Crashing the net: Brodeur's slump raises whispers of career demise
Bieksa is back. After recording 43 points and 97 PIMs in 2008, Bieksa had a down '09 as he was limited to just 55 games because of injury, which consequently saw his production plummet (22 points). It has taken him a while to find his groove this season but he is operating in quite the happy zone right now with points in his last four games (2g, 3a). Bieksa has also been an even or plus player each of the last 10 times he has stepped on the ice with an aggregate plus/minus mark of plus-13. Grab him immediately if he is still a free agent.
Weber has been a beast the past week for the Sabres, scoring two goals while dishing out three helpers over his last three games. In addition to the points, Weber has also posted a plus-6 rating in that time. Oh, and for those of you in non-traditional leagues he has been even more valuable of late with six hits and eight blocked shots in this weekly snapshot. How is that for a guy who is almost a lock to be on waivers right now?
An abysmal minus-18 in 32 games with the Isles, James was given new life when he was moved to the Habs. He hasn't wasted any time making a good impression on the faithful in Montreal. In three games Wisniewski has scored two goals, handed out three assists and been a power-play beast with three points. That last point is key. With Andrei Markov out with a knee injury for the remainder of the year the Habs needed a new point man. They've found him in Wisniewski.
In his first year in Montreal Cammalleri lit the lamp 26 times in just 65 games. This season he has just 12 goals through 39 games. The notorious shooter hasn't taken more than two shots on net in his last five games and he hasn't beaten a keeper for a goal since Dec. 19 -- a span of nine games. Once he starts firing the puck again the goals should start to come, so ride out the cold spell.
Semin has 18 goals, 35 points and a plus-8 rating through 37 games, numbers that fall right in line with his career performance. However, he has been decidedly poor of late. Semin last scored a goal in November, has a mere five assists and has posted an even rating. About the only noteworthy thing he has done over the last month was to rack up 15 PIMs in a game against the Avalanche on Dec. 11. Too talented to continue this downward spiral, pity the goaltenders that will soon feel his wrath.
Over his first five seasons the Austrian-born winger has averaged 34 goals a campaign. With 14 goals in 38 games this season he is only slightly behind that pace (30 over 82 games), but that fact hides the ugly truth -- he has been dreadful of late. Vanek scored in his last game, his first goal in nine contests. With Derek Roy out for the rest of the year with a torn quadriceps tendon that required surgery, the Sabres need their 35-goal man, not the flunky they have been forced to watch over the past month.
Out since Dec. 8 with a broken finger, Mason Raymond returned in grand style, scoring the game-winning goal in his first game back in action. Granted he skated fewer than 10 minutes on the fourth line, but sooner rather than later he will be moving up the food chain in Vancouver. After all, Raymond scored 25 times last season while handing out 28 assists, including posting 18 points on the power-play.
Finally back in action after foot and hand issues, Staal made it onto the ice for the first time in the Winter Classic. The news got even better, kind of like learning that your gorgeous date is also loaded, when the Penguins decided to go with a long-held plan of allowing Staal to skate on a line with Evgeni Malkin. If the Pens stick to this plan it won't be long before Staal is racking up points at a feverish pace.
Has the greatest keeper in the history of the game simply lost "it?" With each passing game the whispers grow louder, and it was practically deafening after Brodeur's last game, when he was pulled after allowing three goals in just eight minutes of action. This scribe's bet is that Brodeur is still injured but trying to play through it given his team's woeful showing on the ice this season. Brodeur had a 2.24 GAA and a .916 save percentage last season as he won 45 games. You simply don't go from that to the bench in eight months, even if you are nearing your 40th birthday. Bench him for now, but don't be surprised if he bounces back in the second half.
Hiller is tied for second in the NHL with 19 victories, and that is just the start of the good times with the Ducks' keeper. Hiller also leads the NHL with 1,072 saves, an amazing 104 more than any other keeper (Cam Ward). Hiller has also boosted his save percentage to .925, 5th in the NHL, as he has posted a microscopic 1.79 GAA over his last 13 appearances, thanks to a .946 save percentage. Simply put, he faces more shots that any keeper in the league while at the same time stopping more rubber than
Last year Rask led the NHL with a 1.97 GAA and a .931 save percentage as Tim Thomas receded a bit due to injury and ineffectiveness. This season Rask has posted a solid .922 save percentage but his GAA has ballooned to 2.79, while Tim Thomas has been the best keeper in the league (1.80 GAA, .945 SV%). Add it all up and Rask is starting to lose the faith of his coach. "I'd say it's more confidence now ... head stuff," said Claude Julien. "Mechanically, he's a sound goaltender ... he needs to build his confidence back up." Boy that bar is set high in Boston considering that Rask has allowed more than three goals just once in his last 10 appearances and still owns a save percentage that would be tied for 8th in the NHL if he had played more.
• Nine teams play four games this week: Carolina, Chicago, Florida, Minnesota, New Jersey, NY Islander, San Jose, Tampa Bay and Vancouver.
• Five teams play only two games this week: Montreal, Ottawa, Philadelphia, St. Louis and Washington.