Who predicted that by the first of March, the Blackhawks would still be undefeated in regulation? It’s an unbelievable feat to amass at least a point in over twenty straight games, and when you have players like Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith all playing lights out, you set yourself up for success, and that’s just what Stan Bowman and the Hawks are doing. Already six weeks have passed since the beginning of the season so here are some of top individual performances, and some of the most disappointing ones thus far.
Most impressive production after six weeks:
It should not be shocking for Tavares to be among the league-leaders in points this season, I have considered him a top-10 forward since last year, but it is more apparent in this shortened campaign that he is living up to his potential. With 25 points after 21 games, the only blip on his stat sheet is the minus-8 rating. It is clear that the Islanders still have not addressed their lack of quality defense yet. The addition of Lubomir Visnovsky has greatly added to their powerplay prowess, but for now, that’s the only positive part of the Islanders game. Lastly the chemistry between Tavares and Matt Moulson just keeps getting better and better, as both players rarely get points without the other involved on an assist or goal.
As a Habs fan, it’s great to see Toronto competitive again after years of wallowing at the bottom of the eastern conference standings. Kadri is without a doubt the best player on the Maple Leafs this season, amassing 21 points in 22 games, as well as notching his first career hat-trick against the Islanders. It is not just his numbers that are impressive, he has tremendous confidence lately and he takes the space he needs away from opposing defenders, while making his linemates better. Bonus points to Toronto for developing Kadri properly in the AHL before rushing him to the big club.
After an extremely slow start of three points in the first eight games, Voracek turned it on at home against Carolina on February 2, and has since put up 22 points in 14 games, including 6 multi-point games. No doubt he has found his groove flanking Claude Giroux. He has improved defensively as well posting plus-5 in his last seven games. Look for Jake to continue playing at a point-per-game rate, especially with Scott Hartnell making his way back after a foot injury.
Kunitz has won the lottery this season playing on Crosby’s left wing. After 22 games, Chris is on pace to score 59 points, plus-31 with 11 powerplay goals. This pro-rates to a 100-point season on 82 games. The best part about these numbers is they are completely sustainable so long as Kunitz remains healthy. It’s worth noting that he has dressed for all 82 games once since being to traded to Pittsburgh. If he can overcome injury, expect Kunitz to keep the production coming.
It’s been quite a treat to watch Carey Price as often as I do, it’s obvious that he is once again the Canadiens’ best player night in and night out . I believe the real secret to Price’s success is the improved defense of the Habs. Price is benefiting from a team that is scoring 3.04 goals per game. That is a huge increase from 2.52 goals per game last season. What is the common denominatior? Michel Therrien, and his new system of puck possession. As we saw on 24CH, he is asking for 3 goals a game and that is precisely what he is getting. Price’s improved win percentage is directly a result of the team in front of him scoring more goals than the other team.
Least impressive production after six weeks:
At first glance, Green’s seven points in 16 games does not seem that disappointing, and half a point per game is not terrible for a defenseman. The biggest reason why I have him here as most disappointing, is because he no longer is a catalyst for the success of the Capitals. Sure, it’s easy to blame Ovechkin’s slow down in production as the cause for the decline of the Caps, and while that may be a contributing factor, I see the lack of offense from the point as a huge weakness for Adam Oates’ team. Washington used to be able to score in so many ways from so many different places on the ice. If the Caps want to recapture some of their dominance from 4 years ago, it’s going to have to start to come from the point.
Pietrangelo had a great start to the season, posting 12 points in his first 13 games. That is where the success ended, as since he’s been blanked on the scoresheet in eight straight games. It’s worrisome for fantasy owners, as Pietrangelo is expected to be among the best defenseman in the league. It’s clear that he is the number one D-man on this team, as shown by his time on-ice average at just under 26 minutes a game. This clearly shows that Pietrangelo is playing against the top-players, and his offense is affected by the team’s need for him to defend. I expect his numbers to get better, hopefully sooner than later.
I do not think I have ever been so frustrated with owning a player in fantasy pools as I have been with Ryan Miller. Since his Vezina winning year, Miller has just been too inconsistent game-to-game, but his numbers always turn out hovering around his career average of 2.58 GAA and .915 SV%. After owning Miller in pools for three years since his career year, I’ve made more mistakes benching him or dressing him than I care to recall. It seemed like every time I had to make a decision, it was the wrong one. However, he’s won three games in the last four, posting very good numbers, so hopefully his season is turning around from here, but it has to start with the team in front of Miller.
During February I wrote a lot about Ovi’s dreadful start to the season, and although his numbers have since rounded out, it’s becoming quite clear that Ovechkin’s days as more than a point per-game player are just about over. For whatever reason, be it his disinterest in the game, or the fact that opposing players have picked up his tendencies, Ovi just is not the same threat as he used to be. I could see him finishing the year around 38-42 points, but I believe he will no longer be among the top-10 forwards in the NHL.
It is shocking to see that after a great rookie campaign where RNH put up 52 points in 62 games, he is currently on pace to score 16 points. This is not where the Oilers envisioned their 2011 first overall pick’s progress to be during his sophomore season. With so much talent on the Oilers roster, including Eberle, Hall, Hemsky, Gagner, Schultz and Yakupov, it does not make sense to see RNH’s numbers so dismal. That being said, he would not be the first nor the last player to struggle after a successful rookie season, so definitely do not give up on this player in keeper leagues, but for now, look for more viable options if you can.
Got any comments for me? Join in on the conversation on twitter @NDGrobi.
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