Crashing the Net: Early Season Standouts
There are injuries and demotions to discuss among the forward ranks. On defense there are a few skaters who are surging despite not being household names. In net, disappointment is the work of the day.
Jeff Carter just keeps scoring goals. The NHL's Third Star of the Week has six goals in his last four games and his total of 17 markers has him tied for second in the league with James Neal behind Steve Stamkos (19). Amazingly, Carter has two assists, two, in 24 games.
Ryane Clowe is up to 22 games and still not a single goal, a rather amazing run of futility for the Sharks' winger.
Sidney Crosby leads the NHL with 45 points after posting five helpers in his last game. With 45 points in 26 games he's on a pace that would equal 142 points in an 82 game season. His career best mark is 120 points back in 2006.
Michael Grabner has a shoulder injury that could knock him out for 7-10 days. Grabner has lit the lamp 10 times in 26 games, including three in his last five games. It's been a pretty thin scoring effort though for Grabner as he has just three assists and one power-play goal on the season. Oh, he's also a (-2) skater.
Mikael Grandland has been sent to the AHL by the Wild. The hotshot youngster had a goal and five assists in 19 games this season for the club from Minnesota as he failed to gain a consistent spot on one of the top-2 lines. Earlier this season Grandlund had 21 points in 21 AHL games so he'll hope to catch that scoring pace again with the demotion so that he can return in short order.
Evgeni Malkin is out 1-2 weeks with what is being termed an upper body injury (the thought is that it's a shoulder issue). What we do know is that it's not a concussion. Malkin has 24 points in 21 games this season between injuries but you will have to make due until Malkin returns to action. Youngster Beau Bennett is doing his part with three points and a +4 rating in his last four games though that's hardly a surprise given who his linemates have been.
Matt Martin scored 14 points in each of the last two seasons, so he's hardly an offensive dynamo. However, he does one thing very well – he hits everything on the ice. Martin led the NHL last season with 374 hits and he's been cracking heads this season as well with 128 hits, the most in the league. Martin has at least four hits in each of his last 12 contests and he's even chipped in some offense of late with three points in his last four games.
Rick Nash has been dynamite since he joined the Rangers with nine goals and 23 points in 20 games. He also is a +13 skater who is averaging more than four shots on net per game. He's been everything the Rangers hoped for. Luckily he has been an impressive performer since the other two “stars” the Rangers were counting on haven't lived up to expectations. Marian Gaborik has scored eight goals with 17 points in 24 games. Those are solid numbers of course, but well off the pace that saw him score 41 times with 76 points last season. Brad Richards has been even worse. He has scored only four times and dealt out 11 helpers in his 22 games. Yikes. The trio was supposed to form a 'super line.' Hasn't really happened not has it?
Ryan O'Reilly has recorded four points in five games since returning to action (all the points have come in his last three games). He's taken a whopping 13 shots on net in his last two contests as he's been manning the point on the power-play. You can't expect this pace to continue, but he's been a terrific performer since he returned to the ice.
Turns out Radim Vrbata doesn't have a bruised foot, it's actually broken. He's already missed 10 games with the injury, but there is still no target date for his return. Vrbata has 12 points in 15 games this season and has scored 39 goals in his last 92 games.
Sergei Gonchar has four assists in his last three games with at least one in each contest. On the year he has a respectable 12 points in 23 games but he has only scored one time. He's also not been the force he once was with five points with the man advantage.
Nicklas Grossman isn't an offensive force, he has just one point in the past two weeks, but he does the 'little things' very well, so if you're in a deep league with a lot of categories he should be a player of interest. The past two weeks Grossman leads all blue liners with 23 blocked shots, he's tied with Dennis Seidenberg, and he also has a total of 19 hits. He and Seidenberg are the only two blue liners with at least 18 hits and 20 blocked shots in that time.
Jake Muzzin, he plays for the Kings if you didn't know, has 10 points and is a +11 skater this season. However, it wasn't until the past week that anyone bothered paying any attention. In his last five games he has lit the lamp three times while dishing out three helpers. He averages less than a shot an a half per game and only has one power-play point in his last five contests, but the youngster is certainly rolling right now.
Dion Phaneuf has five points in his last three games. Somehow he's still managed to be a (-4) skater in that time. How is that possible Mr. Phanuef? Three of his points cam on the power-play so that explains some of it, but still. On the year he has a strong total of 15 points for the Leafs but he has also saddled his owners with a terrible (-10) rating. Maybe we shouldn't be surprised. He scored 44 points last year for Toronto with a (-10) rating.
P.K. Subban has eight points in his last five games. Six of those points have come on the power-play. That means over the past 10 days he has as many power-play points as Kris Letang has all season. He's also produced more man advantage points in a week an a half than the following blue liners have posted all year: Shea Weber (five PP points), Paul Martin (five) and Oliver Ekman-Larsson (four).
Slava Voynov has 17 points with a +11 this season for the Kings. That's pretty strong production for a forward let alone a blue liner who has less than 80 games of NHL experience. He's been particularly hot of late as well with eight points in his last five games. Despite all those points, Voynov has only taken one shot on net in those five games. Of course it resulted in a goal.
Craig Anderson was supposed to have returned from his ankle issue by now. So much for that. Anderson is still experiencing some issues with his ankle during his rehab work so the wait continues. In the meantime the club is giving work to Ben Bishop and Robin Lehner in net. Lehner has allowed only eight goals in four games leading to a .947 save percentage while Bishop has allowed two or fewer goals in six of his last seven outings.
The Blues led the NHL last season in goals against average (1.86) while the posted 15 shutouts. This season the Blues are last in the NHL in save percentage (.869) and they are 25th in GAA (3.04). In comes Jake Allen to rescue the day in net. The rookie is 5-1 on the season, a fantastic mark, but even so his GAA is 2.73 and his save percentage is poor at .891. Unfortunately those numbers actually make him the best keeper the Blues have going right now. Tough to blame all three guys for struggling, so it might be time to look in the mirror for the Blues. Hard to think Allen runs with the job regardless.
Sergei Bobrovsky was chose as the NHL's First Star of the just completed week. He not only won four games during the weeks but he had a shutout while posting a 0.77 GAA. That run of stupendous play has dropped his season long numbers to a 2.27 GAA an a .919 save percentage. It's time to put the worries of Steve Mason running with the job in Columbus, it ain't happening (a 3.08 GAA and .897 save percentage once again proves that he's just not anything more than competent). This job is Bob's until injury strikes or he starts playing like the Flames' keeper...
Miikka Kiprusoff is back in action for the Flames. His owners wish he was still on the sidelines. Miikka allowed just one goal in his first game back, but the last two times he's been between the pipes he's lost twice while allowing 10 goals. That's 10 games with a 3.43 GAA and .867 save percentage for Kipper. It can't get any worse. However, there's no sane person that would have thought things could have gotten this bad. At the very least you have to bench Kiprusoff until he starts stopping the puck.
Justin Peters hasn't exactly taken the reigns with the Hurricanes. In his two starts hes allowed seven goals while posting a sub .900 save percentage. Looks like it's Dan Ellis' team after all with Cam Ward out due to injury.
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.