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Pleasant NHL Surprises at the Olympic Break

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On the flippity flip, as Michael Scott would have put it, there have been quite a few uplifting things that have happened this season. I know most of the players wouldn’t have it, but am I the only one that watches the Winter Olympics wishing I was watching a good NHL game? What if the NHL doubled down on their coverage during the Olympics? I know NBC wouldn’t have it, but let’s dream for a second. If the NHL ran a bunch of extra nationally televised games wouldn’t you watch them over dudes ice dancing? Although if that were the case I may have missed out on my new favorite human being, Yulia Lipnitskaya, so I may have to rethink this.


Tomas Hertl

Unfortunately this kid has undergone knee surgery although he expects to suit up once again this season. Whether he makes his way back this year and whether or not he delivers on his potential his third career game will be remembered for a long time.


Just sick. He scores by crashing the net on a centering pass, on a breakaway, by clogging the front of the net, and then by having an incredible set of hands. I re-watched that video hoping to make a case for one of his first three goals being more impressive than the fourth, but that fourth goal is just so f’n sweet. This kid was 19 when this game took place and I remember people crying that he was showing off when it happened. Well as far as I am concerned the only person that stands to be publicly embarrassed by that goal is the goalie and he has every opportunity to stop that shot, but he couldn’t, so fuck Martin Biron’s feelings.

Chris Kreider

This 2009 1st round pick is finally paying dividends for the Rangers. Most of the team has struggled with Alain Vigneault’s new offense first system, but not this kid. While the system really hasn’t worked since they scored 130 goals and allowed just 112 in 48 games last year while this year in just 11 more games they have scored just 25 more goals and allowed 34 more goals. However this kid is one of the main reasons the Rangers are sitting second in the Metropolitan division. Last season he totaled just two goals and one assist in 23 games. This season he has tallied 13 goals and 17 assists in 52 games. He has taken on a bigger role, skating about six minutes per game more than he did last season. But this kid that grew up about 20 minutes away from where I rot to death has made a statement this year and at 22 years of age, he is only going to get better. While the Rangers coach might hinder their true greatness that would mimic the Bruins, it might allow this kid to really break out.

Martin St. Louis

We all knew this guy was an f’n amazing hockey player. Last year he edged the field to lead the league in points, thanks to Crosby’s injury but still. This guy is now 38 years old and has not lost a step. In 58 games this season he has already tallied 25 goals and 31 assists. Sure it is a little bit off the pace he had set last year, but last year was a shortened season and he had eight fewer goals on a team that was far worse on the whole. All he has done this year, is continue to rip through the NHL at 38 years old leading the Eastern Conference’s third best team into the Olympic break without the help of Steven Stamkos.

Torey Krug

Krug played in 12 more playoff games last season than he did in his first two NHL seasons. Now in his first full season all this 22 year old kid has done is notch 12 goals 20 assists and help back one of the NHL’s best defenses. He has led the Bruins power play out of the cellar almost single handedly and continues to break out before our eyes.

Ryan Getzlaf

The true leader of the NHL’s best team. Getzlaf enters the break with the third most points and the eighth most goals. While several years back this guy showed some serious prowess, his last few seasons give a hint at how much he has raised his game this season. In 82 games in 2011-12 Getzlaf notched just 11 goals and 46 assists. In 44 of 48 games last season he scored 15 times while assisting on 34 others. Now this year in 56 games he has already scored 29 times and assisted on 38 other goals. The Ducks lead the way in the NHL headed into the break, and while the goaltending has played a major role, so has Ryan Getzlaf with the best season of his career.

Joe Thornton + etc. Assist Numbers

More of a quick note but, you may have realized the Sharks have been really good, but you may not have noticed that while Joe Thornton has scored just 8 times he has tallied 48 assists. Duncan Keither should also be mentioned in this since he played defense yet has three scores and 45 dimes. Actually let’s make this a trio since Nicklas Backstrom has 11 goals and 45 assists.

Jaromir Jagr

Also qualifying as more of a note, Jaromir Jagr might play forever. At 41 years of age, I hate when people say that, and set to turn 42 in just four days, he refuses to show any signs of being too old. He has 17 goals and 32 assists on a team that has scored just 135 points, meaning Jagr has contributed to over 36% of their offense this year, and again he’s about to be forth frigen two years old. He has moved into 7th all time in most goals scored and he could find himself inside the top 5 when he is actually ready to hang up the skates.

Ben Bishop

No Stamkos, no problem. Product of Denver, Colorado, Ben Bishop has made his case to win the Vezina trophy at the Olympic break. In 44 starts he has put together the 3rd best goals against average, the second best save percentage, and the third most wins by a goalie. This 27 year old has been absolutely stellar this year despite the Lightning losing it’s best player in Steven Stamkos. The Lightning struggled last season, because of a lack of competence on the defensive end but especially between the pipes. At least for this season, Bishop seems to be the answer, but if I were him I would enjoy the success while I could. I’m not saying he’s going to be out of the league in a year or two, but history points to him not being a #1 goalie. I am however rooting for him to continue the momentum he has built up before the break into the postseason and hopefully into next season. Hopefully he is the kind of underdog that never got a real shot and not the kind that fizzles out after a big rise.

