By Sean Sanbeg

SC Copy Editor

In every season of the National Hockey League, a handful of players shine brighter than the rest. Players like Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin constantly find themselves in the center of attention, but others tend to pop up as the season progresses. With the NHL 2011-2012 regular season nearing its end, a few players deserve mentioning.

Henrik Lundqvist, goaltender of the New York Rangers, is having a noteworthy season. Lundqvist is considered to be one of the top candidates for the Vezina Trophy this season. After participating in 56 games so far this season, he has a 35-16-5 (wins-losses-overtime points) record with a 1.93 goals against average and a .932 save percentage. While these numbers are impressive on their own, Lundqvist also has 8 shut outs this season.

It’s no secret that the Rangers are having a great season. They are first in the NHL Eastern Conference – a solid 10 points ahead of the second-place Boston Bruins. However, while their 101 points may have them leading the conference by a convincing margin, the Pittsburgh Penguins, a division rival, remains close behind – only one point behind the Rangers.

Steven Stamkos, center for the Tampa Bay Lightning, leads the league in goals this season. The 22 year old scored 52 goals so far this season, and there’s no reason to believe he won’t tally a few more over the last few weeks of the season. Stamkos also has 35 assists, which when combined with his goal total, equates out to 87 points.

Despite Stamkos’s outstanding performance, the Lightnings are falling

considerably shorter than they did last season. Last season, they found themselves in the Eastern Conference finals and were one win away from advancing to the Stanley Cup finals. As it stands now, the Lightnings sit at 11th place in the Eastern Conference, promptly dropping them from playoff consideration. The odds aren’t impossible, but they are improbable.

One of the most underrated stats in the NHL is a player’s plus/minus rating. A player’s value isn’t only measured in what he himself produces, but how his team performs with his involvement. So far this season, Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins leads the league with a plus/minus rating of +32.

Granted not all 32 points are either goals or assists by Bergeron himself, but they are still 32 points obtained while being present on the ice. However, this doesn’t mean Bergeron simply finds himself on the right shift every time. He’s done his share of the legwork. Bergeron has 20 goals and 37 assists totaling 57 points in 75 games played so far this season.

Meanwhile, the NHL’s arguably two biggest stars have had relatively quiet seasons. Crosby played in only 15 games so far this season, missing the majority of the regular season due to concussion issues. In those 15 games, he had 4 goals and 21 assists for 25 points.

Alex Ovechkin’s numbers aren’t terrible, but the NHL community’s high performance expectations cast some poor light on the Washington Capital’s statistics. He has 35 goals and 24 assists, but has a plus/minus rating of -9.

With the last two weeks of the regular season upon us, players are going to be preparing for the playoffs. It wouldn’t be surprising to see some of the NHL stars shine just a little bit brighter before the regular season comes to a close.

Email Sean at:

ssanbeg@live.esu.edu