December 23, 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.
Jeff Carter recorded a hat-trick in the first period on Thursday night for the Blue Jackets. He's now up to 10 goals in 23 games, a pace that would equate to 36 goals over the course of an 82 game season. Two points. One, he scored 36 goals in 80 games last year with the Flyers. Second, he's unlikely to reach that 36 goal total given that injuries have already limited him to 23 of the Blue Jackets 34 games.
Didn't you used to be Ales Hemsky? The near point-per-game performer is dealing with the flu right now, but that doesn't come close to explaining why he has only 11 points in 22 games. He says his shoulder is fine, but observers question if he is, especially since he isn't shooting the puck as frequently as he used to.
Milan Michalek has been out since December 13th with a concussion, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. He's returned to skating and the belief is that the Sens might get back their leading goal scorer, 19 goals in 31 games, on Tuesday.
Ilya Kovalchuk was one of the elite performers in the game during his time with the Thrashers, but the good times haven't continued with the Devils. How about this. From 2005-2008 he averaged 47 goals a season. In his time with the Devils he has 51 goals... in 137 games. Ugh is right. Now he is scoring more, he has points in 10 of 12 games, but he still has only 10 goals in 28 games. His solution to the scoring woes? "... maybe now, we have to think more selfishly, and be a little more simple, especially on the power play." Given his talents, a little more selfishness couldn't hurt.
Mike Richards returned from a concussion to record his 12th goal of the season in his 26th game. More impressive is the fact that Richards had been on a goal scoring tear with 10 in his last 12 games for a Kings team that is finding it all kinds of difficult to score.
Eric Staal has seven goals, 20 points an is a (-21) skater for the Hurricanes this season. Is it time for the team to consider trading their captain? It sounds like a knee jerk, reactionary type move, but the guy simply cannot get anything going this season. His owners could care less where he plays as long as he produces, but it's gonna take one whopper of a second half for him to reach 70-points for the 7th straight season.
Is Shea Weber the best offensive defensemen in the NHL right now? Weber is second in the league, amongst blue liners, with 28 points (only Erik Karlsson has more points with 33). Weber is second in goals amongst blue liners with eight goals (James Garrison has 10). Weber is fourth with 20 assists (Karlsson leads with 29). Weber also has a +17 mark, the best amongst all blue liners with at least 20 points (Zdeno Chara also has a +17 mark with 21 points). The best part with Weber is that he is on absolute fire right now. He has two goals and five assists in his past four games, and over his last 22 contests he has 23 points an is a +12 skater. Talk of a Norris Trophy is bound go heat up, and quickly, if he can keep anything like this pace up moving forward.
Niklas Backstrom has allowed eight goals in his last two games. Prior to those back-to-back four goal outings he had permitted four goals only one time in 22 outings.
Martin Brodeur has been average at best this season with a terrible .885 save percentage. Can we blame injury, age, a combination of both? Brodeur has his own thoughts, and they are tied to playing time. "We've had a lot of back-to-backs and I'm not playing back-to-backs right now, so it's kind of a little tough." Don't know about you, but this is kind of a chicken or egg argument isn't it? In order to play more Marty my boy, you need to play better.
Jonas Hiller hasn't been great by any means, serviceable might be an appropriate term, but how in the world is he just 8-14-6 on the year? Are the Ducks really that bad? Goodness gracious.
Curtis Sanford is about at the end of his run of effectiveness. He tweaked his back Thursday though he stayed in the game and played through the setback. Unfortunately, he allowed six goals to pick up his fifth loss in seven decisions in the month of December. His ratios for the month (3.76 GAA,.877 SV%), are actually worse than the horrible performance that Steve Mason was providing before he was injured (3.52 GAA,880 SV%). With Mason healthy, it may be just a matter of time before he takes over in net for the Blue Jackets.
YOU GOTSTA KNOW
There is still no news on the concussion front with Sidney Crosby. Sid the Kid last played on December 5th, and it's looking more and more likely that he's played his last game of 2011. His season ended last year on January 5th because of the concussion, so it would be a wonderful holiday gift he was able to return to action by that date and never again be bothered by these concussion woes. Alas, I fear that even Santa Claus himself may not be able to help make that dream a reality.
THE NUMBERS GAME
0: The number of NHL skaters currently on pace for 100 points. Last year only one man hit triple digits (Daniel Sedin had 104 points).
.875: The Winning percentage of Martin Biron after he moved to 7-1 on Thursday night for the Rangers. Biron has won his last four starts and he's allowed more than two goals just twice in his nine appearances.
1.10: The point-per-game pace of the Jets' Blake Wheeler in the month of December as he has 11 points (3g, 8a) in 10 games. Moreover, he's been quite the performer since the start of November as he has 19 points, an a +13 rating, in 23 games.
4: The number of skaters on the Avalanche's top power-play unit that can't legally buy a Hot Toddy to celebrate the holiday season. The lone holdout on the unit is Milan Hejduk who is 35 years old. The youngsters are Matt Duchene, Ryan O'Reilly, Gabriel Landeskog and Stefan Elliott.
11: The number of points that defensemen Michael Del Zotto has produced in his last 13 games for the Rangers. Add in his +20 rating on the year and he's actually been one of the better defensemen in the league to own.
14: The number of months it had been since Alexander Ovechkin, Alexander Semin and Nicklas Backstrom had all scored a goal in the game game. The run of futility started on October 11th, 2010 and went until last night. Given how Ovechkin (11 goals) and Semin (seven goals) have performed this season, it's not as shocking as you would have thought, and that's pretty scary in itself. At least Backstrom is performing well with 12 goals and 22 assists in 32 games.
Happy Holidays all.
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.