott in the Blues' oh-so-tight series with the Minnesota Wild. The more Ott can pry his way into the psyche of the Wild, the better for the Blues. The more the Wild ignore his activities, the better for the Wild.


David Perron, Pittsburgh Penguins: After a strong start with the Penguins after coming over in a trade with the Edmonton Oilers, Perron ended the regular season in a ghastly slump and things haven't improved in the postseason. He has just one assist through three games. Worse, he looks tentative and unsure of himself on an injury-ravaged Pens team that needs all hands on deck.

David Backes, Blues: The Blues are in a tough fight against a good, fast Minnesota team, and their captain has yet to crack the score sheet, with zero points in three games. Offensive depth has doomed the Blues in recent playoff seasons, and they are already tracking that way again.

Bobby Ryan, Senators: The Senators were carried by their young players such as Stone and Mike Hoffman down the stretch, but veterans need to step up in the postseason when some rookies will hit the wall. Ryan, who was admittedly less than inspiring during the regular season, has yet to answer the bell with zero points in three games for the desperate Senators.

Ondrej Palat, Tampa Bay Lightning: This isn't so much to single out Palat, but rather to highlight the struggles of many of the Tampa Bay scorers in their series against the Detroit Red Wings, from captain Steven Stamkos on down. Still, the so-called Triplets Line of Palat, Tyler Johnson and Nikita Kucherov was so dynamic during the regular season that it factored into the belief of many that the Bolts were poised for a long playoff run. So far, Palat has zero points and Kucherov just one assist, though Johnson does lead the team with two goals, as Tampa is surprisingly chasing the Red Wings after three games in the series.