2010 NHL Playoffs: Top 20 Hardest-Working Players from the First Round
These players sacrificed body and soul in the first round in an attempt to get their teams into the semifinals of the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup tournament.
While some were successful and some were not, all of these players deserve recognition for excellent service to their respective franchises.
The No. 1 player on this list will be the recipient of the Golden Hard Hat Award. This honour is awarded based on analysis of the following statistics: hits, blocked shots, giveaways, takeaways, and shots. More weight is attached to blocked shots and the player's giveaway-to-takeaway ratio than shots and hits.
The players on this list are the warriors who will battle along the boards for loose pucks. They will become battered and bruised from blocking numerous shots, in order to save goals. They will use those same battered and bruised bodies to punish their opponents physically.
These are the top 20 contenders for the Golden Hard Hat Award for the first round of this year's astounding NHL playoffs.
20. Josh Gorges: Montreal Canadiens
The 6’1”, 200-lb, 25-year-old defenseman from Canada plays for the Montreal Canadiens. He had 10 hits, 20 blocked shots, two giveaways, one takeaway, and three shots. He also provided one assist and a minus-1 rating in seven games.
His performance was key to the Canadiens' shocking upset of Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals in the first round. He was paired with Hal Gill, and they were assigned to neutralize Ovechkin.
I am not sure the Canadiens scouting staff could have saw this coming. The team acquired him from the San Jose Sharks with a first-round pick in the 2007 draft (Max Pacioretty) for Craig Rivet and a fifth-round draft choice in 2008 on February 25, 2007.
Gorges and Gill were largely effective, ensuring that Ovechkin was kept mostly to the outside for low percentage shots.
Who would have thought at the start of the series that Gorges would be able to handle a superstar forward so well?
He has also stepped forward to show that he wants to be a leader on this version of the Montreal Canadiens.
This was evidenced by the fact that he approached assistant coach Kirk Muller, who has no shortage of NHL playoff experience, and asked what the little things were he could do in Game Seven to be a leader and help his team win.
19. Devin Setoguchi: San Jose Sharks
The 6’0”, 200-lb, 23-year-old right winger from Canada plays for the San Jose Sharks. He had 10 hits, one blocked shot, three giveaways, six takeaways, and 36 shots. He also provided four goals, three assists, and a plus-four rating in seven games.
In a first roud that saw their big line of Thornton, Heatley, and Marleau go relatively silent on the score sheet, Setoguchi stepped up his play. He provided strong defensive play, while also managing to score four key goals to the Sharks win over the Avalanche.
He also provided a game-winning goal for the Sharks in the first round.
He was determined not to let his team fall into its much-known playoff pattern of choking, and he and Joe Pavelski have shown that they are the future of this franchise.
Patrick Marleau becomes a free agent this offseason. You would have to believe that if Setoguchi and Pavelski continue their solid play, it will make the decision to let Marleau walk much easier for General Manager Doug Wilson.
18. Adam Foote: Colorado Avalanche
The 6’2”, 220-lb, 38-year-old defenseman from Canada plays for the Colorado Avalanche. He had 12 hits, 16 blocked shots, three giveaways, four takeaways, and six shots. He also provided one assist and a minus-four rating in six games.
Now in his second tour of duty with the Avalanche, he is a holdover from the Stanley Cup-winning teams from the late 1990s and early 2000s.
He is not the player he once was, but still provides a solid defensive presence, and is very valuable in the locker room.
The team captain showed his younger players what it takes to win in the playoffs with his solid presence on the back end. He no doubt taught his younger teammates some valuable lesson that can make them better players next season.
At 38 years of age, how much more can his body take? Look for him to return for one more season, for one more crack at the Stanley Cup.
By no means is Colorado seen as a contender for the Cup next season. But the lessons learned in this playoff year may just allow them to become a dangerous team next year.
17. Mike Green: Washington Captials
The 6’1”, 204-lb, 24-year-old defenseman from Canada plays for the Washington Capitals. He had 18 hits, 17 blocked shots, nine giveaways, two takeaways, and 23 shots. He also provided three assists and a plus-one rating in seven games.
For all the flack he has been taking for his defensive play throughout the series, from myself included, the numbers tell a different story. While his nine giveaways are near the top in the first round, he makes up for them with solid totals in hits and shot blocks.
Many are calling for Green's head because of his lack of offensive production and the perception that he is a terrible defender in his own end. Not to mention the bad penalty he took in Game Seven leading to the Canadiens' first goal.
I say give the guy more time.
He is very young and will only continue to improve his overall game. Once he does that, this kid will be dynamite in the playoffs.
16. Shea Weber: Nashville Predators
The 6’4”, 234-lb, 24-year-old defenseman from Canada plays for the Nashville Predators. He had 18 hits, 14 blocked shots, seven giveaways, four takeaways, and 14 shots. He also provided two goals, one assist, and a minus-one rating in six games.
This season has been a breakout year for the young defenseman.
With his standout performance at the Olympics for Team Canada, he has finally gained the widespread recognition that he deserves.
He has a cannon for a shot and provides rock-solid defensive play for this hard-working Nashville squad. In the deciding game of the series, he showed clutch play with a goal and an assist in 23:50 of ice time.
Nashville hopes to hold onto this talent for a long time.
Imagine how good he will be with a few more years of experience under his belt. The Predators have a future captain in Shea Weber. Hopefully, they will give him a supporting cast that will allow a Cup run in the near future.
15. Brooks Orpik: Pittsburgh Penguins
The 6’2”, 219-lb, 29-year-old defenseman from the United States plays for the Pittsburgh Penguins. He had 32 hits, 11 blocked shots, three giveaways, one takeaway, and four shots. He also provided a plus-three rating in six games.
While his solid defensive presence and punishing style of play does not land him on the score sheet often, his play has been integral to the Penguins' success in recent seasons.
He is the prototypical playoff defenseman. He clears the front of his net, and works hard in the corner for loose pucks. He often makes the safe offensive play by dumping the puck into the opposition end, allowing his team to create a forecheck.
I cannot think of any team that would not love to have a player of his ilk in their lineup when the playoffs come around.
Look for him to continue his rock-solid defensive play, and to continue punishing the Montreal Canadiens physically in the second round.
14. Chris Pronger: Philadelphia Flyers
The 6’6”, 220-lb, 35-year-old defenseman from Canada plays for the Philadelphia Flyers. He had six hits, 20 blocked shots, two giveaways, two takeaways, and 10 shots. He also provided two goals, three assists, and a plus-one rating in five games.
He has long been known has one of the biggest and meanest defenseman in the game.
He has shown this season that age and the mileage on his body is not getting the best of him yet. He can still log big minutes against the best in the league night in and night out.
He has been a big factor and minute-eater for the Flyers this season. The Flyers brought him in the be one of the missing pieces to a Stanley Cup run. Thus far, he has not disappointed.
Just as he showed in the 2006 Stanley Cup run by the Edmonton Oilers, he can raise his play to be the difference-maker in the playoffs.
His Stanley Cup-winning experience will also prove to be invaluable to the Flyers as the second round begins.
I would not be shocked to see the Flyers take down the Bruins and head to the conference finals.
13. Andrei Markov: Montreal Canadiens
The 6’0”, 207-lb, 31-year-old defenseman from Russia plays for the Montreal Canadiens. He had six hits, 18 blocked shots, three giveaways, six takeaways, and nine shots. He also provided four assists and a minus-three rating in seven games.
He has been Montreal's best player when he has been in the lineup this year. He is also the key member of the power play for his team.
His puck distribution skills are tremendous, but he is an underrated defensive player.
He provided much-needed puck savvy and patience for the Canadiens in their first-round upset of the Washington Capitals. He is a player who makes his team much better when he is in the lineup.
However, this season he ended up playing in only 45 regular season games after suffering a lower body injury on October 1 in the season opener against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Unfortunately for the Habs, he appears to have been injured in last night's game on a clean hit from none other than Matt Cooke.
