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The Moment Each NHL Superstar Reached an Elite Level

Al DanielCorrespondent IISeptember 25, 2016

The Moment Each NHL Superstar Reached an Elite Level

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    Hockey coaches, factual and fictional alike, seem to have the same demand from a player when they think they have something special at their disposal.

    “Do it again.”

    That was precisely what Gordon Bombay tells Fulton Reed when he first observes the youngster’s devastating slap shot in The Mighty Ducks.

    In the real world, the likes of 1980 U.S. Olympic skipper Herb Brooks was known to have made a similar statement in an effort to confirm his assets. In John Gilbert’s biography of the late legend, former Olympic linemates Mark Pavelich and Buzz Schneider recalled the Brooks’ test of their productive unit’s viability by telling them to “Go out and get another one” whenever they scored.

    It is one thing for a player to put his exceptional skill to gratifying use for the first time at a new level, let alone the NHL. It is quite another when he snowballs a succession of strong performances, especially if it comes in a higher-stakes scenario and/or against higher-caliber competition.

    If the general hockey community was not willing to bestow a “superstar” badge upon any of the following players beforehand, they should have been ready no later than any of the following moments.

    Unless otherwise indicated, all statistics for this slideshow were found via hockey-reference.com

Jamie Benn

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    Jamie Benn’s third NHL season, 2011-12, saw him exceed his two-time total of 22 goals with 26 and break the 60-point plateau after finishing the previous two in the 40- and 50-range, respectively. As a side note, he retained his first positive rating with a plus-15.

    His landmark hot streak within that all-around breakout ride touched New Year’s Eve and the first week of January. He stamped four straight multipoint performances, including two assists against Boston, three points against Detroit and two points against Nashville.

    All three of those teams were among the top 10 on the NHL’s defensive leaderboard that season. He kept the heat up with two goals versus Edmonton and then a single assist at Anaheim’s expense, after which he experienced nary a cold spell for the rest of the season.

    Benn’s goal-assist variety pack in a 4-1 win over the Predators on Jan. 5, 2012 matched his output in the exact same matchup 13 nights prior. Only this time, he scored unassisted and then added a helper to scorch Pekka Rinne and give Dallas valuable insurance in the second and third period.

Zdeno Chara

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    As Zdeno Chara’s workload soared, so did his Ottawa Senators in the standings.

    Amidst a run to the President’s Trophy in the 2002-03 regular season, Chara played 27 minutes or more on 16 occasions. He did the same three more times amidst Ottawa’s run to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals in the subsequent playoffs.

    With that, his nightly ice time average ticked up to 24:57 from 22:16 the season prior. He justified that increase with a 16-point production surge and a plus-29 rating to stay within the range of his revolutionary plus-30 in 2001-02.

    If there was a single night to underscore within that season, it was Nov. 12, 2002, when Chara played 30:15 and had three points and a plus-two in a 5-3 win over the Islanders. That was when he reintroduced himself as a towering blueliner capable of substantive contributions in each zone.

Sidney Crosby

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    Going into the 20th game of his NHL career, Sidney Crosby already had seven goals and 13 assists for 20 points, barely more than one per night. He had turned in five multipoint efforts, including a pair of three-point performances and had yet to go consecutive games without any production.

    But one key accomplishment was still missing from his resume, that being a game-clinching strike of his own twig.

    On the cusp of the quarter mark of his rookie year, Crosby changed that on Nov. 16, 2005 in his Penguins’ first meeting, let alone road meeting, with their in-state rivals.

    After two scoreless periods, he set up Ryan Malone’s power-play icebreaker and then augmented the lead to 2-0 on the follow-up shift all within the third minute of the third stanza. The host Flyers regrouped to draw a 2-2 knot and force overtime, but Crosby turned up the turbine in the 65th minute and averted the shootout with a sudden-death deposit.

Pavel Datsyuk

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    His third NHL season, 2003-04, was Pavel Datsyuk’s big breakout with a production surge from the previous season. He had tallied a dozen goals and 51 points the year prior, but elevated that output to 30 goals and 68 points.

    As immortal as many of those goals are in the highlight vault, none signaled the crafty Russian’s rise to the top echelon than the quintet that closed the regular season.

