The regular season is where you earn your money, but the playoffs are where you really show what you’re worth. Here’s a look at five players who have had a fantastic playoff after tough regular season campaigns.
Jayden Schwartz (left) and Jason Spezza|Scott Rovak/NHLI via Getty Images
There aren’t many positive words that can be used to describe Jason Spezza’s regular season.
Spezza failed to hit the 30-point mark for the second straight year, with the big centerman struggling to stay effective in his 16th season in the NHL. His 27 points are a far cry from the days where he was capable of 90-plus point seasons with the Ottawa Senators. Heck, he had 50 just two years ago before seemingly falling off the earth ever since.
But one thing people tend to forget about Spezza is his impressive playoff stat line. In 77 playoff games, Spezza has 69 points, with his 0.90 points-per-game average good for 8th among active NHLers with at least 50 career points and the most of any players still playing in the second round. In 2007, his only appearance in the Stanley Cup final, Spezza was a member of Ottawa’s deadly scoring line that saw him, Daniel Alfredsson and Dany Heatley score 22 points apiece, good for a three-way tie for first.
With his goal on Wednesday night, Spezza is the only player averaging under 14 minutes of ice time with more than two points in the second round and the only player with less than 13 minutes to have more than three points in the entire playoffs. Not bad for a guy who started the first round in the press box. But he isn’t the only player to shake off a bad season to have a banging playoff run. With that, here are some of the biggest performers to rise from the shadows for the most important time of the year:
Charlie Coyle, Boston Bruins
Coyle’s job isn’t to generate offense, but it’s hard to ignore the fact he has already exceeded his six-point regular season output with the Bruins by netting seven points in 10 playoff contests. It’s been a breakthrough playoff run for Coyle, who had just 15 playoff points during his tenure with the Minnesota Wild. Acquired prior to the trade deadline in a deal that sent Ryan Donato to the Wild, Coyle is shooting at a team-leading 29.4 percent and leads the team in the goals department with five. It’s safe to say he’s been one of the best forwards on the Bruins in the post-season, and with three points in the series against the Blue Jackets, the big-bodied Coyle has played well against Columbus, too.
Warren Foegele, Carolina Hurricanes
One of the best stories of the post-season has been Foegele’s rise. Named the 2017 OHL playoff MVP after winning the championship with the Erie Otters, Foegele has exploded for eight points in 10 games, which is more than half of his 15-point regular season output. He entered the playoffs with two goals in a row, just the second time he had points in back-to-back games this year, before scoring four goals and two points against the Washington Capitals in the first round. Foegele is tied for 10th in playoff points with Nicklas Backstrom and Roope Hintz, narrowly edging out Teuvo Teravainen for the team lead. Not bad for a rookie, but if his junior career is any indication, he likes playoff hockey.
Jordan Staal, Carolina Hurricanes
Had Staal played the entire season, he would have been on pace for 46 points, which is basically on par with his previous six years with the Hurricanes. But with just 26 points in 50 games – the lowest of his NHL career – a good playoff run was what Staal needed to finish off the campaign. With four goals and eight points, including the game-winning goal against Washington to help force Game 7 and the Game 1 winner against the New York Islanders, he’s done just that. It’s Staal’s first playoff run since leaving the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2012, and his next point will tie his previous playoff bests set in 2009 and 2012. With a 30.7 shooting percentage at all strengths in the playoffs, it wouldn’t hurt for him to shoot a bit more, but the Bunch of Jerks are getting a lot out of their fearless veteran in the team’s improbable run.
Matt Nieto, Colorado Avalanche
Nieto hasn’t been able to top his career-high point total – he registered 27 in 2014-15 – in the four regular seasons since, but he has been one of Colorado’s best players in the playoffs. It’s not totally unexpected to see him play well on the big stage: he had five points in seven games with San Jose during their 2014 post-season run and had three assists in six games last year as a depth player for the Avalanche. This time, however, his four goals tie him with the likes of Artemi Panarin, Brad Marchand and Jordan Eberle.
Jaden Schwartz, St. Louis Blues
Injury troubles limited Schwartz to just 36 points in 69 games, which made for his worst offensive totals in a full season since he became a full-time NHLer in 2013-14. All has been forgotten in the post-season, however, especially after Schwartz’s hat trick against in Game 6 against the Winnipeg Jets helped the Blues advance to the second round. He’s followed that up with three points in four games against the Stars, giving him six goals and eight points through 10 games, trailing only Alex Pietrangelo for the team lead in points. Schwartz has the Blues’ best goals and points per 60 with 2.15 and 2.86, respectively, and is shooting at a 25 percent rate on 24 shots. That’s the best rate among players with at least 20 shots in the post-season, making him one of the more dangerous shooters through the middle of Round 2. The Blues haven’t particularly dominated their playoff battles yet, but Schwartz has been spectacular, no doubt.
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