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Blue Line Buzz: Beasting Out

Jason Chen

West Coast bias.

In case you haven’t heard, Brent Burns is a beast. After posting career highs across the board last year, the impending free agent is at it again. He’s currently tied for the scoring lead with Connor McDavid with nine points in six games, and is second in the league with 29 shots on goal, trailing Vladimir Tarasenko by just two.

Surely, such an offensive swashbuckler deserves a nickname, no? Some players like Vladimir Tarasenko don't much care for them, but maybe someone who nicknamed his own teammate “Dusty Crophopper” wouldn’t mind having a moniker of his own.

So, what should it be?

“Burnzie” seems to be the standard but lacks creativity, and “Beast” is too generic. Maybe “Zookeeper” due to Burns' affinity for wildlife would suffice, but no one should ever be subject to torture from Kevin James. Maybe “Chewbacca” will have to do for now until something better comes along.

Top Five Studs of the Week:

Brent Burns, Sharks
– With a four-game slate last week, Burns fired 19 shots on goal and registered six points. In fact, his 19 shots on goal in one week is more than what second-place Aaron Ekblad has mustered all season. The only way Erik Karlsson can defend his title as fantasy’s most valuable defenseman is if he significantly outscores Burns.

Mike Green, Red Wings – He’s often been criticized for not stepping up in big moments, preventing him from vaulting to greatness. Yet, in the final home opener at the fabled Joe Louis Arena, Green was magnificent, scoring his first career hat trick on just three shots on goal. Fantasy owners should be warned, however, that prior to the performance, Green had just four shots in two games, and failed to register a single shot in each of the three following games. He’s also skating a team-high 23:56 per night on a depleted Red Wings blue line.

Shea Weber, Canadiens – Despite all the criticism, Marc Bergevin has looked like a genius so far, as Weber leads all defensemen with a plus-8 rating while the Habs sit atop the Atlantic Division (thanks to some great goaltending, as well). Weber’s fantasy value was discounted after leaving the offensively inclined Predators, but so far his production hasn’t tailed off one bit.

Patrick Wiercioch, Avalanche – The former University of Denver Pioneer star returned home after being cast away from Ottawa following four unproductive seasons. He failed to realize his offensive potential in Canada's capital, scoring just five assists in 52 games last year. After scoring three points in three games, he was rewarded with 18:08 of ice time against Florida, easily supplanting the inconsistent Nikita Zadorov on the depth chart. A couple more performances like these and the Avs may have uncovered a hidden gem and finally brought some stability to the bottom half of their back end.

Shayne Gostisbehere, Flyers – He registered just one assist in the Flyers’ three-game losing streak, but scored a goal and added two assists in a slump-busting win against Carolina. The Flyers are an exciting team this year with two outstanding 19-year-olds (Travis Konecny, Ivan Provorov) that add offensive punch, and Jakub Voracek already looks much better this season. That bodes well for Gostisbehere, who’s the team’s best defenseman and top power-play quarterback.

Top Five Duds of the Week:

Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Coyotes
– After starting the season with a goal in each of his first two games, OEL was held without a point in his next three games – all of them losses – and registered just six shots on goal. In a topsy-turvy Pacific Division, the Coyotes aren’t doing themselves any favors with just one win in five games, and all the improvements to the blue line made over the summer haven’t made much of a difference. The Coyotes’ 21 goals against are third worst in the conference.

Kris Letang, Penguins – It’s an annual occurrence that draws no surprise, but Letang has an upper-body injury and has missed his past two games. No. 58 is considered day-to-day with no return date set as of yet, and has two assists in four games this year.

John Carlson, Capitals – It’s one of those situations a player does a lot of good things on the ice that just don't show up on paper. Carlson failed to hit the scoresheet this past week, and registered just six shots on goal with three blocked shots even though the Caps won two of their three games. So far, he’s been outscored by Karl Alzner and Brooks Orpik, and though Carlson’s drought won’t last long, perhaps Dmitry Orlov presents additional upside given the American rearguard's early cold streak.

John Klingberg, Stars – It’s nice that Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn are healthy to start the season, but the team has been hit with a number of injuries to key depth players, and Klingberg has just two assists and four shots on goal so far. The addition of Dan Hamhuis was supposed to help free up Klingberg’s game even more, but that hasn’t happened yet.

Torey Krug, Bruins – In what was their biggest test to start the season, the Bruins fell 4-2 to the Habs, with Krug finishing the night with just one shot on goal and a minus-3 rating. Through five games, Krug is the only regular B's defenseman who has yet to score a single point. In contrast, promising rookie Brandon Carlo has two points already.

1Burns, SJ36242941423:13
2Karlsson, Ott25601441126:48
3Weber, Mtl14881015926:16
4Green, Det3446781023:56
5Keith, Chi0642142725:21
6Gostisbehere, Phi1402174921:29
7Boychuk, NYI222015141619:21
8Subban, Nsh23-481361424:37
9McDonagh, NYR05221161225:15
10Werenski, Cls2312166221:33
11Seabrook, Chi14121111723:10
12Giordano, Cgy13-114143725:57
13Pietrangelo, StL13121251126:33
14Suter, Min1410116327:06
15Byfuglien, Wpg0422714429:05
16Ristolainen, Buf05-2276924:53
17Shattenkirk, StL13-24136519:48
18Josi, Nsh13-32153524:31
19Faulk, Car23-54104623:24

Just missed the cut: Hedman, TB; Vatanen, Ana; Barrie, Col; Campbell, Chi