    A five-game goal streak in the homestretch (March 21-29, 2004) swiftly upped his total from 25 to 30. If that’s not impressive enough, Datsyuk started that hot streak with a two-point effort three nights after returning from an ankle sprain that had sidelined him for two weeks and six games.

Drew Doughty

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    Out of the 82 games in the 2009-10 regular season, his second in the league, Drew Doughty logged 26 minutes of ice time or more in 27. Of those 27, nine of them occurred during a particularly hot month of January.

    Starting with a Jan. 2 matchup with Washington, the eventual President’s Trophy winners and the NHL’s most potent offense that season, and ending with a Jan. 30 visit to Boston, Doughty cemented his persona as an effective minute-muncher. He produced in eight of those 14 contests, elevated his plus-minus in nine of them and brooked a negative rating in only one.

Matt Duchene

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    As you will hear late in the embedded highlight package from the Colorado Avalanche broadcast team, in reference to Matt Duchene, “This is the first time all year he’s really been an offensive factor. He’s had some important points but not control a game.”

    Indeed leading up to the Nov. 19, 2010 home date with the Rangers, Duchene had produced in three of his previous four outings, four of his previous six and seven of his previous 11.

    He was just coming off one of his pointless performances two nights prior against San Jose. And for a while in this game, it looked like he would not have a chance to get back on the scoresheet after taking a high stick to the head.

    As it happened, though, the sophomore forward came back from that blow and pitched in on three unanswered goals, giving him his third multipoint and multi-assist game in the last 12 overall. In addition, he thawed out a previously cold stick that subsequently added 10 goals over the next 13 games.

Marian Gaborik

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    Coming back to Minnesota from the season-long lockout in 2004-05, which he spent in his native Slovakia, Marian Gaborik set an unmistakable tone for a breakout NHL campaign in October 2005.

    Five straight two-point games to start 2005-06 presaged Gaborik’s first year of truly consistent productivity. Despite missing 17 games, he tallied 38 goals to eclipse his two-time career high of 30 and amassed 66 points in 65 contests.

    More critically, his longest point-scoring drought was one three-game hex Jan. 9-16, 2006. Conversely, he had brooked at least three droughts of at least four games and at least one of five or more in each of his previous four NHL seasons.

Ryan Getzlaf

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    With the Anaheim Ducks coming off a Stanley Cup championship, Ryan Getzlaf set the tone for his second straight surge in the first two weeks of October 2007.

    On three occasions in 13 nights, the Ducks engaged either one of the eventual 2008 Cup finalists in Detroit and Pittsburgh.

    Getzlaf handled the first of those challenges by scoring a temporarily go-ahead power-play goal in the last minute of the second period in an eventual 3-2 shootout loss on Oct. 3. Three nights later, he posted two points amidst a 5-4 loss in Pittsburgh.

    Later, in a rematch with the Red Wings on Oct. 15, Getzlaf charged up a playmaker hat trick to spark the first half of Anaheim’s scoring in a 6-3 triumph. It constituted his third multipoint effort in four outings.

Claude Giroux

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    In terms of regular-season output, Claude Giroux would not have his breakout until 2010-11, when he went from 47 points to 76. But the 2010 playoffs were a harbinger of things to come when he posted a 10-11-21 scoring transcript in 23 games.

    Late in that run, if he hadn’t done so sooner, Giroux put the stamp on his superstar candidacy when the Philadelphia Flyers needed a fresh breath of life in the Stanley Cup Finals. They came home for Game 3 trailing the series, 2-0, and engaged the visiting Blackhawks in a seesaw contest.

    For his part, Giroux pitched in on a power-play conversion that restored a Flyers lead to 2-1, set up a 3-3 equalizer with a distant centering feed and then tipped home the clincher in the resultant overtime.

Taylor Hall

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    Though a non-playoff entrant, the 2011-12 Edmonton Oilers got the better of three Central Division teams, taking three of four meetings with Chicago, Columbus and Nashville.

    Slick sophomore Taylor Hall was noticeably in on each of those mysterious handlings of the Blackhawks as well as the bright spots of a 6-3 loss in the season-series opener.

    Six nights after chipping in an assist amidst that losing cause, Hall helped to kick ice chips over the old scoresheet. His Nov. 19, 2011 hat trick effectively wrested away an eventual 9-2 romp.

    When the call came for a follow-up on Jan. 2, Hall turned in a goal-assist variety pack on back-to-back Edmonton power plays, usurping a 2-1 lead en route to a 4-3 road win.

    Precisely one month later, although Sam Gagner ultimately stole that show with his eight-point dolphin show, Hall tallied Edmonton’s first goal early in the second period and only 102 seconds after the Oilers had fallen behind, 2-0. Once again, he had nabbed the momentum from Chicago’s clutch and his mates rode it to an 8-4 victory.

    By the way, in his other 57 appearances against non-Chicago opponents, Hall tallied 43 points to exceed his rookie total by one. His habitual haymaking of the Blackhawks effectively spelled the difference in his signal that he had stepped up a rung or two.

Evander Kane

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    Although the hottest point-getting streak of Evander Kane’s breakout year occurred in February and early March of 2012 (eight straight productive performances), the majority of that streak overlapped with a lengthy homestand.

    Considering he was with the newly relocated Winnipeg Jets, who were still competing in the Southeast Division, Kane was more impressive when he stayed sharp during one of many road trips.

    In three of the first four installments of a protracted swing through the Eastern Time Zone, Kane posted two points. He started with a goal and an assist as part of a 9-8 edging of Philadelphia, where he played an unusually light 10:50.

    Four nights later, in Part II of a stay in the Sunshine State, he twice beat Jose Theodore en route to a 3-3 regulation tie and 4-3 shootout win over the Panthers. Theodore, by the way, was in the middle of his best season since 2003-04, while Florida had its best since 1999-2000.

    Kane capped his surge by pitching on both non-empty net strikes in a 3-0 blanking of the Islanders.

Patrick Kane

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    The Chicago Blackhawks missed the playoffs in 2007-08 by three points despite winning five of eight meetings with the eventual President’s Trophy and Stanley Cup winners from Detroit.

    Within the final week of the regular season, the Hawks still had a chance to reach the 16-team dance when they hosted their penultimate meeting with the Wings on April 2, 2008.

    Kane, the eventual Calder Trophy winner, amplified his candidacy by setting the right tone for himself and his never-say-die associates. Within the first five minutes of the opening frame, he drew back-to-back penalties on Detroit’s Jiri Hudler and Chris Chelios to put Chicago on a two-man advantage for a maximum of 76 seconds.

    A power-play conversion with Chelios still serving his sentence jumpstarted a sequence of three goals in less than two minutes. Detroit would later hit the board twice, but Kane had a say in a pair of Blackhawk rebuttals.

    Kane’s primary assist on a second period power-play strike renewed the three-goal lead, as did his own tally a mere 89 ticks after Kirk Maltby had whittled the deficit down to 4-2.

    Kane picked up a third point with the primary assist on Adam Burish’s goal that cemented a 6-2 final.

Erik Karlsson

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    Anybody who dismisses Erik Karlsson’s Norris Trophy victory in 2011-12 as a hollow reward for prolific offensive production should, just for starters, consider his all-around performance in a home-and-home series against Philadelphia that year.

    Recall that the Flyers scored the third-most goals in the NHL that season with 264 and consider the fact that, over the weekend of Jan. 7-8, they scorched the Sens six times in as many periods.

    Now consider how much Karlsson played and how many scoring plays he was involved in for either side.

    In the first half of the back-to-back in Philadelphia, despite being the only Senators skater to log more than 20 even-strength minutes (per nhl.com), Karlsson was not on the ice for any part of Danny Briere’s hat trick in a 3-2 overtime loss.

    He did, however, assist on both of Ottawa’s goals, which amplifies his influence on helping the team to a hard-earned regulation point.

    Back home the next night, Karlsson led his team with 24:20 minutes of overall ice time, including 21:50 at even strength. Yet he was once again not on the ice for any Flyer goals, three of which occurred at even strength.

    In the other zone, though, he did helped to set up Chris Neil’s go-ahead goal for a short-lived 2-1 Senators lead. Later, after Philadelphia had seized a 4-2 upper hand, Karlsson slugged home an unassisted 4-4 equalizer with 13:41 left in regulation.

    He was on the ice again when Filip Kuba restored the edge for the Sens and when Nick Foligno’s empty netter finalized the 6-4 victory, elevating his single-night rating to a plus-five.

Phil Kessel

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    The Toronto Maple Leafs were only five games into their 2011-12 season when Phil Kessel had three three-point performances on the year.

    A hat trick and an assist against Ottawa, a 2-1-3 night versus Calgary and a 1-2-3 log against Winnipeg contributed substantially to a roaring 12-point start. (As the embedded video demonstrates, he also had a stimulating chance at another goal in the ninth minute of the second period of the Jets contest.)

    Whether he contributed firsthand or secondhand, Kessel demonstrated some previously elusive consistency afterward. He had no true production slumps beyond a pair of three-game scoreless skids en route to his first point-per-game campaign with 82 in 82, including a career-high 37 goals.

Anze Kopitar

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    At 32-43-7, the Kings of 2007-08 were far from the Kings of today, but Anze Kopitar was on the rise as a player. He verified that notion during this breakout campaign with a habit of making key contributions to a gratifying split of L.A.’s eight-game season series with the Pacific Division champion Sharks.

    Three of those four L.A. wins alone fell within the month of November. In chronological order, Kopitar assisted on the eventual clincher in a 5-2 final, set up the icebreaker and scored the winner on a power play for a 2-1 victory and deposited a 1-1 equalizer while shorthanded in an eventual 3-2 shootout win.

    Later, when San Jose was fighting for a supreme position in the playoff bracket on April 3, Kopitar helped to burst the rival’s bubble in compelling fashion. He broke a 2-2 tie at 14:22 of the third period and followed up with an empty netter to nip the Sharks, 4-2.

Kris Letang

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    Until 2010-11, it was rare for Kris Letang to exceed 25 minutes of ice time in a single night. He averaged nightly minutes in the 21 range in the previous two seasons.

    That changed with little delay in October 2010, the first month of a season that saw Letang log 38 games of 25 minutes played or more, 26 of at least 26 minutes, 11 of at least 27 and five of 28 minutes or more.

    Five of the Penguins’ first 11 games alone saw Letang exceed an even 25 minutes, including two of their first three meetings with the Flyers.

    He was not nearly as efficient in those Philadelphia matchups as the aforementioned Karlsson. But the young Pittsburgh blueliner was in on five goals for his team over those three games, one more than the opposing goals that occurred during one of his shifts.

    More than that, though, Letang played an integral role in the Pens’ resilience during his 26 minutes and 35 seconds against Nashville on Oct. 21, 2010. He picked up a pair of assists in regulation as Pittsburgh recompensed 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 deficits before he finished the rally himself with an overtime goal.

    Letang shared credit with Crosby and/or Evgeni Malkin on each of his three scoring plays at the expense of Pekka Rinne. That is, the same Rinne who was in the middle of a career year (.930 save percentage, 2.12 GAA) on a Predators team that allowed the third-fewest goals all season.

Henrik Lundqvist

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    After repelling 24 out of 27 New Jersey shots in his debut, Henrik Lundqvist set an early tone for his NHL career by allowing only two goals over his next three games. But the shutout in that troika came against one lowly strike force from Florida while one of the one-goal performances came against a similarly shallow squad from Atlanta.

    Conversely, 13 months later, Lundqvist compiled a similar set against a more qualitative and quantitative variety of shooters.

    In all, he let two of 91 opposing stabs slip by during the week of Nov. 19-25, 2006. The two setbacks came on an opposing power play, meaning he was impeccable at even strength for three straight starts.

    First, he backstopped a win over Tampa Bay with 27 saves, including four on Vincent Lecavalier and three apiece on Martin St. Louis and Brad Richards. Two nights later, he blanked the Carolina Hurricanes on 34 bids, including five by Eric Staal and three by Ray Whitney.

    Although his next adversary from Pittsburgh happened to be missing Crosby at the moment, Lundqvist still had to deal with Evgeni Malkin, whom he silenced on five of six shots in a 2-1 victory.

Evgeni Malkin

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    Crosby was out of commission from mid-January through early March of 2008, but Evgeni Malkin stepped up for a phenomenal February, which began with five straight multipoint efforts.

    The culmination of that streak came on Feb. 10, when Malkin’s 1-3-4 scoring log gave him a hand in every Pittsburgh goal in a 4-3 victory over the Flyers. He went on to make a tangible contribution in each of the next five games.

