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.
Rick Nash suffered a back injury on Thursday, and while he hasn't been ruled out for the Blue Jackets last game, you'd have to think his availability is questionable at best. If his season is over he will finish it with 29 goals, his first effort under 30-goals since 2006. He'll also end the year with 58 points, the first time he's failed to reach 60 points since that same 206 campaign. A disappointing season for the star left winger who may have played his last game with the Blue Jackets (he figures to be dealt this offseason).
Tomas Vokoun is dealing with a groin issue, and Michal Neuvirth is also dealing with a leg injury. As a result, Braden Holtby will start for the Caps in their final game, and he may be their starter come the playoffs as well. Holtby does have a 2.08 GAA and .926 save percentage in 20 NHL games, but for a team that has struggled to get on track all season their can't be a lot of happy faces in Washington if they are going to have to start the playoffs with their #3 keeper in net.
YOU GOTSTA KNOW
With Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott slated to share the Blues last two games, history will potentially be made on two counts. Completely out of nowhere, Elliott leads the NHL with a 1.49 GAA and .943 save percentage. Do you know the last time that an NHL keeper played enough games to qualify and posted a GAA under 1.50? I would venture a guess that no one reading this was even alive as it was 1933 when Wilf Cude posted a 1.469 GAA in 30 games (Elliott has appeared in 37). As for Elliott's save percentage, he will set an all-time NHL record in that category. His current mark of .9426 will best the .9382 mark that Tim Thomas posted just last season for the Bruins. Cory Schneider of the Canucks will also finish with the fourth best save percentage of all-time if he maintains his current mark of .9365.
FIVE SUCCESS STORIES
Here are five players who greatly exceeded their draft day cost.
Ray Whitney was too small to ever make it. Luckily he didn't listen to the naysayers. Turning 40 on May 8th, Whitney is wrapping up possibly his most complete season. He's scored more than his 24 goals, and he's had three seasons with more points that his current total of 75, but a 39 year old scoring 24 goals and recording 75 points is a rather monumental achievement. Whitney will set a career best with a +25 mark and his eight power-play goals are more than he has scored in any season since 2005.
Joffrey Lupul suffered a separated shoulder on March 6th, and though he's returned to the ice to skate, his season is obviously over. Spending most of the year on the top line with Phil Kessel, Lupul went from a 31 point performer last season to a 67 point guy this year. Along the way Lupul scored 25 goals, three off his career best, while he dealt out 42 assists, 16 more than ever before. For those of you keeping track at home that means Lupul, who had scored a total of 45 points the past two years, registered 67 points in 66 games for the Leafs. A hell of a waiver-wire addition wouldn't you say?
Jordan Eberle was a first round selection in 2008, so it's hardly a surprise to see him have an impressive second season, but he's taken things to some rarefied air this season. After 18 goals and 43 points as a rookie, Eberle has handed out 42 assists this year. Toss in 34 goals and he's 33 points clear of his rookie total of points while also turning a (-12) rating as a rookie into a +5 mark in year two. So much for a sophomore slump for this Saskatchewan born boy.
Erik Karlsson needs two points to set an all-time NHL record for points by a Swedish born defensemen (Karlsson has 78 points, two less than Nicklas Lidstrom scored in 2005). Erik's point total of 78 is also 25 points more than any other blue liner in the game this year (Brian Campbell). Karlsson also had 71 points his first two seasons, seven less than he's posted this season. He's also gone from a (-35) skater his first two years to a +17 skater this year for the Senators.
Brian Elliott – You did see the “You Gotsta Know” section above, right?
Here are five players who failed to achieve their expected levels of success.
Ryan Getzlaf was part of a terribly disappointing season for the Ducks. Better than a point-per-game performer each of the past four seasons, Getzlaf has a mere 56 points in 81 games this season. Not only have the assists dried up, but he's not lit the lamp either with 11 goals ending a run of 5-straight years of at least 19 goals. A pathetic effort for a player this talented.
Dany Heatley has gone from elite, to solid, to borderline starter in the fantasy game in three years. After lighting the lamp 39 times and scoring 82 points in 2009, Heatley dipped to 26 goals and 64 points last season, his worst full season marks of his career. The Sharks, apparently seeing the writing on the wall, sent Heatley packing to the Wild where things have gotten even worse as he has 23 goals and just 52 points in one of the more non-injury induced letdown seasons of any forward this season.
Chris Stewart, one of the emerging power forwards in the game, scored 15 goals and recorded 23 points in just 26 games last year after being dealt to the Blues. He's barely reached those totals in 77 games this season with 15 goals and 29 points. Stewart has just been dreadful, there's simply no other way to state it. He has 100 penalty minutes, but after scoring 28 goals in each of the last two seasons a 29 point effort this year is dismal.
Mike Green was injured off an on all year, when he's been on the ice he hasn't looked anything like the two-time 70-point producer that he is. Green has seven points in 31 games this season, just 31 points in his last 80 games actually, and since the month of October he has scored one point, ONE, in 24 games. Words escape me to describe the drivel that has been Green.
Corey Crawford backstops one of the most talented teams in hockey, and he has won 29 games, but his overall performance hasn't measured up to his rookie effort, not nearly. Crawford's GAA has grown from 2.30 to 2.74, while his save percentage has fallen from .917 to .902. He's also seen his shutout total go from four to zero, and he's lost his starting spot to Ray Emery at least twice over the course of the season. A poor follow up effort.
THE NUMBERS GAME
1.00: The point-per-game total of John Tavares who has 81 points in 81 games. Check out the career trajectory of this guy. As a rookie he had 24 goals and 54 points. In his second season he had 29 goals and 67 points. This year he has 31 goals and 81 points. Yeah, he's fulfilling expectations that come with being taken #1 overall.
2: The number of Sharks players that had Gordie Howe Hat Tricks on Thursday night against the Kings. Ryane Clowe had a goal, assist an a fight, the same as Joe Thornton. On the year Thornton has 18 goals and 77 points in 81 games while Clowe has 17 goals, 45 points and 97 PIMs.
5: The number of goals that Jonathan Quick gave up to the Sharks Thursday night. That was the first time this season, in 68 outings, that Quick allowed five goals in a game. That's not a huge shock given that Quick has 10 shutouts an owns a 1.93 GAA for the season, but it just shows you how amazingly consistent Quick has been this season.
12: The goalless streak of Blake Wheeler of the Jets. Wheeler has 17 goals on the year, and 63 points (the point total is a career best), but his production has slowed considerably of late as he handed out only seven assist in his last 12 games.
30: The number of goals that David Clarkson has scored this season for the Devils, not bad for a guy who scored 23 goals the previous two seasons and had never recorded more than 17 in a campaign. More than just a goal scorer, Clarkson has kept up the rough stuff with 138 PIMs, his highest total in three years, while his 228 shots on net represent a career best and the first time he has gone over 195. A fantastic fantasy season for the right winger indeed.
Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87, and Saturday's from 4-5 PM he hosts the SiriusXM Fantasy Hockey Show. Ray's baseball analysis can be found at BaseballGuys' Twitter account.To email Ray a question for next week's piece, drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.