The second full week of the 2008-09 NHL season has come and gone. Let’s take a look at what has occurred in the Western Conference, plus a little foresight into what could happen down the road.
- 23 of the leagues top 50 point getters were from the Western Conference, so it’s beginning to even out between the two Conferences.
- Four of the top ten players that garnered the most time on ice were defensemen from the Western Conference.
- Paul Stastny is leading the Western Conference in faceoff wins with 74.
- Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp and Mikko Koivu led the Western Conference by tallying seven points this past week.
- Shane Doan is leading the Western Conference with 26 hits.
- Keith Tkachuk is leading the league in power-play goals with four.
- Rick Nash leads the Western Conference with 28 shots on goal.
- Brad Boyes has scored two shoot-out goals.
- Rick Nash and Antti Miettinen both have two game-winning goals each.
- Manny Legace has two shoot-out wins, while only stopping 66.7 percent of the shots he faced.
- Minnesota and the Kings are the only Western Conference teams to have a 100 percent penalty kill.
- Edmonton is the best in the Western Conference in five-on-five scoring ratio with a rating of 1.60. Phoenix is the worst with a rating of 0.54.
- Detroit is averaging a league-low of 7.6 minutes in penalties per game. Anaheim is average a Western Conference high of 24.3. Calgary and Phoenix aren’t far behind with 24.0.
Around the Wild West
Now let’s look at a team-by-team analysis starting with the Central Division. The biggest news coming out of Chicago was the surprise firing of coach Denis Savard. He was replaced with Joel Quenneville, who has coached St. Louis and Colorado in the past five seasons. Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane both finished with seven points this week and look a lot more offensively focused now that Quenneville is behind the bench. Duncan Keith and Brian Campbell continue to dominate the blue-line for the Blackhawks as they both are averaging almost 27 minutes of ice-time per contest. Both players will need to help generate more offense as they have only fired a combined 21 shots on the opposing goalies between the two. Brent Sopel dipped again and is now at a horrible minus six.
Kristian Huselius found his offensive groove with five points in three contests this week. Rick Nash is continuing to get plenty of ice-time as he is averaging just over 22 and a half minutes of ice-time per contest and is leading the Western Conference in shots on goal. Derek Dorsett is giving Jared Boll a run for his money as he now has 34 penalty minutes in four contests for the Blue Jackets, while averaging just 8:34 of ice-time per contest. Mike Peca is suspended for five games for abusing the officials.
The big news out of Detroit is the groin injury suffered by Henrik Zetterberg that sidelined him for most of the past week. The earliest he’ll return is probably this weekend against Atlanta or Chicago. The playing time continues to be spread evenly amongst the top three lines. Marian Hossa seems to have found his groove as he picked up four points in three contests for the Wings this week. Tomas Holmstrom has five goals in five games, and currently has a three game goal-scoring streak. Niklas Kronwall, Brad Stuart and Brett Lebda are a combined minus 11 so far this season, which doesn’t bode well for the Red Wing’s defensive corps. The Red Wings offense is leading the league by firing an astounding 38.8 shots per game. If you are looking to add some help in that department it would be smart to go after guys like Mikael Samuelsson and Daniel Cleary. Chris Osgood is 2-1-1 with a 3.25 goals against average and .884 save percentage so far this season. I’m still not sold on Osgood being a top 10 number one goalie this season. If you own Osgood, I’d try to secretly deal him for a more established option. I really do see Conks stealing the job from him later on this season.
In Predators territory, Jason Arnott is out with a finger injury. He should be back by Thursday when the Preds take on the Flames. After speaking last week about the blue-line not doing enough for the Preds, they managed to increase their shots on goal total to 44 after having just 10 at the end of last week. Shea Weber had a massive week, where he picked up six points, including a four point performance against Columbus on Saturday night. Weber is only owned in 72 percent of Yahoo leagues, and should definitely be working towards the 100 percent end at the end of this season. If he’s sitting on your waiver wire pick him up ASAP.
St. Louis players continue to have many fantasy owners singing the Blues this week for bypassing them in their drafts. The big four of Keith Tkachuk, Paul Kariya, Andy McDonald and Brad Boyes tallied a combined 29 points, 18 of which have come from the power play. The only downside to owning those four players is that they are in the unhappy side of the plus/minus column. Andy MacDonald and Brad Boyes are a combined minus ten in five contests for the Blues this season. Keith Tkachuk continues to be lethal on the power play, as all four of his goals have come from the man advantage. Tkachuk is only owned in 67 percent of Yahoo leagues, and if he keeps on the 28.6 shooting percentage pace he won’t be available much longer. The St. Louis power-play is leading the league with a blistering 40.9 percent in five contests this season.
