Hello again and Happy New Year! It’s time once again to revisit the ever-shifting sands of the NHL’s power play landscape. As always, we look at which players are hot, which are not, and who’s getting PP time and who isn’t, in an effort to provide you, the fantasy owner, with some useful information you can use to help manage your fantasy squad.
First stop on the tour this week is Los Angeles, where the Kings’ power play has been tearing it up the past few weeks. (Interestingly enough, it seems that whenever I pick on a team for sucking wind in the PP department, they promptly turn around and start dominating - see last article. This time it’s the Kings – go figure.) Anyway, as of last writing (December 12), the Kings’ PP ranked fourth-last in the league with a 14.4% rating. Since then, they have jumped an impressive 13 spots in the rankings – from 27th to 14th – by scoring 11 PP goals in 12 games. Back in December, I was particularly harsh on Drew Doughty, who at the time had just two PP points in 21 games. Since then, he has posted a goal and 12 assists over that same 12-game span, with five of those helpers coming on the PP. (And nice going, any of you who managed to pry Doughty away from a disgruntled fellow owner during his rough patch.) Meanwhile, a few other guys who have also been chipping in are Ryan Smyth (5G), Jack Johnson (2G, 7A) and Dustin Brown (1G, 3A). Johnson in particular ranks no less than the Kings’ leading PP point producer with 19 points overall (3G, 16A), seven points ahead of Anze Kopitar (5G, 7A).
Another fast-rising team over the past three weeks has been the Dallas Stars, jumping from 22nd overall to 12th (14.9% to 18.6%). Anyone who came into this season thinking the Stars would miss Mike Modano’s presence as PP quarterback have (so far) been sadly mistaken. The team’s top line of Brad Richards (2G, 5A since December 12), Brenden Morrow (5G, 1A), Mike Ribeiro (4G, 2A), Loui Eriksson (1G, 7A) and Stehpane Robidas (5A) have been hot over the past three weeks and have done pretty much all the heavy lifting so far this season as far as PP scoring goes. Perhaps surprisingly, two guys who were expected to be stronger contributors this year – Jamie Benn and James Neal – have really only played secondary roles thus far.
Meanwhile, in Detroit, can someone please tell me just what the heck Nicklas Lidstrom has been sprinkling on his Wheaties these days?? Here’s a guy whose point totals have been on the decline the past few seasons – understandable, considering at 40 he’s now in the twilight of his career – but all of a sudden, the old man’s on pace for an 80-point season, something he has done only once in his career (2005-06). On the PP, Lidstrom has tallied 11 points over the past three weeks (4G, 7A). He is a major factor behind the Wings’ ascent to fourth overall in the league’s PP rankings over that span, from ninth place back on December 12. Lidstrom is still the Wings’ undisputed leader in terms of PP ice time, averaging 4:17 per game, good for 12th among all NHL defensemen. Also notable by his absence these days is Pavel Datsyuk, who has been out of the lineup since late December with a broken wrist and figures to miss 4-to-6 weeks total. Meanwhile, Tomas Holmstrom has moved into Datsyuk’s spot on the Wings’ top PP unit alongside Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen. He has responded with two PP points – a goal and a helper – over the past two weeks.
Speaking of injuries, the Anaheim Ducks are currently reeling from the loss of one of their top PP point producers – Ryan Getzlaf. On December 28, Getzlaf took a deflected Shane Doan shot to the nose that will cost him 4-to-6 weeks. Coach Bob Murray, who usually employs Getzlaf along with Teemu Selanne, Corey Perry, Bobby Ryan and Lubomir Visnovsky on his top PP line, will use the likes of Cam Fowler and Saku Koivu as the fifth man on the top unit until Getzlaf returns.
Turning to Boston now, has anyone else noticed the sharp drop-off in Zdeno Chara’s PP minutes over the past few weeks? Normally, Chara plays the point on the Bruins’ top PP line, averaging well over three minutes of PP ice time per night. Over the past two weeks, however, Chara has averaged just 1:39 per game, and has been seeing more and more duty on the second unit. This perhaps should not be surprising considering Chara has just six PP points (2G, 4A) for the season and only two assists since the start of November. Coach Claude Julien has grown tired of waiting for Chara’s cannon-like point shot to find twine and is instead using Dennis Seidenberg as his #1 PP blueliner these days. To be fair, Seidenberg hasn’t fared much better, with just six PP helpers on the season so far; but outside of him and Chara, Julien doesn’t have many other blueliners who can man the point. In fact, now that Marc Savard is healthy, you might see Julien start using an all-forward top line, consisting possibly of Savard, Mark Recchi, David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron and Milan Lucic. Don’t expect to see Nathan Horton playing on the team’s top unit anymore unless the B’s get hit hard by the injury bug. Horton is now averaging roughly 1.5 minutes per night on the PP – similar to Chara – and hasn’t scored a point with the man advantage since Nov. 5th.
Finally, in Montreal, d-man James Wisniewski has been a nice addition since being acquired from the Islanders on December 28. In the three games since his arrival, he has scored a goal and added two helpers while manning the point on the Habs’ top PP line. With Andrei Markov out for the season, Wisniewski looks to be taking over from Roman Hamrlik as the team’s top offensive defenseman. He will continue to see big PP minutes alongside Michael Cammalleri, Tomas Plekanec, Brian Gionta and Scott Gomez.