Rick Nash

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    Rick Nash was the first of only two teenagers to have won the Richard Trophy as the NHL’s leading goal-scorer, though his 41 strikes tied Jarome Iginla and Ilya Kovalchuk. The other is Steven Stamkos, who matched Nash’s feat from 2003-04 by sharing the honor with Crosby at the age of 19 in 2009-10.

    Nearly 10 percent of Nash’s sophomore surge came at the expense of the Dallas Stars, who finished 2003-04 second in team defense with only 175 goals-against.

    Dressing for three Columbus-Dallas matchups, Nash beat the adversary’s No. 1 netminder Marty Turco―who eventually placed second in wins, third in shutouts and third in GAA―once in each of the first two.

    Later, on March 3, the stingy Stars confined the Blue Jackets to 17 shots on net, but Nash mustered enough salsa to put both of his registered stabs behind Ron Tugnutt.

Alexander Ovechkin

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    After five two-goal performances in his first 15 NHL outings, Alexander Ovechkin took his production to the next sphere with his first hat trick―albeit one of the playmaker variety―on Dec. 3, 2005.

    After beating Lundqvist unassisted to open the scoring himself, Ovechkin tallied a natural playmaker hat trick. He picked up the primary assist on each of three unanswered Washington goals to expand the lead to 4-0 en route to a 5-1 throttling of the Rangers.

    Leading up to that outburst, Ovechkin had been sprinkling his share of assists but was in the middle of a mild goal-scoring skid. As he told the Associated Press after the fact, “I spoke to my mom, my dad, my brother and my agent. They said, ‘Don’t even think about it and play how you can.’…This game I don’t think about it and I score.”

    That he did, and then some.

Zach Parise

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    The 2006-07 Devils won half of the first four games of their first-round playoff series with the Lightning. Second-year striker Zach Parise supplied nearly half of the team’s goals in that span with six out of 13.

    In Game 1, Parise opened the scoring and later spotted his squad a 4-3 edge a mere 63 seconds after Lecavalier had inserted an equalizer. The Devils subsisted on their second Parise-induced lead for the remaining 16:06 of regulation and cultivated a dose of insurance for a 5-3 win.

    After chipping in one tally in each of back-to-back 3-2 losses, Parise doubled his output again for Game 4. He first raised a 2-1 upper hand 132 seconds after Eric Perrin drew a 1-1 knot for the Lightning and then converted a power play to help pace the Devils to a series-shifting 4-3 victory.

    Although he went silent thereafter, New Jersey pressed on to a 4-2 series triumph.

Corey Perry

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    An eighth-seeded Anaheim team derailed the top dog Sharks and pushed the second-seeded defending champs to a Game 7 in its 2009 playoff run. Corey Perry was in on no shortage of the key moments in that bittersweet thrill ride.

    In the opening round, Perry pitched in a pair of insurance points to extend the series lead to 3-1 via a 4-0 victory. In each of two subsequent attempts to close out San Jose, he tallied an equalizer.

    The first of those equalizers forced overtime in an eventual 3-2 Game 5 loss. The second drew a 1-1 knot less than three minutes after Milan Michalek’s icebreaker for San Jose and marked the first of four unanswered Anaheim strikes for a 4-1 win.

    Perry followed up in the next round with five goals, four assists and only two pointless games in a seven-game near-miss against Detroit. Perhaps most impressively, he had a hand in all three goals in a Game 4 loss and then a goal-assist variety pack in both Games 6 and 7, 2-1 wins and 4-3 losses, respectively.

    In all, he played a tangible role in nine out of 15 Ducks goals in the second round.

Jonathan Quick

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    After kicking off his third full NHL season with a 2-0-1 record and merely five goals-against, Jonathan Quick posted three consecutive shutouts within five nights to improve to 5-0-1.

    From Oct. 18-22, 2011, he halted each of 27 shots on net by the St. Louis Blues and then 28 apiece via the Phoenix Coyotes and Dallas Stars.

    The streak spilled over to an Oct. 27 rematch with Dallas, where it ended at the 14:01 mark of the first period. Furthermore, it had actually started at 13:29 of the second period in a 3-2 overtime edging of the Flyers, meaning it lasted over 220 minutes in all.

    If Quick has ever looked back after that, it has been for only negligible stretches. By season’s end, he had obliterated nearly all of his previous career highs with 10 shutouts, a 1.95 GAA and .929 save percentage.

    He was also a second-team All-Star and a Vezina Trophy finalist and none of that even takes his 2012 playoff run into account.

