By Ray Flowers
October 28, 2011
Which youngsters are going to remain in the NHL? Which keepers are off to hot or cold starts? Who is the best goal scorer in the league that you probably don't think of when the term 'superstar' is thrown out there? That and more can be found in this Friday's Face-Off. One other thing...
Happy Halloween all. Stay out of trouble, but don't be afraid to have some fun, and whatever you do, don't listen to those who say Halloween is just for kids. If you want to, go get your freak on. At least you've got my support.
Tim Connolly is back in action. Never a healthy player, it would be a shock if he appeared in 65 games this season. Still, he's expected to be on a line feeding the puck to Phil Kessel in Toronto, so expecting some serious production, when he is in the lineup, is a fair position to take.
Mike Fisher missed the start of the regular season with a shoulder injury, but Mr. Carrie Underwood, and yes count me as someone who is extremely jealous, is quickly making up for lost time. Fisher has only appeared in two games for the Predators this year but he has four points (2g 2a), four blocked shots, and four shots on net. He is not a point-per-game type of skater, not even close (his career best is just 53 points), but he is certainly capable of being a 20+ goal scorer with a chance at 200 shots on net making him a decent depth add if you're in a deep league.
Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik were split up on Thursday night. The duo has shown some chemistry, but at the same time Richards has been pointless in 3-straight and he has only one goal through eight games. As concerning, he has just 19 shots on goal, an average of 2.38 per game, a significant step down from his 3.66 mark the last two years he was with the Stars. Gaborik has only one helper in the eight games, but he's averaging four shots on goal a contest and has four markers on the season. Look for the duo to be reunited, though it should be pointed out that they skated on separate lines at practice on Friday.
Ray Whitney continues to get it done. Deemed too small to have long term success in the NHL Whitney, now 39 years old, has five goals and five helpers in nine games with the Coyotes. He remains a solid depth play off the wing who has defied the odds to rack up 1,156 games in his NHL career, and at this point it certainly seems possible that he could reach 1,000 points for his career (currently he's at 936).
Here's a list of rookies that will be staying with their NHL clubs for their 10th game officially starting their entry level contracts: Brett Connolly (Lightning), Sean Couturier (Flyers), Gabriel Landeskog (Avalanche), Adam Larsson (Devils) and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (see below).
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will remain with the Oilers, see action in his 10th game, and kick in his entry level contract. This doesn't mean that he will necessarily stick with the team all year, but given his excellent offensive production through nine games (5g, 4a), he's really gonna have to fall off the pace to be sent down. "The Nuge is staying in NHL huh? What a shocker," said teammate Ryan Whitney. "In other news, sky is blue, grass is green and it's going to be cold in Edmonton in January." Speaking of Ryan, he's likely to miss the next three weeks with a knee injury as he has showing a Tim Connolly like ability to stay healthy of late.
Ilya Bryzgalov was signed to be the savior in net for the Flyers. To this point he hasn't been that, he hasn't actually been anything other than a borderline NHL keeper, not what the team had in mind when they signed him to that $51 million contract this offseason. You don't have to tell Ilya who said "I have zero confidence in myself." Ilya has a 3-4-1 record with a hideous .870 save percentage, but just think how much better that number is than the one posted by Halak. Bryzgalov will be fine, he's one of the best in the business, so if you can grab him on the cheap from an owner is shaking in his/her boots, do it.
Brian Elliott continues to impress in net in an effort that is diametrically opposed to the effort put forth thus far by Jaroslav Halak. Take a look at the numbers.
Elliott: 4-0, 1.59 GAA, .950 SV%
Halak: 1-4, 3.47 GAA, .840 SV%
It's a shock for sure, as most would have expected those numbers to be reversed. Elliott is so hot he has to play, but it's still pretty early on in the season which means if you're a Halak owner that you shouldn't just give up on the beleaguered keeper just yet.
