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The Hot List

Crosby looks as good as ever

Sunday, 11.27.2011 / 10:36 AM / The Hot List

John Kreiser - Columnist

For someone who didn't play NHL hockey for more than 10 months, Sidney Crosby looked right at home last week.

Sidney Crosby
Center - PIT
GOALS: 2 | ASST: 6 | PTS: 8
SOG: 15 | +/-: 7
Pittsburgh's captain returned from a concussion that had kept him out since Jan. 5 without missing a beat, scoring twice and setting up two more goals against the Islanders in his first game back. He finished his first week with two goals (including a game-winner), eight points and a plus-7 rating. He also won more than 55 percent of his 96 faceoffs. All in all, a pretty terrific week for anyone -- let alone a player who hadn't seen the ice for nearly 11 months.

Not coincidentally, the Penguins went 3-0-1 last week to move into the top spot in the overall standings -- proving that Pittsburgh can win with Sid -- or without him.

Giroux stepping up for Flyers

Sunday, 11.20.2011 / 10:07 AM / The Hot List

John Kreiser - Columnist

The Philadelphia Flyers caused a big stir this summer when they dealt two of the NHL's top centers, Mike Richards and Jeff Carter. One reason they could afford to make those moves was Claude Giroux.

Claude Giroux
Right Wing - PHI
GOALS: 11 | ASST: 15 | PTS: 26
SOG: 55 | +/-: 3
The Flyers' first-round pick in 2006 just continues to get better. He piled up seven points in Philadelphia's three games last week and has climbed to second in the scoring race with 27 points overall, one behind Toronto's Phil Kessel. He's had 11 points in seven games this month and 16 in his last 10 games overall.

Five up — Five players who are playing well:

Carey Price -- After some early-season struggles, Montreal's No. 1 goaltender is on a roll. He blanked Carolina 4-0 on Wednesday and did the same against the New York Rangers on Saturday. For the week, he went 2-0-1 and stopped 72 of 74 shots.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins -- The No. 1 pick in last June's NHL Draft had a night to remember on Saturday with five assists in Edmonton's 9-2 win against Chicago. He leads all rookies with 19 points. 

Seguin, Chara have defending champs back on track

Sunday, 11.13.2011 / 10:55 AM / The Hot List

John Kreiser - Columnist

Tyler Seguin
Center - BOS
GOALS: 11 | ASST: 9 | PTS: 20
SOG: 48 | +/-: 14
Tyler Seguin is showing why the Boston Bruins were thrilled to get him with the second pick in the 2010 NHL Draft.

The second-year center has 11 goals in Boston's first 15 games this season, matching his total for all of his rookie season. Nos. 10 and 11 came Saturday night when he scored twice and added an assist in Boston's 6-2 demolition of Buffalo.

The Bruins have won five in a row and scored 30 times during their hot streak, Seguin has seven of those goals, all scored in the last four games, and has assisted on three others. He's also plus-7 during the streak, giving him a League-leading plus-14 rating less than a quarter of the way into the season. Not bad for a kid who doesn't even turn 20 until the final day of January.

Red-hot netminders top this week's hot list

Sunday, 11.06.2011 / 10:42 AM / The Hot List

John Kreiser - Columnist

If it's possible for a goaltender to be playing better than Minnesota's Josh Harding, NHL shooters will be having nightmares.

Harding is the biggest reason the Wild have won their last four games. Not only was Harding in goal for all four games, he pitched a 1-0 shutout in the first one before allowing one goal in each of the next three.

It's quite a turnaround for a career backup who nearly saw his career end due to injuries – he missed all of last season with a knee injury. Harding got only one start before getting the call last Saturday and blanking Detroit 1-0; he allowed only one in the rematch, a 2-1 Minnesota win at Detroit on Tuesday, then surrendered singletons in wins over Vancouver (5-1) and St. Louis (2-1). That's three goals allowed on 129 shots faced – more than enough for even the offensively challenged Wild.

Khabibulin may be returning to his old form

Sunday, 10.30.2011 / 10:47 AM / The Hot List

John Kreiser - Columnist

Nikolai Khabibulin has been reminding NHL shooters that he used to be one of the League's premier goaltenders.

Khabibulin and the rest of the Edmonton Oilers had a miserable season in 2010-11 -- they finished last overall for the second straight season, and he went 10-32-4 with a 3.40 goals-against average and a save percentage of just .890.

