10 NHL Players Who Need to Raise Their Games

Sam Stryker@sbstrykerContributor IIIFebruary 18, 2013

10 NHL Players Who Need to Raise Their Games

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    Some NHL players have begun the 2013 season uncharacteristically poorly.

    Whether it is a sniper like Alexander Ovechkin failing to score enough goals or a Stanley Cup champion like Jonathan Quick experiencing a championship hangover, many slow starters are hurting rather than helping their teams.

    While the season is still young, with just 48 regular-season games in the lockout-shortened campaign, the clock is ticking for the following players to turn it around.

    While the stakes may be different—some teams need players to lead them to the playoffs, while others are missing a piece in the championship equation—what these players have in common is a slow start and a team that is relying on them to turn it around, and fast. 

    All statistics are gathered from ESPN.

Alexander Ovechkin

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    There’s only one word that can adequately describe the Washington Capitals’ start to the season: Yikes.

    First-year coach Adam Oates was brought in to right the ship over the offseason but so far has not delivered. The team sits at the bottom of the Eastern Conference with just five wins in 15 games.

    Ovechkin has been a large part of that problem. The former league MVP has just five goals and five assists in 14 games, hardly his normally spectacular numbers.

    The Capitals live and die by their captain, so Ovechkin better turn things around—and fast—if Washington is to salvage its season.

Jonathan Quick

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    Along with the rest of the Los Angeles Kings, Quick has exhibited a Stanley Cup hangover a year after winning it all.

    Though he won the Conn Smythe Trophy last spring as playoff MVP, backstopping the upstart Kings to the championship, Quick has not played at that level this season.

    In 10 games the LA netminder has just a .891 save percentage and 2.70 goals-against average.

    The Kings currently sit in the cellar of the Pacific Division, but a hot streak from Quick could catalyze a turnaround for the defending Stanley Cup champs.

Rick Nash

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    The New York Rangers brought in the power forward Nash in the offseason to add some spark to their offense. However, things haven’t exactly gone as planned.

    The left winger only has three goals and eight assists in 13 games. Perhaps most troubling is the fact Nash is shooting a career-low 6.1 percent. 

    After entering the season with Stanley Cup aspirations, the Rangers currently sit at seventh in the Eastern Conference. Nash has scored 40 goals in his career twice before.

    While he won’t be doing that in a lockout-shortened campaign, look for him to return to form if the Rangers look to rise in the standings.

Jose Theodore

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    The Florida Panthers' goaltender has taken a step back this season after leading the team to its first ever division title last year.

    In 11 games, Theodore has just four wins and sports an ugly 3.41 goals-against average to go with a .892 save percentage.

    Florida is near the bottom of the Eastern Conference, but if the former Vezina and Hart Trophy winner can turn things around, the Panthers may make a run at a playoff spot.

Henrik Sedin

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    The Vancouver Canucks' center has never been a goal scoring machine—he’s topped 20 goals just twice in his career—but 13 games into the season, he yet to light it up.

    That’s simply inexcusable. This half of the Sedin twins has always lent more of a helping hand, having tallied at least 60 assists the past six seasons.

    But with 10 in 13 games, Henrik Sedin needs to get more involved in the Vancouver offense, which currently ranks 13th in the league in goals per game.

    The Canucks sit at third in the Western Conference, and with stellar goaltending and solid defense thus far, the Canucks' captain and his offense need to step it up so as not to be the team’s Achilles' heel.

Henrik Lundqvist

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    Compared to the other goalies on this list, the New York Rangers' netminder is actually faring fairly well—it’s just that he is capable of so much more.

    The defending Vezina trophy winner currently sports a 2.48 goals-against average to go with his .912 save percentage, both respectable numbers. But last year he boasted much better numbers—a minuscule 1.97 goals-against average to go with a .930 save percentage, to be exact.

    If the Rangers are to rise to the top of the Eastern Conference where they belong, Lundqvist needs to start playing more like the Vezina winner he is than just an average goalie.

Corey Perry

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    The Anaheim Ducks' winger won the Hart Trophy for league MVP two years ago after topping the NHL with 50 goals. But by the way he’s playing this year, you wouldn’t know it.

    Perry has just two goals and seven assists in 14 games this season, hardly numbers that would leave opposing defenders quaking in their skates.

    The Ducks sit at second in the Western Conference and are averaging the fourth-most goals per game in the NHL, so they certainly don’t seem to be missing Perry’s production.

    But if Perry can get things going, the Ducks could boast potentially the most dangerous offense in the league.

Cam Ward

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    The Carolina Hurricanes sit at the top of the weak Southeast Division, but their goalie can’t boast of helping them reach that point.

    Ward, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2006, has just a 3.22 goals-against average and .902 save percentage in 10 games. He better watch out, because backup Dan Ellis is playing hot, boasting a .943 save percentage to go with a sizzling 1.75 goals-against average in five games.

    Carolina’s offense ranks in the top five in the NHL in goals per game, so if Ward can get hot—which he has proven capable of doing—the rest of the Eastern Conference better watch out. 

Dustin Brown

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    Like his Los Angeles Kings teammate Jonathan Quick, Brown has struggled to start this season after the Stanley Cup glory of last spring. And like Brown, he’s crucial to Los Angeles turning it around this season.

    The Kings' captain has just three goals and three assists in 12 games this year. While Brown is never going to lead the league in goals, he’s been a consistent force for Los Angeles, potting at least 20 goals the past five seasons.

    The Kings need Brown’s offensive touch to return if the team has any hopes of forcing its way into the playoffs this year.

Brian Elliott

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    Elliott and fellow St. Louis Blues goaltender were supposed to be a two-headed monster in net for the team this season. Last year, the duo combined to win the William M. Jennings Trophy for fewest goals conceded.

    By comparison, 2013 has been a nightmare. Elliott has an abysmal .849 save percentage and a 3.57 goals-against average.

    His play in net doesn’t seem to have hurt the Blues too much—the team sits at fourth in the Western Conference standings, thanks to Halak picking up the slack.

    But if the Blues are to take the next step forward, Elliott has to return to form.