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The Hot List

Luongo is on track for his best season

Sunday, 02.06.2011 / 7:19 PM / The Hot List

John Kreiser - Columnist

As good as the Vancouver Canucks have been offensively, Roberto Luongo has been equally good in at the other end of the ice. The Canucks are on top of the overall NHL standings, and Luongo is a big reason why.

Vancouver won its first three games after the All-Star break, and Luongo excelled in his two starts, shutting out Phoenix 6-0 on the road on Wednesday and stopping 42 of 45 shots against Chicago two nights later in a 4-3 win.

Overall, Luongo has won his last four starts, and he's 14-0-5 in his last 19 decisions. His 2.24 goals-against average and .926 save percentage would both be career bests – and improvements on his career marks of 2.55 and .917. He's giving the Canucks the kind of goaltending they'll need if they hope to make a long run this spring.

Thomas leads list of overachievers at All-Star break

Sunday, 01.30.2011 / 5:28 PM / The Hot List

John Kreiser - Columnist

For a guy who wasn't even a No. 1 goaltender in October, Tim Thomas has already had a tremendous season.

It's not that the Boston Bruins didn't know what he was capable of -- Thomas was, after all, the Vezina Trophy winner in 2008-09. But after battling inconsistency and a hip problem in 2009-10, he began this season on the bench as last season's rookie sensation, Tuukka Rask, started the season-opener in Prague.

That didn't last long. Rask lost the opener, Thomas pitched a shutout in Game 2, regained the starting job and has been the NHL's best goaltender all season. He reached the All-Star break on top in goals-against average and save percentage, and tied for the top spot in shutouts. Not coincidentally, the Bruins are on top in the Northeast Division again after struggling to make the playoffs last season.

Thomas may not be the niftiest skater among goalies -- his tumble during his race against Cam Ward during Saturday's Honda SuperSkills competition will live for years -- but when it comes to stopping the puck, he's been the best in the NHL this season.

Briere's hot streak leads Flyers to top in the East

Sunday, 01.16.2011 / 10:36 AM / The Hot List

John Kreiser - Columnist

The littlest Flyer is making a huge impact in Philadelphia again.

After a disappointing regular season Danny Briere led all scorers in last spring's Stanley Cup Playoffs, helping the Flyers get to Game 6 of the Final after barely qualifying for the postseason.

Briere has built on that performance to become one of the big guns on the top team in the Eastern Conference.

Briere entered Sunday's action with a five-game goal scoring streak, matching the best of his career. He has six goals in those five games, and his 24 goals are just one short of his output for all of last season.

Avs' dynamic duo fueling Colorado's surge

Sunday, 12.19.2010 / 1:50 AM / The Hot List

John Kreiser - Columnist

The trade that sent Tomas Fleischmann from Washington to Colorado earlier this month was the best thing that could have happened to Matt Duchene.

Fleischmann, who was often overshadowed by players like Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom in Washington, has been on a tear in Colorado, scoring 5 goals and 10 points in seven games since joining the Avs. His arrival has also been a boon for Duchene, who has 12 points in the seven games since Fleischmann's arrival.

The two were an unbeatable duo last week – both had 4 goals and 7 points as the Avs won three times to extend their winning streak to five games. They accounted for all three game-winners – Fleischmann set up Duchene winner on Monday and scored a third-period hat trick in a 4-3 win at Chicago on Wednesday before Duchene got his second of the game in OT on Friday to give Colorado a 6-5 win against Ottawa.

Fleury's goaltending powers Penguins' surge

Sunday, 12.12.2010 / 2:43 AM / The Hot List

John Kreiser - Columnist

Sidney Crosby may be the biggest reason the Pittsburgh Penguins are the NHL's hottest team. But he's far from the only one.

While Crosby has fueled the attack during Penguins' 12-game winning streak with the best hockey of his career, goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury has been equally brilliant at the other end of the ice. Fleury has been in goal for 11 of the 12 games during the streak, including all three last week -- when he allowed just five goals in victories against New Jersey, Toronto and Buffalo.

Fleury has allowed just 18 goals during the streak and has allowed more than two goals just once in his 11 appearances. It's an incredible turnaround after he went 1-6-0 in his first eight appearances and had a goals-against average of 3.54 on Nov. 6. His GAA is down to 2.31 and his save percentage has risen from .853 to .914.

Crosby raising his game to a new level

Sunday, 12.05.2010 / 1:22 AM / The Hot List

John Kreiser - Columnist

Pittsburgh used to have "Mario the Magnificent." Now there's "Sid the Sensational."

