PHT's list of players who must prove they're fluke-proof

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Byfuglien.jpgEarlier tonight, I took a look at NHL.com’s list of the seven players hoping to not be “one-hit wonders” next season and included a guess or two on who might succeed. Much like I did with a breakthrough player list, I thought I’d take a look at some other players who might apply. Feel free to share your own choices in the comments.

(Note: there were a few guys I thought about including – like Keith Yandle and Dustin Penner – but I decided they were good enough in the past that their breakthrough years weren’t as surprising as they originally seemed. You’re free to disagree. I also didn’t include Matt Duchene or Steven Stamkos because their success was more predictable.)

Craig Anderson, Avalanche

It’s not crazy to call him one of the most valuable players of the 2009-10 season. Most of the time, I err on the side of giving solid team play the nod over great goaltending, but where would the Avalanche have been without their out-of-almost-nowhere netminder? (My guess: “not in the playoffs.”)

While asking him to win 38 games again might be a bit much, he put up nice save percentage numbers as a Florida Panthers backup so he has a decent chance of at least being an above average player. The team really overachieved last season, so don’t put it all on Anderson if they come up short like previous young upstarts St. Louis and Columbus did in 09-10. That being said, Anderson will be in a contract year in 2010-11 so motivation shouldn’t be an issue.

Jaroslav Halak, Blues

OK, it’s not exactly as if Halak didn’t play a little bit before this season but there’s no doubt that he’s now a (hockey) household name. While there’s no guarantee he’ll be able to follow up a great playoff performance, let’s not forget just how incredible he was for two tough rounds. St. Louis hasn’t been too friendly to goalies in the last, oh, two decades but Halak might just be the tonic.

Or he’ll be wildly disappointing.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Niemi10.jpgAntti Niemi, Blackhawks(?)

Alright, I’m not really going out on a limb here. I actually hesitated to list him because he was pretty hit-or-miss in the playoffs, but who knows if Chicago would have even passed Nashville with Cristobal Huet in net? Niemi has a Cup on his resume, possible salary arbitration in his future and – potentially – a big target on his back as a possible fluke.

Dustin Byfuglien, Thrashers

Like Halak, Byfuglien wasn’t exactly an invisible man before the playoffs but there’s no doubt he made a cannon ball splash in the summer. (Actually, I just pictured “Buffy the Hamburger Slayer” jumping into a swimming pool right now. There isn’t much water left in that imaginary pool.)

Anyway, Byfuglien was on fire in the playoffs and will now have more than a little pressure to produce for a rapidly changing Thrashers team. He has a reputation for checking in and out of games, so his situation will be fun to watch (albeit stressful for Atlanta fans).

Check out the three remaining “one hit wonder” possibilities after the jump.


leinoandgirouxhugitout.jpgVille Leino and Claude Giroux, Flyers

Leino was so productive in the playoffs after a middling regular season, Detroit Red Wings felt a rare emotion: loss. After all, he seemed to be a hot Red Wings prospect for quite some time but only made good on that promise on the hockey world’s biggest stage. How inconsiderate.

Giroux lit up the playoffs in his own right. Actually, he did well enough that I openly wondered what the Flyers would do with their free agent logjam of Leino, Giroux and Jeff Carter next summer. Considering GM Paul Holmgren’s extensive summer investments, expect that to be an interesting thing to watch next July. (And possibly beforehand?)

Lee Stempniak, Free Agent

I was going to put Peter Mueller here, but his run wasn’t as impressive (in my opinion) as Stempniak’s red-hot run with the Coyotes. I mean, seriously, 14 goals in 18 games? That’s ludicrous. That’s Alex Ovechkin-type stuff, there.

No one would say that Stempniak can keep up that absurd 29.2 percent shooting percentage (I’d hope). Yet could that be a sign that he “figured it out”? Well, considering the fact that he doesn’t have any takers in a dry free agent market, general managers seem to say “not likely.”

