Breakout, breakdown candidates
Which players, teams are expected to reverse course from here on out?
As the first quarter of the NHL season comes to an end, there are some familiar faces on the leaderboards. Alex Ovechkin leads the league in goals scored, Sidney Crosby and John Tavares are among the league leaders in points and Joe Thornton sits at the top for assists. But there is one surprise among the NHL's best: Alexander Steen of the St. Louis Blues has 17 goals in 19 games.
The 29-year-old Winnipeg native was the 24th overall pick in the 2002 draft, but has never been known as a major goal scorer or point-producer; however, he is on pace for 73 goals this season. That would be more than triple his career high of 24 goals, set during the 2009-10 campaign.
From 2005-06 to the end of last season, Steen had scored on 123 of the 1,355 shots he put on net, a 9 percent mark that is right around league average. This season, he is lighting the lamp on every fourth shot. A more reasonable expectation for Steen -- based on three shots per game and an above-average shooting percentage the rest of the way -- would be a 35- to 40-goal season. That would be a fine campaign for the Swede, but way short of his current pace.
On the flip side, we find Philadelphia's Claude Giroux. Just a season ago, he was the Flyers' leading scorer with 13 goals and 35 assists in 48 games, but so far this season, he has struggled to hit the back of the net, with just a single goal on 46 shots (2.2 percent) in his 19 games played. If we extrapolate his 2.4 shots per game over the remainder of 2013-14 -- and expect him to at least be close to his career 11 percent shooting -- he will likely end up with 17 goals by season's end. Not All-Star numbers, but certainly an improvement over his current four-goal pace.
Here are a few more breakouts and breakdowns we can expect this season.
Players, teams set to break out
To read Neil Greenberg's full list of the top breakout and breakdown players and teams, sign up for Insider today.
MORE NHL HEADLINES
- Penguins sign forward Spaling to 2-year deal
- Goalie Lehner signs extension with Senators
- Canes captain Staal has core muscle surgery
- King, L.A. agree to 3-year, $5.85 million deal