Now let’s head up to the Northwest Division seems to be the division of death this season, as every team has a legitimate shot at winning the division this season. Miikka Kiprusoff’s struggles continue to worsen, as he is now 1-3-1 with an abysmal 4.37 goals against average and painful .851 save percentage two weeks into the 2008-09 season. Kipper just doesn’t look the same with Mike Keenan behind the bench compared to when Darryl Sutter was behind the bench. Flames’ superstar Jarome Iginla finally notched his first goal of the season but still is at an underachieving three points in five contests for the Flames. Todd Bertuzzi might be the only bright spot, so far on the Flames team this season, with five goals, three of which have come from the power-play. Dion Phaneuf, Mike Cammalleri, Bert and Iggy are a combined minus 12 so far this season. Not good enough if they plan on winning the division. Phaneuf is working his way towards the 30 minutes of ice-time per game mark, he’s now at 29:02. Rene Bourque is working his way up the depth charts and is averaging just over 17 minutes per game. Keep an eye on the youngster this season.
In Avalanche country, Joe Sakic is back to vintage form as he picked up seven points this week and continues to average over 21 minutes of ice-time per contest. Milan Hejduk is averaging 4.8 shots per game and now has five goals this season. He looks very much like the Hejduk of old where he tallied 50 goals for the Avs in the 2002-03 season. The Avs defense pretty much split the playing time evenly with John-Michael Liles leading the way with just over 20 minutes of ice-time per contest. The Avs offense is leading the league while averaging four goals scored per contest, but it’s their defense that is letting them down as they are giving up an average of 3.80 goals per game. Most of that can be attributed to the poor play of Peter Budaj who has a sub-standard 4.38 goals against average and a .824 save percentage. Andrew Raycroft is slightly better at 3.01 and .914, you might soon see a changing of the guard where Raycroft will gain the number one gig in Colorado fairly soon. Budaj owners beware!
Edmonton is off to a blazing 4-0 start, and it stems from the strong play of goaltender Mathieu Garon. With the strong play of Garon and a solid outing from Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers, Dwyane Roloson may be riding the pine pony pretty soon. Garon looks like a solid option for 30-35 wins with a respectable goals against average and save percentage this season. The Oilers don’t seem to have a go-to line as everyone seems to be chipping in the scoring column for them, which makes their team very dangerous this season. Lubomir Visnovsky is already paying dividends as he has tallied two power-play goals already this season on the league’s second-best power-play unit (29.4%). Sheldon Souray missed a bit of time with a Charlie horse but shouldn’t miss any significant time due to the injury. Buried behind two “big named” defensemen is Denis Grebeshkov who now has four assists in four contests and could be in for a surprise year. He’s averaging 21:17 of ice-time so far this season.
Minnesota is also off to a blazing start, as they are 4-0 to start the 2008-09 season. Marian Gaborik missed Thursday and Saturday night’s contests with what was deemed a lower-body injury. Gabby has had a band-aid boy tag attached to him for the past few seasons, so it’s pretty much expected that he miss five-ten contests with some random injury. In his absence, Mikko Koivu really stepped it up as he produced seven points in three contests and could be in line for a breakout season this year. Koivu is only 55% owned in Yahoo leagues, and could be used as a fourth or fifth depth center for your fantasy squad. The player you should definitely add to your roster is Antti Miettinen, he tallied four goals including three consecutive game-winners if you include the shootout winner on Saturday night. With right-wing being not as deep as recent years, his 46% owned in Yahoo will certainly rise in the next few weeks. Brent Burns is leading the Wild in ice-time per contest while averaging 25:40 per game. With Gabby out, it is certainly surprising to see the Minny power-play sit in third spot working at 28.6%
After starting the season 2-0, the Canucks dropped three of their four games this week to sit at a 3-3 record. The Sedins cooled off a bit after starting the season blazing last week. They only registered three points between them this week. Alex Burrows continued to flash his offensive side as he picked up two points in four contests this week, and to top it off he managed to pick up 12 penalty minutes. Roberto Luongo still hasn’t played his best brand of hockey yet with a sub-par 3.40 goals against average and a very mediocre .886 save percentage two weeks into the season.
