NHL Golden Oldies: Players Over 35 Having an Impact on 2014 Playoffs
The long grind of the NHL postseason is a strenuous mental and physical challenge for its participants. It can be particularly draining for older players.
Regardless of years of experience and conditioning, age can slow the legs and dull the skills, hampering a veteran's abilities and effectiveness. Still, there are several players in this year's postseason doing their best to defy Father Time.
Some, though no longer capable of the heroics of their youth, are filling meaningful roles. A handful, despite their age, are still playing at an elite level. They're providing a fine example for their younger teammates to follow.
Here's a listing of 10 “golden oldies” making their presence felt in this year's Stanley Cup playoffs.
10. Teemu Selanne, Anaheim Ducks
After 20 NHL seasons, it's clear the 43-year-old Selanne lacks the offensive flash he once had. In 64 regular-season games, he netted only nine goals and 27 points. He did show some of his old flare in the Sochi Olympics, where he was named tournament MVP for helping Finland win a bronze medal in men's ice hockey.
Selanne saw limited playing time through the Ducks' opening-round series against the Dallas Stars, averaging 12:29. He was also a healthy scratch for Game 4 of that series, a move which would've been unthinkable a year ago. Since that benching, Selanne picked up two assists in the Ducks' series-clinching win in Game 6 over the Stars and scored his first of the playoffs in their series-opening loss to the Los Angeles Kings.
Selanne's high-scoring days are behind him, but he could still have a little playoff magic left. The fact he's still playing in the postseason at an age when most players are retired is reason enough to include him on this list.
9. Kimmo Timonen, Philadelphia Flyers
The Philadelphia Flyers went into this year's playoffs with two over-35 blueliners in Timonen and Mark Streit. While the 36-year-old Streit acquitted himself well (four points) during the Flyers' opening-round series against the New York Rangers, the 39-year-old Timonen stood out for his defensive play.
Though Timonen only tallied one assist, he logged the third-most average ice time (20:01) and second-most short-handed ice time. (3:42). He was also second in blocked shots (17). Considering his age, those are impressive numbers.
Timonen is eligible for unrestricted free agency in July. CSNPhilly.com's Sarah Baicker reports he intends to take a few weeks to decide if he'll retire or return with the Flyers. If this was his final NHL postseason, he at least gave a good account of himself.
8. Brian Gionta, Montreal Canadiens
The Canadiens have several ageing contributors in this year's postseason. Andrei Markov (35) is second in ice time (27:04) and blocked shots (21). Daniel Briere (36) has four points in seven games. Mike Weaver (36) leads in plus/minus (plus-six) and is third in blocked shots (20). Francis Bouillon (38) is tied for second in plus/minus (plus-four).
Gionta is the standout among this group of Habs veterans. The 35-year-old Canadiens captain is fourth among Habs forwards in ice time (18:36) and fourth overall in shots (20). He has four points (one goal, three assists) through seven games and has the club's only short-handed goal in these playoffs.
Though among the Canadiens' smallest players (5'7", 176 pounds), Gionta continues to play a big role. His speed, leadership and playoff experience (he's one of only three Habs with a Stanley Cup ring) make him a valuable part of their lineup.
7. Shawn Horcoff, Dallas Stars
Before this season, Horcoff's previous postseason appearance came during the Edmonton Oilers' run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2006, netting 19 points in 24 games. Dealt to the Stars last summer, Horcoff had 20 points in 77 regular-season games as a third-line forward.
The 35-year-old rediscovered some of his old playoff magic in the Stars' divisional semifinal series against the Anaheim Ducks. He had a goal and five assists for six points, finishing the playoffs as the Stars' leading scorer. He was also tied for fifth in hits (11).
Though Horcoff's best days are behind him, he proved he can still elevate his play in the postseason. His leadership and experience should make him an asset for the Stars next season.
6. Dan Boyle, San Jose Sharks
The 37-year-old Boyle overcame an early-season concussion to remain a key part of San Jose's roster. During the regular season, he led all Sharks defensemen in scoring (12 goals, 36 points) and ice time (21:16).
Despite the Sharks' stunning opening-round series collapse to the Los Angeles Kings, Boyle posted decent stats in that series. He had four assists, three of which came with the man advantage, making him the team leader in power-play points. He also led the Sharks in ice time (21:51) and tied for the lead in blocked shots (12).
The San Jose Mercury News' Chris Pashelka reports Boyle, an unrestricted free agent in July, hopes to return next season. “I believe I'm part of the solution and not part of the problem moving forward,” said Boyle. “We'll see what happens.” Given Boyle's numbers, he won't have much difficulty landing with another NHL club if the Sharks fail to re-sign him.
