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Crashing the Net: The Quarter Pole

Ray Flowers

Ray Flowers

The co-host of The Drive on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (Sirius 210, XM 87: M-F at 5-8 PM EDT), Ray Flowers has spent years squirreled away studying the inner workings of the fantasy game to the detriment of his personal life. You can follow Ray on Twitter (@BaseballGuys), he never sleeps, and you can also find more of his musings at BaseballGuys.com.

Crashing the Net: The Quarter Pole

FORWARDS

Sam Gagner has been one of the most consistent point producers in hockey since he entered the league. Notice I didn't say “impressive,” I said “consistent.” In each of his five seasons he's recorded between 41 and 49 points. The Oilers might only play 48 games this season but it seems like Gagner is intent on matching his traditional point output. So far Gagner has recorded 13 points in 12 games, including six points with the man advantage. It seems possible that he could get to that 40's point total with his start, and who would have thunk that a month ago?

Claude Giroux was an outright star last season as he racked up an impressive 93 points in 77 games giving him 169 points in 159 games in 2010-11. Obviously, that's more than a point per game. This season, not so much. There's still plenty of time for him to catch fire, but Claude has only seven points in 13 games in a very disappointing start to the year. He's too talented to stay down much longer.

Patrick Kane has always been a point producer but he's taken his game up a notch in the early going. Kane had 15 multi-point games last season over the course of the 82 game schedule. This season has has seven multi-point games in 15 contests with the result being 19 points in 12 games (he's also scored seven times during his 6-game point streak). He's got a shot to lead the league in scoring and he's on pace for his his third point-per-game season in six years.

Don't look now but Brad Marchand leads the Bruins with six goals in just nine games.

Patrick Marleau got off to the best start of his career with two goals in 4-straight games and nine goals in his first five outings. Of course he has slowed since and it's been a crawl of late with one goal in seven games leaving him three short of 400 for his career. Still, what the heck are you complaining about? The dude has 10 goals in 12 games folks, so I'm pretty sure you can live with the slump.

The Red Wings have had one impressive line at the quarter pole with Johan Franzen (nine points, +4), Damien Brunner (six goals to lead the team) and Henrik Zetterberg who has racked up 13 assists in 12 games. Toss in the five goals for Henrik and we've got a great player who is off to the best start of his rather storied career.

Mike Ribeiro is never going to be a goal scorer of note, he's only had one season of 25 lamp lighting’s, but the guy can produce points and set up his teammates for success. A three time 50 assists man, he obviously won't get to that level this season but he has dished out 10 helpers in 12 games on his way to 14 points including six during his 4-game point streak. Someone likes his new home in the nation's capitol.

As he's done in the past, Eric Staal limped out of the gate a bit before finding his stride. He's in full gallop now with 14 points over his last nine games. Thanks to all the points he's also been a +10 in that time. Face it. There aren't many players you can book for points. Staal is one of those guys, he is every year, even if he isn't always the most consistent philly on the track.

Thomas Vanek leads the NHL with an amazing total of 23 points in 12 games (he also leads the NHL with 11 goals). You're starting him no matter what, but it's still pretty dang interesting to see how consistent he has been with five goals and 11 points on the road (six games) and six goals and 12 points at home (six games).

DEFENSEMEN

Who leads blue liners in plus/minus this season? The top of the heap is Mark Fraser at +11, one point better than Sheldon Souray. There's a big difference in the fantasy value of the duo though as Fraser has one assist this season while Souray has four goals and three helpers. By the way, no other blue liner with one or zero points has a plus/minus mark better than +5 (Keith Ballard has no points but is a +5 while Kyle Quincey is also zero and +5).

Drew Doughty was once thought of as an elite rearguard. It's far too early to abandon that thought completely, but there is no disputing that his effort thus far this season just hasn't been good enough. In fact, we are currently looking at a third straight year of declining production if he doesn't pick up the pace. Here are his point per game marks the past three seasons: 0.72, 0.53, 0.47. This season that mark is down even further to 0.36 as he has a mere four helpers in 11 games. He's also failed to register a goal and he's a (-10) skater. He's too talented to give up on, but if his current owner has had it now would be a good time to make a low ball offer.

Tobias Enstrom is on fire with 13 points, tied with Kevin Shattenkirk for the blue line lead. However, it's amazing to think that Enstrom has taken only eight shots on goal in 11 games. He's also about as “soft” as they come as he's got a mere four hits and eight penalty minutes.

Travis Hamonic has 20 hits and 20 blocked shots this season giving him some value in leagues that go beyond the standard scoring categories. He's even chipped in five points. Unfortunately he's also a (-8) skater and has just 10 PIMs so his value is muted in traditional pools.

With Nicklas Lindstrom retired the Wings have turned to another Niklas, Niklas Kronwall, for point production from the blue line. The club hasn't skipped a beat as Kronwall has 10 points in 12 games. He could stand to improve that (-4) plus/minus mark though.

Tyler Myers has been a healthy scratch for the last two games for the Sabres. What the heck has happened to the blue line behemoth? After 11 goals and 48 points in an impressive rookie season Myers has recorded a total of 19 goals in his last 146 games and he's got one point and is a (-9) skater in 11 games this season. He's set to return to the lineup Tuesday but for now you had better be in one deep ole league to have him active.

Marek Zidlicky has five points in 12 games for the Devils. Four of them have come on the power-play (all assists).

GOALIES

The pickup of the year thus far has obviously been the Ducks' Viktor Fasth, who is 5-0 with a 1.72 GAA. Fasth was bombed in his last start though allowing five goals on 31 shots to the Blues, the same amount of goals he allowed the first five times he was on the ice this season. A 30 year old rookie, you have to wonder if this two-time award-winning Swedish Elite League goaltender will be able to hold off Jonas Heller (who is dealing with a lower body issue) and continue to be so impressive between the pipes. I have my doubts.

Miikka Kiprusoff is likely to miss at least two weeks with a Grade 2 sprain of his MCL. The Flames added Joey MacDonald off waivers and they will use him in concert with Leland Irving. "I really like what Leland has done," Calgary GM Jay Feaster said. Leland is 24 years old and a former first round draft pick, and in four outings this year he's working with a 2.62 GAA and .900 save percentage, far from inspiring production. Unfortunately, it's fair to wonder if there is much more that he will be able to do after a 2011-12 campaign in the AHL that saw him post nearly identical numbers in the AHL (2.67 GA, .902 save percentage in 39 games).

Ryan Miller has faced 368 shots this season, more than any other keeper. He's been able to post a solid .913 save percentage but because of all the shots he's allowed the most goals in the league, 32, leading to a poor 2.97 GAA. The Sabres must clean things up in front of him.

Ondrej Pavelec is an unacceptable 3-5-1 with a .885 save percentage and 3.28 GAA for the Jets. Those numbers barely would have played in 1985. Still, the six year vet has a 3.00 GAA and .906 save percentage over 196 career games, so it's not like this level of production is totally out of character. For now he continues to hold on to the #1 role with the Jets, but Al Montoya is likely to start getting more work. He's been equally as poor with a .899 save percentage in his three games this season. If Al was more highly skilled Pavelec's playing time situation would likely be much more in doubt.

James Reimer suffered what is believed to be a relatively minor lower body injury Monday. Early reports suggest he will be sidelined for at least a week with a sprained MCL. Ben Scrivens anyone?

1.62 – The goals against average of Corey Crawford, more than a goal below the 2.72 mark he posted last season. He's also 7-0-2 with a .935 save percentage for the 'Hawks in a fantastic bounce back effort after last seasons slump.

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.