NHL’s top scorers, including Penguins’ Sidney Crosby, going nowhere fast in playoffs
For decades, it generally has been an accepted part of hockey lore: The playoffs are where high-flying offenses go to die.
Over the past three seasons, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals have done their part to change that attitude, winning the Stanley Cup on the backs of their generational scoring stars.
This season, though, the league’s most productive offensive players seem to be going nowhere fast.
In the regular season, six NHL players reached the 100-point mark.
Nikita Kucherov had a brilliant year for Tampa Bay, racking up 41 goals and 128 points. The Lightning lost the first three games of a first-round series with Columbus, scoring a total of five goals. Kucherov didn’t have a point in the first two games, then sat out Game 3 on a suspension.
The players in spots two through four in the NHL scoring race — Edmonton’s Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl and Chicago’s Patrick Kane — didn’t make the playoffs.
Sidney Crosby and Brad Marchand tied for fifth with 100 points. Marchand’s Boston Bruins dropped two of their first three first-round games against Toronto, and the offensive struggles of the Penguins have been well documented.
They scored a total of five goals in three losses to the New York Islanders, and Crosby didn’t record a point.
“We all know what we need to do to be successful in the playoffs,” winger Patric Hornqvist said. “We have to give the Islanders a lot of credit, too. They defend really hard. They have five guys in front of their net.”
Islanders coach Barry Trotz doesn’t see a seismic shift toward defense starting in the NHL. He just sees a few defensive teams playing some good hockey.
“You play to your identity,” he said. “What you do is what you do, and if you do it better than the other team, you’re going to have success. I think there’s no formula. You look at it over the course of time. All kinds of teams have won. Teams that can stay to their identity and play that way usually have good success.”
Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said teams, even those led by superstar scorers, need to have a flexible offense once the postseason starts.
“Playoff hockey is hard hockey,” he said. “Do you have to play a different style? I don’t think so. I think good teams create offense different ways, and then you just have to take what the game gives you out there. I think that’s the most important thing.”
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .