By Tyler on April 10, 2014
With only a few days remaining in the 2013-14 NHL regular season schedule, 15 of 16 playoff spots have been filled and playoff matchups are virtually set in stone. One of the most exciting things about the upcoming playoff schedule is the amount of great players who will be on display and deciding who is really the best. With this in mind, here are the 10 best players who will be competing when the playoffs begin on Apr. 16.
There are few players with as much pure scoring ability as Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos, who has scored more than 50 goals twice and has 24 goals in 34 games this year. Stamkos is not only a scorer, though, as he does have a level of fight to his game that isn't always associated with scorers and works hard defensively. Nevertheless, less than stellar face-off and passing skills limit Stamkos from ranking higher on this list.
Duncan Keith has had a great 2013-14 campaign, scoring six goals, 55 assists, a plus-22 +/-, 21 power play points and 24:39 average time on ice per game. Most view Keith as the favorite to win his second Norris Trophy, and his mix of great skating ability, an eye for the breakout and play-making pass, core strength and tireless work ethic will shut down opposing forwards this spring.
Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin isn't the most renowned player on his own team, but he may be the most talented. Malkin has great size at 6-foot-3, 195-pounds, an uncanny ability to hold the puck, play-making ability, a rifle of a shot and the ability to dominate physically both offensively and defensively. During the 2013-14 season Malkin has 72 points in 60 games, and with good health and motivation he will dominate this spring.
Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask has had a great 2013-14 season, compiling a 35-15-6 record with a 2.06 GAA and .929 save percentage. The 27-year-old should see this continue in the playoffs, as his lanky frame allows him to cover the net with his excellent reflexes, shot blocking ability and compete level that seem to fit playoff hockey perfectly.
Anaheim Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf has had his best season in years during 2013-14, picking up 31 goals, 56 assists, plus-29 +/- and 21:15 on the ice per game. The 6-foot-4, 221-pound center is a physical behemoth who plays to his size, dominating in the corners, winning face-off battles and also leveraging his ways into scoring areas. Additionally, Getzlaf has a natural play-making ability and huge shot that makes him the all-around package.
Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick was once again one of the best in the world at his position this year, going 27-17-3 with a 2.05 GAA, .916 save percentage and six shutouts. Quick isn't a very lanky goalie at 6-foot-1, 218-pounds, but he shows excellent crease movement, a confidence that sometimes borders on showboating and the ability to stop pucks in extraordinary fashion. Look for the Kings to ride Quick as far as they can this spring.
Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara is the leader of a defense that ranks 2nd in goals against per game, picking up 17 goals, 22 assists, a plus-24 +/- and 24:42 on the ice per game. Even at 37, Chara is a physical behemoth like no other in the NHL, as he has great physical might in the corners that really tears apart opposing forwards in a long series and surprising quickness. Add in a booming shot and it is clear that Chara is the total package.
Pavel Datsyuk has struggled with injuries this year, posting only 35 points in 48 games, but he is still a force to be feared come playoff time. Datsyuk has incredible strength with the puck, stick handling ability that makes defenders and goalies dizzy, great defensive instincts and he seems to step up when the pressure is on. Look for the 35-year-old to do some things that make you shake your head out of amazement this spring.
Jonathan Toews compiling 68 points in 76 games doesn't wow they eye, but that doesn't tell the whole story of his skill set. The Chicago Blackhawks center is the best defensive center in the world today, as he has the fight and physicality to dominate defensively and a quiet ability to create plays and score goals on the other end. Toews won't wow on the stat sheet, but he will dominate playoff games.
There really was no way to leave Sidney Crosby out of the No. 1 spot, especially after picking up 38 power play points and 103 total points through 78 games. Crosby is the total package, possessing great speed, quickness, passing ability, the ability to score on his forehand and backhand, face-off ability and lower body strength that allows him to compete in the corners. Love him or hate him, Crosby will be hard to stop this spring.
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