Crashing The Net: Ovechkin's slow start may offer rare opportunity
Alexander Ovechkin has only one goal and two pounts through his first four games
Teemu Selanne now ranks ninth in multiple-goal games after recording his 126th
Goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin seems to be rebounding after 10-32-4 season
From goal scorers to defenders to the men who keep the puck out of the net, each week we'll take a spin around the rink and touch on some of the players that are in the news.
Alexander Ovechkin is coming off a strong season of 32 goals and 85 points, but it was also the worst season of his illustrious career (amazing, isn't it?). With only one goal and two points through four games, whispers are starting to grow about what is wrong with the Great Eight? I say nothing. He'll be just fine, so if some idiotic owners is getting a bit nervous, pounce on adding Ovechkin.
The Blue Jackets need to juggle their forward lines after the injury to Jeff Carter (more about that below). It looks like one of the main recipients of ice-time due to that injury will be Derick Brassard, who looked like he was on his way out of the coaching staff's graces when he was sent to the fourth line on Saturday. Now he's been promoted to what figures to be the top line alongside Rick Nash and R.J. Umberger. Brassard, the sixth overall selection in the 2006 draft, is coming off a career best season of 47 points and has enough talent to be a productive offensive weapon if skating with talented linemates. Still, his value is muted because this figures to only be a temporary fix.
David Jones has four goals in six games this season. Obviously, he isn't going to sustain that pace, but not many seemed to notice that Jones scored 27 times for the 'Lanche last year, so it's quite possible that his hot start to the year could propel him to his first 30-goal effort at the NHL level.
Monday night was a banner night for the Panthers. Not only did they score seven goals in a victory over the Lightning, they had three players light up the scoreboard with four points each: Brian Campbell (4a), Kris Versteeg (2g, 2a) and Stephen Weiss (2g, 2a). It was the first time the Panthers had three players with four points in one game. Weiss recorded 60 points in back-to-back seasons in '08-09 before slumping to 49 points last season. With six points through four games he's obviously on pace to return to the 60-point club this season.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has four goals and five points through four games. He had a hat-trick last week to boost his totals, and he followed that up with an assist on Monday night. All told, the first selection in the '11 draft has either tied the game or put the Oilers ahead with every one of his points this season.
Teemu Selanne is an ageless wonder. With 639 goals and 1,343 points in 1,264 games, Selanne is assumed by many to be in his last season in the NHL despite the fact that he is coming off a 31-goal, 80-point season. He added yet another historic mark to his ledger Monday, with the 126th multiple-goal game of his career. That moved him past Dino Ciccarelli into ninth place on that all-time list. Seemingly washed up when he recorded 32 points in '03, Selanne continues to be a point per game performer for the Ducks.
Marc-Andre Bergeron is not a very good defensive skater, an odd statement to make for a blue liner. But as he has proved nearly every time he's been given a chance, that doesn't mean he can't be an effective offensive performer from the point. At it again with the Lightning, MAB has an impressive eight points in just six games this year, giving him 16 points in 29 games as a member of the Bolts.
Brian Campbell's four points Monday, all on the power-play, helped push his season total to six points on the power-play, the most among blue liners in the NHL. Skating nearly 28 minutes a game with over seven minutes of that time coming with the man advantage in his first season with the Panthers, Campbell is looking to return to the level he displayed from '05-08, when he recorded at least 43 points each season (he averaged a mere 33 points the past two years). Campbell is soft as it gets, but he does possess strong puck moving, and skating, skills.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson has three goals in four games, an insane pace for any skater, especially a blue liner. In 48 games last season he had one goal and 10 assists while showing little offensive acuity. If he's on the wire, he should be someone you give serious consideration to adding if you need a boost.
Do you know who leads the NHL in GAA and save percentage? I could give you 14 guesses, but I doubt you'd pin the tail on the donkey. The answer is Nikolai Khabibulin, who has posted a 0.96 GAA and .957 save percentage in two starts. It's only two starts, so take it for what it's worth, but he has looked ultra sharp after about as bad a season as any goaltender has had in recent memory last year (10-32-4).
Kari Lehtonen leads the NHL with four victories in four appearances. Not surprisingly, he sports an impressive 1.48 GAA. If he has good health he will be an effective keeper, just like he was last season when he won 34 games with a 2.55 GAA and .914 save percentage. There's no reason to think he won't be able to replicate those numbers this season for the Stars.
Antti Niemi returned to action for the Sharks on Monday night. Coming off having a cyst removed from his knee, Niemi looked a bit rusty, allowing three goals on just 22 shots. Even with the slow start, there is little reason to think that he won't end up being a top-10 keeper this season, not with a potent Sharks club in front of him.
Through four starts this season, it looks like 42-year-old Dwayne Roloson might have lost his mojo. He has allowed a whopping 18 goals, leading to a 5.11 GAA. It's too early to panic with Roloson, but if you own him you had better add Garon to the mix as the Lightning have no choice but to give their backup some extra work.
The top three in penalty minutes are Steve Downie (31 PIMs), Chris Neil (29) and David Clarkson (26). All three have also recorded one goal.
Michael Cammalleri is hopeful of returning from a cut on his leg as early as Thursday. He has a lot to prove this season after recording three-year lows of 19 goals and 47 points last season. He also has to prove he can stay healthy as he's failed to appear in even 70 games the past two years for the Canadiens.
Jeff Carter and the Blue Jackets are having a rough start to the season, and that is putting it mildly. James Wisniewski was suspended eight games by the NHL, the team has started 0-4-1 and Carter has an injured foot that is likely to keep him sidelined for at least 7-10 games. The fracture in Carter's foot is actually in the same area that Carter injured during the preseason, and it's also located very close to where Carter broke his foot a few years back. "He has a plate in there with some screws in there, it's right along the same bone," said GM Scott Howson. "So obviously we're concerned that that bone has broken again." Does that sound like a player who is going to be back in action in a week to you? Yeah, I'm not sure either.
Ryan Kesler will return from his hip injury weeks earlier than expected and he will be in the lineup for the Canucks on Tuesday night. in the lineup for the Canucks on Tuesday night. One of the most complete players in the game, Kesler is coming off a career-best 41-goal effort, and he's recorded 75 and 73 points the past two seasons. Activate him immediately.
Peter Mueller is said to be "available" to return to the ice, but the fact that he hasn't has fueled rumors that he's suffered some sort of setback stemming from the concussion that cost him last season. The team hasn't helped matters by failing to give a definitive update on his condition. At this point it looks like Mueller could be back in action this week, but this is just another example of why counting on Mueller to do anything this season is a huge risk.
Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87, and his NHL thoughts can be read at Rotowire.com. Ray's baseball analysis can be found at BaseballGuys.com and his minute to minute musings can be located at the BaseballGuys' Twitter account. To e-mail Ray a question for next week's piece, drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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