If the Canadiens have any hope of defeating the Penguins in this series, they will need Markov in the lineup.
12. Darren Helm: Detriot Red Wings
The 5’11”, 195-lb, 23-year-old center from Canada plays for the Detroit Red Wings. He had 29 hits, six blocked shots, one giveaway, three takeaways, and 12 shots. He also provided one goal and a minus-four rating in seven games.
This player will be a large part of the Red Wings' future. He has great speed and is very defensively responsible. It appears they have found their replacement for long-time third line center Kris Draper.
I have been very impressed with the youngster's play thus far in this year's playoffs.
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock has shown his faith in this young man by having him average 3:57 of penalty-kill time through the first round.
He played his first full NHL season this year, appearing in 76 games prior to the playoffs. Look for his play to improve as the playoffs wear on the older players in the league.
I look forward to watching Helm play in the years to come.
11. Jarkko Ruutu: Ottawa Senators
The 6’1”, 204-lb, 34-year-old left winger from Finland plays for the Ottawa Senators. He had 32 hits, seven blocked shots, two giveaways, one takeaway, and 14 shots. He also provided two goals, one assist, and a plus-two rating in six games.
Well known for his shift-disturbing style of play, the aging Ruutu showed that he can still be very valuable when the playoffs begin. He was a thorn in the Penguins' side all series and a contributor on the penalty kill for the Senators. He saw 2:18 per game on the ice in shorthanded situations.
The knock on Ruutu is his, at times, undisciplined play. His 34 penalty minutes gave a potent Pittsburgh power play too much time to work.
However, overall he can be a very effective player of the same ilk of Matt Cooke. These are players every team loves to have, but everyone hates to play against.
10. Pavel Datsyuk: Detroit Red Wings
The 5’11”, 194-lb, 31-year-old center from Russia plays for the Detroit Red Wings. He had seven hits, four blocked shots, two giveaways, 11 takeaways, and 25 shots. He also provided five goals, three assists, and a plus-two rating in seven games.
He was drafted 171st overall in the sixth round of the 1998 NHL Entry draft by the Detroit Red Wings.
The Wings surely found a gem in Datsyuk. He is now in his eigth season with Detroit, and has become the best two-way player in the league.
He is the type of player who does it all on offense and defence, while displaying tremendous puck skills. You would swear that sometimes he has glued the puck to his stick.
During the first round, he was also extremely good on faceoffs at home in the Joe Louis Arena, winning 60.38 percent of the time. He was also still effective in Phoenix's Jobing.com Arena, winning 50.51 percent of the time.
He also had 11 takeaways, only giving away the puck twice through the seven-game series with the Coyotes.
Look for him to continue to rack up points for the Red Wings, while also helping to shut down the San Jose Sharks' key offensive players.
Perhaps the most valuable aspect of Datsyuk's game is that you can play him against any other player in the league, because he is such a great all-around player.
9. Andy Sutton: Ottawa Senators
The 6’6”, 245-lb, 35-year-old defenseman from Canada plays for the Ottawa Senators. He had 24 hits, 17 blocked shots, four giveaways, three takeaways, and three shots. He also provided a minus-two rating in six games.
The big defenceman with a long reach was acquired from the New York Islanders to bolster the Senators blue line for the playoffs, and he did just that.
While no points and a minus-two rating may not seem impressive, his stats that do not show up on the scoreboard are why the Sens acquired him.
His big body is tough to play against, and he can use it to throw big hits as well. As evidenced by the hit he laid on Penguins' defenceman Jordan Leopold, who has not played again since the hit.
While he is a slower skater, many times his long reach will make up for his slowness of foot. He did not look out of place one the ice during this series, averaging 23:01 of ice time per game.
With Anton Volchenkov possibly pursuing free agency for top dollar, Sutton may be a more economical replacement on the blue line for the Sens.
8. Wayne Simmonds: Los Angeles Kings
The 6’2”, 183-lb, 21-year-old right winger from Canada plays for the Los Angeles Kings. He had 23 hits, six blocked shots, one giveaway, six takeaways, and 14 shots. He also provided two goals, one assist, and a plus-one rating in six games.
