By Ray Flowers
November 18, 2011
Marc-Andre Bergeron is excelling with the Lightning as his ice-time is up significantly this year at over 19:45 a contest, not bad for a guy who has been happy to get 14 minutes a game in the past. MAB has an uber-impressive 17 points in 18 games, though oddly only six of those points have come with the man advantage. Still, it's insane to think that he will be able to keep up this pace the rest of the season and the slow down might already be underway as he has two points in his last five games. Now is the perfect time to try and convince someone that he is the new Andrei Markov. Sell high.
Jaromir Jagr was injured on Thursday night, an early reports suggest a groin issue might be the cause. Early returns suggest that the condition is minor, but he will be out at least through the weekend as any injury will likely cause caution given that Jagr is just three months short of hitting the big 4-0. Jagr has been a beast on the ice this year with six goals, 11 helpers an a +7 rating through 18 games for the Flyers, so if he is down for any length of time it will be a big loss.
Nick Leddy leads the Blackhawks in points from the blue line with 13. With Brent Seabrook dealing with a lower body injury that will keep him out of the lineup at least through Friday, Leddy has picked a great time to turn into an offensive defenseman. The 2009 first round draft pick recorded only 11 points in his lone year playing for the University of Minnesota, and then he appeared in 28 games between the WJC-A and the AHL recording 13 points. There's obviously some upside to his game, but he's not going to make people forget Ray Bourque.
Kyle Okposo has been a healthy scratch the last two games for the Islanders. Given his production to this point, let me rephrase that - his lack of production to this point, it's hardly a surprise (0g, 3a in 14 games). The club's first round pick in 2006 is in one serious rut. Last season was cut short due to injuries (38 games played), but it was just two years ago that his star was on the rise as he recorded 19 goals and 52 points. That fella is still in there, he's got even more to give actually, but at the moment it's hard to envision a league where he shouldn't be on the waiver-wire.
Max Pacioretty has a point in 4-straight games and on the year he has nine goals and 16 points in 19 games. Seems like he is finally back to full health and he's loving life. There's no chance he will continue the goal scoring pace, but that doesn't mean that he won't still end up being a nice depth add on the wing. The same thing can be said about teammate Erik Cole who also extended his point streak to four games on Thursday. Cole, who has two goals and three helpers during the run, is up to 10 points in 19 games for the Habs after a painfully slow start to the year. He's a decent offensive add, but his chances of truly busting into prominence is muted.
Why doesn't Paul Stastny get more respect? I wonder. Perhaps it's because the Avalanche aren't exactly an NHL powerhouse? Through 367 career games Paul has 333 points, or an average of 0.91 points per game. If he were to suit up for 80 games in a season that would equate to 73 points. You'd take that wouldn't you? So far this year Stastny has 12 points in 19 games. If his current owner is non-plussed, it can't hurt to kick the tires on a trade offer.
Marc-Edouard Vlasic had a career game on Thursday night against the Wings with a goal and three assists. He was all over the ice, even scoring on a wrap around goal as he was below the goal line with the puck on his stick, something you never see. It's not that Vlasic doesn't have some offensive flair, he was a major point producer back in his junior days (he had 16 goals and 73 points in 66 games in the QMJHL as an 18 year old), but it's just not his game at this point. Don't go falling all over yourself to add him to your roster because of last night either. The Sharks have Dan Boyle and Brent Burns to provide the offense from the blue line.
Niklas Backstrom loves to see the Avalanche on the schedule. In 24 career outings against the 'Lanche he is 18-4-0-2 with a 2.18 GAA and .927 save percentage.
Jaroslav Halak has a 1.23 GAA and .950 save percentage in his last five starts. Did you panic and bail when things were rough early in the year?
Nikolai Khabibulin is devolving before our eyes. It's not at all surprising so if you didn't see it coming you just haven't been paying attention - at all. Despite the recent struggles Nikolai is still the proud owner of a historically good 1.74 GAA and .937 save percentage. However, he's been blown up for 11 goals in his last 140 minutes leading to a 4.71 GAA and .845 save percentage in that time. Please tell me you did the prudent thing and dealt Khabibulin at his high point.
I went to the Sharks and Red Wings game last night. The Sharks won their fifth game behind Antti Niemi who made 40 saves on 42 shots in what seems like a spectacular effort. It really wasn't. A lot of the shots were from long range, and Niemi didn't do a very good job controlling his rebounds. Is he an elite netminder? I question that designation, but when you're the backstop of one of the best teams in the league, your numbers will likely be gaudy nonetheless. After a slow start to the year as he worked himself back into shape from offseason surgery, Niemi is rounding into form in November with a 3-0-1 record and .919 save percentage in November.
Mike Smith, that's as boring a name as any person in the world has. His game was also vanilla heading into the current campaign, but through the first month and a half of the year Smith is vying for the title of the best keeper in the Western Conference. Smith is 7-0-2 in his last nine decisions. On the year he has a 2.17 GAA and .934 save percentage. It seems like he's finally figured it all out. Now, if he can just avoid the injury bug that seems to strike him every year, perhaps he will be able to live up to expectations out in the desert.
YOU GOTSTA KNOW
Jarome Iginla has been awful this year. At this point of the season he's got five goal and nine points through 17 games, a pedestrian set of numbers for a guy who is a perennial 30 goal and nearly point-per-game performer over the course of a career that seems destined for the Hall of Fame. Toss in a plus/minus mark of (-10), and Iginla has to be viewed as one of the bigger failures in the game thus far. So should panic be setting in right now causing you to start hitting the bottle at 11 AM each day (actually, is there anything wrong with that? You're right, you should wait until at least noon to start boozing). There is hope. Last year, through 17 games, Iginla had only three goals and 10 points, and he was a (-7). Let me put that more clearly.
2010: Through 17 games - three goals, seven assists, (-7)
2011: Through 17 games - five goals, four assists, (-10)
Last year Iginla took off shortly thereafter and by the time the campaign was over he had 43 goals, 43 assists and an even rating. I'm not saying that he's going to get that white hot again, I'm merely pointing out that you should be waiting until at least four in the afternoon before you start pulling back on the hooch as Iginla still has plenty of time to salvage his season.
THE NUMBERS GAME
0.46: That was the goals per game mark of Brad Boyes in 2007-08. Over those two years he scored more goals per game than Sidney Crosby (0.44), Vincent Lecavalier (0.44), Johan Franzen (0.43) and Corey Perry (0.41). Since he played all 164 games the Blues engaged in over that two year span he scored 76 goals, the 9th most in all of hockey. Ninth. So what the hell has happened since then? Boyes fell to 14 goals in 2009, 17 last year, and has just two this season which equates to 33 goals over his last 183 games, good for a 0.18 goals per game average. One season of elite scoring and you might say it was a fluke, but when a guy averages 38 goals over the course of back-to-back seasons as Boyes did in 2007-08 it can't be a fluke, can it? It's just crazy to think that his offensive game has so quickly evaporated given that he is just 29 years old.
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.