Every year during the playoffs, a team always seems to have that one player who plays beyond expectations. That player might be a rookie seizing his opportunity. It could be a 3rd or 4th line player looking to be the secondary scoring the team needs. Another factor is a player who is becoming a free agent in the offseason and needs to play well to earn top dollar. I will look at who the unsung hero could be for the Maple Leafs.
Kapanen is mostly used as a 3rd line player with the Maple Leafs. This season he put up 36 points in 69 games. The impressive thing with Kapanen’s stats this season is that 31 of his 36 points came while playing at even strength. Kapanen is also a valuable penalty killer and can use his speed to his advantage. This was his second season in a row collecting two short handed goals.
One area that Kapanen needs to improve is how he performs in the playoffs. In 20 playoff games, Kapanen has just four goals and one assist for five points. His most famous playoff moment was scoring the game winning goal in the second overtime of Game 2 against the Washington Capitals in 2017. Hopefully he will be able to find his scoring touch in these playoffs.
Spezza has been a decent veteran presence for the Maple Leafs this season. He signed with the Maple Leafs as a free agent for the league minimum of $700,000. All because he wanted a chance to try and help his hometown team win the stanley cup. Spezza has mostly been used as the 4th line center collecting nine goals and 16 assists for 25 points in 58 games. He got off to a slow start under former Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock, but really found his game again after Babcock was replaced with Sheldon Keefe.
Where Spezza could really help the Maple Leafs is in the playoffs. Spezza has a playoff record of 25 goals and 45 assists for 70 points in 80 playoff games. The experience of playing in 80 playoff games is something you just can not teach. It would be fantastic if Spezza can find a way to turn up the gears and find that next level. The veteran could very well be the unsung hero the Maple Leafs have been waiting for.
Just like Spezza, Barrie got off to a slow season under coach Mike Babcock and did not find his game until Sheldon Keefe took over as coach. After back to back seasons with close to 60 points, Barrie recorded just 39 points in 70 games this season. The main reason for this was how little he was used on the power play under Mike Babcock. In the 2017-18 season, Barrie had 30 power play points. Last season he had 25 power play points and this season just 12.
I think Barrie can be a valuable option for the Maple Leafs on the power play during these playoffs. He has 14 career playoff points in 21 playoff games. I know Barrie has not really been a fan favourite, but the playoffs is where I think he can shine. On top of that, Barrie is a free agent this summer. After having a sub par regular season, Barrie will want to showcase his skills and try to increase his value.
Mikheyev was a wonderful addition to the Maple Leafs this season. General Manager Kyle Dubas signed the Russian as a free agent out of the KHL. The 25 year old had a great start to his NHL career, scoring eight goals and 15 assists for 23 points in 39 games before getting injured. Mikheyev would end up missing the rest of the season after suffering a laceration to his wrist. Before the injury, Mikheyev showed great speed, patience and determination.
Luckily for the Maple Leafs, Mikheyev will be available for the playoffs due to the delay caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Had the season not been interrupted, Mikheyev would have still been on Long Term Injury Reserve (LTIR) during the playoffs. So far during the Maple Leafs playoff training camp, Mikheyev looks just as good or even better than he did before getting hurt. He could find many chances to succeed in these playoffs playing on the Maple Leafs top six.
Final Thoughts on a Unsung Hero
I think all four of these players have the skills to produce in the playoffs. It has been proven time and time again that it is not only the stars who shine in the playoffs. So when the stars of the team are being held off the scoresheet, it is guys like these who help the team win games. With the playoffs starting in less than two weeks, we will soon find out who the Maple Leafs unsung hero will be.
Follow me on Twitter for more great content @Jermz13!
Follow us at @OT_Heroics for more great content!
Also, be sure to check out the Overtime Heroics Forums page to join in on the discussion!