Player of the Day: Niklas Kronwall

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Seeing as my last four posts have been about forwards, maybe it’s about time I write about a defenseman. It couldn’t be more perfect timing too as the NHL’s biggest hitter returns to the ice as the Detroit Red Wings face off against the Winnipeg Jets.

Ladies and gentleman, I present to you: Niklas Kronwall.

After suffering a knee injury in last year’s playoffs, the enforcer is ready for his season debut.

NHL.com writes:

Detroit Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall (knee) is expected to play for the first time since the Red Wings were eliminated by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference First Round last season. “I’m not nervous, but I’m definitely excited to get the jersey back on tonight,” he said Friday. “I got through a full practice on Tuesday and I’m ready to go.” Kronwall, 35, had 26 points (three goals, 23 assists) in 64 games last season, and has 365 points (74 goals, 291 assists) in 738 NHL games, all with the Red Wings. Detroit is 0-2-1 after a six-game winning streak, including a 4-3 overtime loss against the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday. “We’ve got to keep our urgency high for 60 minutes, and we haven’t been doing that,” Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said.

So Jets, here’s a tip, keep your head up on the breakout because Kronwall will be on you quicker than a tramp on chips if you give him the opportunity.

SB Nation writes how Kronwall will help a Red Wings side that currently sits in 3rd place in the Atlantic Division.

On The Power Play

Through the first ten games of the 2016-17 season, the Red Wings are sitting right in the middle of the pack with a 19.5% success rate while on the power play, not terrible, but not impressive either. Over the last three NHL seasons, Kronwall has totaled 62 power play points during the regular season. Adding Kronwall’s prowess with the man advantage would certainly not hurt Detroit’s power play efforts. It would be interesting to see Kronwall play alongside Thomas Vanek and/or Frans Nielsen who are both currently tied for the lead in Red Wings in power play points this season.

Leadership

Putting all statistics, injuries and age aside, it’s hard to deny that Niklas Kronwall is both a veteran and a leader. With 847 total NHL games under his belt, Kronwall would continue to provide invaluable wisdom for Detroit’s younger blue-liners. Kronwall has pretty much seen and done it all on every stage possible, something that only an experienced player can bring to the table.

Having Kronwall’s leadership back on the ice could possibly help lighten the load on some of Detroit’s other defensemen. While players like Jonathan Ericsson have been surprisingly decent so far this season, other players like Danny DeKeyser have struggled in their role. Our resident statistical expert Prashanth Iyer recently broke down DeKeyser’s struggles. Could having Kronwall in the lineup help DeKeyser find a more appropriate role? Perhaps a DeKeyser and Kronwall pairing could aid DD in being the defenseman that the Red Wings want and hope him to be.

In all my years of watching the NHL, I have never seen a defenseman perfect the backward skating bodycheck the way Kronwall has. His physicality coupled with his blistering shot and scorching speed is enough to strike fear into any opponent the Red Wings face.

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That’s why Niklas Kronwall is my Player of the Day.

Player of the Day: Alexandre Burrows

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Wednesday night, the Vancouver Canucks got shutout by the Montreal Canadiens, losing 3-0 despite outshooting them 42-24.

The Canucks’ only upside? Alexandre Burrows is back in their lineup.

You remember Burrows, right? He scored just 11 seconds into overtime in game two of the Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruins:

It’s been a long time since 2011, but Burrows still remains one of the best grinders in the NHL.

The Canucks will be relieved to have him back in their lineup as they try to snap a five-game losing streak.

CBS Sports writes:

Burrows (neck) will be back in action Wednesday against the Canadiens.

Burrows, who missed the previous four outings, is still searching for his first point of the season. The veteran has reached the 20-point mark in eight of the last nine campaigns, but could be a long shot to get past that threshold this year if he continues averaging just 11:17 of ice time per night. Earlier Monday, the Canucks made room for Burrows on their 23-man roster by reassigning Mike Zalewski to AHL Utica.

Look, I get it. Burrows may not be the player he used to be but that’s because the Canucks are not the team they used to be.

The Sedin Twins aren’t performing like they used to.

Ryan Miller is a cone in net.

And the Canucks have lost players like Ryan Kesler and Kevin Bieksa to the Anaheim Ducks.

I remember being back home in England, staying up until the crack of dawn to watch the Canucks play the Bruins in the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals, just to watch Burrows. His forecheck, his defensive zone coverage, and his ability to score the goals when you need him to, could keep me on the edge of my seat until the chickens came home to roost.

And I tell you what; I’d do the same today.

If the Canucks want to go back to their team of old that won Presidents’ Trophies, Conference Finals and game sevens of the Stanley Cup Final, they must restore their faith in Burrows.

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So Willie Desjardins, do us a favor and put in Burrows, would you?

That’s why Alex Burrows is my Player of the Day.

 

Player of the Day: Artem Anisimov

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When you think of the Chicago Blackhawks, who do you think of? Patrick Kane? Jonathan Toews? Duncan Keith? Well here’s someone you might want to add to your list: Artem Anisimov.

Tuesday night, Anisimov had one goal and one assist in a convincing 5-1 victory over the Calgary Flames. That comes just a few days after Anisimov scored the overtime winner against the New Jersey Devils.

The only disappointment? That he didn’t do this Anisimov-branded, absolute-savage, celly.

