Crashing the net: Hawks' Sharp still hot, Bruins' Thomas chilling others
Somehow moving to the blue line has turned Byfuglien into an offensive dynamo. A massive body who can't be moved unless he wants to be, Byfuglien has produced 10 points in 11 games with seven coming with the man advantage (he's also scored three game winners). It's hard to envision a scenario where his scoring pace will continue to rival that of Dan Boyle or Mike Green, but at the start of the season there are few blue liners who have been more impressive on the offensive side of the ice.
Datsyuk recorded 87, 87, 97 and 97 points from 2005-08, which made his total of 70 points scored last season a major disappointment. Intent on ridding himself of the label of being merely a good player, Datsyuk has tallied six goals and 11 points in nine games. He has recorded a point in five-straight games (4g, 3a) to once again cement himself as one of the top scoring options in the game.
The NHL leader with 10 goals scored, Sharp has lit the lamp in seven of the last nine games, during which time he has tallied nine goals. A 36-goal scorer in 2007, Sharp has potted 26 and 25 goals the past two seasons. With this hot start, the smart money is on another run to the 30-goal club this season.
Stewart flashed all kinds of skills last season, scoring 28 goals, recording 64 points and posting 73 PIMs, but if the early going this year is any indication, even bigger things lie in his future. Stewart is currently working on an eight-game point scoring streak that includes eight goals and six assists, and when you toss in 25 PIMs in that stretch, you can easily understand what an all-around force he has been in the early going.
When you are as talented as Nash, a 10-game stretch with three goals and two assists is disappointing. When you tack on a (-8) rating, not to mention a five-game stretch with just two assists, the outlook turns rather bleak. It's likely just a matter of time before Nash turns things around, and probably soon given that Nash has taken at least four shots on net in six-straight games.
How does a guy who has five points in six games from the blue line qualify as an "ice" performer? First, in that six-game stretch, Gonchar is a dreadful (-6). Second, he has failed to light the lamp even once in 11 games this year. Obviously the points will come, but that doesn't mean his early season work has been exemplary.
An NHL-worst (-10), the reigning Rookie of the Year is in danger of being a healthy scratch. Myers is also averaging 0.33 points a game this season (four in 12) after posting a 0.59 mark last season. While his current outlook is extremely spotty, it should be pointed out that he has averaged two shots a game (last year 1.27) while blocking a ton of shots (an average of two per game this season versus last year's 1.11 mark). Be patient with this talented behemoth.
Zajac scored the first goal of the season for the Devils, and given that he was slated to skate with Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise, only good times were on the horizon. Not so fast. Not only has Zajac been held pointless for five-straight games, he has only one point in 10 games and he hasn't lit the lamp since that first game. He'll eventually figure it out, after all he has scored 62 and 67 points the past two years, but it has been a dreadful start.
Caputi has skated in only two games with the Leafs this season, but he already finds himself in a great position to excel, that is if the Leafs roll with the lines they have been using in practice. Looking to generate some offense, coach Ron Wilson has placed Caputi on the top-line with Phil Kessel and Tyler Bozak (Kris Versteeg has been demoted to the third line after scoring just once in nine games). Who knows if the move will stick, but those in deep leagues should be taking note with Caputi.
A first round selection by the Sens in 2006, Foligno recorded 17 goals in 2008 before slumping to just nine in 61 games last season. This year he has started out the season slowly, failing to record a goal in 11 games. However, Milan Michalek is out with a knee injury, so Foligno will be given one last shot to wake up from the doldrums as he will skate on the second line with Daniel Alfredsson and and Mr.
With Marin Hossa likely to miss a couple of weeks with a shoulder injury, Stalberg has been elevated to the second scoring line in Chicago to skate with Tomas Kopecky and Patrick Sharp. Stalberg had 14 points in 40 games as a rookie with Toronto last season, and though he has only four points in 12 games this year with the 'Hawks, top-6 minutes in an offensive role could cause his production to pickup in the short-term.
Mike Smith is 4-0, but his save percentage is a pathetic .868. Rotating starts in net with Smith has been Ellis, who himself was struggling. But he has turned things around in his last two appearances, stopping all 47 shots he has faced to lift his save percentage to .914. As a result, Ellis might be in line for a few more starts in the short-term, though the Lightning still seem intent on having their duo in net split time.
Niittymaki was signed to a two-year deal, but when the Sharks inked Antti Niemi to a deal, most people assumed the former Blackhawks' keeper would take over in net for the Sharks. Niemi has really struggled in the early going (1-3, 4.50 GAA, .854 SV%) while Niittymaki has excelled (4-0-1, 1.87 GAA, .929 SV%). It's too early to name Niittymaki the "starter," but he is clearly playing well enough right now that the he should be owned in all fantasy leagues, even if he can't reasonably be expected to play more than 50 games if everything breaks right for him.
After a down 2009, Thomas was thought of as a mere handcuff to Tuukka Rask. An eighth of the way into the 2010 season, that situation has been turned on its head. Thomas, 100 percent healthy after hip surgery for a torn labrum, has tended some of the best net any of us have ever seen. Through six starts Thomas not only is 6-0 but leads the NHL with unheard of ratios -- 0.50 GAA, .984 save percentage. He has nowhere to go but down, but he is clearly the keeper to own in Boston right now.
* Five teams play four games this week: Carolina, Chicago, NY Rangers, Philadelphia and Vancouver.
* Three teams play only two games this week: Calgary, Colorado and Los Angeles.