NHL elite look to continue impressive pace

Steve Stamkos, the number one overall draft pick by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, struggled to produce just over 40 points in his rookie campaign. Last night against Atlanta, Stamkos recorded goals 39 and 40 for a grand total of 76 points in 64 games. By season’s end, Stamkos could double his point production from his rookie year. But Stamkos isn’t the only player exceeding expectations this season. As the NHL rounds the corner to the last leg of the season before playoffs begin in April, here’s a look at some of the stat leaders and what to expect in the last 18 games. Toronto+Maple+Leafs+v+Tampa+Bay+Lightning+Lf7ld430P19l

Looking at the NHL points leader board, the usual names are there. Alexander Ovechkin tops the list with 90 total points scored this season and Sidney Crosby comes in tied at second with Henrik Sedin at 83 points. In only 64 games, Sedin has already surpassed last year’s career-high total of 82 points. Ovechkin seems primed to finish with over 100 points and could ultimately land around 110. Crosby and Sedin will most likely finish right around the 100-point plateau. Martin St. Louis, fourth on the points list with 78, should finish around 90 points, which is average for the super-consistent winger.

Sidney Crosby has taken over in a category normally dominated by Ovechkin. Crosby currently leads the league with 44 goals Рa career high and counting.  Ovechkin and Steve Stamkos fall in line with 42 and 40 respectively. This is unfamiliar territory for Crosby who usually serves as a set-up man in Pittsburgh instead of a goal scorer. Before this season, his best goals output in a single season was 39 in his rookie year. Will Crosby get to the 50-goal plateau? You better believe it. Crosby has been on a tear all season long and could finish with 55-60 goals by the end of the season. Ovechkin will undoubtedly reach 50 as well with his ability to rip the puck. The wild card here is Stamkos. With seven goals over his last five games, Stamkos could even surpass Ovechkin and Crosby for the goal scoring title if he maintains this pace. For reference, Crosby has five goals  in his last five games and Ovechkin has two. And with Tampa Bay fighting for a playoff spot, Stamkos will be called upon to produce and help catapult the team into the playoffs.

Another familiar face dominates the assists category. With the addition of Dany Heatley to the San Jose lineup in the off season, many believed that Joe Thornton could get back up to 90 assists. Well, 90 will be unattainable this year, but 75 sure wouldn’t be a long shot with 61 on the board already for Big Joe Tho. Henrik Sedin and Martin St. Louis fall in with 58 and 55 assists to occupy the second and third spots. Both players could end up around with a season total around 70. St. Louis could manage more or less depending on the play of Stamkos and Vincent Lecavelier. With Lacevelier experiencing a lackluster season in terms of production, St. Louis has been paired with Stamkos for the most part. This pairing gives Tampa Bay the best chance to win night in and night out. St. Louis could end with as many as 75 assists if the electrifying duo of Stamkos and St. Louis stays together.

Washington+Capitals+v+Florida+Panthers+7R7pIsnITS6lIn goal, a few unfamiliar names have set up shop on the league leader boards. Tomas Vokoun (pictured) and Ilya Bryzgalov are tied with juggernaut Martin Brodeur for the lead in shutouts with seven shutouts all around. Craig Anderson of the Colorado Avalanche has played his way to six shutouts while Ryan Miller has five. Will any goalie make it to an even ten shutouts? It’s highly unlikely. Bryzgalov, Brodeur and Vokoun shoulder most of the workload for their respective teams though and any one of them could notch another goose egg or two down the stretch.

Miller and Vokoun land on top of the save percentage category as well. Each goalie sports an impressive .931 save percentage. A surprise on that list comes with Jimmy Howard at number five with a .925 save percentage. Howard will need to be great in the last stretch of games for the Wings if the team wants to make the playoffs. In his last four games since the Olympic break, however, Howard has been pulled once and let in 12 goals. More consistency will be needed from the rookie goaltender.

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