Daniel Briere has stepped up his game in the playoffs, helping the Flyers to a 3-1 lead over the Caps. (Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)
Not that Daniel Briere’s regular season was a bust – it wasn’t; he did rack up 31 goals and 72 points in 79 games.
But there was also a woeful minus-22 rating, easily the worst on the team, plus the more pertinent fact that greater leadership and overall impact was expected of the dynamic scoring star in the first season of his massive eight-year, $52-million contract (the richest of all the unrestricted free agent deals handed out last summer).
The Flyers became Mike Richards’ team this season, not Briere’s as was anticipated.
Then again, as we all know, the regular season is meaningless and making your bones in the NHL is about playoff performance.
Briere has wasted little time in proving the point. He’s among the playoff scoring leaders with five goals and seven points through four games, and is a big reason why the Flyers are leading Alex Ovechkin’s Washington Capitals 3-1 in their first-round series.
And that minus-22? Forget about it. Briere also is among leaders in plus/minus at plus-4. If he keeps it up – which he did in 2006 and ’07 during extended post-season runs with Buffalo – all will be forgiven for an underwhelming regular season.
TIME OF MY LIFE
Speaking of Ovechkin, the Capitals super-sniper was leading the playoffs in one category: ice time among forwards, at 25:21 per game.
Following Ovechkin are Joe Thornton, Brian Rolston, Sergei Fedorov, Jarome Iginla and Colorado’s Paul Stastny – although the Avs aren’t exactly getting memorable minutes from the talented center.
After leading Colorado with 71 points in the regular season – despite missing 16 games, mostly after having his appendix removed in mid-January – Stastny has just one point, Thursday’s game-winning goal - in five playoff games.
Almost as surprising is the Avs player who’s leading the team in ice time. No, it’s not perennial minute-muncher Adam Foote or longtime captain Joe Sakic. It’s, uh, defenseman Jeff Finger. You know, the guy with the…fingers…on his…hand.
Still don’t know him?
OK, let me give you the Finger: he’s a 29-year-old blueliner who played 22 NHL games last season and 72 this year, but isn’t rookie-eligible due to his age.
A 6-foot-1, 205-pound native of Michigan, his hockey journey has included stops in Green Bay of the USHL, St. Cloud State (WCHA), Reading of the ECHL and Hershey, Lowell and Albany in the AHL.
He’s been the Avs property, though, since 1999 when they drafted him – wait for it; he sure did – 240th overall. (That’s one spot ahead of San Jose defenseman Doug Murray, as I’m sure you all recall.)
OK, Finger has only played three of the Avs’ five playoff games, but the stats don’t lie. Except when they do.
Noticeably absent from tip-top of the ice time leaders are Anaheim defensemen Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer.
Yes, they lead the Ducks and, yes, they’re averaging 23-plus minutes per game, but it’s not the 28-30 minutes we’re used to seeing from the two all-world blueliners.
Heck, they’re playing less than a minute more per game than Rangers defenseman Marc Staal, who’s also up over 23 minutes in the playoffs, leading all NHL rookies.
Sam McCaig’s From The Point appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Have a point to make with Sam McCaig? You can reach him at email@example.com.
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