The Man Advantage
Without a doubt, the hottest power-play team over the last two weeks has been the St. Louis Blues, as the team tries to pull itself out of last place in the Western Conference's Central division and back into the playoff race. The Blues have scored nine PP goals over the last two weeks - tops in the NHL - which has allowed them to jump up an impressive 11 spots in the league's PP rankings (25th to 14th). Swinging a major trade with Colorado has definitely helped the Blues' cause, as the recently-acquired Chris Stewart has four PP goals in five games since coming over from the Avs. Stewart was awfully quiet in Denver just before the trade occurred - perhaps still recovering from the residual effects of a broken hand that kept him out of the lineup for six weeks - but since joining the Blues, seems to have rediscovered last season's form that saw him explode for 28 goals and 26 assists, including three PP goals and 10 PP assists. Accompanying him in the trades was promising young blueliner Kevin Shattenkirk, who has also added two helpers since the trade. With the departure of Erik Johnson, Shattenkirk was immediately slotted into the top PP defensive pairing with Alex Pieterangelo upon his arrival, and the two have formed a solid tandem, with Pietrangelo having chipped in for six PP points himself (1G, 5A) over the past two weeks.
In Columbus, the Blue Jackets have been no slouches in the PP scoring department the past two weeks either, with seven markers over that span. The Jackets, who are the third-lowest scoring team in the Western Conference, are not usually the source for a lot of fantasy production outside of Rick Nash, but there is some value to be found there if you dig deep enough. Take Jakub Voracek, for example, who has two goals and three helpers over his last five games, including two points on the power play. There's also R.J. Umberger and Antoine Vermette, also with two PP points each in their last five games. However, the story of the season in Columbus may just be defenseman Grant Clitsome, who arrived on the scene in mid-January from AHL Syracuse and has gone on to record three goals and 10 assists in 18 games, with six of those points coming on the PP. Clitsome is now the team's top PP defenseman - taking over from Anton Stralman - and is second only to Nash in terms of PP ice time, averaging 3:11 per game. Overall, we've seen a real changing of the guard in Columbus this season, with other guys like Kristian Huselius (lower body) and Derrick Brassard (hand) also banished to second-line PP duty before they wound up on IR just recently.
In Minnesota, the Wild continue their surprising season, currently sitting second in the Northwest division and sixth overall in the West. Oddly enough, the Wild are one of the worst teams in the league 5-on-5 (19th overall in the NHL), but are excelling this season in three other areas - goaltending (Niklas Backstrom is 20-14-4 thus far with a 2.26 GAA and .928 SV%), penalty killing (83.8% PK success rate, ninth overall in the league) and PP scoring (20.2%, seventh overall). The Wild have a pretty balanced PP attack, with two effective lines that see very similar amounts of PP ice time. In the past two weeks, the team has scored six PP goals (only three other teams have scored more over that span) by six different players. With Mikko Koivu now on the DL with an injured finger, the top line currently consists of Martin Havlat, Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Andrew Brunette down low, with Brent Burns and Marek Zidlicky on the back end. The second line is usually some combination of Anttii Miettinen, Cal Clutterbuck and Kyle Brodziak up front, with Matt Cullen and the rookie Jared Spurgeon manning the points. Spurgeon represents an intriguing play if you're in a very deep league - he typically only gets about 15 minutes of ice time per night, but sees regular shifts on the PP - about two minutes per night worth - and has three PP points (1G, 2A) in his last seven games.
In Phoenix, despite an 8-2-0 record in their last 10 games which has them sitting fourth overall in the West, the Coyotes remain an abysmal PP team, with just one goal in 16 PP opportunities over the past five games. With their overall lack of scoring depth, the Desert Dogs really have just one PP line - that being Keith Yandle and Shane Doan on the points, with Martin Hanzal, Radim Vrbata and Lee Stempniak up front. And these guys are really not getting the job done. Further to that point, will someone please tell me why the recently-added Ray Whitney, even prior to the lower-body injury that has caused him to miss the last couple of games, was only seeing about a minute worth of PP time on the second line? Is he really that much worse of an option than Stempniak or Vrbata? Ok, the guy's not known as a PP sniper, but he's averaged more than 20 PP assists over the past six seasons. Is this not the kind of player who is going to help you in the PP scoring department? Isn't that partly why the Coyotes went out and acquired him in the first place? Or am I missing something? Bottom line, for fantasy purposes, outside of Yandle and Doan, there aren't too many attractive PP scorers currently playing in the desert these days. For that matter, Ilya Bryzgalov remains the only real worthwhile fantasy option the team has.
Quick hits: Pre-NHL Trade Deadline Power Play Breakdown
Dallas Stars: Alex Goligoski, acquired from Pittsburgh earlier this week gets an immediate short-term upgrade to his fantasy rating now that he's playing with the likes of Mike Ribeiro, Brenden Morrow, Loui Eriksson - and hopefully, Brad Richards. He has yet to contribute to the Stars' PP scoring, but immediately assumes the role of #1 PP defenseman, something the Stars have lacked the past couple of seasons ever since the departure of Sergei Zubov.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Alexei Kovalev (from Ottawa) seems like a decent acquisition on paper, and should help the Pens' power play considering the absence of both Sidney Crosby (concussion) and Evgeni Malkin (knee), but without those two in the lineup, Kovalev's supporting cast is average at best.
St. Louis Blues: See above. Stewart and Shattenkirk represent first-line PP help who can step in right away. Bottom line, these two guys were suffering through their own respective slumps prior to the trade, and the Avs got impatient waiting for them to bust out. In my view, the Avs got trigger-happy and wanted to shake things up without looking at the long-term view of what Stewie and Shatty were going to do for them next season and beyond. Erik Johnson represents a solid addition to the Avs blueline, but the Blues got the better of this deal, no question.
Boston Bruins: Give up a little bit of future potential in Joe Colborne, but add a solid defender in Tomas Kaberle for this year's playoff run. Kaberle immediately slots in next to Zdeno Chara on the B's top PP line and will eat up a ton of minutes. He's also a PP assist machine, averaging 20+ over the last six seasons. Kabby's fantasy value takes a big spike upward with this trade. Meanwhile, Rich Peverley is a solid second-line PP guy added via trade with Atlanta. And they will need both of these guys to produce, as the B's are roughly middle of the pack when it comes to their overall PP ranking. They will need to improve in this area if they want to make a deep playoff run this year.
Nashville Predators: Get an overall solid, two-way center in Mike Fisher, but the Preds rank 27th out of 30 teams in terms of PP scoring, and Fisher is not the answer to make them any better in that category. Fisher's career high in PP goals was 10, last season with Ottawa, and has never hit double-digits in PP helpers in 11 seasons in the NHL. That said, he's never seen much first-line PP duty before now, either, so let's see what he can do now that he has the opportunity.
Next article: More post-trade deadline analysis.