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.
Since it's the All-Star break I'm going to deviate from the normal plan of action. Hopefully this decision won't tilt the world off axis for you, though if it does never fear, I'll be back to the same boring report next Friday (OK, it's not boring, we all know it's probably the best series of articles written since the Watergate scandal was broken wide open by Woodward and Bernstein).
Mid Season All-Stars
Forward: Evgeni Malkin, Scott Hartnell, Steven Stamkos
Malkin has carried a Penguins team that has, at one point or another, had virtually every member of the club on the shelf (Malkin has even missed seven games due to injury). Malkin leads the NHL with 58 points, is a +12, has 18 power-play points and is second to teammate James Neal in shots (202 to 210). Malkin continues to operate as one of the elite point producers in the game.
Hartnell has been an amazing fantasy performer. He's scored 25 goals, more than guys like Cory Perry (22), Daniel Sedin (21) and Alexander Ovechkin (20). He has more points (44) than Tyler Seguin (43), Martin St. Louis (43) and Thomas Vanek (41). He's also a +18 skater. Only two men with more than 44 points can better that mark (Marian Hossa has 53 an a +24, Pavel Datsyuk 53 an a +20). Toss in 71 PIMs and 105 hits and you have yourself arguably the most complete player of the first half of the season in Hartnell.
Stamkos' claim to fame is a wicked shot that propels puck toward the net with such force that goalies are often helpless to stop it. The league leader with 32 goals, five more than anyone else, Stamkos has been on a tear that has seen him light the lamp 26 times in his last 36 games. He's well on his way to a third straight 45-goal effort.
Defensemen: Erik Karlsson, Shea Weber
Karlsson is leading blue liners with 47 points. In fact, his total of 40 assists is a bigger number than any other blue liner has points (#2 man Brian Campbell has recorded 35 points). Karlsson also leads rear guards with168 shots on net and he is tied with Campbell for the lead with 20 power-play points (both men have one goal and 19 helpers with the man advantage). As mentioned every time someone writes about Karlsson, he's also gone from a horrific (-30) mark last season to a +5 this season as well.
Weber is the whole package. He has 10 goals and 24 assists to place him in a tie for third at the position in points. He's also the only blue liner with 30 points who is also at least a +15 skater (he's a +16). He's the only blue liners with more than 28 points who also has 100 hits (he has 102). Throw in 70 blocked shots and 141 shots on net and you have, arguably, the most well-rounded fantasy blue liner in the game.
This was the hardest decision to make, so I took the easy way out. Here are the leading candidates.
Jonathan Quick leads the league with six shutouts, has a 1.93 HAA an a .934 save percentage.
Brian Elliott leads the league with a 1.69 GAA and .938 save percentage.
Jimmy Howard leads the league with 30 victories while posting a 2.03 GAA.
Henrik Lundqvist has a 1.87 GAA, five shutouts, .937 save percentage.
Ah hell... give me Henrik Lundqvist.
Mid Season Let Downs
Forward: Alex Ovechkin, Rick Nash, Eric Staal
You're a great player when you are on pace for 34 goals and 65 points and the words “abysmal failure” are attached to your name. What has happened to the Great Eight? The first five years of his career he lit the lamp at least 46 times each year and never scored fewer than 92 points. Last year he dipped to 32 markers and 85 points, and this year it's even worse. He's also a (-4) skater an he's on pace for 286 shots on net. He's never fired fewer than 366 shots in any previous season. Perhaps his three game suspension will wake him up? Perhaps not.
Nash is a wonderful hockey player, but I fear that Columbus has sapped his strength like Kryptonite with Superman. Nash is a pathetic (-21) and he's on pace for 55 points. The last time he scored as little was 2005 when he had 54 points... in 54 games. Nash is also on pace for 28 goals which would be the first time in five years that he failed to score at least 32 times. There was so much hope in Columbus this year. Turns out it was unwarranted.
Staal has 24 points in his last 25 games. So how is he a disappointment? Overall he has a mere 36 points putting him on pace for about 58 points. He's recorded at least 70-points in 6-straight years. He has 11 goals meaning he will have to go bonkers to record at least 29 goals for the 7th straight year. He's also a vomit inducing (-23).
