The All-Star game is approaching and that means we get to look back at the first half of the NHL season. Here are a few surprises and duds from this year.
LW Joffrey Lupul, Toronto Maple Leafs
Lupul has bounced around the league, playing for five teams since 2006-07. His career highs in goals (28) and points (53) came in 2005-06 with Anaheim. However, he’s gotten healthy and found his scoring touch, playing with Phil Kessel. He’s almost surpassed his career high in points already, and is on pace for 36 goals, 91 points. For his great play this season, he was named to his first All-Star game.
RW Matt Read, Philadelphia Flyers
Read is a 25 year old undrafted rookie from Bemidji State. While most were talking about Nugent-Hopkins, Larsson and Landeskog for the Calder Trophy, Read went (for the most part) under the radar before the season. He’s had his doubters, but has proved them wrong with a strong start to the season. He leads rookies in goals (14) and is third in points (30), power play goals (3) and plus/minus (+12). He’s making a strong case to win the award with his two way play.
LW Kris Versteeg, Florida Panthers
Like Lupul, Versteeg has bounced around the league a bit in recent years. He seems to have finally found a home in Florida, as his play has helped the Panthers near the Southeast Division lead for most of the year. He’s on pace for his first 30 goal and 70 point seasons. He’s shooting at 15% and has five game winners (tied for fourth in the NHL). Despite not being named to the All-Star team initially, he may be considered as an injury replacement.
The Entire St. Louis Blues Team
This was a team many weren’t sure where they’d finish. Some had them narrowly making the playoffs as a 7 or 8 seed and others had them missing the playoffs altogether. Nobody expected St. Louis to be one of the leaders heading into the break. Coach Ken Hitchcock seems to be the catalyst, as the Blues have gone 22-5-6 since he was named bench boss. A few days ago, they actually lead the NHL in points and currently are only one behind top team Detroit. All-Star Brian Elliot is having a fantastic year (15-5-1, 1.68, .937, 5 SO), earning himself a two year contract extension.
G Ryan Miller, Buffalo Sabres
Miller was supposed to be the Sabres’ rock, only two years removed from a Vezina winning campaign. His season seemed to turn when he was hit by Boston’s Milan Lucic. Before the collision, he was 5-5 with a 2.67 GAA and a .916 save percentage. After the collision (including the second period of that Boston game), he’s gone 6-9-2 with a 3.43 GAA and a .885 save percentage. Although, it can be argued that leading up to the Boston game he was struggling a bit (1-3, 15 GA). Either way, his poor play has helped the Sabres sink near the bottom of the East.
LW Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
Even after Ovechkin’s subpar year last season (32 goals, 85 points), many expected him to rebound to his 50 goal, 100 point magic. He was ranked #2, with an average selection of 2.2 on Yahoo! fantasy leagues and average pick of 1.6 and auction draft number of near 60 (only one player was picked over 50) on ESPN. He’s having a decent year, but seems to be on pace for last year’s numbers yet again. Hardly the kind of production the Capitals need and many envisioned. His shooting percentage is up from last year, back to his career average. But he has only one game winning goal, after at least five each year since he joined the NHL. He’s also a -6, which would be only the second time he finished a season as a minus player (-19, 2007).
LW Dustin Penner, Los Angeles Kings
The Kings traded defensive prospect Colton Teubert and two draft picks (one first rounder) to Edmonton last season for Penner. Penner struggled with Los Angeles last year, only scoring 2 goals and 6 points in 19 games. However, this season, he has hit a new low, as he’s only on pace for 6 goals, 21 points this season. It would be a full season career low for the winger, and definitely not what the Kings imagined when they made the trade.
Anaheim’s Top Line (Perry-Getzlaf-Ryan)
Last season, the trio combined for 103 goals and 245 points. Perry won the Hart and Richard trophies, hitting the 50 goal mark for the first time. This year, their production has dropped. Their projected totals are 82 goals and 177 points, 21% and 28% decreases, respectively. All three are minus players this season, which Getzlaf near the bottom of the league at -17. Not surprisingly, Anaheim has been fighting Columbus and Edmonton in the standings instead of San Jose and Los Angeles.
Did I miss anyone? Share your thoughts.