But the Oilers, one of the NHL's youngest teams, have won six of their first 10 games, and their 38-year-old goaltender is a big reason for the early success.

Khabibulin allowed just three goals this past week in beating Vancouver (3-2) and Washington (2-1). Through six starts, he's 4-0-2 with a GAA of just 0.97 and a save percentage of .964 -- six goals allowed on 175 shots. He looks like the goaltender who earned the nickname "The Bulin Wall" while leading the Tampa Bay Lightning to the Stanley Cup in 2004, rather than the one who was 17-41-6 in his first two seasons with the Oilers.

L.A.'s Quick has opponents shooting blanks

Sunday, 10.23.2011 / 10:57 AM / The Hot List

John Kreiser - Columnist

Jonathan Quick was supposed to be a placeholder until 2006 first-rounder Jonathan Bernier was ready to take the No. 1 goaltending job in Los Angeles. Instead, the 2005 third-rounder has taken the starting job and won't give it back.

Quick completed the best week by a goaltender in the history of the Kings' franchise on Saturday when he made 28 saves in a 1-0 victory against the Dallas Stars. It was his third consecutive shutout, a first for an L.A. goaltender and the first time it's been done by any NHL goaltender since Columbus' Steve Mason three years ago.

For the season, Quick is off to a 4-0-1 start with a goals-against average of 0.97 and a .967 save percentage. That includes stopping all 83 shots he faced last week.

Tavares paying big dividends for Islanders

Sunday, 10.16.2011 / 11:05 AM / The Hot List

John Kreiser - Columnist

John Tavares is wasting little time showing why the New York Islanders were so eager to get him signed to a long-term contract.

John Tavares
Center - NYI
GOALS: 5 | ASST: 3 | PTS: 8
SOG: 12 | +/-: 4
The first pick in the 2009 Entry Draft had the best two-game stretch of his career last week when he posted back-to-back four-point outings as the Isles beat Tampa Bay and the Rangers. Tavares had two goals and two assists in the first period of a 5-1 victory against the Lightning, then had an assist before scoring the last three goals in the 4-2 win against the Rangers.

Tavares is noticeably bigger and stronger in his third season, and it shows -- he's playing like someone ready to make the leap into stardom. The Isles signed him to a six-year contract extension this summer, locking him up until 2018. Four games into the season, it looks like one of the smartest moves of the year. 

Red-hot Kesler has Canucks inching towards Cup

Monday, 05.09.2011 / 10:10 AM / The Hot List

John Kreiser - Columnist

Ryan Kesler struggled to do much of anything offensively during the Vancouver Canucks' first nine playoff games. During the last three, however, he's been next to unstoppable.
Kesler is the biggest reason the Canucks have a chance to move into the Western Conference Finals with a win Monday (8 p.m. ET, VERSUS, CBC) in Nashville. Kesler had 5 goals and 8 points in the Canucks' last three games. He scored the winning goals in Games 3 and 4 – both times during power plays that came after he drew a penalty on a Nashville player.

Roloson has Lightning halfway to conference finals

Monday, 05.02.2011 / 9:08 AM / The Hot List

John Kreiser - Columnist

The oldest goaltender in this year's Stanley Cup Playoffs has been the best one so far.

Tampa Bay acquired Dwayne Roloson, 41, from the New York Islanders on Jan. 1 in the hope he could help it get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2007. Not only did Roloson get the Lightning into the playoffs, but he has the Bolts two wins away from a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Lightning have been out-shot in all nine of their playoff games this spring. But they've won six of them -- including five in a row -- thanks to Roloson, who has allowed just eight goals as the Bolts rallied for three consecutive wins to stun Pittsburgh in seven games and win their first two against Washington.

Bolland's return keys Hawks' turnaround

Monday, 04.25.2011 / 10:09 AM / The Hot List

John Kreiser - Columnist

If there were a Conn Smythe Trophy for the first round of the playoffs, Chicago's Dave Bolland would be a runaway winner -- even though he missed the first three games.
The Hawks looked like they were on the way out after they lost the first three games of their series with Vancouver -- all without Bolland, who missed the last month of the season with a concussion. But Bolland returned for Game 4, and the series made a 180-degree turn. He had a goal and 3 assists in Chicago's 7-2 win in Game 4, helped shut down the Sedin twins in a 5-0 win in Game 5, then set up Chicago's first goal and scored the second in Sunday's 4-3 OT win in Game 6.

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