Crashing the Net: Finishing Strong?
With precious few days left in the 2012-13 NHL regular season, which players are surging to the finish line? Which players are limping to the playoffs or a seat on the recliner to watch the second season?
Sam Gagner has had a fantastic season with 14 goals and 35 points in 45 games. However, he's hit the dumpster of late, I have no idea what I was trying to say there but hopefully you understand it, as he's gone six-straight without a point. As a result he's in danger of failing to record 41 points in a season for the first time in his career. He's never reached 50 points in a season.
Martin Havlat has recorded three goals and four points in his last two games in what has been a dreadful season for the one time offensive force. Havlat has just eight goals and 17 points in 38 games this season, and coupled with his work last year he has 15 goals and 44 points in 77 games with the Sharks. He had 22 goals and 62 points in 78 games with the Wild in 2010.
Evander Kane has three goals in his last 12 games for the Jets which puts him on pace for 29 goals over the course of an 82 game season. Kane recorded 30 markers in 74 games last season. The hot players of late for the Jets include Andrew Ladd (3g, 7a in five games) and Blake Wheeler (2g, 6a in five games). Ladd had 50 points last season in 82 games and he has a chance to match that total this year given that he has 46 points in 46 games. As for Wheeler he has 17 goals this season, in a mere 46 games mind you, a year after recording 17 goals in 80 games played.
Milan Lucic is right on track in the PIM column (65) and in the hits column (127). Unfortunately he's recorded only six goals on the season, a woeful effort for a guy who has averaged 28 goals the past two years. He's recorded two goals since February 25, a span of 28 games. Yikes.
Brenden Morrow was lost in the mix a bit when everyone was healthy in Pittsburgh, but with continued issues with the forward ranks he has been seeing a whole lot of ice-time. After recording 11 points 29 games with the Stars he has exploded for 11 points in 12 games with the Penguins. He's been a devastating offensive force of late with eight points in his last four games.
Bobby Ryan continues to be a vexing player. After recording at least 31 goals in 4-straight seasons he has 10 goals in 45 games this year, not even a 20 goal pace (he can thank a current stretch of 9-straight scoreless outings, as well as just one goal in his last 16 games). Perhaps it is time for the Ducks to finally deal the forward who always seems to be on the cusp of greatness only to fail to deliver.
Thomas Vanek has had a great season for the Sabres with 18 goals and 37 points in a mere 36 contests. Unfortunately, he's also slowed tremendously after a hot start as he's recorded only six goals in his last 21 games. Some quick math leads to the realization that he scored 12 times in his first 15 games this season before the slowdown. You didn't think he was going to go all Alex Mogilny on folks did you?
Ray Whitney, have a career kid. Too small to ever make it – just goes to show you that sometimes scouts totally blow it – Whitney continues to produce at near elite levels despite the fact that he turns 41 next month. Whitney has five points in his last five games to give him 27 points in 29 games.
Victor Bartley is on your waiver-wire, guaranteed. Maybe he shouldn't be. Over his last four games the Predators defender has four assists.
Justin Faulk has come alive down the stretch with two goals and three assists the past five games while eating up nearly 25 minutes of ice-time a contest. He;s also been firing the puck on net with exactly four shots in four of his last five contests (the other game he took three shots on net).
Mike Green is closing with a strong final kick. He has two goals and four helpers the last two weeks. Of course, you know there has to be something negative with the guy, so here it is. Despite recording six points he's a (-6) skater in that time. That's what happens when you have five points on the power-play and only one at even strength.
Dan Hamhuis, you know the noted offensive rearguard (insert snicker), has been a solid offensive performer this season for the Canucks. Hamhuis has five helpers in his last seven games and he's racked up two goals and six assists, with a +8 rating, in a massive month of April. Not bad for a guy who has never scored eight goals or had 40 points in a season.
The last 30 days Andrei Markov is a (-12) skater. Pathetic. That run of ineptitude has dropped his season long mark to (-12). He's still a power-play force though with 22 of his 27 points coming with the man advantage. Too bad he's gone five games without a power-play point. On the flip side, Dan Boyle is a +12 skater the past month.
Alex Pietrangelo is a young star in this league. Since Jay Bouwmeester arrived in a trade, Alex P. has also been a +6. Alex has a point in 4-straight games but he has only six helpers in his last 18 games and last scored a goal on March 7th, so at least he's not hurting your plus/minus mark.
Kimmo Timonen has two goals and eight assists the past 30 days. That total of 10 points is more than Zdeno Chara (four), Kris Letang (six), Dustin Byfuglien (seven) and Keith Yandle (eight) to name but a few.
Four guys have been a (+8) skater the past two weeks from the blue line: Grant Clitsome, Fedor Tyutin, Lubomir Visnovsky and Stephane Robidas. Clitsome has 20 shots on net, Tyutin has five points, Visnovsky has four helpers and Robidas has been laying the thunder with 29 hits (he's also blocked 19 shots).
Craig Anderson leads the NHL with a 1.71 GAA. Craig Anderson leads the NHL with .941 save percentage. If not for an ankle injury that has limited him to just 22 games played this season he'd likely be the front runner for the Vezina trophy. I know. Who would have thought? Oh yeah, his career GAA is literally, spot on exactly, one goal higher at 2.71.
Sergei Bobrovsky has a 1.88 GAA and .936 save percentage the past month. To put that into perspective, Nicklas Backstrom of the Wild has a 3.06 GAA and .883 save percentage in that same time. Backstrom was a top-15 keeper on draft day whereas Bobrovsky likely wasn't even drafted.
Brian Elliott has appeared in 10 games in April. He's gone 8-2 with a 1.37 GAA and .947 save percentage. He was 3-6-1 over his first 10 decisions. Talk about a strong finishing kick. There isn't a better keeper in the NHL right now.
Ray Emery is currently day-to-day with that lower leg issue of his, but over the last 30 days there hasn't been a stingier keeper in the game as Emery has a 1.17 GAA leading to a 4-1 mark for the Blackhawks (he's won 16 of 17 decisions this season).
The Bruins' Anton Khudobin may not be the best backup keeper in the NHL, but he has to be near the top of the list. Anton is 9-3-1 with a 2.20 GAA and .925 save percentage. He's been spectacular at home with a 1.77 GAA an a 4-0-1 record.
Antii Niemi has won 11 games the past three weeks to lead the NHL. Former Shark Evgeni Nabokov is the only only other keeper with double-digit victories (he has 10). Both keepers have identical .931 save percentage marks with Nabby betters Niemi in GAA by a wee bit (1.74 compared to 1.93).
Pekka Rinne has hit the pits of late. Well, that's not really fair, but he's been a disappointment. Over the past month he has a somewhat elevated 2.64 GAA but the worst part is that he has a 1-6-2 record in April to dump his season long mark to a sickly 14-16-8, not what his owners were expecting in the least from the star in net.
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.