Pekka Rinne

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    One of the main reasons why 2010-11 still stands out as a career year on Pekka Rinne’s transcript is because of a five-game winning streak in which he allowed no fewer, but no more than a single goal each night.

    That streak, spanning Dec. 31 through Jan. 11, included a pair of back-to-back single-night workloads of 40 or more saves against Anaheim and San Jose.

    Rinne’s single-night save percentage in each of the five contests was .950 or better and he repelled a cumulative 148 out of 152 opposing stabs over that span. He briefly returned to more earthly proportions in a 3-2 loss to the Panthers, but promptly rebounded for a four-game win streak with two setbacks or less each night.

    With that mid-January follow-up, Rinne proved he has the aptitude to keep slumps negligible and temporary when he on top of his game.

Daniel and Henrik Sedin

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    In February 2010, as twin brothers Daniel and Henrik Sedin approached the decade mark of their NHL careers, Pierre LeBrun of espn.com ran an extensive feature with ample insights from their first coach, Marc Crawford.

    Crawford, the Canucks skipper from 1999 to 2006, recalled the 2003-04 season, when the Sedins were unmistakably keen on supplanting a dynamic top line on the Vancouver depth chart.

    As Crawford told LeBrun, “They knew that they were playing really well and that they weren't getting rewarded with the ice time. The reason was obvious -- at that time, the Naslund-Morrison-Bertuzzi line was still our top line.”

    Almost two years later, within the final quarter of 2005-06, Daniel Sedin logged six multipoint performances in 18 games and totaled a 6-13-19 scoring log over the last 21. Within the first 61, he had come within one point of matching his previous single-season high of 54.

    Meanwhile, Henrik Sedin amassed a 4-14-18 scoring transcript in the same span. For him, the 2006 homestretch was a strong finish to a disappointing year for the team (42-32-8 and no playoffs).

    The fact that he kept producing long after revising his own bar, going from 42 points in 2003-04 to 75 in 2005-06, gave Vancouver hope until it lost the footrace for the last playoff spot to Edmonton, 95-92.

    Not surprisingly, as Crawford said in LeBrun's story later on, “By the end of that year [2005-06], they definitely were our top guys…They had surpassed Naslund and Bertuzzi by that time.”

Jason Spezza

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    The Ottawa Senators and Buffalo Sabres waged an exciting footrace to the top of the Northeast Division in 2005-06, which ended with Sens edging the Swords 113-110 in the points column.

    Head-to-head results played no small role in the final outcome as Ottawa went 5-1-2 in the season series, winning each of the first three meetings and taking at least a point out of the first seven.

    In the first meeting, the second date on their itinerary overall, the Senators wrested away a 5-0 decision and rising force Jason Spezza had a hand in three of the goals. By the time the rivals were ready to rematch on Nov. 2, Spezza had only one pointless outing to date and a 5-13-18 scoring log overall.

    Facing Buffalo, a team that doubtlessly craved redemption from its only multi-goal loss in October, Spezza turned in a career-high four points, all assists. With the help of that generous output, Ottawa slapped the Sabres with their second multi-goal loss of the season in the form of a 10-4 drubbing.

Eric Staal

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    A prosperous weekend against two Pennsylvania franchises earned surging sophomore Eric Staal an offensive player of the week laurel at the end of October 2005. He had charged up a home hat trick against Philadelphia on Oct. 28 and then, one team flight and less than 24 hours later, switched roles to charge up four assists against Pittsburgh.

    As a follow-up to his accolade, Staal started November with two goals and three points at Toronto’s expense and ultimately stretched his production streak to 10 games. All of that precipitated a 100-point regular season followed by a prolific postseason and a Stanley Cup championship.

Martin St. Louis

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    The Tampa Bay Lightning made a franchise breakthrough when they deleted an initial 2-0 series deficit to abolish the Washington Capitals, 4-2, in the first round of the 2003 playoffs.

    Fittingly enough, the man who is now the longest-tenured Bolt, Martin St. Louis, fueled that comeback as part of his individual breakout party.

    With his team facing a pseudo must-win situation on the road, St. Louis piloted a pivotal 4-3 victory with three points. The next night, his two goals essentially decided a 3-1 triumph to draw a 2-2 knot in the series.

