x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Who is not hot on the ice this NHL season?

Injuries to loss of form to poor picks ... Sam McCaig lists out players and teams who have failed to fire so far.

Ilya Kovalchuk, of the New Jersey Devils, has endured a scoring slump this season.
Ilya Kovalchuk, of the New Jersey Devils, has endured a scoring slump this season.

Sam McCaig makes a list of players and teams who have not got going yet in the current season

As the second half of the regular season heats up, here are the three most disappointing surprises - or, if you prefer, surprising disappointments - in the NHL thus far:

* Ilya Kovalchuk and the New Jersey Devils

Oh, what Lou Lamoriello wouldn't pay for a time-travel machine. The Devils general manager has seen his credibility take a serious hit this season as Kovalchuk - signed to a 15-year, $100million (Dh367m) contract over the summer - has endured a scoring slump that has only been exceeded by the team's struggles.

Zach Parise, the team leader, was lost to a knee injury in the first week of the schedule, and that set the tone for what has transpired.

Martin Brodeur, perhaps the best goalie in NHL history, has been relegated to back-up duty in recent weeks. The defence has underperformed and proven incapable of contributing anything offensively.

* San Jose and Los Angeles

The California sun rose on the 2010/11 season with high hopes on the West Coast, but the midseason reality isn't very bright.

The Sharks, longtime contenders who had trouble breaking through in the play-offs, appeared to take a step forward last spring, beating Colorado and Detroit before falling to Chicago in the conference final.

The Sharks have been unable to build on that breakthrough, however, with top offensive players disappearing for stretches, lacklustre defensive play and spotty netminding. The Kings, meanwhile, were supposed to be the team on the rise. But, like the Sharks, LA have fallen far short of expectations.

* Chicago Blackhawks

The Blackhawks are the defending Stanley Cup champions and it is time they started playing like it. After dismantling a Cup-winning roster due to salary cap constraints, Chicago have been on the play-off bubble all season.

The roster turnover and Stanley Cup hangover are surely the two biggest reasons for the less-than-impressive Blackhawks, but the netminding has also been a season-long pitfall.

Chicago became the first Cup champions to get rid of both of their goalies in the off-season, replacing Anttii Niemi and Cristobal Huet with Marty Turco and Corey Crawford. Turco has not been the answer; Crawford has been serviceable, but few believe he is ready to take over as the full-time starter.


Players of the week

• Jussi Jokinen, Carolina – The winger scored twice and had an assist against Calgary, then did the same thing four days later against Tampa.

• Ilya Bryzgalov, Phoenix – The goalie went 3-0-0 last week, beating Anaheim, Toronto and Columbus while posting a .938 save percentage.

• Patrice Bergeron, Boston – A couple of assists against Pittsburgh, a hat-trick against Ottawa and two points against Philadelphia.

Teams of the week

• Dallas Stars – The Stars had big wins over Minnesota (4-0) and Atlanta (6-1) and a 3-2 decision over Edmonton.

• Florida Panthers – The Cats’ post-season hopes got a bump with three straight wins.

• Phoenix Coyotes – The Coyotes downed Columbus, Toronto and Anaheim.

Duds of the week

• Jeff Schultz, Washington – The defenceman led the NHL with a plus-50 rating last season. Last week? Try minus-7 in four games, with zero points.

• Ottawa Senators – They beat the Islanders but Ottawa scored just three goals in losing their other three games last week.

Three games to watch

• Tampa Bay at Atlanta, Thursday – The Lightning are leading the Southeast Division with Atlanta the Thrashers in close pursuit.

• Chicago at Detroit, Saturday – It is a litmus test for both teams, with the inconsistent ‘Hawks trying to stabilise and the injury-plagued Wings looking to persevere.

• Florida at New Jersey, Sunday – A game the Panthers have to win to make it back into the post-season for the first time since 2000.