You know all about Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov of the Washington Capitals.
You know how good Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov from the Tampa Bay Lightning are.
But a series is won and lost not just by the stars, but by the supporting cast as well.
It is likely that the 2018 NHL Eastern Conference Finals between the Lighting and Capitals will be decided by the supporting cast.
Here are the five players you should be watching in the Eastern Conference Finals:
Capitals vs. Lightning Series Preview: 5 Players to Watch
1. Michal Kempny: If the Capitals have a weakness on defense, the Lightning will find it and exploit it. Tampa did that the first time these two teams met this season on Oct. 9. Washington jumped out to a 2-0 lead, but could not hang on, due in large part to Tampa's ability to take full advantage of a defense featuring unexperienced defenseman Aaron Ness and Taylor Chorney as its third pair.
The Capitals addressed their blue line at the trade deadline with the acquisition of Kempny who has slid into a top-four role alongside John Carlson. His addition has bolstered a defense that looked like a clear weakness for Washington. But now both he and the defense are going to be put to the test by the high-powered offense of the Lightning.
2. Chris Kunitz: Don’t forget about this guy. Sure, he’s a fourth-line forward and he has yet to record a single point this postseason, but when the lights are brightest and the team really needs him, that’s when Kunitz is at his best.
Last year with the Pittsburgh Penguins, he did not even play in the first round and had only two points in his first 13 playoff games. But in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Ottawa Senators, Kunitz put up a three-point night and scored twice, including the double-overtime winner.
In the six games of the Stanley Cup Final, Kunitz also recorded six assists.
He is someone who knows how to perform in the biggest moments.
3. Jakub Vrana: Regardless of what line he is on, Vrana is going to have to produce this round. He proved to be a factor against the Penguins with two goals and two assists.
He was the hero of Game 5 as he stepped onto the first line and assisted on the game-tying goal before scoring the game-winner. Tampa has the edge in scoring depth, but Vrana is Washington’s best offensive threat that is not established in the top six. He needs to utilize his speed and put points on the board.
4. Brayden Pont: In three games against Washington this season, Point recorded three goals and one assist. This is his very first NHL postseason, but that hasn’t fazed the 22-year-old center one bit.
In 10 games, he is producing at a point-per-game with four goals and six assists. He is good on the boards, opportunistic and deceptively fast which allows him to get in behind defenses and take advantage of open ice. He is a star in the making and could potentially have a very big series.
5. Lars Eller: With the health of Nicklas Backstrom a question mark, Eller will play on the second line until he is ready to return. One of the most underrated aspects of Backstrom’s game is how good he is on defense.
Slowing down Tampa’s offense is not just a matter of the defensemen playing well, the forwards need to be able to chip in as well. If Backstrom misses any time at all, Eller will have to fill in and make sure the second line is able to both produce offensively and play well in the defensive zone.
MORE CAPITALS NEWS:
- Inside the Series: Biggest X-Factors
- Mark your calendars: Full ECF schedule
- Caps-Lighting: The ultimate preview
- Game 1: How to watch
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