Tag:Zdeno Chara
Posted on: January 5, 2012 11:26 am
 

Four Sens part of six voted into All-Star Game

By Brian Stubits

Like other sports, the NHL allows fans to vote players into the All-Star Game. Like other sports, the fans get it horribly wrong.

The NHL announced the "starters" for this month's All-Star Game in Ottawa, and not surprisingly it is very Senators friendly. While they aren't really starters for the game, they are all voted in for six guaranteed spots. The vote-ins are as follows:

Forward: Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson, Milan Michalek, all from the Senators.
Defense: Erik Karlsson (Senators) and Dion Phaneuf (Toronto Maple Leafs).
Goaltender: Tim Thomas (Boston Bruins).

That's some impressive ballot-stuffing by the fine folks of Ottawa.

In all honesty, none of the four Sens voted in are completely undeserving of their place in the game. Karlsson has a legit claim to being a vote-in, he leads all defensemen in points and is second in the NHL with 32 assists. Michalek (19 goals) and Spezza (40 points) are both having quality seasons and Alfredsson, well, let's say he sort of deserves a spot at this point when the game is played in Ottawa. But the guaranteed spots? I'm not so sure about that.

Look at it this way: None of the league's top seven goal scorers or top 10 in points was voted in.

Of course, this isn't a big deal. It's the fans voting in six of 42 spots on the team and the hometown fans putting their players in the game. If that's their prerogative, then so be it. They're going to be the ones buying the tickets to the game. If they want to see guys they can watch at home 41 times a season for one more game, that's their right.

At least the fans got it right on Thomas. Craig Anderson was just too tough to vote in to the game, even if he tends for the Sens.

But have no fear. Claude Giroux, Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Steven Stamkos, Phil Kessel, Marian Gaborik, Jonathan Toews, Jimmy Howard, Evgeni Malkin ... they'll all get put in the game if they want to play. They'll be in the draft that will be held once again as captains will pick sides like a schoolyard kickball game.

However the first thought I had when I heard the list (OK, second after remembering to not get all hot and bothered by the hometown players getting in) was to remember the Project Mayhem and how well that worked. Remember the idea where fans were going to vote in all the former Senators tearing it up in the NHL to show Ottawa what they've been missing? Guys like Zdeno Chara -- who should still make it regardless -- and Dany Heatley? How'd that work out?

I don't think these vote-in results will have much of an impact on the All-Star Game viewership. It's hard to find people who actually like it to begin with.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: December 17, 2011 5:20 pm
Edited on: December 17, 2011 5:28 pm
 

Couturier hit in head with puck; Lucic ejected

By: Adam Gretz

The Boston Bruins completely dismantled the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday afternoon, cruising to a 6-0 win in a game that featured the type of physical play that is to be expected anytime these two teams are on the same ice surface.

It wasn't a physical hockey play, however, that resulted in the latest head injury for a Flyers player. With time ticking down in the opening period, and the Flyers already facing a four-goal deficit, rookie forward Sean Couturier was involved in a rather scary incident in front of the net when he was hit in the side of the head with a puck following a shot from his own teammate, defenseman Kimmo Timonen.

He left the game and did not return with what general manager Paul Holmgren described as "a head injury."



That's the type of month it's been for the Flyers, a team that's already lost forwards Claude Giroux and Brayden Schenn, as well as defenseman Chris Pronger, to concussions. It was announced this past week that Pronger is expected to be out for the remainder of the regular season and the playoffs, while there is no immediate timetable for Giroux or Schenn to return.

Of course, that wasn't the only noteworthy development during Saturday's game.

Late in the second period Bruins forward Milan Lucic was given a five-minute major and a game misconduct for hitting Zac Rinaldo from behind, setting off one of the game's three fights.



Given that there was an ejection it's sure to get at least another look from the NHL's disciplinary czar, Brendan Shanahan, even if nothing comes of it. Over the past week we've seen Toronto's Dion Phaneuf and Winnipeg's Zach Bogosian be ejected for hits from behind with no supplemental discipline handed out by the league.

Saturday's game also marked the return of defenseman Zdeno Chara to the Boston lineup and he responded with a Gordie Howe Hat Trick, scoring a goal, recording an assist and fighting Philadelphia's Jody Shelley.