Defense: Mike Green, Chris Pronger, Tyler Myers, Ryan Whitney, Christian Ehrhoff
Every guy on this list has been, or is, hurt. I hate mentioning guys that are hurt as letdowns, it's not really fair given that they haven't been on the ice, but how could you not be disappointed by this list of names? Green and Pronger certainly top the list. Green has been injured about 19 different times since the start of last season and the flop of flops this year has appeared in 10 games. He has 30 points scored in his last 59 games, this after back-to-back 70-point seasons. Pronger is done for the year because of a concussion situation that has his career in doubt. He appeared in just 13 games for the Flyers, though to be fair, he was productive with 12 points when he was out there.
Goalie: Ilya Bryzgalov, Ryan Miller
Two of the, what, top-5 keepers in the league the past two years, both have been shadows of their former selves. Bryzgalov got $50 million from the Flyers to be their answer in net. He has been anything but. He has a winning record at 18-10-4, but his GAA is terrible at 2.99 and his .895 save percentage gives him no shot to post a .920 mark for the fourth time in five years. Miller, who has posted a GAA under 2.65 in each of his last four seasons, has a mark of 3.07. He's also gone from a run of 3-straight seasons with a save percentage of at least .916 to an awful .899 for the Sabres. His run of 6-straight 30 win seasons is over as well. He has just 12 victories on the year.
Mid Season Out of Nowhere Stars
Forward: Joffrey Lupul, Kris Versteeg, Max Pacioretty
Lupul was the 7th selection in 2002, but his career had never really taken off. Sure he had a couple of 50-point efforts, but he'd also bounced around a bit and was coming off two seasons in which he averaged just 39 games played. That's what makes his massive effort this season so surprising – no one saw it coming. Joffrey has 20 goals and 32 assists, with 15 of those points coming with the man advantage for the Leafs. He's been an amazing waiver-wire addition.
Versteeg has recorded 20-goals in 3-straight seasons, but to see him with 19 goals in just 47 games on the year is a shock. He's also just 10 points from his career best point total of 53, and he's also a +10 skater on the year. His production has caved of late, just five points in 11 games, but he's still been tremendous on the year.
Pacioretty has had his share of controversy, but he's one heck of a player. Limited to 52 games in 2009 and 37 in 2010, he came into the year off of many a radar. This season he's shown the talents that led to him being a first round selection in 2007 as he's already hit career bests in goals (17), points (38), penalty minutes (40) and shots on goals (163). Given that he had recorded 17 goals and 38 points the past two years (89 games) it's obvious that he has really played well this season.
Defense: Michael Del Zotto, Jason Garrison
Del Zotto recorded 37 points as a rookie in 2009, but he was also a horrific (-20). Year two was worse as he appeared in just 47 games while recording a mere 11 points. That left Del Zotto as a late round selection at best in many fantasy leagues. Well, consider those that gambled to have won the jackpot. Michael has continued his physical play with 96 hits, and he's blocked 67 shots as well. On the offensive side of the ice he has 24 points and, perhaps most impressively, has registered a +22 mark.
Garrison entered the year with seven goals in 113 NHL games, so it makes all the sense in the world to see him with 13 goals in 48 games this year, right? The blue line leader in lightly the lamp, Garrison has been a solid all-around performers for those of you in non-traditional leagues in that he has 79 hits, 78 blocked shots and 107 shots on net to round out his game.
Goalie: Brian Elliott
Elliott entered 2011 with an undistinguished career with the Senators and Avalanche. He only had one season of 50 games played, and last season his numbers were abysmal (3.34 GAA, .8923 save percentage). He signed a two-way deal with the Blues with little fanfare, started working with Corey Hirsch. Magic has erupted from that union. At the All-Star break Elliott, remarkably, leads the NHL with a 1.69 GAA and .938 save percentage. Disney makes movies about stories like this.
Two other goalies deserve a shout out. Mike Smith already has a career best 18 victories and his ratios have been stellar for the Coyotes (2.44 GAA, .922 save percentage). J-S Giguere was supposed to be a caddy for Semyon Varlamov. Turns out he has emerged as the lead dog with a 2.15 GAA and .921 save percentage over his 23 games.
Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87, and Saturday's from 3-4 PM he hosts the SiriusXM Fantasy Hockey Show. 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.