OK, so those are my seven players. Who else needs to prove that last year wasn’t a fluke?

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    Fights, hits and a blown kiss: Stars and Blues get nasty

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    Things were getting out of hand between the Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues on the scoreboard in an eventual 6-1 Blues win.

    They were also getting a little raucous on the ice when it was clear that the Stars weren’t going to stage a comeback.

    Jamie Benn was whistled for cross-checking Alex Pietrangelo, but it was Stephen Johns‘ hit from behind on Pietrangelo really revved up the violence.

    Watch that hit and then the scrum that ensued in the video above, which included a scary display of an angry Ryan Reaves … who got creative at the end.

    You may also want the kiss alone, so here it is:

    Memo: rough stuff might not work so well against the Blues.

    Read about that blowout here.

    Blues bombard Stars, go up 2-1 in series

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    Sometimes a final score is misleading. In the case of the St. Louis Blues’ 6-1 thrashing of the Dallas Stars, it might just be the start of the story.

    Honestly, the most positive thing the Stars can say is “Well, at least it was just one game.”

    It was one ugly game, however, and now the Blues hold a 2-1 series lead with a chance to really take control if they can win Game 4 at home.

    The Blues dominated just about every category on Tuesday, firing more shots on goal, enjoying better special teams play and throwing more hits. They even blocked a higher number of shots, which often isn’t the case for the squad that carries play.

    This leaves the Stars picking up the pieces, especially when it comes to their work in their own end.

    Do you put greater blame on struggling goalies Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi or is this more about the Stars’ lax defensive coverage? The scary answer may be “Both,” and the Stars likely know that they need to find answers quickly.

    On the bright side for Dallas, it is just one game … and the Blues were searching for answers of their own after Game 1.

    We saw the Blues turn things around with these two straight wins, so now the Stars must show that they can gather themselves and play the attacking, out-score-your-mistakes style that got them here.

    Granted, they may have to keep an eye out for supplemental discipline after some rough stuff toward the end of the game.

    Predators smash Sharks to get back in series

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    After a dispiriting 1-0 goal allowed by Pekka Rinne, things were looking bleak for the Nashville Predators for a moment there.

    Nashville’s developed into a resilient group, however, and they stormed back for a commanding 4-1 win to shrink San Jose’s series advantage to 2-1.

    The Predators saw some of their big names come up huge as the series shifted from San Jose to Nashville.

    Pekka Rinne looked sharp following that first goal (and didn’t allow another). Their goals came from James Neal, Colin Wilson, Filip Forsberg and captain Shea Weber.

    Weber’s tally was the game-winner, and it was downright thunderous:

    Another promising sign: after a struggling to a 2-for-31 clip in previous playoff games, the Predators’ power play went 2-for-5 in Game 3.

    Overall, the Predators really couldn’t ask for much more from this win, especially if Colton Sissons is indeed OK after a scary crash into the Sharks’ net.

    Things could get really interesting if Nashville manages to “hold serve” with another home win on Thursday.

    Stars’ goalie carousel goes around again: Lehtonen replaces Niemi

    Dallas Stars goalie Antti Niemi (31) subs in for goalie Kari Lehtonen (32) during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015, in Dallas. The Stars won 6-5. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
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    It’s pretty tough not to make jokes about the Dallas Stars spending $10.4 million on their goalies at times like these, even if Dallas’ defense should shoulder plenty of blame.

    After Kari Lehtonen was pulled from a Game 2 loss, the St. Louis Blues chased Antti Niemi early in the second period of Game 3 after Niemi allowed three goals on 12 shots.

    Troy Brouwer‘s 3-1 goal was enough for Lindy Ruff to give Niemi the hook:

    Unfortunately for the Stars, Lehtonen got off to a slow start as well, allowing an immediate Vladimir Tarasenko goal.

    The Blues are now 4-1 and the Stars are searching for answers … and probably wishing Tyler Seguin was around to help them out-score their problems.