    At that point, Lightning coach John Tortorella told the Associated Press, in reference to St. Louis “The key with Marty is that he's stopped thinking…He's a guy that reads between the lines and is thinking all the time. Sometimes you just need to play, react and use your instincts.”

    Those instincts continued to create nothing but accomplishments worthy of a positive reaction. St. Louis kept the momentum going with another two-point performance in a 2-1 win to seize the series lead at home and then, back in Washington, finished off the Caps with an overtime goal.

Steven Stamkos

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    As unbelievable as it may be, there was a time when Steven Stamkos was prone to cold spells and was lucky to tune the opposing mesh in more than two consecutive contests.

    That time is also known as his rookie year and the first half of his sophomore campaign. That time was as good as gone by early March of 2010, when he picked up where he had left off prior to a two-week Olympic break.

    Before that break, Stamkos had hit the point column in 13 consecutive games, tallying at least one goal in 10 of them. By the time the Lightning had finished their fifth post-Olympic engagement, he had a career-high, carry-over seven-game goal-scoring streak in the works.

    The last installment of that seven-game goal-scoring and 18-game point-scoring tear was on March 11, 2010, when he grabbed a goal-assist variety pack in Toronto. That sizzling stretch went a long way towards his first of so far two Maurice Richard Trophies.

P.K. Subban

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    With roughly one-fifth of their 2011-12 schedule remaining, the Montreal Canadiens were all but reduced to playing for pride. They embarked on a comprehensive Western Canadian road trip with a 25-31-10 record in hand and two of their next three adversaries, Calgary and Vancouver, still in realistic contention at worst.

    All things considered, those next three games constituted one of the first sizable slews of two-way excellence on defenseman P.K. Subban’s transcript.

    At one end, the Habs allowed nine goals over those three contests, but Subban was only on the ice for one of them. That would be one of five setbacks in a 5-4 loss to the Flames.

    That stinginess can be cast in better perspective when you consider the fact that Subban led the team in ice time each night, twice exceeding 25 minutes, for a cumulative 72 minutes and 37 seconds.

    At the other end, he reiterated his rising reputation as a productive point patroller, having a hand in five of Montreal’s 13 goals over that trip.

Ryan Suter

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    With defensive associate Shea Weber, Ryan Suter’s primary task in Nashville’s 2011 playoff run was stifling Anaheim’s Getzlaf-Perry-Bobby Ryan troika in the first round and then the Sedins of Vancouver in the second round.

    The Preds were not exactly heavy favorites in the fourth-fifth matchup with the Ducks and the Canucks had topped the entire league in the regular season with 262 goals and 117 points in the standings.

    In turn, Suter can be forgiven for having a less-than-spotless performance over those two series. In all, he was on the ice for 13 opposing goals while logging a team-high 346:15 of ice time in 12 postseason contests, which would amount to a 2.25 GAA.

    But it is worth noting that the Ducks went scoreless when Suter was skating in both Game 1, a 4-1 Nashville road victory, and Game 6, a 4-2 final that clinched the series for the Predators. Suter similarly kept the Canucks off the board on all of his Game 1 and Game 3 shifts and limited them to one in Games 5 and 6, which were back-to-back elimination matches for his team.

John Tavares

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    In at least one very eventful first period, John Tavares outclassed Stamkos, his former predecessor as the first overall draft pick and the eventual winner of the 2012 Rocket Richard Trophy. On the night of Oct. 13, 2011 at Nassau Coliseum, Tavares had a hand in each Islander goal, helping his team carry a 4-1 upper hand into the dressing room en route to a 5-1 victory.

    That was the setup. The follow-up was equally productive and equally impressive and cemented Tavares’ position among the league’s elite in his third NHL season.

    With the rival Rangers visiting on Oct. 15, 2011, Tavares turned in another four-point performance. He helped to bookend the scoring with an assist on the icebreaker and an empty-netter that completed his third professional hat trick.

    The other two installments of that hat trick served to scorch Lundqvist, the eventual recipient of that year’s Vezina Trophy.

    Afterwards, Isles coach Jack Capuano observed to the team’s website, “If you just look where his points and his goals are coming from, there’s nothing on the perimeter…It’s all around the hash marks and guys from our team should learn from that. If you go to the net, good things happen, you’ll score goals.”

