Poll: Who is the best active American hockey player?

11 Comments

This might be the greatest time ever for U.S. born goalies, but it’s a pretty special time for American hockey in general. Since this is the Fourth of July, we have the old red-white-and-blue on our minds, so we thought we’d take a look at the best active American hockey players and then ask you which one is the greatest of them all.

Feel free to use whatever criteria you want, with one exception: consider them at this moment in time instead of their full-fledged careers. (Otherwise semi-active Mike Modano would dominate to the point of boredom.)

Here’s a quick list of the top candidates. You can write-in your own choices in the “other” category in the poll if your favorite isn’t represented.

Patrick Kane

While they play different styles (one was a physical player, the other plays much more on the perimeter), Patrick Kane is the spiritual successor to Jeremy Roenick. They’re both charismatic high draft picks for the Chicago Blackhawks who often have funny things to say and oodles of on-ice flair. Each guy has had his off-ice moments, but they’re mostly beloved in the hockey community … and with good reason.

Tim Thomas

In the last three seasons, Thomas amassed two Vezina Trophies, one Conn Smythe and a Stanley Cup. His unorthodox style occasionally prompts people to throw him under the bus but he just contorts his body out of danger time and time again. As I said before, Thomas is the American Dream in hockey pads.

Ryan Miller

He’s not as hot a topic in the moment as Thomas is, but Miller might be just as much of a household name because of his great 2010 Olympic performance and 2010 Vezina Trophy. It’s quite possible that Miller is staring at his greatest opportunity to win the Cup since Danny Briere and Chris Drury bolted for big bucks.

Zach Parise

Will an injury-plagued season hurt Parise in the eyes of voters? It shouldn’t because he’s a high-scoring player (one 94 point season, one 82-point campaign) who racked up crazy plus/minus numbers on his way to becoming one of New Jersey’s most devilish first round draft steals.

Ryan Kesler

He might have burnt some bridges by swearing his semi-allegiance to Canada and the Vancouver Canucks, but Kesler’s do-it-all mentality makes him appealing to Americans nonetheless. The 2011 Selke Trophy winner is a favorite among hockey connoisseurs but he can score quite a bit too, crossing the 70-point barrier in two straight seasons.

Phil Kessel, Dustin Brown, Bobby Ryan, Ryan Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky, Joe Pavelski, David Backes, Paul Martin, Ryan Suter, Erik Johnson, Jack Johnson, Jonathan Quick, Jimmy Howard and Craig Anderson

From dynamic goal scorers (Kessel and Ryan) to more balanced guys with offensive potential (Callahan, Dubinsky, Backes, Brown and Pavelski), there are plenty of other strong forward choices. Suter, Martin and Erik Johnson are among the best American born blueliners while Quick, Howard and Anderson are top goalies on NHL teams. Any number of these guys could capture the hearts of hockey fans even if they’re not necessarily on the marquee level (although Ryan is awfully close).

To keep the poll reasonable, 10 of the players listed in this post will be named as choices but you can fill in your own choice in the “Other” category if those nominees aren’t good enough. The contestants are listed in alphabetical order.

Look at what Rangers are up against right now

Getty
Leave a comment

You have to really squint to find bright sides to look on if you’re the New York Rangers.

The Rangers are currently on a five-game losing streak and have one shabby win to show for their first eight games of 2017-18, and they’ll shortly face a challenge in the Nashville Predators, who are riding a five-game point streak (4-0-1 after losing their first two games).

With six of those eight games coming at home, the Rangers are really squandering opportunities in the malicious Metro. About the only positive things you can say boil down to: a) scrapping two “loser points” out of the past two games and b) the team at least saying the right things, as Rick Nash notes according to the New York Post’s Larry Brooks.

“The bad teams I’ve been on, guys get away from the game plan, they don’t give the effort and there’s finger-pointing, whether in the room between guys; from the coach; or in the media. That’s what happens when things get away from you as a team.

“None of that is happening here,” Nash said. “We’re together and we’re focusing on taking this one step at a time.”

They might be wise not to look at the divisional standings. Just consider some of the teams they’re up against:

Devils (12 points in 8 games): New Jersey currently has a perfect road record and a fleet of young legs, something the transitional Rangers must envy. Even if they’re likely to slip (being blanked by the Sharks could be an early sign of regression), the Devils figure to be a tougher out this season.

Penguins (11 points in 8 games): Not much needs to be said, though it’s worth noting that they’ve won three in a row.

Blue Jackets (10 points in 7 games): All signs point to former Rangers coach John Tortorella’s group being very much the threat that once surprised us.

Capitals (9 points in 8 games): Finding ways to win, and scrappy in particular on the road so far (3-1-1 away record).

