Hockey, of course, is a team game. History has shown us that above all else, the best teams are the ones that play together in a figurative sense. You can have a red hot goalie (Jaroslav Halak, circa 2009-10), or the most skilled player on the ice (Alex Ovechkin), but almost always, the best team wins.
With that contingency out of the way, there's something to be said for individual moments of brilliance, those quick bursts of skill that can put your team over the proverbial hump and win a game in an instant. And so, we'll take a look at two of the players in this series imminently capable of doing so. It doesn't hurt that they'll likely see a lot of each other as the series goes on.
#47 / Right Wing / Nashville Predators
Jul 05, 1986
|2011 - Alexander Radulov||9||3||4||7||3||4||0||0||0||21|
(scouting reports are courtesy of Fantasy Sports Services for SB Nation and do not necessarily represent my own opinion)
Alexander Radulov's role is one of the simplest on the team: put the puck in the net. Thus far, he's been contributing to goals at an elite level, like he never missed a beat. We saw him dissect Chicago's defense in one fell swoop, and do battle with Pavel Datsyuk and Nicklas Lidstrom while coming out the victor in several contests behind the net and on the boards in Nashville's 4-1 victory at the Joe.
One of the things that has struck me about Radulov in his abbreviated 2011-12 tenure is how difficult it is for a defender to dislodge him from the puck. Along the wall, behind the net, or in the slot, AR47 is an elite possession player through just nine games, and I'll be interested to see how he deals with being defended by one of the world's best turnover creators in...
#5 / Defenseman / Detroit Red Wings
Apr 28, 1970
|2011 - Nicklas Lidstrom||70||11||23||34||21||28||4||0||0||148|
I think it's reasonably fair to say that Radulov is already the Predators' most dangerous forward, and as such will draw the best his opposition has to offer, which is in this case Nicklas Lidstrom. In the eyes of some, Lidstrom's age will be used against him, but if his skill and effectiveness have declined, it's only been by a negligible amount.
He's not physical, but he rarely loses puck battles. He lacks the speed of a Ryan Suter, but you will almost never see him out maneuvered. Nicklas Lidstrom is what young defensemen should aspire to be, and yet, if Alex Radulov can slip by him just once or twice and the puck ends up past Jimmy Howard, the momentum in the series could turn on a dime.