While playing an average of 14:19 per game, Simmonds proved one thing to me: he is a battler.
He is also a very fluid skater and has good speed. He looks like he will become a solid NHL player and possible candidate for the Selke trophy in the years to come.
He will be part of the Kings youthful core moving forward. Look for him to make more noise in next year's postseason. He will be a much improved player next season from the experience gained in this year's playoffs.
7. Mike Fisher: Ottawa Senators
The 6’1”, 209-lb, 29-year-old center from Canada plays for the Ottawa Senators. He had 29 hits, five blocked shots, two giveaways, six takeaways, and 13 shots. He also provided two goals, three assists, and a minus-two rating in six games.
Fisher is the total package. While he is not an elite offensive player, he is a great second line center. He normally matches up against the opposition's best player, which is why it was curious that coach Cory Clouston did not assign him to check Crosby until late in the series.
As per the usual, he played in all situations for the Senators. He averaged 16:09 at even strength, 4:05 on the power play, and 2:49 on the penalty kill.
He also saw 34:51 of ice time in the marathon that was Game Five, which ended in a Senators' win forcing Game Six.
Fisher is also a valuable face off man winning 52.27 percent at home, and 50 percent on the road in the opening round.
6. Brad Stuart: Detroit Red Wings
The 6’2”, 210-lb, 30-year-old defenseman from Canada plays for the Detroit Red Wings. He had 27 hits, nine blocked shots, three giveaways, five takeaways, and 16 shots. He also provided two goals, four assists, and a plus-six rating in seven games.
He was Mr. Everything for the Wings in the first round. He was solid in his own end and put up great offensive totals. He did all of this while playing in all situations for his team.
He averaged 17:05 at even strength, 2:14 on the power play, and 4:35 while killing penalties.
He has had a tremendous start to this year's playoffs.
However, do not expect his torrid offensive pace to continue through the second round. He knows that his job is to be a rock-solid defender, and any points he gets are a bonus.
5. Johnny Boychuk: Boston Bruins
The 6’2”, 225-lb, 26-year-old defenseman from Canada plays for the Boston Bruins. He had 17 hits, 13 blocked shots, zero giveaways, three takeaways, and 18 shots. He also provided one goal, two assists, and a minus-one rating in six games.
Well, here is a new name that I have not seen much of before this year.
This season was the first time that he played more than four games for an NHL team.
The Bruins acquired him in what was thought to be a minor trade on June 24, 2008, when spare part Matt Hendricks was sent to Colorado. Boychuk then spent last season in the AHL with the Providence Bruins, and put up great numbers with 20 goals, 46 assists, 61 penalty minutes, and a plus-19 rating in 78 games.
This season, he dressed for 51 games and was a healthy scratch for 24 games with the Boston Bruins. He seems to have won over the coaching staff, and is now playing in all situations for the Bruins.
For the final five games of the regular season and now into the playoffs, he has not averaged less than 20 minutes of ice time per game.
In the first round he averaged 21:12 at even strength, 1:45 with the man advantage, and 2:53 seconds shorthanded.
Look for him to continue his solid play and secure a regular job on the Bruins' back end for the 2010-11 NHL season.
4. Martin Hanzal: Phoenix Coyotes
The 6’6”, 228-lb, 23-year-old center from the Czech Republic plays for the Phoenix Coyotes. He had 26 hits, two blocked shots, two giveaways, six takeaways, and 29 shots. He also provided three assists and a minus-three rating in seven games.
He was not as effective offensively as the Coyotes needed him to be to win the series. Although, with his big frame, he is an effective member of the power-play unit for the Coyotes when he stands in front of the opposition's goaltender.
He was also good at the face-off circle in this series, winning 59.21 percent of draws at home in the Jobing.com Arena, and winning 50 percent on the road at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit.
He plays on both the power play and the penalty kill for the Coyotes. When he was drafted 17th overall by the franchise in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, his offensive game was expected to develop.
