Crosby, Ovechkin, Miller rank highest on The Hockey News Top 10 NHL Players list

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crosbyovechkinbattlew.jpgPeople love lists … that’s just science, folks. The Hockey News released its annual yearbook this week, and Mark Stepneski of ESPN Dallas was nice enough to share the top 10 of the well-known publication’s top 50 players list.

 

The top ten players on The Hockey News’ list are:

1. Sidney Crosby, C, Pittsburgh
2. Alex Ovechkin, LW, Washington
3. Ryan Miller, G, Buffalo
4. Pavel Datsyuk, C, Detroit
5. Jonathan Toews, C, Chicago
6. Henrik Sedin, C, Vancouver
7. Duncan Keith, D, Chicago
8. Evgeni Malkin, C, Pittsburgh
9. Nicklas Backstrom, C, Washington
10. Steven Stamkos, C, Tampa Bay

The top two are the biggest no-brainers in hockey, though the order will be up to debate for … oh, the next 10-15 years.

It gets pretty interesting after Ovechkin, though. Ryan Miller is a worthy selection for the top 10; his placement on this list probably boils down to how much you value goalies in the modern NHL. Considering the team around him in Buffalo, I think No. 3 is a solid choice. Pavel Datsyuk is one of the most dangerous and well-rounded players in the NHL, so a No. 4 spot is acceptable too.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for toewsyoungestcaptain.jpgI think Jonathan Toews is still a few strides short of elite at this point in his career, though he had a sensational 2009-10 season. It’s hard for me to look past the fact that his career high in points is 68, even though I love his all-around game, attitude and general moxie. We’ll see how talented he truly is next season since the burden of scoring will be placed more heavily on the Blackhawks’ top scorers. Henrik Sedin is a wonderful player, but I might have placed him lower on the list. Duncan Keith is an excellent choice and No. 7 seems pretty fair for him.

Evgeni Malkin’s placement at No. 8 is a clear snapshot of the “What have you done for me lately?” mindset of modern sports … yet I can’t say it’s totally wrong. I doubt that “being one-dimensional” is really behind his demotion – my guess is it was a pure points-based rating in his case – but he’ll need to have a bounce back year (relatively speaking) to prove that he’s in the same breath as Ovechkin and Crosby.

Nicklas Backstrom is a fine choice for No. 9 and you could probably cajole me into putting him even higher. Who knows how explosive he’d be without Ovechkin, but my guess is that he’d still be an excellent player.

stamkoscrosbyrichard.jpgMaybe this is just my urge to reward versatility talking, but I wonder if Steven Stamkos really is a top-10 player already. Personally, I might have gone with Chris Pronger, Henrik Zetterberg or Henrik Lundqvist in this spot since those three players have made more long-lasting impacts in the league.

Still, this is all meant to spur debate and fun discussion anyway. Who do you think should have been listed in the top 10? Were there any players ranked far too high? Discuss the rankings – and your own picks – in the comments.

Video: Johansen, Fisher join in Predators’ conference title celebration

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After reaching their first ever Western Conference Final, the Nashville Predators topped that in a big way, advancing to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in franchise history.

There were a lot of firsts and rarities along the way.

In ousting the Anaheim Ducks with a 6-3 victory in Game 6, GM David Poile’s team advanced to the championship round for the first time in his lengthy time as an executive.

Peter Laviolette also became the fourth coach in NHL history to bring three different teams to a Stanley Cup Final. The Predators are also the first 16th seed to make it this far.

Yep, that’s a long list of milestones (and not a comprehensive one). And, to think, the Predators haven’t even been on the brink of elimination during the postseason yet.

It’s special stuff, so don’t be surprised by the boisterous celebration you can see in the video above this post’s headline.

P.K. Subban: No city in the NHL ‘has anything on Nashville’

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If there’s one thing we can agree upon about the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it’s that these months have really cemented just how hockey-mad Nashville has become for its Predators.

(Yes, you can call it “Smashville” if you’d like.)

The scene at Bridgestone Arena was as boisterous as ever in the Predators’ 6-3 Game 6 win against the Anaheim Ducks, with legions of fans packing and surrounding the building.

