At least one high-scorer heading home early in Eastern Conference final

By: Tim Kolupanowich

@TimKolupan_

Kris Letang could have (Michael Miller/Wikimedia Commons)

Kris Letang is quarterbacking a highly-potent machine against the deep and consistent Bruins.(Michael Miller/Wikimedia Commons)

The Eastern Conference final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins is a battle between the conference’s two most recent Stanley Cup champs as well as the most explosive offenses. Pittsburgh is averaging 4.27 goals per game to lead the league and Boston is their closest competitor with 3.17; combined they have the top six scorers remaining in the playoffs.

It’s a shame one of these teams will get knocked out as these players, especially David Krejci on Boston and Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang on Pittsburgh have the chance to post some obscene points totals given the benefit of one extra series, especially with the conference final almost certainly to go at least six games.

Forty-seven players have recorded at least 20 points without reaching the Cup final, but only four times since 1998. Pittsburgh has unmatched top-end talent, but going against a team as deep as Boston for the first time this postseason could be a concern. The Bruins are getting responsible play from all four lines which allows coach Claude Julien to keep his best players fresh for when they absolutely need to be and recently stated he rolls all four lines simply because he has the talent to do so and if he didn’t would “no doubt” shorten his bench. Boston plays a tight game, but each of their first two series featured several high-scoring affairs which means the offense will continue to flow.

The most important player on the roster right now isn’t Crosby, Malkin, Letang or Jarome Iginla, it’s goalie Tomas Vokoun whose job it is to ensure the Penguins’ offensive production doesn’t go to waste. They won’t get too many chances to put up four or five or more goals in a game against the Bruins so if goaltending falls apart like it did in Game 4 against the Islanders it will be a lost opportunity against an opponent who will give them everything they can handle. Fortunately Vokoun has been solid since his debut in Game 5 and has posted the second-best save percentage, .941, and third-best goals-against average, 1.85, in the playoffs so far. It was a wise albiet obvious move for GM Ray Shero over the summer to sign the proven starter. If he didn’t, the Islanders could have pulled off an upset in the first round like Philadelphia did last year when Marc-Andre Fleury just imploded.

It’s not surprising to see David Krejci above all of Pittsburgh’s super stars at the top of the postseason scoring race either. He’s their most gifted player offensively and led the NHL in goals and points in the 2011 playoffs and looked to be on his way the year before when he was hurt mid-way through round two against Philadelphia; they didn’t win a single game without him the rest of the series. Vokoun has been reliable, but the Penguins defense is still known to run around in their own end a bit leaving opponents with prime scoring opportunities and Krejci has the ability to capitalize on any mistake in a heartbeat.

There’s nothing worse than good offensive production with nothing to show for it, just ask Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos down in Tampa Bay, and we could see one of the best seasons ever for someone who fails to reach the Stanley Cup final. If Krejci, Malkin, Letang and Crobsy keep up their scoring pace and the series goes to Game 7, Krechi could post 27 points and the three Penguins could each hit 26 which would place whoever is on the losing side among the highest-scoring players ever who didn’t reach the Cup final.

The following are the top 10 goal, assist and point totals for players who failed to reach the Stanley Cup final.

Most Goals

  • 16 – Cam Neely, Bos 1991; Lost Wales Conference final 4-2 to Pit
  • 14 – John Druce, Was 1990; Lost Wales Conference final 4-0 to Bos
  • 14 – Tim Kerr, Phi 1989; Lost Wales Conference final 4-2 to Mtl
  • 14 – Brian Propp, Phi 1989; Lost Wales Conference final 4-2 to Mtl
  • 14 – Barry Pederson, Bos 1983; Lost Wales Conference final 4-2 to NYI
  • 13 – Mike Cammalleri, Mtl 2010; Lost Eastern Conference final 4-1 to Phi
  • 13 – Claude Lemieux, Col 1997; Lost Western Conference final 4-2 to Det
  • 13 – Ray Ferraro, NYI 1993; Lost Wales Conference final 4-1 to Mtl
  • 13 – Brett Hull, Stl 1990; Lost Norris Division final 4-3 to Chi
  • 12 – six players

Most Assists

  • 25 – Doug Gilmour, Tor 1993; Lost Campbell Conference final 4-3 to LA
  • 22 – Doug Gilmour, Tor 1994; Lost Campbell Conference final 4-1 to Van
  • 22 – Rick Middleton, Bos 1983; Lost Wales Conference final 4-2 to NYI
  • 20 – Denis Savard, Chi 1985; Lost Campbell Conference final 4-2 to Edm
  • 19 – Peter Stastny, Que 1985; Lost Wales Conference final 4-2 to Phi
  • 18 – Peter Forsberg, Col 2002; Lost Western Conference final 4-3 to Det
  • 18 – Sergei Fedorov, Det 1996; Lost Western Conference final 4-2 to Col
  • 18 – Ray Bourque, Bos 1991; Lost Wales Conference final 4-2 to Pit
  • 18 – Craig Janney, Bos 1991; Lost Wales Conference final 4-2 to Pit
  • 18 – Barry Pederson, Bos 1983; Lost Wales Conference final 4-2 to NYI

Most Points

  • 10-25-35 – Doug Gilmour, Tor 1993; Lost Campbell Conference final 4-3 to LA
  • 11-22-33 – Rick Middleton, Bos 1983; Lost Wales Conference final 4-2 to NYI
  • 14-18-32 – Barry Pederson, Bos 1983; Lost Wales Conference final 4-2 to NYI
  • 9-20-29 – Denis Savard, Chi 1985; Lost Campbell Conference final 4-2 to Edm
  • 6-22-28 – Doug Gilmour, Tor 1994; Lost Campbell Conference final 4-1 to Van
  • 11-16-27 – Mario Lemieux, Pit 1996; Lost Eastern Conference final 4-3 to Fla
  • 9-18-27 – Peter Forsberg, Col 2002; Lost Western Conference final 4-3 to Det
  • 14-11-25 – Tim Kerr, Phi 1989; Lost Wales Conference final 4-2 to Mtl
  • 8-17-25 – Joe Sakic, Col 1997; Lost Western Conference final 4-2 to Det
  • 7-18-25 – Ray Bourque, Bos 1991; Lost Wales Conference final 4-2 to Pit

At a time of the season when games are played so tight, having someone who can guarantee production is a major asset, but they don’t assure victory. Six players have led the playoffs in scoring without reaching the final since expansion.

  • 8-7-15 – Bill Goldsworthy, Min 1968; Lost league semifinal 4-3 to Stl
  • 8-10-18 – Phil Esposito, Bos 1969; Lost league semifinal 4-2 to Mtl
  • 9-12-21 – Doug Gimour, Stl 1986; Lost Campbell Conference final 4-3 to Cgy
  • 7-14-21 – Bernie Federko, Stl 1986; Lost Campbell Conference final 4-3 to Cgy
  • 8-16-24 – Peter Forsberg, Col 1999; Lost Western Conference final 4-3 to Dal
  • 9-18-27 – Peter Forsberg, Col 2002; Lost Western Conference final 4-3 to Det

Vokoun and Tuukka Rask are going to have their hands full in this series and each is likely to get lit up so a short memory is key. The Penguins and Bruins are the top two teams in five-on-five goals for/against in the playoffs and were in the top four in the regular season. This is going to be a long and wide-open series, one that will definitely appeal to those looking for a barrage of goals.

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