Joe Thornton

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    It’s hard enough to engage in two NHL games in as many nights and as many cities, let alone be productive in both. But Joe Thornton helped himself to some early traction in what would evolve into a breakout 2002-03 season when he posted a pair of three-point performances in Vancouver and Calgary on Oct. 16 and 17, 2002.

    His eventual total of 101 points exceeded his previous career high by 30 and would be his first of three finishes in the triple-digit range.

Jonathan Toews

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    On Dec. 6, 2008, the middle installment of three straight two-point efforts by a second-year pro and first-year captain came in a 5-4 shootout loss to the then-defending champion Red Wings.

    After initially digging a 2-0 deficit within the first five minutes of regulation, the visiting Blackhawks cut the deficit before the halfway mark of the opening frame. Moments later, Jonathan Toews singlehandedly flip-flopped the one-goal deficit, his second goal spotting Chicago a 3-2 edge with five seconds until intermission.

    Despite the team’s subsequent regression en route to a regulation tie, Toews still garnered first-star accolades for just his second multi-goal game in the NHL. Specifically, for a multi-goal effort against a Detroit team that was then a divisional nemesis in the middle of back-to-back conference playoff title runs.

Thomas Vanek

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    He did not regain his point-per-game pace from 2006-07 until the shortened 2012-13 season, so this is really a look back at when Thomas Vanek rekindled his celestial status.

    That would have been the night of January 31, 2013, when he kept up his season-long production streak with his second five-point effort. More notably, he cultivated those five points, hat trick and all, against a Boston team that was previously unbeaten in regulation (5-0-1) on the year.

    Over the next three months, Vanek dealt with team-wide dysfunction low-lighted by head coach Lindy Ruff’s dismissal in February and four separate injuries, the last of which cost him six games in March and April.

    Nonetheless, he mustered a final total of 41 points in 38 appearances. Were it not for those outside disturbances, it is safe to assume he would have had a more assertive, even-flowing ride from start to finish.

Shea Weber

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    In the heart of the season that culminated in his first Norris nomination, Shea Weber’s Nashville Predators went on a 7-1-0 hot streak between Dec. 31 and Jan. 15.

    Overall, the Preds outscored their opponents by an aggregate count of 29-11. If you do a tally via each nhl.com game summary of those eight contests, you will find that the cumulative score was 20-3 when Weber was on the ice in that stretch.

    That’s right. Three goals against in eight games for the man who led the team during the regular season with 25:19 of ice time for night.

    Of the 20 lit lamps behind the opposing net, Weber himself supplied three and assisted on another nine.

    In the hot streak’s finale, the Blackhawks built an initial 2-0 while Weber was on the bench. The Predators deleted that deficit all within the third period, the equalizer coming off the captain’s stick with 7:40 left, en route to a 3-2 shootout victory.

    Kind of gives you an idea as to why The Hockey News sums him up as an “Elite all-round defenseman with a big point shot and leadership skills,” does it not?

Keith Yandle

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    When injuries created openings, Coyotes playmaking point patroller Keith Yandle got the nod to fill one of those voids at the 2011 NHL All-Star Game.

    Perhaps not so coincidentally, the announcement was made on Jan. 25 of that year, the same day that Yandle extended the longest production streak of his career to eight games with a pair of assists versus Edmonton.

    Those two helpers matched his output from the previous outing, giving him a hand in four of six Phoenix goals and a cumulative plus-one rating despite the team’s set of back-to-back 4-3 losses.

Henrik Zetterberg

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    On the other side of the 2004-05 NHL season that never was, Henrik Zetterberg turned in an 85-point campaign, nearly matching the combined output of his previous two seasons.

    If that does not tell enough, maybe the fact that he had a two-week business trip overseas in the middle of that 2005-06 itinerary will.

    If that is still not enough, try the fact that one of his hottest hot streaks in Red Wings attire sandwiched that excursion to Torino.

    Zetterberg’s two points on Feb. 12, 2006, turned a 3-3 deadlock into a 5-3 lead as part of a come-from-behind win over Colorado, the last game before the Olympic break. It was his fifth productive outing in his last six overall and the fourth to feature multiple points.

    Upon returning on March 1, just three days after helping Sweden clinch gold in Italy, he put forth another multipoint effort turned a scoreless tie into an eventual 2-0 win over Anaheim. He kept cooking over the next seven games to sprinkle out three more two-point performances.

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