Welcome to Center Ice Chat’s irregular series, Top 5, in which we look at the top 5 performances of players throughout the league. In this edition, we look at the top 5 players among the NHL who are leading the way on the front line and in harms way by blocking shots.
5. Niklas Kronwall, Detroit Red Wings
With 83 blocked shots, Kronwall rounds out the top five in blocked shots, but is passive on the hitting aspect of his defence. He has 42 hits registered. The Red Wings are obviously known for its great defensively minded game, and need not to leave Jimmy Howard worrying about stealing a game here or there.
Having Kronwall on this list isn’t much of a surprise, either. He blocked 31 shots in just 11 games during the playoffs this past season.
4. Dan Girardi, New York Rangers
Girardi has 85 blocked shots to his name, and just as many hits. When he’s not laying down in front of his boy Henrik Lundqvist, he’s laying into opponents.
Girardi led the league last year with 236 blocked shots.
3. Josh Gorges, Montreal Canadiens
Georges is making a name for himself with 88 blocked shots. He’s fairly short for a defenceman at 6 foot, 1 inch, and has just five fights within his professional career in the NHL.
Give credit where it’s due. Gorges is getting the job done, especially on a tail-spun Canadiens squad this year.
He’s widely recognized as one of the best defensive, defencemen in the league today, and is a great source for any coach to tap into on the penalty kill.
2. Mark Stuart, Winnipeg Jets
We remember the Tomas Kaberle trade last season, in which the Boston Bruins acquired the defenceman from the Toronto Maple Leafs. It was not too long after the Bruins acquired Rich Pevereley in exchange for Stuart, and other players jumbled in the bargain, in order to clear cap space.
Mr. Stuart isn’t doing too bad these days in Winnipeg. The 27-year-old, a 2003 first-round draft pick of Boston, is still doing his defensive game quite fine. He’s second best with 89 blocked shots.
1. Niklas Hjalmarsson, Chicago Blackhawks
He’s no Duncan Keith or Brent Seabrook, but he’s an intricate part of the Blackhawks’ success with 93 blocked shots to his own.
What an interesting turn of events the last two years have played out in the Blackhaws’ favour. After helping Chicago to a Stanley Cup, Hjalmarsson, alike the Cup-winning goalie Antti Niemi, was offered a contract from the San Jose Sharks.
Hjalmarsson was offered four years at $14 million, and, the Blackhawks matched it. Coming up on two years in the tank, Hjalmarsson sure hasn’t disappointed. No matter where he goes after this contract, he’s a keeper for any organization playing a solid-minded stay-at-home defensive game.
And if you’re looking for a disciplined kid, try this: Two penalty minutes.