April is here again. Sure, it's got Easter, springtime, pretty blooming flowers and all that nonsense. But what sports fans really care about is the annual arrival of the beginning of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Because they know they'll be treated to over two months of sweet skating, gritty play and sudden death overtimes that can go on almost forever. Plus, they'll get to watch some of the most talented players in the NHL view for the league's most coveted prize.
Unfortunately, there's one truism that becomes apparent every April or every year: some of the best NHL players won't be on the ice at all for the postseason.
We're talking about the players who are the lonely points of light in a sea of darkness that envelops a mediocre (or worse) hockey club. The ones who are overachievers on the ice, but receive so little support from teammates that opponents are able to focus their energies on stopping these standouts. The people who are little known outside their cities where they play (or even inside them, in some cases).
The athletes who fight and claw and score and check and save without having any guarantee that their Herculean efforts will be rewarded on the scoreboard at the end of the game. The only certainty for them is that they won't have their names inscribed on the Stanley Cup in 2014.
These are the few people in the hockey world who probably despise April - because they know they won't be part of the spectacle of the NHL playoffs, but instead will have to watch it unfold just like the couch potatoes in American homes do. All that these players can do is rest up, begin their offseason training regimens, and focus on the eternal hope that comes with a new season-opener in October.
Out of all these gifted players in the league, here are the top ten NHLers who will be staying home this postseason.
10 Keith Yandle, Phoenix Coyotes defenseman
9 Phil Kessel, Toronto Maple Leafs winger
8 Cory Schneider, New Jersey Devils goalie
7 Nicklas Backstrom, Washington Capitals center
6 Eric Staal, Carolina Hurricanes center
5 Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators defenseman
4 John Tavares, New York Islanders center
3 Taylor Hall, Edmonton Oilers winger
2 Shea Weber, Nashville Predators defenseman
1 Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals winger
It's truly a sad day when the top-scorer in the NHL won't have a chance to inscribe his name on Lord Stanley's cup. The 28-year old Russian found the back of the net 51 times this season, 24 of those on the power play (undoubtedly with help from teammate Backstrom). It's the fourth time that Ovechkin has led the NHL in goals and the fifth time he achieved the half-a-hundred mark. That last fact is significant, since the ten other players in NHL history who recorded 50 or more goals in at least five seasons are now in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Despite scoring his 400th career goal in December, the Caps missed the postseason for the first time since 2007. And coupled with Russia's poor showing at this year's Winter Olympics, Ovechkin will probably not have much of a sunny disposition this summer.
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