Anisimov’s break out start to the season hasn’t gone unnoticed either. He earned a spot as ESPN’s Second Star for the week ending Oct. 23.

Anisimov led the NHL with 4-3—7, including a pair of multi-goal performances, to power the Blackhawks (3-3-0, 6 points) to two victories in three contests. He opened the week with 2-2—4 in 7-4 triumph over the Philadelphia Flyers Oct. 18, his third career four-point outing and first since Feb. 6. Anisimov added one assist in a 3-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets Oct. 21 before scoring twice, his seventh career multi-goal game, in a 5-4 shootout win against the Toronto Maple Leafs Oct. 22. The 28-year-old Yaroslavl, Russia, native has 110-132—242 in 495 career NHL appearances, including 4-4—8 in six outings this season.

Anisimov now sits in 1st place on the NHL points leader board with no sign of slowing down.

So why, if my blog is about the ‘Pine Riders’, am I talking about a potential NHL all-star?

Well, as I said at the start of this blog, Anisimov isn’t considered a star, even of the Blackhawks. But one thing’s for sure, he’s rising.

The Blackhawks are a playoff team and somehow, year after year, they are able to pull the rabbit out the hat, and ice new, raw talent like Anisimov. He will definitely be called upon by the Blackhawks in the postseason if Kane and Toews aren’t firing on all cylinders.

And, who knows? Maybe he’ll even get to meet Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump in the White House next year.

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Photo by: Pete Souza

That’s why Artem Anisimov is my Player of the Day.

Player of the Day: Ryan Kesler

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I must first confess—as much as it pains me to admit—I had money on the Anaheim Ducks winning the Stanley Cup in my playoff bracket last season. As embarrassing as this is, to lose $20 betting on a Ducks team who lost in the very first round to the Nashville Predators, there was method in the madness.

You see, the Ducks had a mighty weapon, and that weapon was Ryan Kesler.

If his stats don’t do the talking, his fists will:

‘Dropping the mitts’ in the first 30 seconds of the game isn’t the only way Kesler’s finding his way on the score sheet either.

CBS Sports writes:

“Kesler is off to a solid all-around start. The 32-year-old has already recorded four points (one goal, three assists), while defensively chipping in 15 hits and seven blocked shots over the Ducks‘ eight games this season. Last season, the defenseman tallied 53 points (21 goals, 32 assists), as well as 168 hits and 92 blocked shots in 79 games played.”

Did I mention he’s deadly in the faceoff circle too?

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Photo by: Kris Krug

As his statistics show, Kesler is an all-around player. Whether it’s sniping from high slot, playing the body, or getting that last-ditch stick in on the backcheck, Kesler’s your man.

He may not be the most skilled player, but he has the heart to make up for it.

Kesler writes in The Players’ Tribune:

“To this day, I’ll look across from a Toews or a Kopitar and I’ll say to myself, Okay, you’re more skilled than me. But you’re not going to outwork me tonight. It’s not gonna happen.

American hockey, to me, is blue-collar. It’s about doing the things that nobody else is willing to do. Make the dirty play. Make the play that hurts.”

The fact is: Kesler is a dying breed of blue-collar, ol’ time hockey, workhorses that might just be the type of player the Anaheim Ducks need if they want to advance further in the postseason (further than the first round at least).

That’s why Ryan Kesler is my Player of the Day.

 

 

Player of the Day: Jonathan Drouin

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I still remember the first time I saw Jonathan Drouin in action. It was back when he was in the Q—just 17 years old—playing for the Halifax Mooseheads. No wonder this shift got dubbed “the best shift of the year”:

So you can understand my excitement when the Lightning decided to draft him third overall, just four months later. Now in his fourth season with the Lightning organization, after all his ups and downs in the NHL, he is finally ready for a breakout season.

The Hockey Writers write:

“One of Drouin’s strengths has always been his playmaking ability and he’s a leading candidate to be a winger alongside Stamkos during even strength and power play situations. If the pair clicks like they did briefly to start 2015-16, it would be the first time Stamkos has had a go-to set-up man since Martin St. Louis was traded in the 2013-14 season. At the same time, Drouin must also continue to improve his game defensively and be weary of taking the ill-advised penalty in important situations.

The growing pains Drouin and the Lightning went through during the 2015-16 season were something neither one wanted, but a sequence of events that seemingly had to occur to bring both sides together.

In the end, Drouin and the Lightning are better because of it.”

Drouin already has two goals and three assists to start off the season as right wing on the first line alongside Steven Stamkos and Ondrej Palat.

As a Lightning fan, it may seem biased that my first blog article is about the Lightning’s No.1 prospect but let me defend myself.

The reason I am writing about Drouin is because unlike the McDavid’s, Matthews’s and Laine’s of the league, Drouin has proven himself on the playoff stage after helping the Lightning to the Eastern Conference Final last season.

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Photo by: Lisa Gansky

Drouin is now poised to be the future of ESPN’s No.1 franchise in sports. I repeat—’No.1 franchise in sports’—not just the NHL but the NFL, NBA and MLB too.

I think—nay—know that his dangles, snipes and grinder-esque play will lead the Lightning to hoisting Lord Stanley’s Mug for the 2016-17 season. You heard it here first.

That’s why Jonathan Drouin is my Player of the Day.