Josh Elliott is a stay-at-home web editor for Post-to-Post on weekends and a contributor to The Hockey News magazine. From drafts to contracts to trades, he loves the business of hockey and plays nothing but Dynasty Mode in EA’s NHL video games. He’s a Western Journalism grad, a hockey addict and a closet comic book junkie.
Tyler Johnson is short and good at hockey. After two-and-a-half rounds of watching the guy lead his Tampa Bay Lightning in the playoffs, we’ve been hearing the same thing on every nightly broadcast. He’s pretty darn talented, but he’s not the first small guy to do big things.
There have been several big-game, undersized players who’ve stepped up in the playoffs over the years. Some played back in the black-and-white TV days. Others skated when radio was high-tech. One of them is stilling playing in Martin St-Louis, but we’ll leave him off the list because he’s still not done writing his legacy.
He’s also the same height as Johnson, and as much as we praised these two 5-foot-8 players for overcoming their size deficiencies, there are other historic playoff standouts who were even smaller.
Here are some of the best.
He lines up on the blueline, but make no mistake about it: Keith Yandle’s job is to score points.
He’s been doing exactly that for the Blueshirts lately, fulfilling the high expectations that came with him when he was acquired from Arizona at the trade deadline. GM of the Year candidate Glen Sather paid a hefty price for Yandle in the form of two prospects and first- and second-round picks, but that deal is paying off in this third round of the playoffs.
Yandle scored a goal and added two assists in the Rangers’ 5-1 win against the Lightning on Friday, adding to an already impressive point streak. The 28-year-old now has a goal and five points in his last two games and nine points overall in the playoffs. That’s decent in itself, but the fact he’s scoring now is what matters most.
Rick Nash was Mr. Popular before Game 4 of the Rangers-Lightning series on Friday, after he organized a Rangers team outing to see the premiere of ‘Entourage.’
But after 60 minutes of play, Henrik Lundqvist was the big man in Florida – the Vinny Chase, in Entourage parlance – thanks to his stellar netminding performance against Tampa Bay.
Lundqvist was all-world on Friday, stopping 38 shots, including 18 during a hard Tampa press in the second period to secure the win.
Rick Nash (remember him?) found his legs and his scoring touch early Saturday, blasting through the Tampa Bay defense to score on a tremendous individual effort in the first period.
Nash took a Kevin Hayes pass in the neutral zone, slipped past Mark Barberio and outskated a backchecking Cedric Paquette to open up some space on his way to the net. Then he cut across the goalmouth and put the puck in between the post and Ben Bishop’s foot.
Tampa Bay’s Steve Yzerman, Anaheim’s Bob Murray and the New York Rangers’ Glen Sather have been named finalists for the NHL’s General Manager of the Year Award.
Not surprisingly, all three GMs are still watching their squads in the Stanley Cup playoffs, after tremendous regular seasons.
Jakob Silfverberg broke a 1-1 tie and spoiled an incredible performance by Ondrej Pavelec to give the Anaheim Ducks the win and a 2-0 lead in their series with the Winnipeg Jets.
Silfverberg’s lightning-quick release beat Pavelec from the bottom of the left circle with only 21 seconds remaining on the clock.
It was an unexpected end to another bone-crunching, tightly-contested affair between these teams that seemed destined to go deep into overtime.
It only took Sidney Crosby four minutes and 39 seconds to double his playoff goal total from last season.
Crosby scored twice in the the second period and Brandon Sutter came up huge on the penalty kill and power play to help the Penguins beat the New York Rangers 4-3 in Game 2 Saturday.
Crosby was dangerous most of the night and found the score sheet twice in a span of 4:39 in the second, breaking a tight goaltending battle between Henrik Lundqvist and Marc-Andre Fleury.
Vladimir Tarasenko has an air of destiny about him.
The 23-year-old Russian scored the first playoff hat trick by a St. Louis Blue in 11 years as he powered his squad to a hard-fought 4-1 win over Minnesota in Game 2 on Saturday.
Tarasenko was the most dynamite player on the ice, scoring twice in the first period to spot his team to a 2-0 lead, then challenging the Wild on several more occasions before scoring into an empty net at the end of the game.
His first goal came in large part thanks to Alexander Steen, who muscled the puck out from behind the Wild net and played give-and-take with his defenders before firing it at the net from the blueline. Tarasenko bulled his way to the front just in time to tip Steen’s shot home and make it 1-0.