Flyers (8 points in 7 games): Might be better than their record indicates, at least judging by their +9 goal differential. Philly has the potential to at least be a pesky “bubble” team.

Hurricanes (7 points in 5 games): Light early schedule might keep them under the radar, for now.

Islanders (7 points in 7 games): Mixed results might not help the Islanders retain John Tavares, but a competent Isles team would only make it tougher for the Rangers.

Yeesh, kind of discouraging, right?

The Rangers currently sit at four points in eight games played, and like this post argues, they really need to wake up soon. They’ve already played six home vs. two road contests, and they face a similar saturation of MSG going forward.

Counting today’s game hosting the rising Predators, the Rangers play the next three in a row at home. After that, they play three of four on the road, but then enjoy a three-game homestand.

So, by Nov. 11, they’ll have played 13 games at home and just five on the road.

One gets the sense that the seat is getting hotter for Alain Vigneault by the day. Fair or not, it might feel like it’s boiling if the Rangers are still a wreck in mid-November.

(If he still has a seat at the table, at all.)

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

MORE FROM NHL ON NBC SPORTS:

Devils fans help singer who forgot words to national anthem (Video)

NHL
8 Comments

The biggest save of the night at Prudential Center on Friday didn’t come from either goaltender, but rather New Jersey Devils fans in attendance for their game against the San Jose Sharks.

Lauralie Mufute began singing the national anthem but midway through forgot the words. That’s when the crowd of 14,381 picked up where the 14-year-old left off and finished the song.

A great job by the crowd in what certainly was a terrifying moment for the young performer.

These flaps happen, as we’ve seen many times before in different situations. It’s always good to know the crowd can act as backup singers in times of need.

————

Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

The Buzzer: Ovechkin’s blast lifts Capitals in OT, Sheary speeds by Panthers

Getty
1 Comment

Player of the night: Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals

Alex Ovechkin has already reached double digits in goals scored in this new campaign. The Capitals’ star recorded his 10th goal of the season on Friday and it counted as the overtime winner against the Detroit Red Wings.

The Capitals trailed late in the third period, but T.J. Oshie scored the tying goal and Ovechkin won it on a power play less than two minutes into the extra period, as he deployed that famous one-timer slap shot from his off-wing. This time, Petr Mrazek was victimized by the wicked slapper.

Ovechkin is now only two goals behind the entire Montreal Canadiens team — in the same amount of games.

Highlight of the night:

What a weapon speed is in today’s National Hockey League. Conor Sheary illustrated that once again, as he saw a little bit of room down the left side and flew around Alex Petrovic before making a move to the backhand on James Reimer. That goal counted as the eventual winner, as the Penguins defeated the Panthers 4-3. Earlier in the third period, Sheary and Roberto Luongo came together near the Florida net, causing Luongo’s right hand to get caught against the post, injuring the Panthers’ netminder.

Factoid of the night:

It was a milestone night in Winnipeg for Blake Wheeler and coach Paul Maurice.

Scores:

Vancouver 4, Buffalo 2

San Jose 3, New Jersey 0

Washington 4, Detroit 3 (OT)

Pittsburgh 4, Florida 3

Winnipeg 4, Minnesota 3

Anaheim 6, Montreal 2

————

Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

MORE FROM NHL ON NBC SPORTS:

Video: Price takes out his frustration, as the Habs were crushed again

Getty
6 Comments

It’s gone from bad, to worse, to an absolute nightmare for the Montreal Canadiens.

A three-game trip through California is never fun for opposing teams, but this was misery for the Habs. They were outscored a combined 16-5 in three games against the Sharks, Kings and Ducks, with few, if any positives beyond the second period in a 6-2 loss in Anaheim on Friday.

Montreal hasn’t won since its season opener on Oct. 5, and is now on a seven-game losing skid, unable to generate much offensively with a league worst 10 goals scored through seven games before tonight, while giving up plenty of goals at the other end.

That is a recipe for disaster and even though it’s still early in the season, this has to be a major concern for coach Claude Julien and, in particular, general manager Marc Bergevin.

Read more: Is there a trade to be made between the Penguins and Canadiens?

Down by three after the first period, Montreal had 30 shots on goal during the middle frame and managed to trim Anaheim’s lead down to one heading into the third period. And then, just when it seemed like maybe they were on a path toward an inspirational comeback on the road, it all fell apart.

Three straight goals for Anaheim, with journeyman forward Derek Grant scoring the first two goals of his NHL career — in game No. 93.

As you can probably tell from the clip below, Carey Price was visibly irritated, as he whacked his goalie stick against the post after the sixth Anaheim goal.

————

Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

MORE FROM NHL ON NBC SPORTS: