At this point in free agency, the focus shifts from the gems to flawed guys who can still bring some skill to the table. So, going forward, we’ll spotlight individual players who are flying under the radar.
Today’s entry: Vyacheslav “Slava” Kozlov.
Name: Slava Kozlov
Height: 5-10 Weight: 190 lbs.
Strengths: Playmaking, goal scoring
Weaknesses: Strength, size, age, defense
09-10 totals: 55 GP, 8 G, 18 A, 26 P, -15, 33 PIM
The 2009-10 season was a disaster for the aging winger in Atlanta. After putting up big numbers running with Ilya Kovalchuk in 08-09 (76 points), his totals plummeted 50 points to 26 in an injury-plagued 09-10 season.
There are plenty of problems with Kozlov. As I listed in his weaknesses, he’s getting long in the tooth (he’s 38 years old). He won’t threaten the Pavel Datsyuks and Ryan Keslers of the world for the Selke Trophy and he’s small. Versatility is not one of Kozlov’s calling cards.
Still, if he’s willing to play at a discount on a short term contract, it’s possible that he might have enough juice to be a good depth forward. He struggled last season and in 07-08 (41 points), but he put up 76, 80 and 71 points in his other three seasons since the lockout. Since turning 30, Kozlov hit the 20+ goal mark five times.
You won’t find many sports writers calling Kozlov a “warrior” but he could be a useful (and hopefully cheap) option for teams seeking a veteran scoring winger. Would your team benefit from taking a small gamble on Kozlov?
The Boston Bruins keep flipping the script.
In Wednesday’s case, it swerved to a “Cinderella” story, as little-known forward Frank Vatrano scored two of Boston’s three goals – including the overtime clincher – as the B’s beat the Detroit Red Wings 3-2 (OT).
Here’s his first goal of the night:
While this is his overtime game-winner:
It wasn’t a perfect night for the 21-year-old, yet it may have been a convincing one.
The Bruins continue to begin a month on a sour note before ending up with impressive sprees.
October: 0-3-0 start, finished month with four straight wins and victories in six of seven contests.
November: 0-3-0 start, losses in four of five; currently on a four-game winning strek with victories in five of six.
Boston faces a challenge in closing this month out against the Rangers on Friday, and it’s possible that this trend may continue, as they begin December with a three-game road trip through Western Canada.
More than anything else, the safest bet with the Bruins is for ups and downs.
Controversy just seems to find the Pittsburgh Penguins. Credit Sidney Crosby & Co. for responding with a win on Wednesday.
Crosby generated two pretty goals, including this slam-dunk slapper:
… While Evgeni Malkin‘s overtime-winner stood as the Penguins managed a 4-3 overtime win against the St. Louis Blues tonight.
(You can see Malkin’s OT-clincher in the video above this post.)
Will this win and strong performance from Crosby silence murmurs about his relationship with Mario Lemieux? Probably not, yet it likely turns the volume down in some ways, including killing the “Is he struggling because of distractions” storyline.
You know, at least for a little while. Maybe.
Claude Giroux isn’t the nastiest, most physical captain the Philadelphia Flyers have employed. Even so, he can be feisty at times.
Wednesday showed that, as he clearly wasn’t happy with an earlier Nick Leddy hit, and eventually got the New York Islanders defenseman to drop his gloves.
You can see the fight and the check that inspired that scrap in the video above.
It’s the fourth fight Giroux has been a part of, with his most recent adversary being may his most bitter rival.
Not a heavyweight bout between Giroux and Leddy, mind you, but sometimes it’s amusing to soak in such a rare sight.
Update: The fight may have inspired the Islanders more than the Flyers, as they bested Philly 3-1 on Wednesday.
Carter Hutton is getting something that might make fellow Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne jealous: goal support.
Still, there was at least one moment where Rinne was likely happy to be on the bench, as Hutton was left flipping during this collision with Buffalo Sabres forward Marcus Foligno:
Remarkably, Hutton remained in the game.
If you’re the type who loves adding to your “hockey players are tough” files, put this under the goalies section.
Check out this incredible shot of that moment:
Update: The Predators held off the Buffalo Sabres to win 3-2.