Not many people gave the Thrashers a prayer this season. Atlanta has been Hotlanta of late, winning four in a row after going winless in the previous six contests. It’s interesting to note that they’ve done this without their most experienced defenseman or top goaltender in the lineup. Schneider is scheduled to return this Friday, whereas Lehtonen reinjured his back at practice Tuesday and his status is unknown.
It’s no surprise that Ilya Kovalchuk has eight points in his last four games, no one doubts his ability to score points in bunches. I don’t think I’m alone in expressing my surprise that Bryan Little is tied with Kovalchuk for the team lead in goal scoring. I thought the 21-year-old (his birthday was yesterday!) Little would require more seasoning in the minors and am embarrassed to admit I had him pegged for only 25 points this season. He might have that many points before November is finished.
Atlanta’s General Manager, Don Waddell credits last year’s AHL playoff run by the Chicago Wolves where Little had eight goals and 13 points in 24 games. Right now Little is clicking on a line with Todd White and Slava Kozlov. During the Thrashers four game winning streak, Little has seven points and is plus-six in that time. Kozlov and White have six and five points respectively during the last four games.
It’s hard to fathom both Todd White and Slava Kozlov being ahead of the Sens Jason Spezza at this point in the season. In Spezza’s defence, he is just one hot streak away from getting back to challenging the top point getters, while we all wait for Atlanta’s bubble to burst.
Jason Williams finally looks like he’s finding his place on this team. Lucky for him it’s on a line with Kovalchuk and Christensen. In his last four games, Williams has six points and is currently on a three game goal and four game point streak. He’s on pace for a 55 point season, which is right where he should be.
Tobias Enstrom has five points in the last four games, but will yield the all important power play ice time upon Schneider’s return.
What a game Jordan Staal had Tuesday night. A hat trick and an assist on the game winning goal in overtime after picking the pocket of the NHL’s reigning Selke trophy winner, Pavel Datsyuk. That performance gave us a glimpse of Staal’s tantalizing potential. His 29 goal rookie season was not an anomaly. The question most fantasy owners have is why can’t he do that more often? Once this 20-year-old puts it all together, he will be a force to be reckoned with.
Semin on Fire
There is no hotter NHL player right now than Alexander Semin. Last night, Semin and his line-mates proved too much for the Canes to handle. The trio scored all five Washington goals and recorded a combined 12 points on the night.
Semin sits atop the NHL scoring race with 27 points in 15 games, with only six points coming via the power play. Including last night’s plus-4, Semin also leads the NHL in plus/minus at plus-17.
He has been held pointless only twice this season; once by Calgary and the other a shutout loss to Buffalo. Semin has had a hand in 56 per cent of Washington’s 48 goals. Malkin has a point on exactly half of the Penguins 48 goals.
Nicklas Backstrom must be on cloud nine. When your job description includes centering two Russian snipers named Ovechkin and Semin, you too would think you’ve died and gone to heaven.
Can’t Wait for 2010
Anyone who thinks Canada ought to be the favourite for the gold medal in the next Olympics should consider the players Russia could potentially ice for their power play. Ovechkin, Malkin, Semin, Datsyuk and Andrei Markov would be difficult to defend. I’m not even including Kovalchuk in the top five.
No country can match Canada’s depth though and that should make for some very exciting Olympic hockey. I can’t wait.