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Horvat among NHL stars coming up small early in playoffs

A number of big name stars around the league have not yet made a mark
Los Angeles Kings right wing Gabriel Vilardi (13) celebrates after scoring against Edmonton Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse (25) and goaltender Stuart Skinner (74) during the first period of Game 4 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series hockey game Sunday, April 23, 2023, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

Leon Draisaitl has been lighting it up for Edmonton, Mitch Marner is scoring for Toronto and Roope Hintz is leading the way for Dallas.

They are among the top performers early in the NHL playoffs.

Then there are some big stars around the league who have not yet made a mark. A week into the first round, Bo Horvat and Aleksander Barkov have combined for a goal and two assists with the Islanders and Panthers, respectively, each trailing their series three games to one.

Tampa Bay’s elite goaltender, Andrei Vasilevskiy, also has not been himself, allowing 19 goals through four games as he and the Lightning have fallen behind 3-1 in their series against Toronto and are now on the brink of elimination.

BO HORVAT, Islanders

After scoring a short-handed goal with 2:03 left in a loss to Carolina that put the Islanders on the brink of elimination, Horvat did not even celebrate. New York’s big midseason trade acquisition had been held without a point until garbage time of Game 4.

Winning 55% of his faceoffs and doing a lot of little things right, Horvat acknowledged he needs to produce for the Islanders to avoid a first-round exit.

“I think I can be a lot better,” Horvat said after the 5-2 loss in Game 4. “At the end of the day, I have to find a way to score big goals or get on the scoresheet not in a 5-1 game or a 5-2 game. I’ve got to find ways to make it meaningful, and I’ve got to be better.”

With teammate Mathew Barzal fresh off an extended injury absence and few other offensive stars around him, the Islanders are counting on that from Horvat, who scored 31 goals for Vancouver before the trade and has just eight since.


Florida’s captain has two assists in four games, with the Panthers falling behind 3-1 against top-seeded Boston. The Bruins haven’t had captain Patrice Bergeron and also lost No. 2 center David Krejci to an injury, so Barkov has not had to play defense on them.

After scoring the sixth-most goals in the league during the regular season, the Panthers have averaged under three a game against the rugged Bruins; of the 11 goals, just two have come from Barkov’s top line.

“You don’t want to say you’re getting frustrated,” Barkov said. “The bounces are going to come if you keep working, keep putting pucks to the net, keep going, keep getting guys there. They’re going to come, and we don’t want to get away from that.”

If nothing changes on that front, Florida could get bounced as soon as Wednesday at Boston.


Vasilevskiy has not been the only problem for the Lightning, who are understandably tired after three consecutive trips to the Stanley Cup Final. But he has not been the stalwart in net they’ve needed amid injuries and other mistakes.

The 2019 Vezina Trophy winner as the league’s top goalie and 2021 Conn Smythe Trophy winner as playoff MVP, Vasilevskiy has a save percentage of .856 — worst among those with three-plus starts in the playoffs. If he doesn’t find his form quickly, Tampa Bay could be out as soon as Game 5 in Toronto on Thursday, with the Maple Leafs winning a series for the first time in nearly two decades.


Minnesota’s Kirill Kaprizov and Matt Boldy have been buzzing around plenty against Dallas. But after combining for 71 goals in the regular season, Kaprizov has one and Boldy none through four games of a bruising series tied at 2.

Wild coach Dean Evason said he wasn’t worried: “They’ve just got to continue to play the right way, the same way — they’ll get rewarded.”


The Rangers gave Trocheck a seven-year contract worth $40 million to upgrade down the middle in the offseason. He had zero points through the first three games against the New Jersey Devils before scoring New York’s only goal in a 3-1 loss Monday night that evened the series at 2.

He wasn’t alone, though. Rangers teammate Alexis Lafrenière still hasn’t made it on the scoresheet. On the Devils side, trade-deadline pickup Timo Meier has zeros across the board, too.

—Stephen Whyno, The Associated Press

READ MORE: ‘This is his time’: O’Reilly demonstrating priceless playoff value for Maple Leafs