PITTSBURGH -- There's no question that Game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals was the most dynamic of the series thus far.
Now, imagine if the best players in this star-studded hockey gala actually started to play to their potential.
Apart from Sidney Crosby and Nicklas Lidstrom, the respective captains of the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Detroit Red Wings, the talented casts each team boasts have left a lot to be desired in their performance.
Here's a look at those who range from ghost-like to flat-out invisible in this series heading into Saturday's Game 4:
Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk
It's hard to criticize players who still seem to have the puck all the time. And there is the fact that Datsyuk has turned into a human wrecking ball, knocking Ryan Malone into the middle of next season in the second period of Game 3. The pair also shut down the Crosby line in Games 1 and 2.
Still (and you knew this was coming, didn't you?), the two have combined for two points in three games. Zetterberg's lone goal was a relatively meaningless power-play marker late in Game 1 and Datsyuk is pointless.
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said he thought the two were extending their shifts a bit in Game 3 and that might have contributed to a lull in Detroit's play in the middle of the game.
"Well, our plan going into the game last night was, if you look at the game sheet, to have our shifts at 35 seconds," Babcock said. "So, you say that as a coach, you know that means 40. When they end up at 51 seconds and you pile that on over a period of time, 29 or 28 shifts end up to be too many minutes.
"Don't get me wrong. These guys are elite, elite players and they're trying to win. And sometimes in doing that, instead of just doing your part, you're on the ice too much."
"You feel it in your legs," he said. "But sometimes, if you've been on there for 30 seconds and you have a chance to go out for another rush, it's tough to go to the bench. Sometimes you want to create some more offense and sometimes you get caught out there and you will pay for it in the end."
Now, we know what you're going to say -- "Hey, Hossa had two assists and was a plus-1 in Game 3." Trust us, that was mostly illusory. Both assists came after Hossa's shots were blocked and Crosby closed the deal. Hossa had at least three glorious chances to score and didn't. Throughout the series, he has seemed unable to maintain control of the puck, which is crucial to his game. When he's on his game, Hossa is almost impossible to dislodge from the puck along the goal line and his ability to walk in from down low is difficult to defend without drawing a penalty. He was dominant in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals, collecting four points, and has been very good for much of the postseason. If he can get back to that level of play, he makes the Crosby line very difficult to contain.
"For him to be successful, he's got to move his feet," Penguins coach Michel Therrien said. "He's got to protect the puck."
It may be piling on a bit to again ask where is Evgeni Malkin's game. But the fact is he has just two points in his last seven postseason games. Now, to be fair, Malkin was much better in Game 3 than in the first two games of the series. Of course, the bar was set pretty low given Malkin's tepid performances in Detroit. In Game 3, though, he was diving for loose pucks; he controlled the puck more than he has in some time and actually had three shots on net after having just one in the first two games. Malkin was an even player after being minus-3 in the first two games.
"I liked Malkin's game [Wednesday]," Therrien said. "I thought it was his best game in the final. Even if he didn't score, I thought he generated a lot, he was skating well. We could see that he was going to the right direction. So, that's a good sign for him."
If Malkin can build off Game 3 and control the flow of play as he did earlier in the playoffs, it will put more pressure on the Red Wings' defense and take some pressure off the Crosby line.
After a nice start to the postseason, Petr Sykora has one tiny point in his past seven games. Part of that is because as Malkin goes, so goes Sykora, who plays on Malkin's wing. But Sykora seems a bit fearful of Niklas Kronwall after the Detroit defenseman narrowly missed Sykora with one of his patented bone-crushers in Game 1. Unless Sykora gets himself back into high-traffic areas around the net, it will be difficult for Malkin to be as effective as the Pens need him to be.
After recording 10 points in his first 13 playoff games, the former New Jersey defender has failed to record a point in his past six games. Rafalski, who logs considerable power-play time and plays with Lidstrom at even strength, can be a difference-maker given his puck-handling skills. He just hasn't been that yet.
Scott Burnside is the NHL writer for ESPN.com.