April 07, 2008

Legends Are Made In The Playoffs:
10 Players Who Need To Up Their Game

It is amazing what a Stanley Cup championship does for a player's reputation and legacy. It is also amazing how being labeled as a poor playoff player also affects such legacy. I have no doubt the Marcel Dionnes of the hockey world would be held in much higher historical esteem had he been able to lead his teams to a championship.

Perhaps the best modern case is Steve Yzerman. Yzerman spent the first half of his career on equal footing with Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, and Mario Lemieux, but his Red Wings went nowhere in the post season. Later in his career, and despite his offensive totals dipping noticeably, a grittier he led Detroit to three Stanley Cups, forever cementing Steve Yzerman as one of the game's all time greats.

There are lots of current players that have a history of great regular seasons and poor playoffs. Here's ten current players that need to make a big splash in this playoffs or risk their legacies as the game's all time greats:

10. Zdeno Chara - He wants us to believe he's the best defenseman in the game, not just the tallest. That won't happen until Chara joins the likes of Chris Pronger and Adam Foote as playoff warriors.

9. Saku Koivu - His career has been defined by courage and class. But his on-ice legacy needs a long playoff run. This may finally be the year.

8. Alexei Kovalev - Kovalev has a bit of a spotty playoff record, aided greatly by his youthful 1994 run while riding shotgun with Mark Messier's New York Rangers. Kovy has come a long way this season in shaking his label as lazy and a flake. If he can lead the young Canadiens to a Stanley Cup he might yet attain immortality as one of the top Russian players of all time.

7. Marty Turco - Turco's reign in Dallas is highlighted by repetitive short playoff runs. It's not necessarily Turco's fault, but it will be his legacy.

6. Henrik Lundqvist - He may very well be the best goalie in the Eastern Conference. Knocking off Martin Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils will go a long way to securing that title.

5. Pavel Datsyuk - Last year Datsyuk finally turned in a good playoff, after 4 busts. He needs to have another strong year. Another blemish on his record and he may never shake the poor post-season performer label.

4. Daniel Briere - Last season Briere had 95 regular season points but only 3 goals in 16 post season games. He needs to pick up his playoff production if the Flyers are going anywhere this year.

3. Marian Gaborik - Gabby is widely recognized as one of the top players in the league nowadays. He had a great playoff back in 2003, but another deep run will cement him amongst the top 5 players today.

2. Marian Hossa - Pittsburgh gave up quite a nice package for rental player Hossa, figuring he was a game breaker who could lead them to the Cup. With only 13 career playoff goals in 55 games, Hossa definitely needs to find the back of the net in this playoff, or risk immortal status as a poor playoff performer.

1. Joe Thornton - Thornton already has the label as a poor playoff performer. He needs to dominate both on the score sheet and in the physical battles. Going up against Dion Phaneuf in round one won't make his rap easy to shake.

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