For the Bruins, it's their fourth in a row, a stretch that's seen them outscore their opponents 19-5, as they continue their dominant run that started over a month ago that's seen them post an 18-2-1 record since November 1.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: December 16, 2011 1:39 pm
Edited on: December 16, 2011 2:35 pm
 

Weekend Preview: Flyers streak on sans Pronger, G

Schedules: Friday | Saturday | Sunday

By Brian Stubits

There must be something in the water in Pennsylvania. That's the old cliché people turn to when they can't make sense of what's going on, how people (or teams in this case) continue to perform at a high level despite the obstacles.

We saw it last year (and again this season, really) with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Despite being without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin the second half of last season, they just kept on winning. Their 106 points were tied with the Flyers for most in the Atlantic and were just one point behind the Capitals for best in the East.

This season, the Flyers are getting their own taste of life without their Stars. And just like their Keystone State brethren, they continue to win. As in seven in a row.

Philly has been playing without its captain Chris Pronger for a month now. After yesterday's news, they are going to have to play the rest of the season without him, too. In fact, some are saying that Pronger might never play a game again. After all, he is 37 and he has a life after hockey to think about.

As good as Pronger is and has been his entire career, the Flyers have done a good job overcoming his absence this season -- nay, a great job. Since he last played against Winnipeg on Nov. 19, the Flyers have won nine of 11 games.

As callous as it always feels, the Flyers must move on. While their captain and best defenseman deals with severe post-concussion syndrome, they have a very promising season to continue. With the roster freeze coming next week, it's unlikely the Flyers will acquire some additional help on the blue line in the near future, but it will have to be a consideration for Flyers GM Paul Holmgren.

Holmgren told the media on Friday that he's already considered that, having called all 29 teams, presumably about any defensemen they might have available.

But that's for then. Right now, the Flyers are making due without him or their budding superstar center Claude Giroux (or simply G, as they team calls him). It doesn't seem like it will be a long shelving for Giroux, but you never can know, concussions tend to be pretty fickle.

In the only games the Flyers have played without either player, they have won. Despite missing their leading scorer and a point-producing defenseman, Philly has still averaged 4.5 goals in the two games without Giroux and Pronger.

But now a real test comes to see how they compare with the other beats of the East without the two stars.

The Boston Bruins are nipping on the Flyers' heels for the best record in the Eastern Conference and they, too, have been playing without arguably their best player (skaters-only division) in Zdeno Chara. But the big man might be back in time for the Saturday matinee in Philadelphia.

"We're going to give him a chance to fly and see how he feels," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "If he feels good then we have a chance of seeing him."

Normally I'd lament this game being played without Giroux, Pronger and possibly Chara. But with the way both of them, the Flyers in particular, have played without the all-stars, I don't see it stopping what will likely still be a very good game.

Winnipeg welcome wagon rolls on

This first season with the Jets back in the NHL has been an ongoing welcome wagon for the folks in Manitoba. They were licking their chops at getting to see Ilya Bryzgalov, they relished the opportunity to see former Jet Shane Doan back in Winnipeg.

Now comes perhaps the best welcome/return of them all; Teemu Selanne.

The veteran once starred for the Jets before he was traded to the Anaheim Ducks. He has waited for the chance to go back and play in the first NHL city he called home. Now it comes on Saturday night.

"You know, even when the schedule came out, even when I didn't know if I was going to play or not, I checked right away if we were going to Winnipeg," Selanne said. "That day was on my calendar right away.

"I knew there were two really special things. Obviously the Finland trip and then Winnipeg. It was really exciting to even think about it."

Unlike the welcomes fans in Winnipeg gave to Bryzgalov and, to an extent, Doan, it's hard to imagine there will be any jeers, only cheers for Selanne.

"He was so admired. It was overwhelming," Jets chairman Mark Chipman said of Selanne. "This guy was so good and so approachable and so humble in his approach that the community just absolutely fell head over heels for the guy."

Amazingly, Selanne is still performing at the level he was when he first broke into the NHL with the Jets in the early 90s. That's only going to help the flashbacks for the fans -- minus that whole wearing the Ducks jersey part.

Back in Buffalo

One of the more criticized offseason signings (excluding just about every move made by the Florida Panthers) was the Toronto Maple Leafs signing former Sabres center Tim Connolly. Leafs GM Brian Burke gave Connolly a two-year deal worth $4.75 million per season.

People in Buffalo laughed and simply said "Enjoy!" to their near-neighbors in Toronto. It wasn't about Connolly being a bad player -- he's not at all -- but it was about his health concerns. There always seemed to be something that was keeping Connolly on the bench.

So there's a sense of irony when the Maple Leafs visit the First Niagara Center this weekend. Connolly will be healthy and on the ice against his former team. Although he hasn't been without his health issues this season, when he's been on the ice, he's been good for Toronto. In 18 games played, he has 15 points.

On the other hand, the deal that Buffalo signed with Ville Leino was widely applauded. That one hasn't worked out so well.

Reunion tour continues

The Washington Capitals will be visiting the Colorado Avalanche this weekend. That means they will get to see their old goalie Semyon Varlamov up close and personal again.

Varlamov was traded to the Avs this summer after he made it clear that he was looking to play in the KHL over Washington. So Caps GM George McPhee swung a deal with the Avs to give them Varlamov in exchange for Colorado's first-round draft pick this offseason and their second-round pick.

So not only do the Caps get the chance to say hi to an old friend, but they can help themselves out in more ways than one. The points in the standings are the first and most obvious way, but every game without points for the Avs helps the Caps' first-round draft pick go higher and higher.

Although it's quieted down with Varlamov coming back down to earth, when he and the Avalanche were off to their hot starts, some in Washington wondered if the team made the wrong goalie decision. There might still be some questions considering the duo of Tomas Vokoun and Michal Neuvirth hasn't fared much better, if at all. But at least Neuvirth comes into the game having just shut out the Jets in Winnipeg, so there might be some positive momentum building. The goaltending problems have been as much an issue as anything in D.C. this season.

Canucks are still great

In fact, according to Roberto Luongo they are better than they were last season, which was great.

"We were one win away, so I don't think you need to change much," Luongo said. "That being said, though, we went through a lot last year, and I think we grew as a team. So for that reason alone, I think that we're better than last year."

That's even with him still getting a lot of starts in the net. Remember, he was a Vezina finalist last season. This season? Not so much.

Their next chance to prove Lu right will come in Toronto on Saturday evening for another Hockey Night in Canada appearance.

Stammer don't hurt 'em!

More like don't get hurt Stammer.

With his overtime winner on Thursday night, Steven Stamkos joined Milan Michalek on the top of the goal-scoring list this season with his 19th. Hopefully the same fate that has befallen many of the game's best scorers in recent weeks won't strike the Lightning's superstar.

With Michalek, Giroux, Sidney Crosby and Jeff Skinner (among many others) recently being diagnosed with concussions or at least post-concussion symptoms, the last thing the league wants is another young star to go down. If anything, it would probably love to see Stamkos go on one of his tears and become a positive story in the league again.

He'll have the chance to take the lead in the goals race by himself when Tampa Bay heads to Columbus to face the Blue Jackets.

We're going streaking!

Flyers: As mentioned, they are the hottest thing going in the NHL right now between their seven-game win streak and HBO's 24/7.

Bruins: Philly's opponent brings a modest three-game run of itself into the Saturday matchup.

Chicago Blackhawks: A double-dip awaits the Blackhawks and their three-game win streak as they face the Ducks and Flames.

Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues: We're going to combine these two because they are both riding four-game win streaks and they will face off against one another on Saturday. The Blues also have the Jackets on Sunday.

Dallas Stars: Last on the win side, the Pacific-leading Stars take to New Jersey seeking to extend their three-game streak on Scott Niedermayer Night.

New York Islanders: Once again, the Isles are slumping. They get to face the NHL-best Minnesota Wild with a four-game skid. The good news for New York is Minnesota is likely down a lot of bodies.

Florida Panthers The Southeast leaders are on a mini slump having lost three in a row. They have the Flames and Hurricanes at home this weekend to try and cure the ills.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: December 11, 2011 11:50 am
Edited on: December 11, 2011 5:03 pm
 

Bruins' Chara injured, expected to miss a week

By Brian Stubits

Attention every year is given to the idea that a hangover is the biggest obstacle for a defending champion to overcome (when they have been kept mostly together and the expectations remain, that is). But nothing can derail a repeat opportunity like injuries.

That's especially the case when you are talking about a potentially serious injury to Boston's captain and arguably the team's best player not named Tim, Zdeno Chara.

Half-way through the Bruins' win over the Blue Jackets on Saturday, Chara and Jackets forward Antoine Vermette collided in the Bruins' defensive zone. Chara went down to the ice and didn't return in the game.

As you can see from the replay, Chara's knee is the worry after the seemingly innocuous hit. Like most every team in the NHL now, the Bruins didn't elaborate on the injury after the game, calling it simply a lower-body injury.

"I didn't find out whether it's minor, major, anything," coach Claude Julien said after the game. "That's just what I was told after the third.

"I haven't even seen him yet."

Now the question is when can the Bruins expect Chara back? Is it possible he won't miss a game at all?

"It's hard to comment on that until I know the severity," Julien added. "Throughout the season, you're going to have some injuries, and you're going to have to live with them ... no matter what happens."

Fluto Shinzawa of the Boston Globe says that Chara will likely be out for a week or two with a leg injury. It looks like it will be just a momentary scare for Boston.

However long his absence turns out to be, it's too long for the Bruins (unless, you know, he misses no time). Chara is a huge part of what Boston does and he has been solid this season -- as if we expected anything else. He has six goals, which are good enough for second most among NHL defensemen, and he plays nearly half of every game.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: December 6, 2011 5:05 pm
Edited on: December 6, 2011 5:11 pm
 

Right now it's Boston, and then everybody else

thomas1

By: Adam Gretz


PITTSBURGH -- When discussing the best goalies in the NHL, Boston's Tim Thomas has to be at the top of the list, head and shoulders above the rest of the competition. With two Vezina Trophies and a Stanley Cup on his resume over the past three years, it's hard to argue otherwise. He's once again near the top of the NHL in every category among netminders this season, and he's playing at the top of his game for a Bruins team that continues to play at a level above every other team in the league over the past month.

Thanks to their 3-1 win in Pittsburgh on Monday night, the Bruins won for the 14th time in their past 15 games going back to Nov. 1. The only loss over that stretch came in a shootout against the Detroit Red Wings the day after Thanksgiving, and it was a game that Boston arguably had the upper hand in for much of the day.

Over the past five weeks, they have recorded a point in the standings every time they have stepped on the ice. Right now it's their league, and everybody else just happens to be playing in it.

What's been incredible to watch during this recent run by the defending Stanley Cup champs is that for as well as Thomas has played this season -- and he's been great -- they haven't had to rely on him to carry the load or win games for them on his own. For the season, the Bruins are currently the second-highest scoring team in the NHL -- behind only Philadelphia -- averaging over 3.40 goals per game, nearly a full-goal above the league average. During their 14-0-1 run they've been averaging over four goals per game, and have scored five or more seven times.

That sort of goal support makes life easier for any player in the crease, even one like Thomas that's put up numbers like few others have in the post-lockout NHL.

"It's been easier mentally because you have confidence that your team is going to find a way to come through," said Thomas on Monday night.

"If the team isn't playing well, sometimes the goalie can make the mistake of trying put all the pressure on himself and try to win a game all by himself. But with the team playing the way it has over the past five weeks, you don't have to go into a game feeling like that."

The Bruins' current run came after a sluggish start that was easily attributed to a "Stanley Cup hangover." After the first month of the season they were 3-7 and riding a four-game losing streak that included back-to-back losses to their long-time rivals from Montreal on Oct. 27 and 29.

They haven't lost in regulation since.

"I felt like in the first four weeks, we just weren't ready mentally," said head coach Claude Julien. "Our guys, although they wanted to, that switch hadn't been turned on yet for the season."

"What's been good about it is that we've found our game again, and we seem like we're a group that's excited to play that way every night. It seems like we've gotten up, i guess that good feeling again, and we're willing to do it night after night. That's the difference. We kind of knew what was going on, it wasn't just games, it was practice, it was hard to get ourselves going again. We were slow out of the gate, and the fact that we rebounded that way is pretty impressive for those guys."

The way they're playing is old-school Bruins hockey -- big and bad, tough and physical. They don't back down from anything, and if you punch them in the mouth they're going to come right back at you. And they also have plenty of skill. For as much talk as there is about their two-headed monster in goal with Thomas and Tuukka Rask, or their massive defensemen Zdeno Chara, they're also incredibly deep up front, rolling four lines, all of which can score, and they can play any type of game they need in order to win.

A skilled finese game. Physical. A 6-5 track meet or a 1-0 slug-fest. Whatever they need to do, they can, and will, do it.

Their leading scorer is still a teenager, second-year sensation Tyler Seguin, and Patrice Bergeron has the look of an early-season favorite to take home the Selke Trophy (he finished in the top-five in voting each of the past two seasons), playing the tough minutes and shutting down the oppositions top-players, opening up scoring opportunities for Seguin and the team's other top-scorers. It's difficult to find a weakness right now.

"We've done a good job just coming to play, coming to find a way to win," said Thomas. "We don't know how we're going to win every night, but we're going to do it different ways, with different guys, but all of us together at the same time. It's been pretty nice to be a part of this team over the past month."

"There's been times were we've fell out of exactly how we wanted to play a couple of times during this streak," Thomas later added. "But then at the same time other guys came through with big nights and bailed us out. That's what makes a good team; not everybody is going to be their best every night, but as long as everybody doesn't feel their best on the same night you're going to find a way to come out on top."

And that's all the Bruins are doing right now: coming out on top.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: November 23, 2011 8:16 pm
Edited on: November 24, 2011 12:44 am
 

Sabres respond with quick fights vs. Lucic, Chara

By Brian Stubits

Milan Lucic expected it. Just about everybody who has seen a hockey game before was expecting it. It didn't take long to make it fait accompli.

What's it? In case you have been under a rock, that would be some retaliation on the Bruins' Lucic for the hit that left Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller on the shelf with a concussion. The Sabres, Paul Gaustad in particular, admitted to their embarrassment at the response, or lack thereof, in the game earlier in November. Consider Wednesday's rematch a second chance for the Sabres. And they seized the opportunity.

Not even two minutes into the game, Lucic made his first appearance in the game, going on the ice before a faceoff. Naturally, Gaustad was sent out immediately afterward and the two had some words before the faceoff. Then this happened.

That might be why the Sabres didn't have much of a response in the first place. Lucic gave to Gaustad pretty good. But the deed was done. It's not really about if you take the other guy down, it's that you try to take him down.

"It was an unfortunate incident in Boston," Gaustad said. "I give credit to Milan for fighting. It's something where guys don't have to. He did."

So that was it, right? The Sabres got their retribution? You know better than that.

After a hit behind Tim Thomas' net, another scrap unfolded. There was lots of action, but the stand-alone fight belonged to Robyn Regehr challenging Zdeno Chara.

That one, too, turned out just about how you'd imagine: squarely in the Bruins' favor.

Regehr deserves some major credit for showing the fortitude -- or some might say stupidity -- to challenge Chara to a fight. You don't see Big Z fight often, and that's just because nobody really wants to go a round with the monster. Well Regehr did, and it's just good that Chara let up at the end of the fight.

The intensity remained for the entire game. Just check out Brad Marchand's reaction to the Buffalo bench after scoring a goal later in the game. Yea, this is pretty heated right now.

Sometimes games live up to the expectations. Considering this was the expectation, mission complete.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: November 17, 2011 1:45 pm
Edited on: November 17, 2011 1:48 pm
 

Chara won't be charged by PD for Pacioretty hit

By Brian Stubits

The investigation into Zdeno Chara's hit on the Canadiens' Max Pacioretty last season in Montreal has come to a close, and no charges will be filed against the Boston Bruins captain. And sanity prevailed.

From the CBC in Canada:

In a statement released Thursday, Quebec's director of criminal prosecutions says it does not believe a court would find Chara guilty of a crime and it has closed the case.

Montreal police met with various witnesses and concluded their investigation in August after meeting with Chara himself.

Everybody involved in the matter, including Pacioretty himself, wanted this to be done with a long time ago. It stems back to a nasty hit Chara laid on Pacioretty by the stanchion at the end of the bench that resulted in the breaking of Pacioretty's vertebra.

Chara was not suspended for the hit by the NHL (although imagine what would have happened to him if Brendan Shanahan had begun his tenure already). In the aftermath of the brutal shot, the NHL made a change at all the arena this summer by changing the stanchions to rounded glass at the ends of the benches to significantly decrease the chances of another dangerous hit.

