From goal scorers to defenders to the men who keep the puck out of the net, each week we'll take a spin around the rink and touch on some of the players that are in the news.
Johan Franzen has been an amazing playoff performer in his career, but he has never been able to extend that success to the regular season. Sure he's been a solid point producer, in three of the past four seasons he's recorded 27 or more goals, but he hasn't been able to put it all together for 82 games. Well, he's been doing just that this season. The winger has 20 goals and 43 points in 54 games for the Wings, is a +25, has 10 of his goals on the power-play, and nine goals have gone for game winners. He's been a fantasy beast.
Jordan Eberle scored twice Monday night, and a look at the NHL leaderboard shows that Eberle has 54 points (24g, 30a), one less than Henrik Sedin and two more than Daniel Sedin and Jonathan Toews. The Oilers have had some misses in recent years but it's clear that Eberle is going to be a full-fledged, slam dunk, stupendous selection.
Sam Gagner had that historic eight point game last week which I wrote about in Friday's Face-Off. Since that game, he has scored two goals and handed out two helpers in two games to give him a four game point streak that has produced six goals and seven assists. That total of 13 points, in just four games, is nearly a third of the point total he has averaged the past three years (41 points a season).
Mikhail Grabovski has 18 goals and 39 points on the season for the Leafs thanks to a run of points that has his outlook on the rise. Grabovski has recorded a point in 6-straight contests, and that run includes three goals and a whopping nine helpers.
How many of you know where Lauri Korpikoski plays? It's OK to admit you have no idea. The winger for the Coyotes has only 26 points on the year, but he's taken off of late with eight points in his last eight games.
Vincent Lecavalier has 12 assists in his last 14 games, a solid scoring pace. Toss in the seven goals that he has also posted in that time and his performance of late has become elite. As if his production wasn't enough, Martin St. Louis is also on fire for the Bolts. Over their last 19 games the duo has combined to produce 16 goals and 49 points (St. Louis has seven goals and 20 assists). Yeah, that's pretty darn good.
Michael Ryder scored 18 goals in 2009. Michael Ryder scored 18 goals in 2010. Michael Ryder has scored, you guessed it, 18 goals this season. However, he's only appeared in 51 games after averaging 81 games played the past two seasons. Obviously he has a chance to record his highest goal total since he scored 27 times in 2008 though he has gone cold of late with just one marker in 13 forays onto the ice.
Jason Spezza has 50 points in 55 games, a completely acceptable total, but at the same time he has vanished of late with zero points in six straight games. Milan Michalek continues to flank him one of the wings, but the team is having trouble finding another winger who can gel with the duo. The current flavor of the week is Erik Condra but he only has two points in his last 12 games so it doesn't sound like he's likely to stick on the first line for too long.
Chris Stewart was supposed to take the next step this year. The only step he has taken is into the gutter with the trash. He has one point in his past seven games and is on pace for 16 goals this season. He scored 15 times in just 26 contests with the Blues last year. He's been a massive disappointment.
Blue Line Business
Dan Boyle started off the year slowly because he was injured (his foot was broken), but he's picked up the pace of late with 13 points in his last 15 games. As impressive and helpful as the points are, his 52 shots on net are also impressive as is his plus/minus mark of +11.
It wasn't quite Joe DiMaggio like but... Dustin Byfuglien is a shot taking machine, an in each of his first 37 games this season he took at least one shot on net (hardly surprising given that he averaged 3.49 shots on goal per game). However, he failed to generate a shot on net Sunday to end the streak at 37.
Justin Faulk of the Hurricanes leads all rookies with 22:34 minutes of ice-time per game. Too bad that hasn't translated into any success in the fantasy game (4g, 7a, +8).
Niklas Kronwall has tied his career best with 11 goals, but his point production has slowed of late. Niklas has no points in five games and just three points in 14 games. He's also a team worst (-5) and is one of two Detroit skaters who has appeared in more than five games that is a minus skater (the other is Tomas Holmstrom at -4).
Jordan Leopold leads all blue liners with a .138 shot percentage, the result of eight goals on just 58 shots on net. Jordan has gone cold of late though with one goal in his last 13 games for the Sabres.
Jaroslav Halak has allowed a total of 13 goals in his last 10 games as he has gone 8-2 for the Blues. Oh, by the way, 13 goals in 10 games equates to a 1.29 GAA. Moreover, remove the month of October from his ledger and you would find a keeper with a 1.58 GAA in 23 games.
It appears likely that Jimmy Howard will miss upwards of four weeks with his broken finger (some reports suggest up to six weeks). Obviously this ruins Howard's run to the most wins in a regular season by a keeper, and it also opens up a spot for someone to step into in Detroit. Ty Conklin has been awful this year posting a .878 save percentage in 11 games, so it appears that Joey MacDonald could be given a shot to run with the job. Over his 17 appearances with the Wings dating back to last season Joey Mac has posted a strong set of numbers (2.47 GAA, .918 save percentage) so don't expect the Wings to fall apart defensively.
Tuukka Rask allowed a total of one goal over five appearances in December an early January. Obviously at some point that worm was going to turn. It has. Rask is winless in his last three starts and has allowed 10 goals in the three losses. Don't panic if you own him though as his GAA is still scintillating at 1.88 (the third best mark in the league).
James Reimer disappeared for a while as Jonas Gustavsson asserted himself in the net for the Leafs, but all of a sudden neither keeper is allowing any pucks into the net as the club has gone 5-0-1. Reimer has been stellar as he has won his last three starts while allowing a total of three goals. Moreover, two of the three games have resulted in a shutout. Yeah, he's seeing the puck well right now. Make sure he isn't floating around on your waiver-wire.
Good news for the Flyers, Daniel Briere (concussion), appears likely to return to action on Tuesday night. Briere recorded 68 points last year, has 30 in 43 games this season, and he's averaged 0.82 points per game as a Flyer so his return will be a big boost to the club.
Matt Duchene (knee) skated Monday, but there still isn't a target date for his return. He last appeared in a game on December 29th for the Avs.
Sidney Crosby practiced Monday, but there is no target date for a return to action for the Penguins star who is still trying to overcome neck and concussion woes. He's improving, but how long have we heard that for? Is he symptom free? "No. As soon as I am hopefully I'll be out there."
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. His NHL thoughts can be read at RotoWire.com. 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.