James van Riemsdyk, Philadelphia Flyers
Four points behind Patrick Kane is James van Riemsdyk. JVR currently leads his Flyers squad in goals (7), assists (11), and points (18). In a year where, at least through Philadelphia’s first 13 games, the big names in the Flyers’ lineup are not producing at the rate we are used to, van Riemsdyk has picked up the slack in a big way.
The Flyers hold a record of 8-3-2 entering Saturday, which is good for second in the East division behind only the Boston Bruins. Personally, I was unsure of what I would see from Philadelphia this season. The Flyers always seem to have the talent to be a postseason team, yet finds a way to fall short. So far, it seems that this team is playing to its potential, as its 18 points in the standings are tied for seventh in the NHL.
JVR is most likely not going to find himself leading Philly in all offensive categories by the end of the season, but if he can manage to stay above a point per game for the first time in his career, and other Flyers stars can pick up the scoring pace as the season progresses, it should certainly mean a Playoff birth. For now, van Riemsdyk is doing his part and more to keep his club in a favorable position.
John Gibson, Anaheim Ducks
There has been so much quality goaltending this year, that it would be wrong to not include a goalie here. It does seem that strong performances between the pipes have been credited, so which netminder is enjoying a sneaky good start in 2021? John Gibson.
Gibson, like Hughes, Boeser, and Kane, plays on a team that is below average. With that said, the Ducks are 6-6-3, which is probably better than most expected. Gibson is responsible for most of those wins, as his personal record is 5-4-3. In his 12 games played, he has posted a 2.26 Goals Against Average and a .923 Save Percentage. Both of those numbers are better than his career averages.
The headlines in the West Division typically revolve around the elite teams at the top, but that fourth Playoff spot feels like it’s up for grabs. If Gibson can be the backbone of his team throughout the season, there could be an opportunity for Anaheim to be competitive with the other average/below average teams in the middle/bottom of the West Division.
Each week there are new headlines in the NHL, and with the condensed season each game is of greater importance than usual. With that in mind, these strong performances from players who don’t create as many headlines are just as impactful as those from the players and teams that we love to discuss.