By Ray Flowers
December 16, 2011
It's Friday, so it's time to send you off to a weekend of fun and games with a review of some of the most important stories from the frozen pond.
Tim Connolly has 15 points in 18 games this season continuing his career long trend of producing points when he is on the ice. However, continuing his other career long trend, the guy can't stay on the ice (he's suited up for 18 of 30 games). Roll with him for now, but realize that he simply isn't someone you can count on to produce week after week.
David Clarkson is known as a solid grinder, a guy who you don't pay much attention to in the fantasy game if you're in a standard league, but if you're in a league that counts things like hits and shots on net, he's a very valuable performer this season. In fact, Clarkson is the only skater in the game with more than 50 penalty minutes, 60 hits, 60 shots and five goals (he has 57, 67, 80 and nine). Keep that in mind if he's somehow floating around on the waiver-wire.
David Jones is day-to-day with a groin injury, an in his stead the Avalanche have inserted Daniel Winnik on the top line with Matt Duchene and Paul Stastny. It's a short-term fix, but Winnix could have some value in the short run skating with those two talents.
Tyler Seguin's scoring pace has predictably slowed of late. Though he has 26 points in 29 games, he's been producing at a more glacial pace recently with one goal and three points in nine games. Look for Seguin to be a solid point producer this season, but he's still very young to be expecting him to be a point-per-game performer.
Ryan Smyth has had a wonderful return to Edmonton as he's racked up 27 points in 31 games. However, the gravy train has slowed of late as he's had just one assist in December and the last time he scored a goal was the day after Thanksgiving.
Travis Zajac (Achilles) has been activated off the injured list and should be in the lineup on Friday for the Devils. Zajac will center the third line in his return to the lineup, but it shouldn't be too long before he is receiving top-6 minutes. Zajac isn't an elite performer, but he has posted 62 and 67 points in two of the last three seasons, so he could serve as a B-12 shot would to you for your fantasy squad.
With Kari Lehtonen out of action, the Stars had been trying to find a way to show some confidence with Andrew Raycroft. As is often the case with Raycroft, he failed to take advantage of his opportunity posting terrible numbers (3.53 GAA, .897 save percentage). No problem. The Start turned to Richard Bachman, the guy with one career appearance of 10 minutes heading into the season, and Bachman has stolen the show. In his four outings he's allowed a total of three goals thanks to a stupendous .970 save percentage. Bachman will lose his starting spot when Lehtonen returns, possibly in 10 or so days, but he's looked great in the meantime.
Brian Elliott is the best goaltender in the NHL. I know it sounds preposterous, but look at the numbers; Elliott leads the NHL with a 1.43 GAA and his .948 also leads the way. In 16 outings this season Elliott ha allowed more than two goals one time. Once. You simply cannot argue with the fact that his first two and a half months have resulted in some of the best goaltending in the history of hockey. Period.
Ray Emery appears to have taken over in net for the Blackhawks. Emery is 7-1-2 on the season, though his ratios aren't exactly impressive (2.70 GAA, .904 save percentage). Of course, those totals blow doors on the terrible numbers that Crawford has been saddled with (3.00 GAA, .896 save percentage).
Matt Hackett was spectacular in his two outings stopping 76 of 78 shots. Thanks for your help Matt, but your services are no longer needed. The Wild have sent Hackett back to the minors now that Josh Harding's whiplash situation has been resolved. How good has the Wild's goaltending been this year? Their 2.08 GAA is third in the NHL (Blues 1.97 and Bruins 1.98).
Nikolai Khabibulin has been taking a siesta. Nikolai took off Monday and Tuesday because he's been fatigued. "Coaches never want to admit mistakes but last year we played him a lot, a lot early,” HC Tom Renney said. “There is obviously a better balance this year.” The Bullin Wall has seen his GAA regress of late, though it's still a wondrous 1.95 on the year. If the Oilers think that his regression is a result of fatigue I'm not going to say they are wrong, but come on now, let's not forget about regression to the mean Oilers. The last time that Khabibulin posted a GAA under 3.00 was 2008.
YOU GOTSTA KNOW
I'm sure you've heard it by now, but Chris Pronger was ruled out for the season Thursday night. Here is the entire statement.
“After consultation with respected concussion specialists Dr. Joseph Maroon and Dr. Micky Collins, it is the opinion of both doctors that Chris is suffering from severe post-concussion syndrome,” GM Paul Holmgren said. “It is the recommendation of doctors Maroon and Collins that Chris not return for the remainder of the 2011-12 season or playoffs. Chris will continue to receive treatment and therapy with the hope that he can get better.”
Concussions are sweeping the league right now – stars like Sidney Crosby, Claude Giroux, Mike Richards and Milan Michalek are currently out of action – and it continues to be THE story of the 2011 season. I'm no doctor, and I didn't stay at a Holiday Inn last night, but doesn't it seem odd that Pronger has already been ruled out for the next six months? Speculation isn't going to do anyone any good, but I'm still shocked that a concussion could already have been deemed severe enough to have relegated Pronger to the sidelines for rest of the season.
THE NUMBERS GAME
1: The number of goals that Martin Havlat has recorded in his 25 games with the Sharks. Havlat scored on November 5th which means he's played 17 games without a goal. Over the course of his career Havlat has averaged 5.5 goals per 17 games.
2: That's the number of points that Drew Doughty, you know the supposed offensive defensemen of the Kings, has recorded in his last 15 games. How is that possible you say for a guy who recorded an average of 50 points the past two years? That's a wonderful question that the Kings are trying to figure out the answer to. Perhaps the coaching change will help?
3: The number of teams that have two skaters in the top-8 in shots on goal this season. The Penguins lead the way with #1 & 2 on the list (James Neal 127 and Evgeni Malkin 117), followed by the Jets (Evander Kane 116, Dustin Byfuglien 115) and Blackhawks (Patrick Sharp 112, Marian Hossa 111) skaters. The two others in the top-8 are Eric Staal (115) and Rick Nash (113).
4: The number of Bruins in the NHL's top-7 in terms of plus/minus. They have the top two men in Tyler Seguin (+21) and Brad Marchand (+19), followed by Patrice Bergeron (+18) and Zdeno Chara (+18). Poor Chris Kelly is a loser at +17, and don't even get me started about Johnny Boychuk and his +14 mark.
6: The NHL leading game winning goal total of Johan Franzen, one more than Claude Giroux. Four others have four game winners – Jonathan Toews, Vincent Lecavalier, Dustin Brown and Patrick Sharp – but the most surprising game winning goal scorer this season is Brown. Fully two third of his six goals this season have won the game for the Kings.
24: The league leading assist total for a defensemen by the Senators' Erik Karlsson. Last season Karlsson had 32 assists on the season in 75 games, so he's clearly taken his offensive game to new heights this season. His total of 11 assists on the power-play is tied for fourth in the NHL. Defenseman Brian Campbell leads the way with the man advantage with his 14 helpers.
60: The point pace for Alexander Ovechkin who has 22 in 30 games this season. This is a guy who scored 65 goals in 2007. Ovechkin, who had never scored fewer than 46 goals before falling to 32 last season, is on pace for 27. His fall from super-stardom has been stunning.
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.