The Ducks continued their struggles on offense this week as they tallied nine goals in four contests, but still ended up with a 1-3 record. The Ducks finished last season ranked 28th amongst the NHL for goals scored and have slightly improved to 27th so far this season. You know that you are in trouble when Rob Niedermayer, who has a 24.75-point average for the past four seasons, is leading your team in scoring with four points. The Ducks “big guns” of Teemu Selanne, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry have a combined three points in six contests for the Ducks so far this season. That’s definitely not going to be enough to get the job done. Getzlaf and Perry are both young guns, and will produce solidly once they find their groove. Don’t hit the panic button and deal em off for less than what they’re worth. Francois Beauchemin is averaging a surprising 24:08 with both Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger on the blue-line for the Ducks. Sammy Pahlsson is averaging a Western Conference high of 5:34 short-handed each contest, if you league is counting short-handed points. Pahlsson should be given some consideration. J.S. Giguere is 1-4 with a 3.03 goals against average and a .899 save percentage, which is nowhere near the 2.12 and .922 numbers he had last season. If you have an offer for Giggy now might be a good time to consider it before his stock plummets even more.
Mike Modano seems to have found a spring in his step this season as he now has five points in five games for the Stars this season. The highly anticipated debut of Fabian Brunnstrom sent shockwaves as he picked up a hat-trick in his first career NHL game. He then added another goal against the Avs on Saturday night. One should temper their expectations for the rookie. Daniel Alfredsson tallied 61 points in his first season coming over from the SEL, so don’t expect anything past the 65 point mark for Brunnstrom this season. Mike Ribeiro is at a woeful minus six so far this season. Stephane Robidas seems to be filling in nicely for the injured Sergei Zubov; he’s averaging well over 25 minutes of ice-time per contest for the Stars. Keep him active as long as Zubov is sitting on the IR.
The Kings offense was revived as they tallied 14 goals in four contests this week, which was a big improvement on their one goal performance in the first week. The Kings finished last season with a 2.76 goals scored per game average, which ranked them 13th overall. This season they have a similar 2.75 goals scored per game average, which ranks them 20th overall. Their defense is much improved as you can tell from Jason Labarbera’s solid numbers so far this season (2.48 and .911). The Kings’ defense isn’t as airtight as Columbus’ last season, but LaBarbera is my pick for the Pascal Leclaire surprise goalie of the year award. Patrick O’Sullivan made his season debut this week and picked up two points in three contests and was a plus three during the week. Youngster Oscar Moller seems to be gaining some confidence and the coaching staff has rewarded him with second line duties alongside Michal Handzus and Alex Frolov. His ice-time will improve from the 14:30 that he’s receiving right now. He could be in for a 50 point season if he maintains that roster spot.
After starting 2-0 the Coyotes have lost three straight contests. The rookie trio of Mikkel Boedker, Kevin Porter and Kyle Turris registered only two points in the three contests this week. Boedker picked up his second goal of the year, while Turris picked up his third assist. Olli Jokinen is leading the way with six points in five contests for the Yotes, while averaging 18:35 of ice-time per game. Shane Doan continues to prove that he is one of the best across-the-board players in fantasy hockey with four goals, 25 penalty minutes and 18 shots on goal so far this season. If you an acquire him in anyway make sure you try to do so. Ilya Bryzgalov returned to Earth this week as his goals against average ballooned to 3.41 and his save percentage declined to .889 save percentage. The Yotes will depend heavily on his play this season if they are to sneak into a playoff spot this season.
Last but not least we have the Sharks. Jonathan Cheechoo added to his goal total with another two goals this week. Devin Setoguchi continues to be shifted around as if he were a chess piece this week while spending time between Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton and then third line duties on the weekend. Dan Boyle had his big coming out party on Saturday night as he picked up three points, including the game-winning goal against the Flyers in overtime. He also managed to fire 18 shots on goal in four contests this week. The Sharks are giving up a league-low 22.2 shots on goal per game, which definitely helps out Evgeni Nabokov in that department. If you own Nabby, you might want to complement yourself with a guy like Tomas Vokoun or Kari Lehtonen to help even out the saves stat.