The Man Advantage
by Mark McLarney, RotoWire Writer
Let's start in Boston this week, where the Bruins are getting by quite nicely without the services of Marc Savard, thanks to having the hottest goaltender in the league in Tim Thomas, as well as having one of the hottest power plays. Over the last half of October, the B's PP has jumped up 15 spots in the NHL's PP rankings, from 24th overall to 9th (9.1% efficiency to 21.9%). A good chunk of the scoring over the past two weeks has been coming from the back end, where Zdeno Chara (2G, 1A) and Patrice Bergeron (1G, 1A) have been stationed. The #1 line has featured David Krejci between Nathan Horton (1G, 1A) and Milan Lucic (2A), while the second line has been fairly productive as well, thanks to Tyler Seguin (1G, 1A), Mark Recchi (3A) and Michael Ryder (1G). One injury note here, with Johnny Boychuk sidelined until at least mid November with a fractured forearm, his PP minutes appear to be going to a combination of Dennis Seidenberg and Matt Hunwick.
The other hot PP team over the second half of October was the L.A. Kings, who went from 28th in the league (6.2%) to 13th (16.7%). A huge reason for this is defenseman Jack Johnson, who has been filling in for the injured Drew Doughty and now leads the Kings in average PP minutes per game with 4:43 and has five PP assists over the past two weeks. Johnson could be available on your waiver wire as he's currently only being started in about 64% of Yahoo! leagues. Another pickup candidate is Jarret Stoll, who has a PP goal and an assist with an average of 4:00 of ice time over his last seven games. Otherwise, it's been the usual suspects who have been producing for the Kings these days, especially Anze Kopitar (2G, 2A in his last seven games), Dustin Brown (2G) and Justin Williams (2A).
In San Jose, the Sharks were already excelling on the PP in the early going, but still managed to kick it up another notch in the second half of October. Team Teal went from 3rd overall to 1st in the league's PP rankings, scoring nine PP goals in their last six games. The Sharks' top trio of Dany Heatley (2G, 5A), Patrick Marleau (1G, 2A) and Joe Thornton (1G, 5A) busted out big-time over that span, accounting for four of those goals along with 12 helpers. At the same time, don't forget Joe Pavelski, who also plays with the Big Three on the #1 unit and chipped in with three goals and two assists of his own. Meanwhile, if you're thinking of looking to the Sharks' second PP unit for some fantasy production, think again. The #2 line of Ryane Clowe, Logan Couture and Devin Setoguchi see about half the PP minutes that the #1 line does, and have just one goal and one assist over the last six games.
The team with the worst PP record over the latter half of October would be the Carolina Hurricanes, who went 3-for-33 (.091%) over that span to move them from eighth overall to 23rd. Part of the problem lies with their defensemen, as both Joni Pitkanen (0G, 1A in six games) and Joe Corvo (0G, 1A) both have heavy shots, but don't shoot the puck often enough. Another problem is that Eric Staal, who is off to another of his maddeningly slow starts, is still looking for his first PP goal after 10 games. Bottom line, when your leading PP scorer is Jussi Jokinen, who has just two PPG's and one PPA after the first four weeks of the season, you know you've got troubles. Think this team is missing Matt Cullen, who bolted for Minnesota this season and is currently leading the team with nine PP points (3G, 6A) thus far? You bet they do.
In Manhattan, one might wonder how the Rangers have been doing thus far with three of their top PP weapons currently on the shelf (i.e, Marian Gaborik, Vinny Prospal and Chris Drury). Well, the answer is, about as well as can be expected. The Blueshirts currently rank just below median in the NHL's PP rankings, 17th out of 30, with a 15.4% rating. The first line currently consists of Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan and Artem Anisimov with Michael Del Zotto and Michal Rozsival on the blue line. Callahan (2G in his last seven games) and Anisimov (1G, 1A) have been shouldering most of the load lately - and that's not saying much - with Rozsival chipping in with three helpers. Alex Frolov, who was brought in during the offseason as a potential linemate for Gaborik, has been a colossal PP failure thus far with just one assist to his credit. Mind you, there's only so much you can do on a line with the likes of Erik Christensen and Derek Stepan. However, the Rangers desperately needs their Big Three back, as Gaborik, Prospal and Drury combined for almost half of the team's PP goals last season (22 of 55) along with 31 assists.
The biggest surprise team so far this season? Gotta be the Atlanta Thrashers, currently sixth in the PP rankings with a 23.2% rating. That's ahead of teams like Detroit, Philly and Washington, folks. Two big reasons for this are Tobias Enstrom, who currently ranks fifth overall in PP scoring with eight points (2G, 6A) and offseason addition Dustin Byfuglien (3G, 4A). Byfuglien is turning into a fearsome PP weapon for the Thrashers who loves to unload his cannon of a shot from the point. In fact, he currently leads all defensemen in shots on goal with 38, and the results have been evident. Enstrom doesn't shoot nearly as often, but loves to dish the puck to Byfuglien, hence his impressive assist totals. In fact, according to our friends at The Hockey News, Enstrom and Byfuglien have combined for the second-most number of PP goals (six) where both players have recorded a point: