Not even ten games in and players with track records are being dropped in many leagues. I am not immune to the impatience of slow starts by some proven players, but I am very reluctant to drop a player who is an established performer. There may come a time to cut your losses, but that time isn’t now. It’s been said that the NHL season is not a sprint, but a marathon. Where you are in the standings right now is irrelevant as long as you are in first place at the END of the season. This week, we’ll go on a whirlwind tour of the Eastern Conference.
The team has bolted out of the gates, losing only once in regulation (to Ottawa) in six contests to start the season. Leading the way with seven goals is of course Ilya Kovalchuk. He, Enstrom, Kozlov, Little and White are receiving the lion’s share of power play ice time. Peverley is tied with Kovalchuk for the team lead in points with eight and Enstrom has been steady, recording a point in all the Thrasher wins, but none in the two losses. Ondrej Pavelec has started five of the six games, recording a 2.37 goals-against-average and a stellar 0.930 save percentage. Atlanta has the second best power play in the league.
Savard has seven points in seven games, but will miss the next four to six weeks due to a foot injury. Bergeron is outpointing Krejci so far this year - six to three in eight matches, but with Krejci coming back from injury sooner than expected that shouldn’t have been a surprise. Chara leads the team with 20 penalty minutes. The problem for Boston is that heading into last night’s game, they had the 22nd ranked power play and 27th ranked penalty kill.
Ryan Miller has been exceptional this season with a goals-against-average of 1.66 and a save percentage of 0.942. Although towering Tyler Myers has five points in seven games, Chris Butler leads the team in ice time and was receiving the fourth most power play ice time, 4:06 compared to Myers (2:57). Clarke MacArthur is tied with Connolly and Roy as the teams leading scorer with six points. Vanek scored a goal in his return to action last night.
The Hurricanes were tied for 25th in the league for goals scored per game, averaging only 2.12 goals per contest. Only the woeful Nashville (The Preds two goals last night actually increased their average!), Montreal and Toronto score less goals per game. Cam Ward is good (2.47, 0.922) but he’s not God. Jussi Jokinen is the teams leading scorer with six points. Eric Staal doubled his season output with a two points last night and he leads the team in shots on goal with 33. Maybe he misses Erik Cole’s presence in the line up? Pitkanen is back and had two assists in last night’s game. Corvo has only three points even though he is averaging nearly six minutes a game on the power play. Matt Cullen is getting over five minutes a game with the man advantage.
Frolik has taken over the team lead in scoring with five points in seven games. Weiss, Reinprecht and Olesz (who had two points last night, but less than 13 minutes of ice time), all have four points. Horton, Booth and Stillman have been death for fantasy owners, although I hope you dressed Horton for last night’s game as he had 16 minutes in penalties! Booth and Olesz lead the team in shots on goal with 26 each. The sole bright spot fantasy-wise has to be Dmitry Kulikov’s three points (all via the power play). Kulikov played 24 minutes last night.
Losing All-Star defenseman Markov was tough, but after winning their first two games, the Canadiens had reeled off five straight losses. They broke the losing streak Tuesday night with a 2-1 shootout victory over a much improved Atlanta squad. That’s bad news for Price owners as Montreal won with Halak in the net and may decide to run with the under-rated back up for a spell.
Tomas Plekanec and Mike Cammalleri lead the team with six points in eight games, although Cammalleri only has one goal so far this season. Mara has been a pleasant surprise for poolies with four points and 23 penalty minutes. Sergei Kostitsyn has packed up his gear and has been suspended (again) by the Canadiens.
Apparently, there WILL be an adjustment period to new/old coach Lemaire. At least Parise and Zajac look like they can carry the offense until Elias returns, each recording seven points in seven games. Both Rob Niedermayer and David Clarkson have surprised offensively with five points apiece, but they will self-correct as more games are played. Clarkson does have a chance to better his career high of 32 points set last year and currently leads the team with 16 penalty minutes. Cory Murphy cleared waivers and has been sent to the AHL. I must admit that I was wrong about this guy - it’s time to drop him. Oduya has no points and is minus-7.
The Isles won their first game of the season last night, but contrary to popular opinion, they have been fairly competitive. They lost three games in overtime (Pens, Sens, and Bruins) and a one goal loss to San Jose. Surprising Matt Moulson leads the team with eight points in seven games and linemate John Tavares has seven points. Kyle Okposo has six points and Mark Streit has four points. Those four plus wizened veteran Doug Weight receive the bulk of power play ice time.
