The playoff push is upon us and the NHL playoffs are less than two weeks away. Currently, 13 out of the 16 possible playoff spots are clinched and those teams are working to prepare their rosters for a deep playoff push.
One aspect of these teams that can make or break their Stanley Cup chances is how their star players perform when the games matter the most. Looking at this year’s crop of teams, here are the top three players to watch in the 2023 NHL Playoffs.
1. Connor McDavid (Edmonton Oilers)
There probably isn’t as much pressure on any one player as there is on Connor McDavid this postseason. He currently leads the league with 148 points and 62 goals. There is no doubt in many NHL fans’ minds that McDavid is by far the most skilled player in the league.
His biggest downfall is his lack of advancement in the NHL playoffs. Last season the Oilers lost in the conference finals to the eventual Stanley Cup champs in Colorado. McDavid is a polarizing player and has the ability to propel his team over the edge.
Due to his production this regular season and above and beyond skill set, all eyes will be watching to see how far McDavid can pull the Oilers through the postseason this year.
2. David Pastrnak (Boston Bruins)
The Boston Bruins have seemingly dominated the NHL this season. They have clinched the President’s Trophy with weeks to spare in the regular season. Their roster seems to have no weak link and the cohesiveness on this team is bar none the best in the NHL.
A major part of that is the play by David Pastrnak. Pasta is currently second in the NHL in goals and fifth in total points. He has been the most consistent player on the most consistent team this season. His play directly results in the production of the Bruins’ powerplay.
Being the best player on the best team puts a ton of pressure on Pastrnak this postseason. Knowing the production that this team has had simply makes anything less than a Stanley Cup appearance a failure in Boston.
3. Auston Matthews (Toronto Maple Leafs)
If there is any team in the NHL with pressure on them it is the Maple Leafs. This team and its’ fan base are simply hungry to advance out of the first round. The star forward Auston Matthews has never seen the second round of the NHL playoffs. Toronto fans will be praying that Matthews is able to propel his team past the first round in the playoffs.
Matthews currently has 38 goals and 42 assists in the regular season. If the Maple Leafs succeed, Matthews is front and center, if they fail, he is still front and center. Auston Matthews was a first-overall pick and looked at as the savior for this franchise.
With a tough first-round matchup against the Tampa Bay Lightning upcoming, Matthews will be one of the players with the most pressure on him this postseason. Pressure can break players, but pressure can also make stars shine in the playoffs.