5. Martin St. Louis, New York Rangers
Dealt to the Rangers at the trade deadline, St. Louis struggled with his new club. After tallying 61 points in 62 games with Tampa Bay, the 38-year-old winger managed only one goal and eight points in 19 regular-season games as a Ranger.
St. Louis regained his scoring touch in the Rangers' opening-round series against the Philadelphia Flyers. He scored twice (including the game-winner in Game 3) and set up four more, finishing the series with six points as the Rangers eliminated the Flyers in seven games.
Though currently tied for second in Rangers scoring, St. Louis has been held scoreless in their Metropolitan Division Final against the Pittsburgh Penguins. To be fair, he isn't the only Rangers scorer having trouble finding the back of the net. Still, if the Rangers hope to overcome their 3-1 series deficit to the Penguins, they'll need St. Louis to lead the way.
4. Jarome Iginla, Boston Bruins
The Bruins certainly got their money's worth this season from their one-year deal with the 36-year-old Iginla. He reached the 30-goal mark for the 12th time and 60 points for the 13th time in his 17-year NHL career. CBC Sports' Tim Wharnsby reported Iginla became the 21st player 36 or older to score 30 goals in a season.
Though Iginla's not the dominant right wing he was during his heyday with the Calgary Flames, he remains an important part of the Bruins offense in the playoffs. He's playing on their top line with David Krejci and Milan Lucic. He scored the game-winner in overtime in Game 4 against the Detroit Red Wings, propelling the Bruins toward eliminating the Wings in five games.
Midway through the Bruins' divisional final against the Montreal Canadiens, Iginla is tied for second with Patrice Bergeron in goals (three). He's also been involved physically, sitting fifth on the Bruins in hits with 25.
3. Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings
This was a difficult season for Datsyuk. The 35-year-old center was limited to only 45 regular-season games by head and knee injuries. He was captain of the Russian men's hockey team that failed to medal on home ice at the Sochi Winter Olympics. The Red Wings struggled to clinch a playoff berth, then were eliminated from the opening round in five games by the Boston Bruins.
Though hampered by a nagging sore knee, Datsyuk was the Wings' best player in their brief series against the Bruins. He scored the only goal of Game 1 and went on to lead the Wings in scoring (three goals, two assists) and in faceoff wins (55). Those are impressive numbers for an ageing star with a bad leg.
There was some good news following the series, as The Detroit News' Ted Kulfan reported Datsyuk might not require offseason surgery for his sore knee. Despite his age and injury woes, Datsyuk remains the Wings' top player and among the NHL's best two-way forwards. A full summer to recuperate should recharge him for next season.
2. Marian Hossa, Chicago Blackhawks
Hossa had another solid regular season, netting 30 goals for the eighth time and 60 points for the 10th time in his 16-year NHL career. The 35-year-old winger missed a few games during the regular season to treat nagging back soreness.
NHL.com's Brian Hedger reported Hossa's lack of scoring (only two goals on 35 shots in his first eight games) didn't concern the Blackhawks. Hossa has become a more complete player, working harder on the backcheck. “I just learned over those years how to play both ends of the ice, and I just started enjoying it more,” he told Hedger.
Hossa netted only two points during the Blackhawks' opening-round series against St. Louis. He's found his range against the Minnesota Wild, collecting six points in the first two games of that series. He also leads the Blackhawks in shots (38) while his eight points ranks among their leading scorers.
1. Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins
Chara turned 37 in March but shows little sign of slowing down. Winner of the Norris Trophy in 2009 as the NHL's top defenseman, the Bruins captain is a finalist for the award this season. That marks the sixth time he's been a finalist, including the third time in the past four years.
In this postseason, Chara remains the anchor of the Bruins defense corps. His big shot from the point is still effective. Both of his playoff goals thus far came on the power play, leading the Bruins in that category. The most physically imposing blueliner (6'9", 255 pounds) in NHL history, Chara's making his mark with his defensive play. He leads the Bruins in ice time (26:13) and is tied for first in plus/minus (plus-five). He's also second in blocked shots (14) and fourth in hits (28).
In the Bruins' division final against the Montreal Canadiens, Chara has so far neutralized the Canadiens' top scorer in Max Pacioretty. NHL Network's Mike Kelly observed, via Twitter, that Chara was on the ice for 82 percent of Pacioretty's time on ice in Boston. Pacioretty went scoreless on eight shots in those games.