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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    Despite tough fight, Stars hand Wild their sixth straight loss

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    The Minnesota Wild put together the kind of effort that would beat a lot of NHL teams on Tuesday. Unfortunately for that beleaguered group, it wasn’t enough to edge the Dallas Stars.

    Despite generating 40 shots on goal and generating 1-0 and 2-1 leads, the Wild lost to the Stars 4-3 in overtime. With that, they’ve lost six straight games.

    (The view doesn’t get much prettier if you pull away a little further, either, as Minnesota’s only won once in the last month, going 1-9-2 in their last 12.)

    Ultimately, the Stars’ big guns were too powerful. Tyler Seguin generated two assists and so did Jamie Benn, who set up John Klingberg‘s overtime game-winning goal.

    Again, the effort sure seemed to be there for the Wild, even if they’re far beyond the point of accepting moral victories.

    As frustrating as this must be, Minnesota’s not that far from a playoff spot. Still, it has to sting to see “Close, but not good enough” as a prevailing theme as of late.

    Royal beating: Lucic, Kings crush Bruins 9-2

    As Boston Bruins' Patrice Bergeron (37) looks on Los Angeles Kings' Milan Lucic waves to the crowd after a tribute to him was played on the screen during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Boston Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
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    The Boston Bruins welcomed Milan Lucic back on Tuesday. Maybe they shouldn’t have extended such a warm welcome to the Los Angeles Kings overall, however.

    You won’t see many games as lopsided as this one, at least in 2015-16, as the Kings walloped the Bruins by a humbling score of 9-2.

    Lucic wasn’t just there, either, as he scored a goal and an assist in his quite triumphant return to Boston.

    Tuukka Rask had a short night in Boston’s net, yet it wasn’t as if Jonas Gustavsson enjoyed his time. It was a pretty sound beating by all accounts.

    This dominant win is a heck of a way for the Kings to begin an imposing seven-game road trip, which continues against the New York Islanders on Thursday. The Bruins probably want to burn the tape on this one themselves, as they’re about to head on a six-game road trip.

    Video: Evander Kane believes he won his fights vs. Alex Petrovic

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    The Florida Panthers are beating up the Buffalo Sabres where it counts – on the scoreboard – but Evander Kane was happy to highlight his perceived victories in a couple bouts.

    Buffalo’s power forward fought Alex Petrovic twice on Tuesday, and Kane wasn’t shy about holding up a “2-0.”

    You can watch the second fight above, and the first one below, via Hockey Fights by way of MSG:

    This GIF might just say it all, really:

    Update: Apparently they fought again moments after this post went up.

    Probably safe to call it a rivalry between the two, right?

    The Panthers ultimately won 7-4.

    Fight video: Yes, a visor-breaking punch

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    Some hockey players resist the urge to wear a visor, at least if they’re given that choice.

    Perhaps a few will say “Hey, Nathan Beaulieu will just punch it off anyway.”

    Maybe not, but Beaulieu provided a rather unique moment in his fight with Cedric Paquette during the Montreal Canadiens – Tampa Bay Lightning game. You can watch that bout in the video above, and see a cut on the Lightning pest’s face from that blow.

    Want it in GIF form? OK then: