Welcome to new and old readers alike. This is Gavin checking in with the first in what will be a series of posts bringing you who’s hot and who is not from around the hockey world. Of course since this is the first week we’ve had this feature, and it’s perhaps the final week of the season, we’ll have some creative uses of this feature, and if you’ve got anything you want me to cover, feel free to shout it out in the comments section. I aim to please (unless your idea is stupid, in which case, piss off).
Anyway, for this week we’ll look at the first three games in the Finals:
- Claude Giroux – Philadelphia’s 22 year old center scored his first three points of the series in the Game 3 win, but boy were they a big three points. Disrupting the calls from some parts of the blogosphere for a Chicago sweep, Giroux came up big with the overtime winner. What makes him #1 for now? The fact that he did it after his friend sent him a text message reading, “I’ve got a feeling you’re going to score the overtime winner tonight” and he did. Damn.
- Scott Hartnell - Hartnell isn’t a flashy player, and in a series like this with so many flashy players, it might be easy to forget the gritty play that Hartnell has brought to the table. None the less, he’s managed to put in two goals and three assists for five points over the first three games. Not too shabby. In addition, he brings a rough and tumble game that exemplifies Flyers hockey. Love it or hate it, it’s unlikely the Flyers will go quietly into the night. And Hartnell is one of the many reasons for that fact.
- Chris Pronger- The Flyers sweep the “Hot” spot for this week, primarily because the Blackhawks, even in their wins have not had any single player step up with outstanding performances. Pronger is here because he’s a workhorse. He lead all players from both teams in ice time for the first three games, and hit the ice for 32:21 in game 1. That’s a workhorse if I’ve ever seen one… even if I hate the bastard.
- Mike Richards – It seems fitting that if the three “Hot” players are from Philly, the top “Not” ought to be as well. Well here he is. If the Flyers are going to come back from the 2-1 deficit, and make a run for the Cup, they’ll need Richards to step up his game. As one of the players that has brought his “A” game through the playoffs, he’s failed to bring it during the Final. With only one assist to his name this series, and a combined -5, he’s going to need to turn it on.
- Antti Niemi – Niemi hasn’t been counted on by the Blackhawks for off-the-wall spectacular performances this post-season, but he’s going to need to do better than the .896 save percentage that he has posted so far. Despite having two wins under his belt, the Flyers may get right back into it if he can’t get his act together. The tendency to give up untimely goals could hurt in the long run if he doesn’t snap out of it.
- Dustin Byfuglien – In his defense, he would certainly have been on the “hot” side of this list if it had existed earlier in this post season. However once matched up against Pronger, and with virtually no support from Toews or Kane he’s dropped off the face of the ice. He’s notched a single assist in game 2, and a fat lot of nothing for the other two games. Snap out of it Buf. He may not win the battle against Pronger, but he’s going to have to do better in the next set of matches.