December 2, 2011
It's Friday and, with the Turkey Day coma in the rear view mirror, it's time to get down to some serious hockey analysis in this piece.
Ryane Clowe finally broke out of a slump on Thursday night as he scored a goal, his first in 10 games. Clowe isn't the only Sharks forward who has been unable to beat keepers of late. Logan Couture also scored in the outing against the Habs, but it was his first goal in five games and just his second in nine. Martin Havlat, the big offseason addition up front for the Sharks, has done little to make anyone forget about Dany Heatley. Havlat has been shuffled amongst all the lines, thought Thursday he was back up on the second unit where the team initially hoped he would reside this season. Havlat has just 10 points in 18 games, but worse yet he has one goal on the season and none in his last 10 games. The Sharks are playing pretty solid hockey, but they need to get their offense back on track.
Dustin Brown has 15 points in 25 games this season, a decent pace for a guy who has been between 53 and 60 points the past four years, but his goal scoring pace is way down. Brown has just five goals in 25 games, a pace that would result in just 16 goals, well off the the 24 or better mark he has posted in each of the last four seasons. His shooting percentage is down a bit, it's .083 this season versus .101 for his career, but I'm more concerned about his shot pace. I keep using the last four years as a baseline with Brown, so let's keep that going. Over that time frame he's averaged 247 shots a season. This year, he's on pace to fall short of 200 shots on net. He needs to start shooting the puck if he wants to get back on his normal 25-goal pace (though it may be too late for him to get to 25 goals, he should return to that "pace" the rest of the way).
Nick Foligno had a pretty darn big November for the Senators with 11 points (5g, 6a) in 12 games. A 2006 first round draft pick, Foligno has had spurts of offensive production over the past few years, but he has never been able to sustain anything resembling offensive excellence. It certainly hasn't hurt that he is now skating on a line with Daniel Alfredsson and Milan Michalek, an if he continues to do so it would seem that all he needs to do is to stay healthy to blow past his career bests of 17 goals and 34 points.
While a lot is going right in Edmonton, Sam Gagner isn't one of the bright spots. The 6th selection in 2007, Gagner hasn't developed an offensive game that excites anyone, an in fact his highest point total was the 49 he produced as a rookie. This season things have gotten worse than ever before as he has gone 18 games without a goal. If he's on your team right now you had better be in some type of league that has like 30 teams in it or you're killing yourself.
Jaromir Jagr (groin) is expected to return to action on Friday. Jagr still has something to give at 39 years of age, and when healthy this season he's been very productive with 17 points in 19 games. He should continue to cause some damage, especially with the man advantage, but whether or not his body can hold up for the course of the season might be an issue.
Nikita Nikitin sounds like he should be a Russian spy. In a certain respect, he actually is. Nikita scored nine points in 48 games with the Blues, but since he was dealt to the Blue Jackets he's simply taken off. In those 10 games in Columbus Nikitin has recorded a goal and seven assists. That's a pretty darn impressive run from a guy that I would bet was drafted in about, an I'm going out on a limb here, in less than one percent of fantasy leagues.
Mason Raymond should have played on Thursday, but the proper paperwork wasn't filed with the leagues offices so he had to sit out one more game (great job Canucks). Raymond should return to action on Saturday for his first game action of the year. Coming back off a serious injury (fractured fibula), Raymond figures to work his way into a top-6 role with the Canucks once he's back up to game speed.
Niklas Backstrom has appeared in net 17 times this season. Only one time has he allowed more than three goals in a game, and that was back on October 18th. Many want to push him aside in favor or Josh Harding, but Backstrom continues to operate as one of the better keepers in the game
Corey Crawford has been a disaster of late. His record has been slightly above .500 with six wins against five loses. However, it's his ratios that have really sunk his performance of late as he's posted a 3.27 GAA and .886 GAA. What, does he think he's Ondrej Pavelec all of a sudden? He should rebound, but it's pretty dicey right now as to whether or not you want to start him.
Ryan Miller is going to dress as the Sabres' backup keeper on Friday night, the first time he will be active in three weeks since taking that hit from Milan Lucic that resulted in a concussion. The last time Miller saw game action was November 12th, and it looks like he has a chance to play on Saturday when the Sabres take on the Red Wings. Meanwhile, Jonas Enroth continues his excellent start to the season with a 2.27 GAA, .926 save percentage and 8-4-1 record as he has played about as well as Miller normally does, and that is certainly saying something. Look for Miller to regain his starting duties in short order, as long as his melon doesn't bark back.
Curtis Sanford has started 8-straight games for the Blue Jackets. Sanford hasn't allowed more than three goals in any outing this season, and though he's permitted six goals in his last two games he's only been scored on 15 times in those eight games. The Blue Jackets would be off their rocker to relegate Sanford to the backup role until he returns to being the goalie he always has been, but for now he's the goalie to own with this club.
If you want to talk about a struggling keeper, look no further than Carolina where Cam Ward has three wins in his last 13 decisions. How pathetic is that? Oh, and his GAA is 3.74. Steve Mason anyone? Ward has a track record of borderline excellence though, so he makes a perfect by low option.
YOU GOTSTA KNOW
Alexander Ovechkin used to be the most dynamic offensive weapon in the NHL. Are those days over? Alexander has a mere eight goals and 18 points on the year, totals that put him on pace for 27 goals and 62 points. And you thought last year's totals of 32 goals and 85 points were disappointing. Is this really the same guy who scored an average of 54 goals in his first five seasons? One of the biggest shifts in his game this season is his reluctance to shoot the puck, an odd change from a man who once fired an astounding 528 shots on net (2008). Ovechkin has never taken fewer than 367 shots in a season, but he's currently on pace for just 277. Hopefully new HC Dale Hunter will light a fire under Ovechkin before everyone in the world realizes that he simply isn't playing in the same hemisphere as the player we all know and love.
THE NUMBERS GAME
19: That is the NHL point leading total for the last 30 days by the Leaf's Joffrey Lupul. Lupul has 30 points this season in 25 games a year after he recorded 31 points in 54 games. Here is the leader board for the past 30 days.
19 - Joffrey Lupul
18 - Jonathan Toews
16 - Johan Franzen, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Steven Stamkos, Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Eberle
15 - Daniel Sedin, Kris Versteeg
Jordan Eberle deserves a special mention. Eberle, a second year skater for the Oilers, recorded 43 points in a solid rookie season, but he's taken things to a whole other level this season with 26 points in 25 games. Eberle has been particularly hot of late with 13 points in his last seven games while his plus/minus during his hot streak is a +4.
The following skaters might be on your waiver-wire and they too have performed well of late.
14 - Adam Henrique
13 - Brad Marchand
12 - Erik Cole, Michael Ryder
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.