Skip to main content

Five Players Who Need to Step It Up in Round Two of Stanley Cup Playoffs

The first round was exciting, but there were a number of big-name stars that didn't play to their full potential. Here's a look at five that will need a big performance.
Igor Shesterkin

The first round of the playoffs is over, producing a number of marquee matchups that are sure to set the hockey world ablaze in the weeks to come. 

We've got the Battle of Alberta, the back-to-back champs versus the President's Trophy winners, the young and highflying Rangers versus the battle-tested Hurricanes...and, uh, the Avalanche and the Blues. 

Three out of those four series project to be achingly close. And if either team intends to keep their season alive, they'll need their stars to show up. 

Here are five players who need to step up their games heading into round two. 

5. Duncan Keith, D (EDM)

It's fair to ask whether anyone expects anything from Duncan Keith at this point. 

The guy had a subpar regular season while averaging the fewest minutes per game of his entire career, clearly showing his age with his decision-making and awareness while appearing a step slower than pretty much anyone else on the ice. 

Keith still takes up a good chunk of the Oilers' salary cap, though, and is also being used in a top-four role despite his decline in play. And with just one assist through seven games of Edmonton's first-round series with the Kings, all while getting outscored at even-strength by three goals, the Oilers simply need more from their wily vet. 

Keith is far from the player he once was. But given his continued usage and role on the blueline, his performance is still very important to the Oilers' success. 

So far, Keith's performance has been bad. And if the Oilers intend on making it past their high octane provincial rivals, that needs to change. 

4. Tyler Toffoli, F (CGY)

Speaking of provincial rivals...

Tyler Toffoli was anything but high octane for the Flames in round one, being held to just one goal throughout a series that, had he been firing on all cylinders, probably wouldn't have been decided in overtime of Game 7. 

It just doesn't make sense, really. 

Toffoli fit so seamlessly into Calgary's roster after being acquired from the Montreal Canadiens back in February, racking up 12 goals and 23 points in 37 games with his new club and giving them the depth scoring they had long searched for. 

This offensive drought likely won't last too long. Toffoli has been to the top of the hockey mountain before, having helped lead his team to the Stanley Cup Final twice in his career, and coming away victorious once. 

Toffoli was a key producer throughout both of those Cup runs. He clearly has it in him. 

But if the Flames want to extend their season into June, they'll need him to find his game sooner rather than later. 

3. Andrei Vasilevskiy, G (TBL)

It's tough to look at Andrei Vasilevskiy's performance in Game 7 versus the Toronto Maple Leafs and think he needs to step it up. 

But, folks, he really does. 

Game 7 was vintage Vasilevskiy, with the former Vezina winner completely shutting down a torrid Maple Leafs' offense when his team needed it the most. 

Before that, though? Let's just say it wasn't as pretty. 

Prior to the final game of the series, Vasilevskiy had surrendered at least three goals in each contest, including a brutal Game 1, when the Leafs pumped him for five goals, and a similarly dicey Game 5, when he stopped just 21 of 25 shots. 

The Lightning extended their season by a hair, barely squeaking out a do-or-die victory against a team that largely outplayed them. Vasilevskiy is included in that assessment, and the .897 save percentage he's taking into the next round is a steady drop from the .937 and .927 he put up during Tampa's prior two Cup runs. 

The Lightning need their secret weapon back. And facing one of the best offensive teams of the salary cap era in round two is as good a challenge as any. 

2. Jonathan Huberdeau, F (FLA)

When you challenge for the Art Ross and make a case for a Hart nomination, expectations tend to elevate.

Jonathan Huberdeau wasn't bad, per se, during Florida's first-round dispatching of the Washington Capitals. But he was far from the unstoppable force that helped lead the Panthers to a President's Trophy in the regular season, with Huberdeau scoring just one goal and three points versus a team that failed to ever ice a consistent goaltender. 

That won't cut it against the back-to-back champs. Not if the Panthers intend to make a real run at Stanley Cup glory. 

This Panthers squad is blessed with a cavernously deep offensive arsenal. But Huberdeau is the straw that stirs the drink. They need him to come in hot and heavy for the Fight for Florida™ (I just made that up, no one steal it) and they need him fast. 

1. Igor Shesterkin, G (NYR)

Does a .910 save percentage through the first seven games of the playoffs seem like a red flag? No. But Shesterkin's numbers hide what was a shaky performance in round one, with the consensus Vezina favorite allowing three or more goals in every game but one, including Games 3 and 4 when he allowed four and six goals against, respectively, and was given the hook both times. 

The Rangers are not good enough to withstand that lack of consistency in net. This team got absolutely hammered in the possession and scoring chance areas of the series by a Penguins team that just wouldn't quit. Shesterkin is pretty much the sole reason for why they managed to win Game 7, too. 

The Blueshirts live and die by their superstar goaltender. And if he doesn't bring his "A" game versus a stout Hurricanes squad, Madison Square Garden might be quite empty for the rest of the summer. 

TOP HEADLINES

Screenshot_20220705-224104

Jessica Campbell to Become First Woman AHL Assistant Coach

Jessica Campbell will break the AHL’s coaching gender barrier next season when she steps behind the bench with the Coachella Valley Firebirds.

USATSI_18159830
Play

NHL Off-Season Outlook: Colorado Avalanche

The Colorado Avalanche are going to be Cup favorites for sure in 2022-23, but they've got a couple of key decisions to make this summer.

USATSI_18578995
Play

Avalanche Sign Andrew Cogliano to One-Year Extension

The Colorado Avalanche have signed forward Andrew Cogliano to a one-year extension worth $1.25 million.