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.

Hitchcock believes Blues’ Allen is ‘locked up mentally’

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 08: Jake Allen #34 of the St. Louis Blues makes the third period save against the New York Islanders at the Barclays Center on December 8, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Things were already rough for the St. Louis Blues and their goalies (particularly still-pretty-newly crowned No. 1 Jake Allen) heading into Thursday, but the Washington Capitals really highlighted those issues in a 7-3 thrashing.

Blues fans and management must be wondering, then: what’s wrong with their goalies, especially with Allen? Head coach Ken Hitchcock seems resigned to allowing him to fight through it, if nothing else.

“There’s a lot going on right now. … He’s kind of locked up mentally and he’s going to have to fight through this,” Hitchock said, according to Lou Korac of NHL.com. “What we see at practice, we like. That’s why we put him in quite frankly.”

Alex Pietrangelo did the typical deflecting thing, nothing that this is a “team” and that there are “no individuals.”

Still, Hitchcock’s longer press conference makes you wonder how much trust there is in Allen and Carter Hutton.

From Hitch’s perspective, it sure sounds like he believes that the Blues are over-correcting to try to limit “goals, shots.” By trying to do too much, they might be putting themselves in bad positions. And that might stem from a lack of confidence in the guys in net, or in the team’s work in their own zone overall.

Let’s be honest. As much as we can play chicken-or-the-egg as far as a defense’s impact on a goalie, it’s tough to explain away save percentages under .900 in the modern NHL. At some point, your team needs more stops.

With the races for the lower spots in the Western Conference’s playoff picture seemingly tightening up, the Blues don’t have a ton of time to figure this out.

Capitals shine glaring light on Blues’ goalie woes

ST LOUIS, MO - MAY 23:  Jake Allen #34 of the St. Louis Blues makes a save during the first period against the San Jose Sharks in Game Five of the Western Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scottrade Center on May 23, 2016 in St Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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If you’re reaction to the headline “Something is off about the St. Louis Blues” was “Yeah, their goaltending,” then Thursday only emboldened that opinion.

It wasn’t just that the Washington Capitals bombarded the Blues by a score of 7-3. It’s that they really didn’t need to fire a whole lot of shots on goal to get to seven.

Here’s a harsh rule of thumb: when both of your goalies play in a game and each one barely makes more saves than goals allowed, that’s an awful night. Take a look at what Jake Allen and Carter Hutton went through:

Allen: six saves, four goals allowed in 25:11 time on ice
Hutton: five saves, three goals allowed in 35:49

Allen got pulled from the contest twice, by the way. He’s been pulled from four games since Dec. 30. Woof.

Even before these horrendous performances, the Blues goalies have been shaky. Hutton came into tonight with an ugly .898 save percentage; Allen wasn’t much better with a .900 mark.

Those are the type of numbers that would make Dallas Stars fans cringe, or at least experience some uncomfortable familiarity.

Now, is it all on Hutton and Allen? Much like with the Stars’ embattled goalies, much of the struggles probably come down to a team struggling in front of them.

Even so, if you assign more of the blame to Allen and Hutton, nights like this Capitals thrashing definitely strengthen your argument. Yikes.

Rangers overwhelm Leafs, make life pretty easy for Lundqvist in win

TORONTO, ON - JANUARY 19:  Henrik Lundqvist #30 of the New York Rangers faces a shot in the warm-up prior to play against the Toronto Maple Leafs in an NHL game at the Air Canada Centre on January 19, 2017 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
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Heading into Thursday, many were wondering how the New York Rangers will handle Henrik Lundqvist‘s struggles. Instead, the focus shifted to the Toronto Maple Leafs’ difficulties, perhaps specifically in dealing with Morgan Rielly‘s absence.

The Rangers handily won this one 5-2, at least giving Lundqvist the win. He wasn’t especially busy, stopping 23 out of 25 shots, so you can probably file his story under “To be continued.”

Lundqvist wasn’t oblivious to his team’s impressive overall play.

Really, it was all about the waves of attackers the Rangers can send at opponents and the trouble that caused for the Maple Leafs. It wasn’t the easiest night for Frank Corrado, in particular, who took a couple costly penalties.

The Rangers’ next two games come in a road contest vs. the Red Wings on Sunday and a home game against the Kings on Monday. Perhaps those matches will serve as a better barometer for where Lundqvist’s really at, as he passed tonight’s test … but it wasn’t a particularly difficult one.

So, is Mike Condon actually really good? He certainly was against Columbus

OTTAWA, ON - JANUARY 8: Mike Condon #1 of the Ottawa Senators stands at the bench during a break in a game against the Edmonton Oilers at Canadian Tire Centre on January 8, 2017 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***
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Considering their numbers heading in, many were perplexed when the Ottawa Senators essentially replaced Andrew Hammond with Mike Condon. Now many are perplexed by just how strong Condon’s often been for Ottawa.

Thursday might stand as the prime example that this guy could be better than many expected.

The Columbus Blue Jackets dominated much of the play, generating a 42-28 shots on goal advantage, but Ottawa ended up winning 2-0 tonight.

Condon already came into tonight with a solid save percentage (.915 before this shutout), and he’s now won four of his last five games. Three of his four career shutouts have come this season.

Ignoring his one relief appearance with Pittsburgh this season for the sake of simplicity, just consider his tough times with Montreal last season. He went 21-25-6 with a shaky .903 save percentage.

This marks just his 21st start and 23rd appearance of this season, so it’s not a guaranteee for future results. Still … it’s another example that goalies are as just about as unpredictable as they are crucial to a team’s fate.

More and more, it seems like Condon might just be a difference-maker, and in the positive sense this time around.