NHL All-Stars at the Quarter Mark of the 2013 Season
By the conclusion of this past Friday night’s action, all NHL teams had completed the first 12 of their 48 games in the shortened 2012-13 season.
It is now safe to assert that the season is taking shape for the better part of the league’s players and teams. Even so, there are still 30-plus games left for everyone to play, leaving ample time for sizzling starts to cool off and for those who have surprisingly stumbled to restore their elite persona.
The cautionary aspect of this stage of the season applies to each of the early front-running candidates for a spot on one of the two annual All-Star teams that will be introduced at this summer’s awards show. Any one of them could be dislodged if they do not sustain enough of their current pace.
For now, though, here are the league’s top two performers in each starting position as of mid-February. All stats used as part of these evaluations were found via nhl.com and are based on games through no later than Feb. 15, when every team had reached or surpassed the quarter mark.
1st Team Left Wing: Thomas Vanek
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He hit a three-game scoreless skid over the past week, but technically, none of those three pointless outings overlapped with the first quarter of the Buffalo Sabres schedule.
Beforehand, suiting up for 11 of the team’s first 12 contests, Vanek tallied a goal in seven games and a point in 10. He has logged two five-point performances along with a three-point effort and a troika of two-pointers en route to an 11-12-23 start in his first quarter.
1st Team Center: Sidney Crosby
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The long-anointed face of the league is not wasting a millisecond restoring his status after the lockout and his recovery from his last concussion. Crosby had exactly an assist per game through his first 12 outings with the Penguins and had the same pace through 15 games as part of a collection of 21 points coupled with a 56.2 winning percentage at the faceoff dot.
1st Team Right Wing: Patrick Kane
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Maybe the topmost personification of the Chicago Blackhawks’ otherworldly start, Kane was kept scoreless in only one of his first 14 games while the team had gone 11-0-3. Half of those outings have been multi-point performances, including a 2-1-3 ride against Phoenix on Feb. 7.
1st Team Defense: Erik Karlsson
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Before his horrendous Achilles wound via Pittsburgh’s Matt Cooke, Karlsson was leading NHL defensemen with six goals, including two on the power play, one shorthanded and two deciders. Through 14 games, his plus-six rating was tied with Erik Condra for the best on the Ottawa Senators and easily the highest among their blueliners.
Regrettably for Karlsson, this injury will all but dash his defense of the Norris Trophy and his shot at an All-Star pick. But at the very least, his performance so far warrants recognition through this stage of the season.
1st Team Defense: Sheldon Souray
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Think the Dallas Stars regret letting Souray get away via free agency? To a divisional rival, no less?
On a balanced Anaheim Ducks strike force, Souray leads the club’s defensemen with four goals, a total that was matched by five forwards through 13 games while two other forwards are tied for the team lead with five. In addition, he was a plus-10 at the exact quarter mark and swelled that up to a plus-13 in Game No. 13 to tie associate defenseman Francois Beauchemin.
1st Team Goalie: Roberto Luongo
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Through the first quarter of their team’s respective schedules, only Anaheim’s Viktor Fasth and Chicago’s Corey Crawford have seen action in more games without brooking a regulation defeat. The 4-0-2 Luongo was unsurpassed on the qualified goals-against average leaderboard at 1.45 and second overall with a .943 save percentage on Saturday morning.
Conversely, Canucks colleague Corey Schneider was 4-2-0 through the first dozen games. Vancouver’s record without Luongo subsequently dropped to 4-3-0 this past Friday.
2nd Team Left Wing: Henrik Zetterberg
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Like Vanek, Zetterberg has most recently had a couple of poor outings after a dandy dozen to start the season. In those first 12 games, even while his Detroit Red Wings have had iffy results in the win-loss column, he was consistent with assists and points in 10 ventures en route to a 5-13-18 scoring transcript.
2nd Team Center: Eric Staal
As of Saturday morning, Staal was tied with John Tavares for the most goals among centers with eight and with Saku Koivu for the highest rating at his position with a plus-12. Furthermore, he has been an otherworldly clutch performer with four winning goals within the Carolina Hurricanes’ first eight victories.
2nd Team Right Wing: David Clarkson
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In the New Jersey Devils’ first 14 outings, Clarkson collected 10 goals to start running away with the team lead. Of those 10 strikes, nine came exactly within the first quarter of the team's itinerary, half have come on the power play and three have been game-winners.
2nd Team Defense: Kevin Shattenkirk
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Through 14 games, Shattenkirk was averaging a point per night for the most among all blueliners, including 13 assists. In addition, while the St. Louis Blues have surprisingly stumbled, he has been reasonably efficient in his day job, tying Barrett Jackman for the lead on the team’s defensive corps with a plus-three rating.
2nd Team Defense: Johnny Oduya
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The Blackhawks were the last remaining unbeaten NHL team through 14 games, at which point Oduya was third among their skaters in both cumulative ice time and average playing time per night. In those 309 minutes and 25 seconds of work, only six opposing goals were scored on his watch, which would translate to an infinitesimal 1.16 goals-against average.
2nd Team Goalie: Viktor Fasth
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The Ducks garnered a little breathing room in their Pacific Division lead after Fasth improved to 7-0-0 on the year with a road win over Detroit Friday night. Without him in action, the Ducks went 3-2-1 during the first quarter.