Sidney Crosby staked his claim as one of the NHL's elite players almost as soon as he entered the NHL in 2005. He already owns a scoring title, an MVP award and a Stanley Cup ring -- pretty good for a 23-year-old. But Crosby has been taking his game to a new level this season, and especially in the past month.

Sid got the first natural hat trick of his career on Thursday, scoring all three of Pittsburgh's goals in a 3-2 win against Atlanta. Two nights later, he scored two more goals as the Penguins won 7-2 at Columbus.

The two-goal night gave Crosby 23 in 28 games -- a pace that would put him over the 65-goal mark for a full season. His points streak is at 15 games and counting, and he's scored eight times in his last three games -- including hat tricks in his last two games at the new Consol Energy Center, something that can't make the New Jersey Devils feel very good as they prepare for their first visit on Monday night.

Pavelec's play in goal has keyed Thrashers' surge

Sunday, 11.28.2010 / 1:30 AM / The Hot List

John Kreiser - Columnist

The only thing a lot of fans remember about Atlanta goaltender Ondrej Pavelec is that he's the player who fainted on the ice on opening night. Pavelec was hospitalized with a concussion after collapsing on Oct. 8. He spent some time in a hospital recuperating -- but since returning after missing seven games with the injury, he's been among the NHL's best.

The 23-year-old native of the Czech Republic is the biggest reason the Thrashers have been among the NHL's hottest teams during the past couple of weeks. He was in goal for all four games and allowed just two goals as the Thrashers beat Washington, the Islanders, Detroit and Montreal -- shutting out the division-leading Caps and Canadiens and limiting the Red Wings, the top team in the West, to one goal in a 5-1 rout.

Crosby's on pace for the best season of his career

Sunday, 11.21.2010 / 10:21 AM / The Hot List

John Kreiser - Columnist

Here's some bad news for NHL goaltenders: Sidney Crosby is scoring goals faster than ever.

Crosby got his 14th of the season in his 21st game Friday -- that's three games faster than he's ever gotten to 14. The goal, along with 3 assists, got the Penguins into a shootout with Carolina, and his goal in the second round clinched the 5-4 victory.

Pittsburgh's captain enters the week with an eight-game scoring streak, during which he's put up 8 goals and 18 points. With 14 goals and 33 points in 21 games, he's on pace for career-highs of 55 goals and 129 points.

Goaltenders beware.

Five up -- Five players who have been hot:

Rick Nash -- Columbus' captain is a big reason the Blue Jackets returned from a week in California with a 3-0-0 record. He scored all three of his team's goals in Saturday's 3-0 victory at San Jose, giving him 8 goals during a five-game goal streak.

Price playing at a high level for Canadiens

Sunday, 11.14.2010 / 2:00 AM / The Hot List

John Kreiser - Columnist

The Montreal Canadiens rolled the dice by trading playoff hero Jaroslav Halak to St. Louis during the summer. Thus far, Carey Price is making their gamble pay off.

Halak is playing superbly in St. Louis -- but Price is playing the kind of hockey the Canadiens expected of him when they made him the fifth pick in the 2005 Entry Draft. He earned his 10th victory of the season on Saturday with a 28-save performance in a 7-2 victory against Carolina.

The win capped a week that saw Price go 3-0-0 while outplaying Roberto Luongo in a 2-0 victory against Vancouver and a 34-save performance in a 3-1 win at Boston. After barely making the playoffs, the Canadiens are on top in the Northeast Division, and Price is the biggest reason why.

Thomas is making Bruins almost unbeatable

Sunday, 10.31.2010 / 2:48 AM / The Hot List

John Kreiser - Columnist

If it's possible to play any better than Boston's Tim Thomas is playing right now, NHL shooters might want to hang up their sticks.

The 2009 Vezina Trophy winner turned 2010 backup just completed the best month of his career. Thomas began the season backing up Tuukka Rask, but shut out Phoenix in the Bruins' second game of the season and has been almost unbeatable since.

He finished October with back-to-back shutouts of Toronto and Ottawa, giving him the League lead with three. More important, he ended the month with a 6-0-0 record, tying the team mark set by
Tiny Thompson 73 years ago for the fastest start by a goaltender -- and he surrendered only three goals in the six games, giving him a goals-against average of 0.50 and a save percentage of .984.
Thomas' only question as November dawns is simple: What can he do for an encore?
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