The Stanley Cup Playoffs are the best time of the year. I’m having withdrawals from not having my Chicago Blackhawks in contention but the great game’s we’ve been treated to so far have kept me preoccupied. Next round we get to witness ANOTHER Capitals/Penguins series and I am here for it and you should be too! Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin are two of the greatest players the NHL has ever seen. It’s the same level of excitement I got when Tom Brady and Peyton Manning would sling it out for best in the AFC. These are stars we should appreciate as sports fans because we may never see players like them ever again.
Being a Hockey writer, I have had the immense pleasure of watching and covering some spectacles that amaze me every time they hit the ice; here are my top 5 players that I have ever had the privilege to watch.
5. Pavel Datsyuk Detroit Red Wings 2001-2016
Being a Blackhawks fan, there are plenty of guys that I absolutely HATED: Raffi Torres, the Sedins, Barret Jackman, Jeff Carter, Vladimir Tarasenko etc… but no player scared me like this guy. Datsyuk is one of the most skilled guys in the history of hockey. He scored under 500 career goals and never got to 1,000 points, but, ask any Hawks fan and they will most likely say the same thing. This string bean, 5 foot 11 inch Russian was heavy on the puck like Marian Hossa but had the hands of Patrick Kane. While covering the Red Wings this season, current Red Wing Justin Abdelkader made mention of his first practice as a rookie and got yelled at by Datsyuk for dumping the puck into the zone. The man was all about having the puck on his tape and he’d find a way to either go around you or pass it off, mostly opting to deke guys out of their skates. The NHL has him as a top 100 player of all time and SportsCenter listed him as #10 on their list of most skilled players of all time.
4. Nicklas Lidstrom Detroit Red Wings 1991-2012
Everybody has that one player that they wished wasn’t on the team they hate; Nick Lidstrom is that guy for me. I’m not going to sit here and pretend like I saw this guy in his prime. I didn’t seriously start watching hockey until about 2009 (now it’s all I do) and that Winter Classic between the Red Wings and the Blackhawks at Wrigley Field introduced me to the greatest defenseman since Bobby Orr. Lidstrom was a 12 time All-Star, the runner-up for the Calder trophy (Rookie of the year), a 7 time Norris trophy winner (best defenseman), Red Wings Captain, 4 time Stanley Cup Champion and a Conn Smythe winner as the Stanley Cup MVP. He finished his career with 1142 points and a rating of plus 450. Stats aside, no other player in the NHL commands the same level of respect as Lidstrom did. Whenever people talk about a top defensive prospect, it goes something like “oh he’s the next Nick Lidstrom”. His #5 now hangs in the rafters of Little Caesars Arena alongside the likes of Stevie Y and Gordie Howe.
3. Sidney Crosby Pittsburgh Penguins 2006-Present
Sid the kid man. I know, I didn’t want to do it but I’d lose my credentials as a Hockey writer if I didn’t put the second coming of Gretzky on here. Back in 2005 when I didn’t watch hockey every day, I knew one guy; Sidney Crosby. He just had so much buzz around him and put the NHL in the limelight on ESPN every now and then. I don’t actually think he’s the next coming of Gretzky, but boy is he damn close. Crosby can skate, pass, snipe…the dude does it all. When the Penguins came to Detroit a couple months ago, Little Caesars Arena erupted in boos as Crosby’s name was announced. The crowd was immediately silenced when Crosby buried a one timer off a breakaway past Jimmy Howard just 30 seconds into the game. What’s even more terrifying is that he does it all during the biggest moments. We all remember 2010 in Vancouver when he shattered the hope of all American when he scored the overtime goal to win the gold medal in the Olympics. If you don’t remember, go ahead and take a trip to the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, THERE’S AN ENTIRE DISPLAY DEDICATED TO IT. Currently Crosby has won 2 Hart trophies (regular season MVP’s), 3 Stanley Cups and 2 Conn Smythe’s. A handful of guys are always worth the price of admission; Crosby is worth it every game. The Penguins are gunning for their third Cup in a row, they’ll be looking for Sid to be the guy that takes them there…again.
2. Alexander Ovechkin Washington Capitals 2005-Present
I’ve always had an admiration for Ovi. Just a 6 foot 3, 235 pound scoring machine that isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty and smash you into the boards; what’s not to love?! Remember when he hip checked P.K. Subban at center ice and catapulted him into the air? How about that goal against Phoenix when he scored on a superman dive behind his back? Yea, Gretzky was in the building and shook his head and laughed after that one. Ever see him on the power play? He fires a one-time from the left face-off circle.
Do you know how big of a middle finger that is to another team when you know exactly what your opponent is going to do and there’s nothing you can do to stop him? He’s a boisterous playmaker that excites me every time I go to a game and see him take the ice for warm-ups. Ovi currently has 3 Hart trophies, 7 Maurice Richard trophies (most goals in a season), a hart trophy and is 19th all-time with 607 goals. The knock against him is his lack of Stanley Cups, but I would bet my money that he’ll get at least one throughout his career. He’s only 32 and has a couple of prime years left. If he has any stamina near what Jaromir Jagr has, Gretzky’s record of 894 goals is in serious danger. Alex Ovechkin is the greatest goal scorer I have ever seen and possibly the greatest the game has ever seen.
Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith, Jonathan Toews, Jaromir Jagr, Martin Brodeur, Henrik Lundqvist, Henrik Zetterberg, Drew Doughty and Evgeni Malkin.
1. Patrick Kane Chicago Blackhawks 2007-Present
Showtime. The Mayor of Dangle City. I can’t in all good conscience not put Kaner at the top. Whenever the Michael Jordan vs Lebron James debate is brought up, aside from having more championships, the argument for Jordan is the storied moments that you can point to: the flu game, the shot over Ehlo, the shrug etc… Patrick Kane has that same mystique around him. Most of my favorite moments that made me fall in love with hockey came courtesy of this guy. Remember the game tying goal against Nashville in 2010 while being down a man from a game misconduct? He won the Stanley cup in 2010 in overtime on an impossible angle goal. Doc Emrick didn’t even know what happened! Still not convinced? How about the double overtime winner against the Kings in 2013 to win the Western Conference? Patrick Kane should be the poster child for hockey in the United States. He’s the ONLY American born player to win the Hart trophy and has three Stanley Cups and a Conn Smythe trophy to his name. Patrick Kane has proven time and time again that he’s the most exciting player in hockey. When it’s all said and done, #88 will be hanging in the rafters of the United Center, and the image of Showtime’s “heartbreaker” celebration will forever be burned into my brain.
Have a different top 5? Let us know! Tweet us @FSMBlitz, @1230WCWA or @frankgargano77