Sights like these have becoming resoundingly normal for a hockey market that was once questioned by media and other fan bases:

Yeah, wow.

As the Predators advanced to their first-ever Stanley Cup Final, plenty of people were making jokes at the expense of the Montreal Canadiens for trading P.K. Subban. Of course, Subban wouldn’t take a shot at the Habs during such a great moment, but his praise for puck-nutty Predators fans says a lot in itself.

“I played in an A+ market my whole career,” Subban said, via Jeremy K. Gover of the Nashville Predators Radio Network. “There’s not a city in the league that has anything on Nashville.”

Whether their opponent is the Pittsburgh Penguins or Ottawa Senators, we already know that Nashville will begin the Stanley Cup Final on the road. That’s OK … Predators fans might need some time to get their voices back and recover from celebrating, so waiting until Games 3 and 4 might be a blessing in disguise.

Ducks’ Cogliano just doesn’t think Predators were the better team

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The Anaheim Ducks battled their way to Game 6 of the Western Conference Final, but Colton Sissons and the Nashville Predators ended their season on Monday.

The Ducks are processing that disappointment – being just two wins away from a trip to the championship round – and some of their reactions might spark a little controversy.

Specifically, it sounds a bit like Bruce Boudreau believing that his Minnesota Wild were superior to the St. Louis Blues despite falling in that series.

Andrew Cogliano, it must be noted, was spurned by Pekka Rinne on some early chances in Game 6. He likely feels as frustrated as any Ducks player right now.

Sisson’s hat-trick goal, making it 4-3 before two empty-netters cemented the 6-3 finish, was the dagger that finally put the hard-working Ducks down.

One can understand some of those feelings from Anaheim, especially considering the frustration of a) getting over Jonathan Bernier‘s early struggles to make a very real game of this and b) occasionally carrying the play in a dramatic way, including in Game 6.

Still, the Predators got the right combination of great stretches of play from Rinne and strong work from the expected and the unexpected, such as Sissons.

For an aging star like Ryan Getzlaf – a player who produced some of his best work late in the season and during the playoffs – you have to wonder how many chances remain.

Predators eliminate Ducks, reach first Stanley Cup Final in franchise history

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Colton Sissons made a serious argument that the Nashville Predators do, indeed, still have a No. 1 center.

At least, he certainly played that way on Monday, generating a hat trick as the Predators eliminated the Anaheim Ducks via a 6-3 win, taking the series 4-2.

In doing so, the Predators advanced to their first Stanley Cup Final in franchise history.

That 6-3 score is very misleading. While Nashville managed 2-0 and 3-1 leads, there was plenty of drama in this one, as the Ducks did not go down easily. Cam Fowler tied it up 3-3 in the third period, briefly stunning a rowdy crowd in Nashville.

Sissons was up to the task, however, settling down a bouncing puck on an otherwise stupendous Calle Jarnkrok pass to score the game-winner, notching a hat trick in the process. Sissons continues to be an unlikely hero for a Predators team dealing with the absence of Ryan Johansen (not to mention Mike Fisher, Craig Smith, and others).

Two empty-netters inflated the score, and they also sapped drama from the closing moments, which must have been quite the relief considering how much resolve Anaheim showed.

Peter Laviolette distinguishes himself as one of the NHL’s most underrated bench bosses, becoming just the fourth coach in league history to take three different teams to a Stanley Cup Final. He couldn’t win it all with the Philadelphia Flyers, but he does have a ring thanks to his time with the Carolina Hurricanes. Perhaps he’ll take another one this spring?

It’s quite the moment for GM David Poile, too, after trading Shea Weber for P.K. Subban and Seth Jones for Johansen, among other pivotal moves.

The Ducks might wonder what could have been if John Gibson played instead of Jonathan Bernier. Bernier struggled early, allowing two goals on the first three shots he faced and generally having a tough Game 6. Pekka Rinne, meanwhile, maintained his mostly great run in the playoffs; he protected a Predators lead even when the Ducks dominated long stretches of play.

Now the Predators get a nice rest, as the Eastern Conference Final continues with a Game 6 on Tuesday (and possibly a Game 7 on Thursday).

They’ll limp a bit toward that final round, but the Predators seem to be embracing new territory. And sometimes new heroes.