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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    McDavid was ‘shocked’ to be removed from the ice and put into concussion protocol

    NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 03:  Connor McDavid #97 of the Edmonton Oilers skates against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on November 3, 2016 in New York City. The Rangers defeated the Oilers 5-3.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    Connor McDavid went through the NHL’s concussion protocol during Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Wild after a spotter in the arena had the Oilers captain removed from the game.

    That, according to McDavid, was a surprising development because, he said, he felt fine.

    McDavid was tripped during the second period. As he fell to the ice, McDavid smacked his face on the ice and was in discomfort as he got up. Shortly after, he was removed from the game and put through protocol. He did return for the third period, but the Oilers lost in overtime.

    “Yeah, I was pretty shocked, to be honest,” said McDavid.

    “I hit my mouth on the ice. You reach up and grab your mouth when you get hit in the mouth. I think that’s a pretty normal thing. Obviously the spotter knew how I was feeling.

    “Sh***y time of the game, too, I guess. It’s a little bit of a partial five-on-three and a power play late in the second period where if you capitalize, it could change the game.”

    True. Because the Oilers did get a brief five-on-three in that second period, with the game tied at a goal apiece.

    But the potential threat of a concussion to any player, not just its young star and top point producer, is something the league must take seriously, especially given the complex nature of such injuries.

    “I don’t write the rules,” said coach Todd McLellan.

    “We abide by them. It’s compounded when you have a five-on-three and you lose arguably one of the best players in the world. For me, I understand and I get and I support the attention that’s being paid to head injuries. It’s … sometimes it’s the inconsistency that’s a little bit frustrating. Ryan Kesler went down the other day and he went down pretty hard. No one wants to see that, even with an opponent, but there wasn’t a call from anywhere. But it’s there for a reason and we have to live with it.”

    Patrick Kane: Others have to ‘step up’ with Toews out of Blackhawks lineup

    CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 15:  Patrick Kane #88 of the Chicago Blackhawks looks on against the Tampa Bay Lightning during Game Six of the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Final at the United Center  on June 15, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    This hasn’t been a great weekend for the Chicago Blackhawks.

    They lost on Saturday and lost again on Sunday, as the Winnipeg Jets came into Chicago and, thanks to a late goal from Andrew Copp, left with a 2-1 victory. The Blackhawks didn’t have Jonathan Toews in the lineup, as their captain remains out with an injury.

    The news wasn’t particularly promising Sunday. Toews, who has four goals and 12 points in 21 games this season, is being kept off the ice for the next few days, because his injury isn’t improving.

    “When you’re missing a guy right away for a couple of games, it may not really show up and guys are excited to get that chance. The longer you go, missing a great player, there’s going to be a hole,” Patrick Kane told CSN Chicago.

    “Nothing we can control. It’s something guys like myself and other guys have to step up and try to [help], whether it’s taking on more ownership and leadership, playing the right way and do whatever you can to help this team win.”

    The Blackhawks have been kept to two or fewer goals in four of their last five games. They haven’t scored a power play goal in the last five games, going 0-for-13 in that stretch.

    In addition to missing Toews, the Blackhawks are also without goalie Corey Crawford for two to three weeks.

    This is a difficult stretch they’re going through.

    “Well, you certainly miss his presence in all aspects of your team game, his leadership as well, as good as anybody that’s played,” coach Joel Quenneville said of Toews. “You use all those important minutes.”

    Report: Connor McDavid undergoing concussion protocol (Updated)

    DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 23:  Connor McDavid #97 of the Edmonton Oilers skates against the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center on November 23, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. The Oilers defeated the Avalanche 6-3. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
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    Connor McDavid is going through the league’s concussion protocol, according to multiple reports during Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Wild.

    Per Terry Jones of the Edmonton Sun, McDavid was ordered to undergo the protocol after falling to the ice when he got tangled up with Jared Spurgeon. As McDavid fell to the ice, his face hit hard and he appeared in immediate discomfort.

    McDavid held the NHL lead with 34 points in 26 games coming into Sunday’s contest.

    Updated: McDavid has returned to the Oilers bench to begin the third period.

    The Flyers have won five straight and Steve Mason has been solid in goal

    Philadelphia Flyers goalie Steve Mason reaches up to make a glove save against the Colorado Avalanche during the third period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, March 24, 2016, in Denver. Philadelphia won 4-2. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
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    The goaltending in Philadelphia has been talked about plenty this season, mainly because it had struggled.

    That is only until recently, even with Michal Neuvirth still out with an injury.

    The Flyers are on a five-game winning streak, reaching the mark with a 4-2 win over the Nashville Predators on Sunday. Wayne Simmonds had a pair of goals and he now has six points in his last six games.

    Ivan Provorov had a productive, two-goal game on Saturday against the Chicago Blackhawks.

    But goaltending has been much better for Philly as of late.

    Steve Mason has been in net for four of the last five wins and he’s given his team the goaltending it needs to have a chance for those victories. Take his first win in this stretch: He faced 47 shots against the Bruins and stopped all but two of them.

    He didn’t face the same workload Sunday against the Predators but he was still busy, particularly in the third period as Nashville pushed for the equalizer.

    He stopped 30 of the 32 shots he faced. In his last four games, he’s allowed only seven goals and no more than two in a game. That save percentage — recently at an ugly .892 — has started to improve. It’s still at .904, which isn’t great. But better than a week ago.

    That’s solid goaltending.

    And right now, the Flyers are on a roll.

    “For me, it’s really the last nine or 10 games. Some of those games, the results didn’t come… games 8, 9 10 ago,” said coach Dave Hakstol.

    “But we were playing really complete games. There’s a time or two in a game where the momentum goes against you, but the bench stays strong and they just go out there and try to push the momentum back our way.”