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.

Rangers punch playoff ticket to wrap up night of clinched spots

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The New York Rangers weren’t ecstatic that Chris Tierney‘s 4-4 goal sent their game to overtime against the San Jose Sharks, but either way, getting beyond regulation punched their ticket to the playoffs on Tuesday night.

For the seventh season in a row, the Rangers are in the NHL’s postseason. They fell to the Sharks 5-4 in overtime, so they haven’t locked down the first wild-card spot in the East … yet. It seems like a matter of time, however.

The Rangers have now made the playoffs in 11 of their last 12 tries, a far cry from the barren stretch where the Rangers failed to make the playoffs from 1997-98 through 2003-04 (with the lockout season punctuating the end of that incompetent era).

New York has pivoted from the John Tortorella days to the Vigneault era, and this season has been especially interesting as they reacted to a 2016 first-round loss to the Penguins by instituting a more attacking style. The Metropolitan Division’s greatness has overshadowed, to some extent, how dramatic the improvement has been.

This result seems like a tidy way to discuss Tuesday’s other events.

The drama ends up being low for the Rangers going forward, and while there might be a shortage of life-or-death playoff struggles, the battles for seeding look to be fierce.

Oilers end NHL’s longest playoff drought; Sharks, Ducks also clinch

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There’s something beautiful about the symmetry on Tuesday … unless you’re a Detroit Red Wings fans, maybe.

On the same night that the longest active NHL playoff streak ended at 25 for Detroit, the longest playoff drought concluded when the Edmonton Oilers clinched a postseason spot by beating the Los Angeles Kings 2-1.

The Oilers haven’t reached the playoffs since 2005-06, when Chris Pronger lifted them to Game 7 of the 2006 Stanley Cup Final.

In doing so, other dominoes fell. Both the Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks also punched their tickets to the postseason.

The Sharks, of course, hope to exceed last season’s surprising run to the 2016 Stanley Cup Final.

Meanwhile, the Anaheim Ducks continue their run of strong postseasons, even as their Cup win fades to the background ever so slightly. All three teams are currently vying for the Pacific Division title.

The Western Conference’s eight teams are dangerously close to being locked into place, as the Nashville Predators, Calgary Flames and St. Louis Blues are all close to looking down their spots as well.

Want the East perspective? Check out this summary of Tuesday’s events from the perspective of the other conference.

Craig Anderson took his blunder hard – probably too hard – in Sens loss

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Members of the Ottawa Senators were quick to come to Craig Anderson‘s blunder (see above) in Tuesday’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, and it’s easy to see why.

It’s not just about his personal struggles, either. When Anderson’s managed to play, he’s been flat-out phenomenal, generating a .927 save percentage that ranks near a Vezina-type level (if he managed to play more than 35 games).

Goaltending has been a huge reason why Ottawa has at least a shot of winning the Atlantic or at least grabbing a round of home-ice advantage, so unlike certain instances where teams shield a goalie’s failures, the defenses are absolutely justified.

Anderson, on the other hand, was very hard on himself.

You have to admire Anderson for taking the blame, even if in very much “hockey player” fashion, he’s not exactly demanding the same sort of credit for his great work this season.

It’s official: Red Wings’ playoff streak ends at 25 seasons

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When we look back at the 2016-17 season for the Detroit Red Wings, it will be remembered for some said endings.

It began without Pavel Datsyuk. We knew that their last game at Joe Louis Arena this season would be their last ever. And now we know that Joe Louis Arena won’t be home to another playoff run.

After 25 straight seasons of making the playoffs – quite often managing deep runs – the Red Wings were officially eliminated on Tuesday night. In getting this far, they enjoyed one of the greatest runs of longevity in NHL history:

Tonight revolves largely around East teams winning and teams clinching bids – the Edmonton Oilers could very well end the league’s longest playoff drought this evening – but this story is more solemn.

EA Sports tweeted out a great infographic:

“Right now it’s hard to talk about it, because you’re a big reason why it’s not continuing,” Henrik Zetterberg said in an NHL.com report absolutely worth your time.

Mike “Doc” Emrick narrated a great look back at Joe Louis Arena here: