And Then There Were 4 | Clutch: Reasons Teams Are Standing | By @pucksage
Every year, every team, every series for a team to be successful someone has to stand and deliver. The delivery men for the teams left standing today are pretty easy to spot. If your team is out, these are some damn fine players to cheer for.
The New York Rangers, one of just two division winners left at this point the team has gotten contributions from the usual suspects, and bigger contributions from places we might not have expected coming into the playoffs.
- Dan Girardi, what a year for the undrafted defenseman. All Star in the regular season for the first time, and now pushing the team hard in the post season. He’s contributed his normal shutdown defense and unusually is tied for the lead in scoring by a defenseman.
- Brad Richards, his first year in the Big Apple is not going to shabby, he’s been the offensive catalyst he was expected to be and done it against solid goaltending and stiff defense.
- Henrik Lundqvist, is having the post season of his career. His numbers are off the charts compared to previous years. Not only is this the best post season of his career, both his save percentage and goals against average are the best they’ve ever been.
The Phoenix Coyotes are making tracks in new territory. The franchise hadn’t been out of the first round since landing in the desert. Today they’re waiting to start the third round. Calling the year an unparalleled success, especially given the off ice distractions is not an overstatement.
- Mike Smith, new team, new system, new level of success. Barry Melrose said he was unsurprised by Smith’s quality, which must be a shock to all the naysayers from early in the year. Only one goalie has faced more shots this post season this than Smith who has an absolutely gaudy .948sv%.
- Rostislav Klesla, what a complete defenseman. Hits, blocked shots, tied for the league lead in scoring by defensemen, and doing it on under 19 minutes of ice time a night.
- Antoine Vermette, has turned on the jets this post season. He’s got five goals already after scoring just 11 in the regular season. He holds more than half the Coyotes powerplay goals, and his 58.4% faceoff success rate can’t be overlooked.
The Los Angeles Kings it’s sorta funny how we haven’t heard any “Dry Island” stories about key members of this team. It’s also odd that we haven’t heard how good anyone other than Quick has been.
- Jonathan Quick, about the only way to detract from his 8-1, one shutout, .949sv%, and 1.55GAA is to point out he’s faced far fewer shots than his competitors. Not much to stand on.
- Dustin Brown has been hands down the most effective skater in the western conference since the trade deadline. He’s got eleven points in nine games, is a league leading plus nine, and 39 hits along the way. Mr. Messier, this is the man you are looking for.
- Willie Mitchell no disrespect to the other guys on the defense, but Mitchell has played an outstanding playoff so far. Huge minutes, and done well.
The New Jersey Devils have been one of the best stories of the year. Like other teams, they had some ownership issues to be dealt with, and that didn’t stop them from racking up points in perhaps the toughest division in the NHL.
- Ilya Kovalchuk has gone from one dimensional offensive juggernaut to three zone, two way contributor in less than two seasons without giving up anything offensively. He should have been on the Hart Trophy ballot, and this post season he’s 4th in scoring, 1st among forwards in ice time and still putting in consistent shorthanded time.
- David Clarkson like Dan Girardi is an undrafted player having a huge year. 30 goals in the regular season, and now leading the team in game winning goals in the post season. His 41 hits, 8 points, and +6 have been a big part of the reason the Devils can look forward to hosting two or more additional playoff games.
- Martin Brodeur without his best since 2003 GAA, and strong sv% the Devils don’t escape the Panthers in round one, or beat their division rivals the Philadelphia Flyers in the second round. Great resurgence for the now 40 year old legend.
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