Pacioretty remained out for the remainder of last season but has been on the ice from the start of this season with the Canadiens. In 18 games Pacioretty has eight goals and seven assists, blossoming into one of Montreal's better players. Some, mostly in Montreal, maintain that if Pacioretty were available to play in that series, the Habs don't lose in seven to the eventual Stanley Cup champions. But to that we'll never know the answer.

I'm just glad that the Montreal police backed off of this. It's still exactly the reasoning I'd like to see -- the belief a jury wouldn't convict Chara instead of it simply not being a law-breaking incident -- but in this case sanity wins out.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: November 16, 2011 1:13 pm
Edited on: November 16, 2011 1:31 pm
 

The best NHL All-Star Game write-in candidates

By Brian Stubits

The NHL All-Star voting has commenced on NHL.com and as usual, there are some fan campaigns trying to take the process over.

The first attempt to stuff the ballot boxes was launched well before the season even began. Considering this year's game is in Ottawa, some Maple Leafs fans (specifically a blogger from Pension Plan Puppets) had the idea to mock the Senators for their mismanagement over the years and to vote in all of the ex-Sens around the league. Names like Dany Heatley, Martin Havlat, Zdeno Chara and Marian Hossa -- each with a good shot to make the All-Star Game to begin with -- are the targets. Even Sens fans are getting behind it.

But the second, most recent campaign that has been launched is from the New York Rangers fan base. They want to see their shot-blocking extraordinaire defenseman Dan Girardi get an honor they feel he so richly deserves. Thus, the #VoteForGirardi hash tag was born.

The New York Rangers Blog has been the driving force behind the movement, begging all the Rangers fans to use up their 30-ballot allotment and do their best to get Girardi an All-Star nod.

Girardi was so far off the radar when the ballot was put together, Girardi isn't even on the list to vote from. If he is going to make the ballot, it will be on a write-in basis.

It's not all that surprising, but Girardi has the support of his coach John Tortorella in his All-Star worthiness.

"This league," Tortorella said. "It's because he's not pedigree. There's no pedigree there. Our league is so ass-backwards when it comes to that.

"It's not just this year that he's underrated. This guy has been a really good player, but if you don't have the pedigree in this league, they don't look at you."

I might say he's not in the running because defense isn't something that translates to All-Star status very well except in the case of goaltenders, but I digress.

The Girardi ballot snub got me to thinking: What is the best starting six you can build out of names that didn't make the ballot cut? Here's my write-in submissions.

Forwards

Tyler Seguin, Boston Bruins: No-brainer, right? The kid has been on fire and is two behind Phil Kessel for the league lead in goals scored. His plus-15 is also tops in the NHL.

Kris Versteeg, Florida Panthers: Nobody is talking about Versteeg, but he has to be in the conversation for biggest surprise. His 20 points (9-11=20) tie him for the fourth most in the league.

Johan Franzen, Detroit Red Wings: Hard to believe the Mule isn't on the NHL-generated ballot list, so he makes the cut here. Sixteen points in 16 games (9-7=16) and a plus-6 gets the third nod.

Defensemen

Girardi, Rangers: Considering this is the genesis of the idea, Girardi gets a spot. His 42 blocks are tied for the sixth most in the NHL. And his offense is showing this season with three goals and five assists in 16 games.

Jason Garrison, Panthers: Many people don't even know the Florida blueliner, but he leads all defensemen in goals scored with seven. His booming blast from the back has been a revelation for the Panthers.

Goaltender

Jimmy Howard, Red Wings: There are a lot of great candidates here (Brian Elliott, Jhonas Enroth, Mike Smith) but I give the nod to Howard based on the fact that he's been the best of the true starters (Elliott and Enroth have split) with a .935 save percentage and 1.69 goals against average.

How'd he make the list?

R.J. Umberger, Columbus Blue Jackets: Unfortunately, somebody has to be the standout face that makes you say huh? The token choices of Marc Staal and Sidney Crosby jump out considering neither has played a game this season. But I'm going to go with Umberger considering he has one goal and four assists and is a minus-6 in 17 games.

So do your civic fan duty and vote. Just don't forget about that write-in section!

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com