Today, From the Pressbox:
Stamkos injury dominates the headlines-measuring that impact on all levels...Is Bryzgalov a good fit in Edmonton....The Red Wings roll on, with a couple of notable differences...
Forecasting the impact of the Stamkos injury
On Monday of this week, the worst possible scenario unfolded for the Lightning, when their flashy leading scorer Steven Stamkos broken his leg in an effort to crash the Boston net in an eventual 3-0 loss to the Bruins. In the immediate aftermath, we saw that the Lightning figure to be challenged to score goals. In considering that Stamkos has figured in on 23 of the Lightning's 54 goals (almost 43% of the total goals scored) we clearly see his impact to the offense.
The perception looking ahead is that the Lightning will certainly be hard-pressed to score at their current pace of 3.6 goals per game (among the top 5 in the NHL). That prolific offense has also helped a defense that has yielded 42 goals (their 2.43 gaa ranking them a surprising 11th in the league.).
His teammates and fantasy owners everywhere share the collateral damage of Stamkos injury.
For the Lightning, the Band-Aid solution will be to move second-line center, Valtteri Filppula up to the first line and a pairing with the Bolts other perennial top gun, Martin St. Louis and young Alex Killorn. St. Louis, at 38 years of age suddenly becomes the lone focal point and it will be interesting to see if his production falls off significantly. He has carved out an amazing career, with two NHL scoring championships on his resume, but he has always been part of a very dynamic duo in Tampa, first with the departed Vinny Lecavalier and most recently with Stamkos of course. Third line pivot, Tyler Johnson, at 5'9" another smallish forward, is similarly going to see a more prominent role and face closer checking as he moves in among the top six forwards, likely playing in between veteran wingers Ryan Malone and Teddy Purcell. It's these two centers who are in a position to gain a bigger share of the offense in Stamkos' absence, whom we project to have the most upside potential with this new team dynamic.
The Lightning have also benefitted from Ben Bishop's career best stretch of hockey in amassing their current 12-5 mark heading into Tuesday night's game versus Montreal. Even with Stamkos in the lineup, nobody expects that Bishop will continue to rank among the team leaders. His numbers will almost certainly rise, perhaps quite quickly in the face of this tough circumstance.
Through the first weeks of this season, the Lightning were the biggest surprise in the East, with their hot start. Now, they will be challenged to hold the fort for at least three months as they cling to the hope that Stamkos may return before the end of the regular season.
You don't replace a guy like Stamkos on any team, fantasy or real, but in the face of the upcoming Olympic hockey tournament, this is not a catastrophe for his home country, Canada, which may be the only national team that can find a reasonable replacement for the Tampa superstar. So while the pundits and radio hosts engaged in much public hand-wringing in the last two days, the educated fan knows that quality players like Matt Duchene or Corey Perry, who may not have figured prominently into their nation's Olympic hockey hopes originally, are very solid emergency options.
Edmonton takes a chance on Bryzgalov - should you?
The Philadelphia Flyers cut their ties with Bryzgalov, after they wrote him a huge multi-million dollar check after the veteran Russian goalie failed in his effort to be the solution to the decades-long goalie dilemma for the Flyers. At 32 years of age, most experienced goalies do figure to have a few good years left, but he took a lot of hits for his sub-par on-ice efforts, coupled with a collection of bizarre media interactions. That's what most people think of when they hear his name mentioned this year.
A harder look at his career, including his most recent numbers, tells a slightly different story. Sure, he's had a few misadventures in his last two playoff runs, posting a goals against average near 4.00 in those 15 starts, but they were games where his teams were well overmatched by more potent opposition. However, when we consider his regular season work, he has never had his goals against average go higher than 2.98 during any season of his career, including those two tumultuous years with the Flyers, there may be some hope for a successful run with the Oilers.
There is likely to be much less pressure in Edmonton for Bryzgalov and the Oilers have to hope that he doesn't play up to the media as he did with the Flyers. Optimists will also highlight his early career success in Phoenix where he first rose to NHL prominence as one of the league's top young goalies, playing in the non-pressure environment with the Coyotes.
The recipe seems clear - keep Bryzgalov away from the media spotlight, absent also from high expectations, and see what he delivers. My recommendation to fantasy owners in this case, is not to dive in and claim Bryzgalov to be your answer in goal just yet. Wait for some early returns if you can.
The Red Wings are in cruise control
In our preseason preview, we highlighted the fact that the Wings were going to be back in the Eastern Conference, finally unburdened by the worst travel schedule of any team in the NHL. For the last several years they have had to play the lion's share of their road games at least one time zone away from their own. Only one other team (Winnipeg) could make that same claim. That alone was reason enough to expect another solid season out of what many felt was an aging veteran core.
Well, after 18 games played, the Wings have a 9-5-4 record, comfortably in a playoff spot and not grabbing too many of the league headlines - a result that is sure to their liking.
The blueprint for this solid start begins with the long-time lynchpins of the offense, Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, who lead the club in scoring, with 20 and 18 points respectively. After other familiar names in Daniel Alfredsson, Nicklas Kronwall and Todd Bertuzzi, we are introduced to a newer element in the Red Wings talent mix. The next four players on the club's scoring list are all 26 years old or younger.
Danny DeKeyser and Jakub Kindl are becoming fixtures in the top two defense pairs and making contributions at both ends of the ice. They are combining well with Kronwall and veteran Kyle Quincey to bring instant stability to a defense corps in transition. Up front, Justin Abdelkader brings a disciplined physical presence in to support the skill of the big name players on offense. He is a big body who plays with his own high skill level - a great fit on the top six forwards here.
The final piece of that top list of top nine scorers is yet another middle-round draft pick discovered in Sweden, Joakim Andersson. He is being groomed in the patient development program that many of his predecessors have travelled and now the Wings are ready to reap the benefits once again. His six points in those first 18 games only tell part of his potential. He has all the skills to do much more and, in time, particularly as he is well insulated here, it won't be long before is a much more prominent asset for the Wings.