It's amazing to write it, but Nikolai Khabibulin has been the best keeper in hockey this season. Through six games The Bulin Wall, which had looked more like a broken down and rotted out wooden fence last year, leads the NHL with a 0.97 GAA an a .965 save percentage. My advice? Trade him. Why? (1) There is no way he can keep these numbers up, so there is a 100 percent chance that his production will decline moving forward. (2) He's 38 years old, 39 in January, and that leads me to think that he's going to have a hard time playing big minutes this season. (3) The first 65 games he played for the Oilers the past two seasons resulted in a 17-41-6 record, a pathetic 3.29 GAA, an a sub par save percentage of .896 that is a number that hasn't cut it in the NHL in about two decades. He's been absolutely phenomenal, but if you have any aspirations of him challenging for the Vezina Trophy you're simply fooling yourself.
YOU GOTSTA KNOW
Since the start of the 2008 season It's not shocking at all to see that Alex Ovechkin leads the NHL with 141 goals scored. It's also hardly surprising to see that the number two man on the list in the Bolts' Steven Stamkos with 123. But I bet, even with a bunch of clues, that you won't be able to guess who the third man on the list is. You doubt me? Let's see.
I was drafted in 1997 and went on to appear in 74 games as an 18 year old.
I've been with one team my entire career.
I didn't score 30-goals until my 8th season in the league.
I scored only 19 goals in a disappointing season in 2007 before my recent run of success.
Who Am I?
I'm Patrick Marleau of the Sharks.
Marleau has 120 goals, three more than Ilya Kovalchuk, four more than Sidney Crosby and five more than Jeff Carter. You can say 'but Ray, Sidney Crosby has missed so many games that his really isn't fair.' It would be fair to say that, so how about this. Here is a list of the top seven scorers in the NHL, since the start of the 2008 season, in terms of goals per game.
0.59 - Ovechkin
0.58 - Crosby
0.50 - Marian Gaborik, Alexander Semin
0.49 - Zach Parise, Stamkos, Marleau
THE NUMBERS GAME
Brian Campbell has eight assists in nine games including a whopping six with the man advantage.
Erik Cole has three points in three games. Whoopie I know, but after just one point in his first seven games with the Habs it's nice to see him get the production train going.
Matt Cooke is the only skater in the NHL with a short-handed goal and a short-handed assist. I know, who knew?
Matt D'Agostini leads the NHL with a +9 rating through nine games. Last year he recorded a +8 rating in 82 contests. His teammate, Kent Huskins, is tied for second in the league with a +7 mark (Tyler Seguin, Dion Phaneuf, Andrej Sekera). Huskins was a +8 performer in 50 games last season with the Sharks.
Sergei Gonchar has five assists in his last three games. After just 27 points in a disappointing first season in Ottawa, it's nice to see the veteran blue liner produce something in the point column.
Steve Mason has been terrible this year going 1-8-1 with a .885 save percentage for the Blue Jackets leaving everyone to wonder just where went the guy who was so stupendous as a rookie? As a result of injuries to potential replacements, Mason has started 10 games this season, more than any other keeper. As a result he is third in the NHL with 246 saves just behind Kari Lehtonen (256) who is on behind Pekka Rinne (257).
Kris Versteeg has recorded five goals and six helpers through nine games in his knew home with the Panthers. Kris has been a solid player for years posting marks of 53, 44 and 46 points the past three years, but we've rarely seen him be this offensive minded for this length of time. He's not an elite level player so he shouldn't be thought of as a point-per-game type of skater, but with his hot start his career bests of 22 goals and 53 points are clearly within reach.
202:11 - That's the length of the shutout streak that Jonathan Quick posted for the Kings. After three straight shutouts he allowed three goals on Thursday night to lift his GAA to 1.12. Yeah, total slacker.
Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87. Ray's baseball analysis can be found at BaseballGuys.com and his minute to minute musings can be located at the BaseballGuys' Twitter account. To email Ray a question for next week's piece, drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.