Things can get a little crazy in the NHL when the end of the regular season collides with the start of the playoffs. In an effort to achieve order amidst the chaos, here’s an alphabetical look at the season that wasÂ…and post-season that will be:
A is forÂ…Anaheim’s no-name No. 1 center Andy McDonald, the NHL’s breakout player of the year after scoring 34 goals and 85 points in 82 games. In four previous abbreviated seasons, McDonald had 27 goals and 80 points in 194 games.
B is forÂ…well, Brian Burke comes to mind, for his first-year performance as Anaheim’s GM, knowing when to hold Â‘em (McDonald, Teemu Selanne, J-S Giguere) and knowing when to fold Â‘em (Sergei Fedorov, plus every other forward that was on a top-two line, save for Selanne).
C is forÂ…Cheechoo, Jonathan. And his 49 goals in 58 games with Joe Thornton.
D is forÂ…Dany Heatley, who got the fresh start in Ottawa that he desperately needed, and has made the most of it. His 22-game point streak to start the season stood up as the league’s longest in 2005-06.
E is forÂ…Eric Staal, who didn’t give the sophomore jinx a chance in his second NHL season.
F is forÂ…the 50-goal plateau, which four players have reached this year Â– after only two managed to do so in the past three seasons. (Heatley could make it five.)
G is forÂ…Goaltenders, the forgotten goaltenders, who saw their GAA jump up by half-a-goal this season as opposing forwards camped in their crease Â– or crashed right through it Â– while obstruction-only officials penalized their defensemen for slowing up the rambunctious wingers.
H is forÂ…Huet, as in, Â“Who are you, Huet?Â” Cristobal Huet, the Habs’ starting goaltender and a native of France, is as unlikely an NHL star as his backup, Swiss stopper David Aebischer.
I is forÂ…Iginla, Jarome. When it comes to Iginla, there is an Â‘I’ in team.
J is forÂ…Jussi Jokinen, the Dallas rookie sharpshooter who became the NHL’s first shootout star.
K is forÂ…Kovalchuk, Ilya. Look out, Ovechkin. Kovie wants his goal-scoring glory back.
L is forÂ…Lidstrom, Nicklas, who rediscovered his Norris Trophy form after dropping off in 2003-04.
M is forÂ…the Millions of dollars that players, owners, coaches, arenas and everyone else is making again, with the lockout behind us. Well, maybe not so much the players Â– their average annual salary took nearly a half-million hit when all was said and done.
N is forÂ…New York, New York. No, not the Islanders. Let’s hear it for the Rangers, who have charged back into the playoffs after seven years in exile.
O is forÂ…Oh, Ottawa, Where Art Thou? With an Olympic-injured Dominik Hasek, the Senators are not the all-powerful force that dominated opponents in October and November. But they’re still not bad.
P is forÂ…Peter Forsberg in Philadelphia. Surely, a Swedish player who won Olympic gold in February will go on to drink from Stanley. Forsberg is always a good bet in the post-season Â– at least until he gets hurt.
Q is forÂ…Quincey, Kyle, the Detroit Red Wings rookie defenseman who got into one NHL game to become the league’s sole Â‘Q’ man this season. (He had no goals, points or penalty minutes, but did have an even plus/minus rating and also registered one shot.)
R is forÂ…Respect. Seriously, it is. There’s a song and everything.
S is forÂ…Sid The Kid, Sidney Crosby, the Second-best rookie in the league this year. If you haven’t figured it out by now, he’s special. Very, very special.
T is forÂ…Thornton, Joe, trying to claim his first scoring title and reclaim the respect that eroded when Boston shipped him west without hesitation. (Sharks in four in the first round against the Vokoun-less Preds.)
U is forÂ…Upsets. Get ready for the first round of the playoffs.
V is forÂ…Vendetta. Movie posters never lie.
W is forÂ…Wayne Gretzky. If he comes back with Phoenix next year, hopefully it’ll be as a player.
X is forÂ…Xylophone. It doesn’t always have to stand for Â“X-FactorÂ”, you know.
Y is forÂ…Yaromir Yagr. Because Jussi Jokinen already claimed Â‘J’.
Z is forÂ…Zubov, Sergei. The Dallas defenseman makes the Stars go, and they might go deep into the playoffs this spring, especially with Zubov passing up to a 1-2 center punch of a revitalized Mike Modano and Jason Arnott.