Detroit Red Wings youngster, Gustav Nyquist, has been on fire over the past month, scoring 21 goals in his last 30 games and is starting this list of top ten players who happen to be getting hot at the right moment. Some of these players have helped their teams leapfrog into playoff positions that would had otherwise been impossible to imagine while some of these players have simply clubbed and dragged their teams by force into the playoffs. Whether or not these players stay hot or not could leave their team’s playoff lives hanging in the balance. After the final weeks of the regular season, here are the top ten hottest players coming into this postseason:
10. RW Gustav Nyquist
The 24-year-old Swede paid his dues for the Red Wings playing in the minor leagues over the past few years and it is paying off enormously for the Red Wings moving into the playoffs. In the absence of star forwards Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, Nyquist had not only helped the team stay afloat, but had helped spark a four game win streak from March 29 till April 4 to extend their playoff appearance streak to 23 years in a row. Nyquist has amassed 28 goals and 48 points in just 57 games played this year and if the Red Wings hope to get by the number one-seeded Boston Bruins, they will need that production to continue.
9. C Nathan McKinnon
In the absence of Matt Duchene, Colorado was in need of players to step up their games and no one stepped up more than rookie Nathan McKinnon. Over the past two weeks, McKinnon has one goal and six helpers to help fill the offensive void left by Duchene. Semyon Varlamov has been the talk of the town this whole season for the Colorado Avalanche, but McKinnon at the ripe old age of 18 is playing like a man possessed this year, racking up almost 40 assists and 63 total points.
8. D Victor Hedman
When goaltender Ben Bishop got hurt for the Tampa Bay Lightning, fans in Tampa were at a loss for words with just two weeks left until the playoffs. But then a young defenseman by the name of Victor Hedman stepped in and helped spark a four game win streak to finish the year. The 6’6” Hedman has one goal and seven helpers over the past 14 days.
7. C Claude Giroux
Giroux has been a force to be reckoned with all season long for the Flyers and they will need his scoring and leadership this postseason if they hope to get by the New York Rangers. With goaltender Steve Mason’s future remaining uncertain going into the playoffs, the Flyers are going to need an offensive surge in order to get by New York. That surge remains possible now thanks to Giroux who has three goals and five assists over the past two weeks.
6. LW Ondrej Palat
As Hedman was helping the Tampa Bay cause by dishing out seven assists, one player was helping by putting the puck in the back of the net. In just his second season with the Lightning, Palat has amassed 23 goals and 59 points this year. Recently, Palat, along with Hedman, helped the Bolts catch fire at the end of the season scoring four goals and four assists in two weeks. With goaltender Bishop still recovering from his injury, the Bolts will need Palat to keep putting pucks in the back of the net as they may have to score more goals now in order to win in the playoffs.
5. C Anze Kopitar
Not much has been said about Kopitar this season, but Kopitar has done terrific for the Kings netting 29 goals and 70 total points- 23 of which were on the power play. In this first round matchup against the San Jose Sharks, the Kings will need Kopitar’s size and scoring ability on the road as San Jose holds the home-ice advantage. Kopitar over the past two weeks has amassed five goals and three assists. Four of those points have come over the last two games, a very good sign for the Kings’ top line center.
4. RW Corey Perry
The Anaheim Ducks climbed the Western Conference ranks to first place in the final week of the season, thanks to a St. Louis Blues implosion and a stellar finish by Corey Perry. Perry is coming into the playoffs having five goals and three assists in the last two weeks and is averaging a point a game this season. The Ducks have won four straight games with the help of Perry’s offensive surge and now face the Dallas Stars in their opening playoff series.
3. LW Zach Parise
Parise has been to the Stanley Cup Finals recently and that kind of experienced leadership can prove to be vital for the Minnesota Wild as they open the first round of the playoffs against the Colorado Avalanche. Over the past two weeks, Parise has racked up two goals and five assists and Minnesota is banking on this production as they face one of the best goalies in the world in Semyon Varlamov. Parise has the talent and ability to carry his team in the playoffs this year, especially versus Colorado. He grabbed four points in the last meeting with the Avs.
2. G Semyon Varlamov
To finish the season, goaltender Semyon Varlamov made a major surge in the race for a Vezina Trophy, all while helping the Avs climb into second place in the Western Conference and nabbing their first division title in over 12 years. The Avalanche have gone 5-1-2 to finish up the season and Varlamov, along with scoring from potential rookie of the year McKinnon and Paul Stastny, has been the major catalyst of this recent surge. Over the past two weeks, Varlamov has put up an amazing four wins, 1.53 GAA, .950 save percentage and a shutout. Varlamov will have no easy task in their first round matchup with the Minnesota Wild and have been put on upset alert.
1. G Sergei Bobrovsky
Along with the help of surging rookie Boone Jenner, the Columbus Blue Jackets net minder has brought the Jackets to their first playoffs in five years. The Vezina Trophy winner from a year ago has been on fire recently posting up five wins, 1.82 GAA, .945 save percentage and two shutouts in the last 14 days. They are going to need this trend to continue as they open their first round series against an offensive juggernaut in the Pittsburgh Penguins. These numbers are a good sign for Jackets fans because, as Bobrovsky goes, so do the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Players just missing the cut (stats over the past two weeks):
Montreal Max Pacioretty (4 G, 2 A)
Columbus Boone Jenner (3 G, 3 A)
Philadelphia D Mark Streit (1 G, 9 A)
Boston Patrice Bergeron (3 G, 3 A)
Minnesota G Ilya Bryzgalov (3 wins, 1.66 GAA, 2 Shutouts)
Commentary by Ryne Vyles