Crashing the Net: Canucks on fire
This has gotten well past the point of being ridiculous. Just take a look at the numbers of the men that form the hottest line in hockey.
Simply astounding production from that trio has become so commonplace that someone might actually fall dead if the group was held off the score sheet for even a game.
In the first 65 games of his career, Benoit scored nine goals. He lit the lamp only twice this season in 14 games with the Wild before he was moved to the Habs, with whom he has morphed from a press box watcher to the second coming of
Connolly extended his point streak to 15 games Saturday during which time he has scored seven goals while handing out 17 assists to push his season totals to 13 goals and 34 helpers in 50 games. Long an offensive force, Connolly continually finds himself with some injury or another, a fact easily discerned from scanning his player card which shows that he hasn't appeared in 70 games since the 2002 season. Ride Connolly for all he is worth, but if someone makes an intriguing offer for his services listen hard -- his track record of ill health is pretty overwhelming.
With all the big names in San Jose the club's second line center is often lost in the shuffle. A United States Olympian, Pavelski scored 25 times, leading to 59 points last season, and this year he is up to 12 goals and 30 points in 38 games (he suffered through injury at the start of the year). Pavelski has been on fire of late with three goals and six assists in his last five games helping
Arnott scored a career best 33 goals last season, and though he has 12 goals in 40 games this season, things haven't gone quite as planned. Over the past 15 contests Arnott, who has scored at least 27 times each of the past four years, has scored a mere single marker. At the same time injuries have also limited him to a mere six games in January, though at least he has still dished out four helpers in those games. A player with a track record like Arnott's leads you to think that a slump is merely a run of bad luck, so ride out the cold stretch with this talented leader.
Bouwmeester was supposed to solidify the Flames back line with his combination of defensive acumen and offensive exploits. It hasn't quite gone to plan. Bouwmeester leads the club with more than 26 minutes of ice-time per game, but his offensive exploits have been akin to that prom date you had when your sweetheart bailed on you for the quarterback of the football team who finally looked her way. Bouwmeester hasn't scored a goal since Nov. 14, a span of 33 games, and his total of two goals this year is a bitterly disappointing total after a three-year run of at least 12 tallies. At least he is a +10, though that is little consolation for those that drafted him to help out on the offensive side of the ice.
The past two years Boyes scored 76 goals, a total that placed him in a tie with
Chara, one of the top all-around defensemen in the game, has had a solid season, though one well below expectations. Chara has but one goal in his last 14 games, has only two assists in his last 10 games, and hasn't posted even a single PIM in his last five trips to the ice. Oh yeah, he has also been a "minus" in seven of the Bruins' 11 games in January. Don't expect the slump to last much longer, but it's been a rough month plus for this towering blue liner.
The latest player to get a shot at the first line in Los Angeles due to injury, Richardson has teamed with
Four starts with no injury complications means DiPietro's return to the ice has been a success. When you add in that he has allowed a mere nine goals in that time (2.22 GAA) the story becomes a success from a performance angle as well. The Isles will continue to play it safe as they ease him back into action, so look for
The "backup" in Montreal continues to outplay the "starter" (
Halak: 14-7-1, 2.45 GAA, .927 SV%, three shutouts
Price has continued to struggle with just one victory in his last five appearances and a 3.50 GAA in his last four starts, while Halak's wonderful play continues to rule the day (two of fewer goals against in four of his last five starts -- including two shutouts). As much as the Habs are thinking about the future with Price, clearly the present would dictate that Halak should be given the majority of work. Maybe he'll rescind that trade request after all?
With his back finally responding, Lehtonen is ready for some game action. As a result he was sent to the AHL on a two-week conditioning assignment to get in game shape. What the team will do when the 26-year-old netminder is healthy is anyone's guess since the club already has a young netminder with a future (
In his first nine starts in January Henrik allowed two or fewer goals, that is until a four goal lambasting in roughly half the game against the Habs on Saturday night. Still, Lundqvist owns a spectacular set of ratios in January (1.89 GAA, .933 SV%), that work coming on the heels of a fantastic December (1.92 GAA, .938 SV%). Put behind you the concerns with Lundqvist after a slow start to the year, the Swedish star is back.
Just when it appeared that he would start to eat into the playing time of "starter" Cristobal Huet, Niemi went out and was bombed for three goals on a mere 12 shots on Saturday night against the Canucks as he was pulled from the game. He still owns stellar numbers on the year (1.99 GAA and a .918 SV%), but until he can avoid the infrequent blowups in his performance, he might be hard pressed to improve his games played rate moving forward.
Vokoun has been playing some of the best hockey of his career of late with two or fewer goals in eight of nine starts. Tomas also has a 4-1-1 mark in his last six games, two shutouts in his last four starts and a .931 save percentage on the year, the second best mark in the NHL to
* Nine teams play four games this week: Calgary, Detroit, Los Angeles, New Jersey, NY Islanders, NY Rangers, Phoenix, St. Louis and Washington.
* Three teams play only two games this week: Boston, Philadelphia and San Jose.