The Best and Worst of the NHL in 2010-2011
The All-Star break was a chance for players and fans alike to reflect on the first half of yet another NHL season.
Through four months of hockey, there have already been plenty of triumphs, surprises, and failures -- here are the best and worst of 2010-2011 thus far.
Sidney Crosby’s Point Streak – Although Crosby’s 50-point, 25-game consecutive scoring streak fell a few games short of the record (Gretzky’s 153 points in 51 games), it marked the longest run since Mats Sundin tallied points in a 30-game stretch for the Nordiques in the 1992-1993 season. The numbers are incredible: 26 goals, 24 assists, 16 multi-point games, two 4-point games, 3 GWG’s—the list goes on. Thanks to his unrivaled work ethic and talent (plus some luck), it’s hard imagine any other current NHL player coming even close to Crosby’s streak. When you watch Crosby play and see just how well he understands the game, you realize he’s truly in a league of his own.
HBO’s 24/7 – I get choked up just thinking about HBO’s mini-series leading up to the 2011 Winter Classic: sauce on Bruce Boudreau’s face, the Penguins’ mustache boy shootouts, Mike Green’s scooter…they were all great. At the end of the day, 24/7 was everything any hockey fan wanted and then some. It was filled with drama, comedy, action—it was raw, unprecedented access to the NHL. Aside from being filmed beautifully, the show also gave the public a chance to see their idols as real people. Pascal Dupuis the family man, Matt Hendricks the warrior, Matt Cooke the prankster—all relatable characters to our everyday lives. We can only hope that the NHL and HBO will team up again in the future to bring us more of these moments:
Tim Thomas – After winning the Vezina Trophy in 2008-2009 with the Bruins, the 36-year-old netminder faltered greatly last season and saw rookie Tuukka Rask steal the #1 spot in Boston. Instead of throwing in the towel, Thomas silenced his critics by regaining the starting position for the B’s and posting an incredible 24-5-6 record thus far in 2010-2011. Along with his stellar record, Thomas currently leads the league in save percentage (.945%), goals against average (1.81), and shutouts (7). Thanks in large part to his play, the Bruins have given up the fewest number of goals in the NHL and are in first place in the Northeast Division. Quite the renaissance for a veteran who was on the trading block just months ago…
Rookies Galore – San Jose’s Logan Couture, Carolina’s Jeff Skinner, and Philadelphia’s Sergei Bobrovsky have proven through half a season that they are all the real deal. Couture leads all NHL rookies with 22 goals, Skinner’s 40 points in 50 games make him a serious threat for the Calder Trophy, and Bobrovsky’s 21-6-3 record is a huge reason for the Flyers’ success this season. Bobrovsky, the elder of the group at 22 years of age, represents the future for Philadelphia and the solution to decades worth of disappointing goaltending. Meanwhile, Couture and Skinner are easily two of the best up and coming players in the entire league. Check out Skinner’s determination and goal scoring prowess on this shift:
Ilya Kovalchuk and the New Jersey Devils – After reaching the playoffs in 13 consecutive years and 20 of the last 22 seasons, it’s hard to say anyone saw this one coming. The league-worst Devils are currently on pace for just 27 wins and likely the first overall pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft this summer. Future hall-of-famer Martin Brodeur has won a measly 10 games in 35 starts for New Jersey and his .895 SV% is a career worst. On the other end of the ice, the club’s struggles are even worse—the Devils are the only team in the NHL with less than 100 goals scored this season. It’s fair to say that Jersey Shore is no longer the worst televised program coming out of New Jersey—that’d be the Devils’ game broadcasts.
Ilya Kovalchuk, after scoring 40+ goals in six consecutive seasons, is currently ranked 70th in goals in the NHL and is on pace for an uncharacteristic 24-goal campaign. Less-than-impressive numbers for the man who signed an ostentatious 15-year, $100 million contract in the offseason—the longest contract in NHL history. While the rest of the hockey world has been quick to criticize Kovalchuk, his coach and teammates have stuck by his side, insisting that the Russian sniper is truly doing his best to help the team win. After watching Kovy and the Devils play in person, I can confidently say that #17’s compete level is nowhere near where it’s been in past years. He looked apathetic, sloppy, and downright lazy at times. To be fair, I think that attitude is the aggregate of building frustrations from this year’s struggles more than his lack of passion for the game—something I would never question.
Now, if I may, I’d like to sum up the Devils’ entire season thus far with one clip:
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