Red-Hot NHL Players Destined to Cool off Soon

Carol SchramFeatured ColumnistFebruary 29, 2016

Red-Hot NHL Players Destined to Cool off Soon

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    Sanford Myers/Associated Press

    The NHL's redesigned website offers a "trending" category on its main stats page, which makes it easy to identify the hottest players in the league over the past 10 days.

    As the playoff race heats up, it's not surprising to see names such as Alexander Ovechkin, Johnny Gaudreau and even Joe Thornton appearing on the list. Those players have been among the league's best scorers all season long and are unlikely to cool off anytime soon.

    Then there's Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning, who has finally shaken off the funk that enveloped him for half the season and has nine points in his last six games—a streak that basically coincided with the Feb. 15 announcement on the Lightning's website that general manager Steve Yzerman has no intention of dealing Stamkos at the trade deadline.

    Stamkos has heated up, but this type of production is the norm for him, not the exception. With his mind at ease, he could well keep rolling right into the playoffs. But among the trending lists of both skaters and goalies, some names look like they don't belong.

    Listed alphabetically, here's a snapshot of the NHL's surging talent who will almost certainly come back to earth over the next few weeks.

Ryan Callahan, Tampa Bay Lightning

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    Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

    2015-16 Stats: 61 GP, 10-18-28

     

    Current Hot Streak: In his last four games, Ryan Callahan of the Tampa Bay Lightning has recorded four goals and four assists for eight points, a pace of two points per game.

     

    Why It Won't Last: It has been two decades since an NHL player maintained a pace of two points per game for an entire season. Mario Lemieux posted 161 points in 70 games in 1995-96; since then, no one has managed more than 127.

    Last year's Art Ross Trophy Winner, Jamie Benn, was barely over a point a game at 87 points in 82 games. This season is better—seven players are at or above a point-per game pace, according to Hockey-Reference.com.

    It's great to see Tampa Bay healthy and getting into the groove as the playoffs approach, but it would be folly to expect Ryan Callahan to keep producing at his current rate for any period of time.

    Callahan has peaked at 54 points twice in his career, including last season with the Lightning. Expect to see him chip in down the stretch, but he won't keep delivering multi-point games like he has done over the past week.

Filip Forsberg, Nashville Predators

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    2015-16 Stats: 63 GP, 26-20-46

    Current Hot Streak: In 11 games since Feb. 6, Filip Forsberg has collected 12 goals and 4 assists for 16 points—a marked improvement from his 14-16-30 in the season's first 52 games.

    The high point so far has been two hat tricks in Forsberg's last three games.

     

    Why It Won't Last: Forsberg knows this level of production can't last forever. "Maybe when I was playing in pee-wee or something like that I probably had a few hat tricks, but not like this,” Forsberg said after scoring three times against the St. Louis Blues on Feb. 27, per the Associated Press (via Sportsnet). "I’m just trying to get open. I guess that’s the biggest thing."

    The 21-year-old also showed some streakiness last season, earning notice as an early Calder Trophy candidate thanks to a 13-14-27 run over 26 games in November and December of 2014 before finishing out the season with 26 goals and 63 points.

    Forsberg's a talent who has not yet reached his full potential, but he'll cool off between now and the end of the regular season.

Jaroslav Halak, New York Islanders

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    Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

    2015-16 Stats: 34 GP, 16-13-4, 2.28 goals-against average, .919 save percentage

     

    Current Hot Streak: In his last four games, Jaroslav Halak has allowed five goals and earned one shutout.

     

    Why It Won't Last: Halak turned his fortunes around in mid-February, when he switched back to the goalie mask he used when he set the New York Islanders' franchise record for wins last season, according to Arthur Staple of Newsday.

    Funnily enough, though, Halak's basic stats this year are better than the 2.43 goals-against average and .914 save percentage he recorded in 2014-15—and better than his career averages of 2.38 and .917 respectively.

    Furthermore, the magic of the mask let Halak down on Feb. 28, when his team dropped a 3-1 decision to the league-worst Edmonton Oilers.

    The mask may be boosting his confidence temporarily, but Halak looks like he's reverting to the norm.

Joonas Korpisalo, Columbus Blue Jackets

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    Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

    2015-16 Stats: 51 GP, 12-7-4, 2.62 goals-against average, .919 save percentage

     

    Current Hot Streak: Young Finnish goaltender Joonas Korpisalo has been a rare bright spot in the season of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Forced into a starting role in mid-January when both Sergei Bobrovsky and Curtis McElhinney were injured, the 21-year-old has put together a 10-3-3 record with a 2.36 goals-against average and a .926 save percentage during that time.

     

    Why It Won't Last: It looks like the Blue Jackets have stumbled on a diamond in the rough in Korpisalo, a third-round draft pick in 2012 who is in his first full season in North America. He's fundamentally sound and has tremendous potential, but the NHL grind is bound to catch up with a young player who has taken on an unexpectedly heavy workload.

    Korpisalo has been an integral part of the Blue Jackets' rise out of the NHL basement since the beginning of 2016, but don't expect too many more miracles before the end of the season.

Jason Pominville, Minnesota Wild

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    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    2015-16 Stats: 63 GP, 10-20-30

    Current Hot Streak: In his last seven games, Jason Pominville has four goals and five assists for nine points. His output has ticked up dramatically since John Torchetti replaced Mike Yeo behind the Minnesota Wild bench on Feb. 13.

     

    Why It Won't Last: In his entire career, veteran winger Pominville has never been a point-a-game player. The closest he came was as a 25-year-old with the Buffalo Sabres in 2007-08, when he tallied 27 goals and 80 points in 82 games.

    Now 33, Pominville's production had dipped significantly—10 goals and 30 points from 63 games—but he is finding inspiration in new coach Torchetti. "He's stepped in and given us more freedom to make plays offensively and came in with some new ideas," Pominville said, per Dan Myers of NHL.com. "It's created a spark for our team, and you've seen it with a lot of guys getting on the score sheet."

    After a hot 4-0 start to the Torchetti era, the Wild scored just five goals in their next three games, all losses, before rebounding with a 3-1 win over the Florida Panthers on Feb. 28.

    Expect to see more up-and-down performances from Pominville and the rest of his teammates as the Wild try to claw their way into back into the Western Conference playoff picture.

Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    2015-16 Stats: 51 GP, 24-18-9, 2.39 goals-against average, .910 save percentage

     

    Current Hot Streak: In his last five games, Pekka Rinne is 4-0-1. He has given up just four goals while earning two shutouts, a 0.79 goals-against average and a .974 save percentage.

     

    Why It Won't Last: Rinne was the runner-up to Carey Price for the Vezina Trophy in 2014-15 with a .923 save percentage and a 2.18 goals-against average. His performance this season has been surprisingly below par, but it has been characterized by streaky play, such as 16 goals allowed in four games between Feb. 4 and Feb. 12—right before his current hot streak.

    Rinne has been prone to injury in his career but has usually been rock-solid when healthy. It's not yet clear why he has been so inconsistent this term, but the numbers seem to indicate he'll hit a couple more peaks and valleys before the playoffs begin.

     

    All stats courtesy of NHL.com and current through games Sunday, February 28.