The Rangers are off to a very good start with seven wins against only two losses. One surprise is that after two sub-par offensive seasons (28th & 25th in scoring the last two seasons), the Blueshirts are tied with Calgary for first in goals per game. Another nice surprise is how well Del Zotto and Gilroy have played on defense. Del Zotto’s has nine points in nine games, including seven point play points, while Gilroy has two points and is a plus-5.
Gaborik leads the team with 12 points, Prospal has 11 and both Kotalik and Dubinsky have eight points on the season. Dan Girardi has five points as does Sean Avery. The weird thing is that Avery has only two minor penalties in five games, much to many poolies chagrin. Higgins has been a disappointment thus far with only two points in nine contests.
The Sens power play is the second worst in the league, clicking only 11.5 per cent of the time. Their saving grace has been the second ranked penalty kill (93.1 per cent). Mike Fisher has six points in seven games. Filip Kuba has played only one game and will help the ailing power play when he returns. With Kuba out, Alexandre Picard is averaging 20 minutes of ice time per game and has four points in six games. Jarkko Ruutu somehow has five points even though he only averages ten minutes of ice time per game. Captain Daniel Alfredsson leads the team with nine points, while Spezza seems to be missing Heatley the most and has only four points to his credit.
The Flyers are off to an average start, but that somehow seems disappointing. Richards and Carter are atop the team scoring list, accompanied by the surprising Matt Carle. They all have eight points in six games. Van Riemsdyk has four points in four games while averaging 10:42 in ice time per game, with 1:48 of that being power play time. No surprise with Pronger, who has five points and 20 penalty minutes. Gagne has no goals, but four assists on the season. Ray Emery has been very average to date, recording a 2.79 goals-against-average and 0.900 save percentage.
The Pens have been better than I thought possible at this point in the season. Where is the Stanley Cup hangover? The usual suspects are leading the team in scoring; Malkin has 11 points in nine games, Crosby and the now injured Gonchar have eight points each. Those three plus Guerin and Goligoski lead the team in power play ice time. Goligoski has been receiving more power play AND regular strength ice time than Letang, but with Gonchar out four to six weeks, look for Letang to pick up the slack.
Fleury is a perfect 8-0-0 on the season and has turned in some spectacular performances. The results are proof enough; a 1.96 goals-against-average and a 0.930 save percentage. Tyler Kennedy has flashed a little goal scoring ability early this year with a team leading five goals.
It hasn’t been a very good start for the Lightning, but St.Louis has 11 points in seven games and Stamkos is looking like the real deal with eight points. Lecavalier sits third in team scoring, but he can rack up points in bunches. Rookie defenseman Victor Hedman has logged the most ice time of any Tampa player and recorded four points. St.Louis, Lecavalier, Stamkos and Malone all average OVER six minutes of power play time per game and Hedman receives the fifth most average power play time (5:23). Zenon Konopka leads the NHL in penalty minutes with 38, but he is listed as a centre in Yahoo, which may not be very helpful to many poolies.
Alex Tanguay has been dropped in many leagues due to his one assist in seven games. His worst season in his nine year career happened last season when he recorded 41 points in only 50 games. He has averaged 64 points a season over his nine year NHL career and has yet to turn 30-years-old. Dropping him after seven games is premature.
Winless so far this season going 0-6-1 in their first seven contests. They have not received even average goaltending, but that’s only part of the problem. The big overhaul on the blueline hasn’t yet paid the dividends that were expected this season. They were supposed to be punishing and dominant, but so far they have been full of missed assignments (Beauchemin/Schenn) and untimely penalties (Komisarek).
Toronto on average scores only two goals per game, the second lowest in the league (Nashville is even worse!). Combine all that with the fact they are dead last in killing penalties and that explains why they are winless so far this season. Ron Wilson is an intelligent and demanding coach. I am confident that he will help turn this team around and soon.
Last year, Ovechkin started the season with five points in nine games and briefly went back to Russia to be with his ailing grandfather. Over his final 70 games last year, he scored 105 points (123 pro-rated). This season, OV has 16 points in eight games. No, he won’t score 164 points this year, but if he was on a 123 point pace for 70 games, then it is possible that he could threaten 130 points this year. Let’s face it; there is no greater motivation than seeing your arch-rival hoist Lord Stanley’s legendary chalice.
There are some other good players on the Caps; Backstrom has 11 points, Semin has ten and Laich, Morrison and Knuble all have seven points. Mike Green is only on pace for 51 points this year. It looks like his star has faded and you should trade him in your keeper league now before someone realizes that he’s not as good as last year. Of course I’m kidding, Green is legit and your patience will be rewarded.
Next week I’ll take a look at a team that has seemingly gotten off to a good start, but it all might just be an illusion.