The Blues

Don’t look now but the St Louis Blues are tied with the Blackhawks, with three games in hand, for the second most points in the NHL. For the record they trail the Ducks by three points but have three games in hand on them as well. The Blues have been incredible in every aspect of the game this season. They are 2nd in goals per game with 3.3, 3rd in goals against with 2.3, 4th in PP% at 21.7%, and are PP Kill % at 85.1%, they are also 22-5-3 at home for fucks sake. This is a really good regular season team. I will say two things. First, I’m not sure you can trust the Blues come playoff time. They might have what it takes to reach the conference finals but I don’t think they have the proven goal scoring to reach the Cup finals let alone win the thing. They have a great balance but they don’t have guys that can step it up in the playoffs. They have a well rounded solid team built for the regular season, but will falter in the playoffs. Second, their biggest problem is their goaltending. They play such a defensive style of hockey to protect Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott. The biggest shame of these Blues playing so well is that young Jake Allen won’t get a shot. He is the one guy that could actually put them over the hump. While he obviously doesn’t have the experience, he has the talent to come in and blow shit up. He can win games by himself and that’s what the Blues will need come playoff time. When the pressure amps up I don’t think they can handle it.

Patrick Roy and the Avs

How good has Patrick Roy been as a head coach? Well good enough to take a young team, whose best player is Matt Duchene and goalies are Capitals washout Semyon Varlamov, and 15 year old veteran Jean-Sebastien Giguere. Somehow Giggy is only 36 years old, even though he seems older than Brodeur to me for some reason. He has been absolutely stellar under Roy’s watch as has Varlamov despite the early career struggles. This young team finished last in the Western Conference and second to just the Florida Panthers in the NHL last season, yet now find themselves within striking distance of having home ice in at least the first round of the NHL playoffs. They don’t have the most star studded lineup, but they without a doubt have the eventual coach of the year.

Josh Harding

It’s a real shame that he has multiple sclerosis. His MS treatment has caused him to miss every game since the turn of the calendar despite being probably the best goalie in the NHL in the 2013 portion of the 2013-14 season. The Wild have been really strong this year, after a year of being able to gel, and he has been a huge piece in their success. He has started in 26 games and has recorded an NHL best 1.66 goals against average which is the best in the league by .19, which is a rather astounding mark. He is also second in save percentage with a .933 rating. Imagine what this guy would be doing if he didn’t have MS. He is absolutely on the top of his game, but he needs to get back to being healthy for a playoff push to really put his mark on this season.

Ovechkin’s Goals

Uhhh, Ovi has more goals in 55 games than he had in any season since 2009-10. He has hit the 40 goal mark in just 55 games played despite not having that in a single season since he had 50 back in 2009-10. His assist numbers aren’t on par with his best seasons, but neither is his team. They play such poor defense, that he has to kind of carry the load with the offense, not that he plays all that great of a defensive game to set the tone. By the way did you know Pavel Datsyuk, my boy, is the captain for the Russian team? All you hear about is Ovi so I just assumed it would be Ovi, but instead it’s the Magician despite being injured for a good portion of recent history.

Phil Kessel

This kid has been playing his ass off. His 31 goals are something we have come to expect but his 34 assists are far more than anyone could have expected, and the Maple Leafs still have 22 games left. In 60 games he has accumulated more assists in any season other than 2011-12 and has within one goal of scoring more goals in any season other than 2011-12. Realistically he should break all of his career bests for a season this year, that’s how good he has been playing. He is playing more of a team game this year instead of a me first type game. It has shown too, since the Maple Leafs are tied with the Habs for the last guaranteed spot in the Atlantic division and hold possession of the top Wild Card spot. This is the guy leading this Toronto team, and the Maple Leaf fans want nothing more than for him to lead them to the promise land to rub it in the fans of the Bruins’ noses.

Marc-Andre Fleury

Without a doubt this is the best statistical career of his life. I don’t know about you but I am really excited for him to choke again in the playoffs. This guy has been absolutely stout this season, but that is coming on the heels of losing himself in the playoffs last year. He can be an emotional wreck, and probably will be soon enough, but this guy is playing some stellar hockey this season despite guys like Kris Letang playing so poorly in front of him. 

Gustav Nyquist

I’ll be happy to close out on a bit of a homer pick. This kid has been flat out incredible this season. With Pavel Datsyuk out the 24 year old center, Nyquist, has tallied 9 goals and 5 dimes in 10 games. He might just be goooooooood. .


Monday, February 10, 2014

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