As the NHL regular season came to an end, and I was watching the Red Wings close out the Joe in winning fashion, Henrik Zetterberg played in his 82nd game of the season, and 1000th of his career. Z’s stat line for the year was what was surprising for me, and he seemed to just punch the time clock, get a few points here and a few goals there and ended up with 17 goals and 68 points for the second to last place in the Atlantic Division Red Wings. This stat line made me look around the NHL and see what other players were silent but deadly in their statistical quest this past season, and I bet you thought this article would be about farts?
Ryan Getzlaf (C, Anaheim Ducks): As I mentioned in my DraftKings DFS piece yesterday, Getzlaf quietly amassed 73 points this season, and has also become a much better penalty killer, after he showed the hockey world he could kill the penalties after playing shut-down center for Mike Babcock in the Olympics. With 15 goals and 58 assists, which have always been Getzlaf’s forte, he was on an absolute tear at the end of the regular season. Six of his goals were on the power play and two were short-handed, and with Ryan Kesler as the top lock-down forward, Getz provides additional lock-down depth for the Ducks in their first round attempt to douse the Flames.
Patrick Eaves (RW, Anaheim Ducks): Acquired by the Ducks at the trade deadline from the Dallas Stars, this season’s biggest flame out, Eaves quietly posted 32 goals and will be very intriguing now in the playoffs. A player who has been waived on a few different occasions, Eaves showed what playing all year long with top end talent can do for your production. Anyone remember Jonathan Cheechoo and his 56-goal season in 2005-06? Anyone remember what happened to him after they took away his Jumbo Joe Action Figure? Cheechoo is now slugging it out in the Russian Elite League, the Kontinental Hockey League with the Dynamo (Minsk) in Croatia. Eaves split his time in Dallas with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, and now with the Ducks, he lines up with Ryan Getzlaf and Anaheim's next superstar Rickard Rakell. He will be put in excellent situations to succeed this postseason.
Nicklas Backstrom (C, Washington Capitals): I know it seems impossible that the fourth leading scorer in the NHL did it unnoticed, but I feel that he has, and that the Caps have quietly amassed this 120-point season too. With 23 goals and 63 assists, Nicklas put together his fifth 60-plus assist season, and he centers probably the deadliest line in the NHL, with Alexander Ovechkin and first-time 30-goal scorer T.J. Oshie. Look closely at the box scores so you do not miss Backstrom populating it after each game as he’s done all year while leading the Caps to the Stanley Cup over the Blues.
Jake Gardiner (D, Toronto Maple Leafs): On a very young and inexperienced team, Gardiner led this team full of minuses with a solid +/- plus +24. Jake plays in the Leafs second defensive pair, and on the first power play unit, and is Toronto's most solid defender. In his fifth full season, Gardiner chipped in nine goals and 43 assists. He anchored the second-best power play in the NHL, which clicked at 23.36% and is loaded with players who cannot get into a bar in the United States. Jake also averaged just over 21 minutes per game with 52.6% Corsi For value. I was just impressed with this young defenseman, who went under the radar on a team in transition, in the hockey Mecca of North America, and with much higher profiled rookies around.
Henrik Zetterberg (C, Detroit Red Wings): Yes, I covered Z in the opener, but I’m still going to dig a little deeper on the 14-year veteran. In his 14th full season, Zetterberg put up his highest point total since 2011-12, when he had one more point with 69 points. After regularly putting up 70, 80 and a 92-point season earlier in his career, Henrik is a steady veteran who is guiding some of the younger Wings down the path, teaching them how to prepare and play like a professional on and off the ice. The Red Wings have been blessed to have the success they have with this former 6th round draft pick.
Be sure to tweet me @PolkaPat, and read more hockey from me at Fighting Chance Sports.