All-Star Break Report
With the NHL currently on hiatus for the next few days, I thought it might be useful to take a look at the eight hottest power play performers in the two weeks leading up to the All-Star break. (NOTE: All stats as of Jan. 25.)
Top 8 PP Performers
1. Scott Hartnell, RW, PHI: He may have been selected to the All-Star Game as an injury replacement, but Hartnell's numbers say he deserves to be there regardless. In six games just prior to the break, Hartnell led the entire NHL with five PP goals, giving him a career-high 13 on the season thus far. Furthermore, he's averaging about a minute more in PP ice time right now, compared to his 3:13 season average. In the meantime, some of Hartnell's linemates are really riding his coattails right now, including Claude Giroux (5A), Kimmo Timonen (1G, 2A) and Wayne Simmonds (2A).
2. Claude Giroux, RW, PHI: As mentioned above, Giroux and Hartnell have very quickly become one of the hottest PP tandems in the NHL today. With five helpers in six games heading into the All-Star break, Giroux now leads the NHL in PP points with 25 (5G, 20A). Coming into this season, many observers questioned whether the Flyers would be able to replace the presence of Jeff Carter and Mike Richards on the PP this year (a combined 13G, 25A), but Giroux could easily do that all by himself at the rate he's going. He's a major reason why the Flyers currently sit fourth overall in PP efficiency (20.4%).
3. James Neal, RW, PIT: Thanks to three PP goals in his last seven games, Neal currently sits tied for seventh on the NHL's power play leaderboard with the Sabres' Jason Pominville. Neal has clearly benefited from playing alongside Evgeni Malkin this season - the NHL's current scoring leader - leading one to wonder how much better Neal's stats would have been with a healthy Sidney Crosby playing next to him. As it is, Neal and Malkin are currently one of the best PP duos in the league, according to The Hockey News, with each player recording a point on 13 PP goals so far this season. Only the Sedin brothers (15) have combined for more.
4. Mike Fisher, C, NAS: Mike Fisher? Really? Yup. The Preds went into the All-Star break on a 9-1-0 run, due in no small part to Fisher who had 12 points over that stretch, including two PP goals and a helper in his last seven games, not to mention an earlier game on Jan. 7 against Carolina in which he had three more PP assists. Fisher started the season slowly, having missed most of October recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, but he really seems to be rounding into form now. He's currently playing on the Preds' second PP unit along with Craig Smith and Colin Wilson.
5. Pavel Datsyuk, C, DET: Datsyuk has been playing absolutely inspired hockey this season. Consider this - in the 33 games from November 17 to the All-Star break, Datsyuk has been held off the scoresheet only seven times. Furthermore, he's been on a point-per-game pace over that stretch, scoring 33 points (12G, 31A), including 14 PP points. His PP production has slowed marginally over the last two weeks (1G, 2A) but his overall importance to his team - not to mention their franchise-record 16-game home win streak - cannot be discounted.
6. Logan Couture, C, SAN: Well ain't that a fine how-do-you-do? Couture is one of the Sharks' leading scorers this season - tied for second, in fact, in both overall scoring (36 pts in 47 games) and power play (5G, 5A), and he still gets picked last overall at the All-Star draft. Furthermore, Couture had two PP goals plus a helper in seven games leading up to the break, putting him on pace to surpass the 14 PP points he registered last season. Typically a second-line guy, Couture has been spending more time on the Sharks' top PP unit alongside Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton.
7. Teemu Selanne, RW, ANA: Much of the Ducks' recent success can be attributed to Selanne, who has nine points in 11 games so far in January, including three on the power play in his last six games (1G, 2A). It might be a case of too-little-too-late, but the 13th-place Ducks are trying hard to dig themselves out of the Western Conference basement and back into the playoff picture. One thing's for sure, they won't be able to do it without Selanne, who remains one of the league's most dangerous power play performers, especially when he's setting up on the half-boards re-directing feeds at the net with his wicked snap shot. Selanne currently sits tied for third in PP scoring this season with 20 points (7G, 13A).
8. Martin Erat, RW, NAS: Erat's three PP points (1G, 2A) in his last seven games is but a mere snapshot of the month he's having so far in January. His total point production this month stands at three goals, nine assists, including a goal and four helpers on the power play. Fantasy owners know that Erat has never come close to playing a full season due to injuries - and this season is no different - but when he's healthy, he's one of the most consistent players out there. After finishing 26th in the league in PP efficiency last year, the Preds currently sit a very surprising second overall at 22.5%, just half a point behind the Canucks. This is due to a very balanced scoring attack that currently features six players who are double-digits in PP points, including Erat who has 11 (2G, 9A).