But after three seasons of 11 or less goals and 35 or less points, he appears to be developing into a solid third line center who can contribute offensively.
3. Hal Gill: Montreal Canadiens
The 6’7”, 241-lb, 35-year-old defenseman from the United States plays for the Montreal Canadiens. He had seven hits, 31 blocked shots, three giveaways, one takeaway, and six shots. He also provided one assist and a plus-six rating in seven games.
If there was one single reason why the Canadiens upset the Capitals outside of Jaroslav Halak, it was the play of Hal Gill. Most of his time spent on the ice was spent defending against arguably the best player in the world, Alex Ovechkin.
In this series, Gill averaged 16:34 at even strength and 4:36 on the penalty kill per game. His 31 blocked shots were second among players in the first round.
He must be black and blue all over.
Known to be a slower skater, Gill had to use his smarts to stop Ovechkin and company. Coming into this series, I believed that Gill would be too slow to stop the Capitals' speedy forwards.
Needless to say, I was terribly wrong in that assumption.
GIll was tremendously impressive on the penalty kill as well. He always had his stick in the passing lane, and was blocking shots like he was the goaltender himself.
Can the Canadiens bring down the defending Stanley Cup Champions, the Pittsburgh Penguins.
I would like to say no way, nohow, not until pigs fly. But after seeing them take down the Capitals anything is possible.
2. Mike Grier: Buffalo Sabres
The 6’1”, 227-lb, 35-year-old right winger from the United States plays for the Buffalo Sabres. He had 33 hits, 12 blocked shots, one giveaway, three takeaways, and 19 shots. He also provided two goals and an even rating in six games.
On a team short on size and grit, Grier was extremely valuable in the first round.
The Sabres knew what they were getting in Grier when they signed him. He is a big body that plays excellent defensively and punishes the opposition.
He is also a trusted member of the penalty kill, averaging 2:36 per game in the first round.
At the age of 35, and considering the type of game he plays, he likely only has a couple years left of performing at this level.
For now though, he is a valuable player to any team wishing to take a run at the Stanley Cup.
1. Anton Volchenkov: Ottawa Senators
The 6’1”, 226-lb, 28-year-old defenseman from Russia plays for the Ottawa Senators. He had 13 hits, 32 blocked shots, one giveaway, two takeaways, and two shots. He also provided two assists and a minus-two rating in six games.
Anton Volchenkov is the winner of the Golden Hard Hat Award for the first round of the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs.
He laid his body on the line for his team, with his 32 blocked shots leading the first round of the playoffs. He also played a regular shift against two of the top five players in the world in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
In the Game Five marathon win by Ottawa, he was on the ice for 35:01. Throughout the series, he averaged 18:29 at full strength and 3:56 shorthanded per game.
He has a well-earned reputation of putting his body, heart, and soul on the line for his team to win games in the playoffs and the regular season.
Through 64 regular season games, he had 172 blocked shots. That's an average of 2.6 blocked shots per game—in the regular season!
He is a player who has no regard for his body and is a rock on the blue line. Any team would love to have his services for the intangibles he brings to the game.
This offseason, he is to become an unrestricted free agent. It is rumoured that there may be teams willing to pay as much as $5 million to bring Volchenkov to their lineup.
He is a great player to have, but at $5 millon over a long term contract?
With the amount of shots he blocks, his body will begin to break down earlier in his career. He likely has four, possibly five, seasons left playing the style of game he plays.
But for now he is the hardest-working player of the first round of the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs and the recipient of the Golden Hard Hat Award.
Dustin Brown, Los Angeles Kings
Vladimir Sobotka, Boston Bruins
Scot Nichol, San Jose Sharks
Brent Sopel, Chicago Blackhawks
John-Michael Liles, Colordo Avalanche
Alexander Edler, Vancouver Canucks
Ian Laperriere, Philadelphia Flyers
Milan Lucic, Boston Bruins
Ryan Kesler, Vancouver Canucks
Kris Letang, Pittsburgh Penguins
Kimmo Timonen, Philadelphia Flyers