Crashing the Net: Early Season Standouts
Jamie Benn registered an assist in his first game back after signing his long-term deal with the Stars. He should be able to record three quarters of a point a game, if not more, the rest of the way.
Jeff Carter can still score folks. He's recorded a marker in 3-straight games for the Kings. Jeff Skinner of the Hurricanes can do him one better. He's scored in 4-straight (five goals total).
Patrick Hornqvist will likely miss somewhere between 3-4 weeks with a sprained knee leaving an opening on the Predators' power-play. First shot at the vacated spot will go to Paul Guastad who will be asked to plop his large frame right in front of the goalie. Before you go rushing to the waiver-wire you need to know who Guastad is. He's not a scoring star. In fact, he's never scored more than 12 goals in a season and has just seven goals over his last 73 games. He might get a few PP points but don't go expecting him to morph in Alexander Mogilny.
Patrick Marleau needed 18 games last year to reach nine goals. He got there in five games this year. Given the 48 game season he has no shot to match the all-time single season goal scoring marks, but does this insanely hot run to start the year leave open a chance for him to make a run at 50 goals? Something to think about.
Brenden Morrow has seen less than 10 minutes of ice-time in his last two games, though he is still seeing ample power-play time. The 34 year old has but two helpers and four PIMs, not to mention only two shots, through six games with the Stars. His fantasy relevance is pretty much non-existent unless you're in a very deep league.
Ryan O'Reilly still hasn't signed with the Avalanche even though they are without Steve Downie (knee) for the year and Gabriel Landeskog (head/neck injury suffered when he was hit by Brad Stuart of the Sharks over the weekend). Things are getting thin up front for the Avs.
Dustin Penner has been a healthy scratch for the Kings for 3-straight games. Hopefully that news doesn't impact your fantasy squad at all.
Henrik Sedin has played six games and hasn't scored a goal (he has four assists). Brother Daniel Sedin has two goals and two assists. Add the Sedins together and they've lit the lamp twice. Zack Kassian has scored four times for the Canucks, more than a quarter of the 15 goals the team has put up so far. Zack is also playing a bit of a rough game with 12 penalty minutes and 16 hits in six games.
Chris Stewart lost 20 pounds over the offseason in his attempt to get back to the point where he could be considered an offensive weapon for the Blues. A 28 goal scorer in 2009 and 2010, Stewart regressed to just 30 points last year (15 goals). Looks like the hard work paid off as he has started out on fire with four goals through six games for the impressive Blues. Can't think he is on waivers at this point but jump on him if he is.
James van Riemsdyk has been promoted to the top line with the Leafs and he will lineup alongside Phil Kessel and Tyler Bozak. The chance has presented itself thank to the broken forearm of Joffrey Lupul and the jacked up finger of Clarke MacArthur. A talented offensive weapon, JVR has had starts and stops in terms of his production, but he's had a hard time maintaining his position on the consistency train. Through five games he has three goals and an assist, and all he'll need to do now to rack up points it just to feed shooting machine Phil Kessel the puck and go to the net for rebounds.
Daniel Winnik jumped out to a hot start as he became the first Duck skater to ever record two goals in each of the first two games he played with the franchise. He's been given a chance to keep the good times rolling as he's now lining up with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry on the Ducks' top line. Through four games Daniel has five goals and is a +6 skater even though he's taken only 11 shots on net.
The Blues are a good team, and one of the most obvious reasons for that is that their blue line is tremendous defensively but they also know how to contribute on offense. The top-2 blue line point producers in the league are Kevin Shattenkirk and Alex Pietrangelo. The duo has 15 points an a +9 rating, even if they have scored only one goal (Alex P.) for the Blues.
Dustin Byfuglien is off to another hot start for the Jets. Through five games he has six points including three goals on the power-play. Dustin also leads blue liners with 22 shots on net. He's a beast.
Jonas Brodin will get his big shot as he will be teamed up on the Wild's blue line with Ryan Suter. The 10th selection in the 2011 Entry Draft made his NHL debut last week, and it seems like the team has been sufficiently impressed with Brodin to given him a shot on the top pairing. For his part Suter has three assists in five games though his two-way play has been lacking as he is a (-5) skater.
Andrei Markov will have some company on the blue line as the Habs signed their young defensive star to a two year deal (see below). The veteran Markov has had an impossible time staying healthy the past few years. Markov last skated in 80 games back in 2007, and over the past three years knee woes have limited him to 65 games. A former two time 50 point producer with a career best of 64 points in 2008, many thought Markov would never regain health long enough to once again be a fantasy contributor. Perhaps there is still a chance. So far this season Markov has been an absolute beast on the power-play with four goals and an assist in four games with the man advantage. Obviously he still has the skills needed to be a fantasy force. Will his body cooperate?
P.K. Subban is back in the fold as he agreed to a two year deal with the Canadiens for $5.75 million (he wanted a five year deal when all of the negotiating started). Subban should return to the ice shortly and be the point producing, penalty producing, shot producing force he was the last two years (he averaged 11 goals, 37 points, 122 PIMs and 201 shots a season). With Subban back in the fold it's possible that veteran power-play performer Tomas Kaberle might lose his spot in the blue line rotation of the Canadiens.
There are only two blue liners who currently have double-digit mark in hits, blocked shots and PIMs. The two skaters are Kevin Bieksa (12, 10 and 18) and Ladislav Smid (16, 10 and 25).
Sergei Bobrovsky seems to be on the cusp of locking down the #1 gig for the Blue Jackets as he's posted a 2.40 GAA with a .922 save percentage through four outings in a great start to the year after a lost 2011-12 (3.02 GAA, .899 SV%). Steve Mason is his main competition and Mason has allowed eight goals in his two games this season continuing his trend of outright poor performances from the past three years.
Corey Crawford was a fantasy stud in 2010 winnings 33 games with a 2.30 GAA for the Blackhawks. Those numbers regressed last season to 30 wins with a 2.72 GAA, and he lost his start spot between the pipes here and there as the team wasn't always pleased with his performance. There will be no complaining from anyone in Chicago at the moment as Corey has gone 5-0 while allowing just nine pucks to hit the twine. Can't play net a heck of a lot better than that.
Brian Elliot has a 2.74 GAA through three outings this year. He posted a 1.56 GAA last season in 38 games. Regression is a very real thing.
The Stars need to to a better job limiting shots that Kari Lehtonen has to stop. Through five games he has 142 saves, the most in the league, thanks to a sparkling .940 save percentage. It will be very interesting to see how his body holds up to the rigors of the condensed season as he has long been looked at as a keeper that has been unable to play game after game.
"Obviously it's been a tough adjustment with the long layoff and a frustrating process," Cam Ward said. I totally agree with you Cam, but you gotta shake the rust off big fella. Through four starts he's allowed 15 goals leading to a 4.51 GAA and .861 save percentage. Those type of numbers are barely acceptable in a beer league. He should right the ship so stay the course or look to pick him up from a frustrated owner.
Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87, Monday through Friday at 5 PM EDT. Ray's analysis can be found at BaseballGuys.com and his minute to minute musings can be located at the BaseballGuys' Twitter account.