Crashing the Net takes you around the league you almost forgot about and all of the fantasy ins and outs, ups and downs.
Brendan Bell, Senators
Bell produced all of seven points in his first 48 games NHL games, so his recent run of six points in four games can be viewed as a windfall of production, especially with four of the points having come with the man-advantage. Production like that is golden from the blue line making him a marked man off the waiver-wire.
Rod Brind'Amour, Hurricanes
It may have taken him a while to get going, but Brind'Amour is showing once again while he will likely end up in the HOF one day. Over his last 10 games he has produced points nine times, and overall there have been five goals and eight assists in the orgiastic feast of offense. Due to the points he is also a +7, and with six points on the power-play and two while short-handed, they haven't been meaningless points either.
Mikhail Grabovski, Leafs
It has been a roller coaster ride for the youngster, but it has been all screams of late as Mikhail has recorded five goals in his last six games for the Leafs. He has also dealt out four helpers giving him a total of nine points in six contests. That's some serious scoring from a guy with just 18 goals and 22 assists on the year.
Michael Handzus, Kings
The defensive center has three goals in four games and six goals in nine games as he has channeled his inner Jaromir Jagr. Considering that he hasn't scored 20 goals since '03-04, the fact that he has 17 this year has to be seen as a great bonus, whereas the way he is playing now is like manna from heaven. One can't think that his work will continue along these lines, but he has clearly been one of the better under the radar goal scorers in March.
Jamie Lundmark, Flames
With six goals and 13 points in 17 games on the year, Jamie has been solid this year. Moreover, in his last 13 games he has six goals and he has even contributed some rough stuff to the party with 15 PIM in that time as well. He isn't a top flight option, but a depth play or an injury fill-in role could easily be something he is up for.
Joel Ward, Predators
Ward has scored in each of his last three games, four times in total, while dishing out an assist as well for the Preds. Going back a bit further, Ward has eight goals in his last 12 games to boost his total to 15 on the year in 69 games. The rookie is being leaned on to help pick up the slack with the loss of Jason Arnott to injury, and Ward has formed a great bond with J.P. Dumont and Vernon Fiddler on the second line (Ward and Dumont scored seven of the clubs 11 goals on their most recent road trip). Chemistry is a wonderful thing, and the line has it in spades right now.
Dustin Brown, Kings
As March started Brown looked like a good bet to challenge his goal scoring mark of 33 set last season. Unfortunately he has only one goal in 11 games in March and as a result he is stuck on 24 goals. He has also dished out only four helpers in March while recording four PIM and a (-5). No one works harder than Brown so you can believe he will do everything he can to pull himself out of this tailspin, even though it hasn't been pretty of late.
Brian Campbell, Blackhawks
Thirty-nine games and counting for Campbell with just one goal scored. He is also a (-6) in March, and its even worst over his last nine games when that number has dipped to (-9). That's ugly. The numbers are decent overall with seven goals and 39 assists on the year, but he has produced more like a defensive defensemen in a slump than the supposed offensive defensemen that he is supposed to be.
Ales Hemsky, Oilers
Amazingly gifted with the puck, Ales has been well off the pace of late for the Oilers. With only one assist in five games, he hasn't been helping his line mates. With only one goal in 10 games, he hasn't been helping his fantasy owners either. He has also been a liability in March with a (-4) mark as the club tries to hold on to a playoff spot. He could go off at any point so you'll just have to ride out the slump with this sublimely talented Czech skater.
Andrei Kostitsyn, Canadiens
Maybe now that his brother is back from the minors both will pick up their play. Andrei has 23 goals this year, this after 26 last season, but his plus/minus has been flipped on its head as he has fallen from a +15 down to a (-2). Due to the lack of scoring, he is also a terrible (-5) in the last four games. In addition, he has lit the lamp only once in 13 games, and during that time he has dished off only one assist leaving him with zero offensive value since the middle of last month. He ripped off four goals and three assists in a four game stretch in February, but since that point we have detailed his struggles above.
Wade Redden, Rangers
All that money and the bright lights of New York certainly haven't agreed with Redden. With nine games left on the year, Redden will need a huge finish to avoid the lowest goal scoring total of his career (he has three and six is his worst mark). Redden also has only 24 points, his lowest total since 1997-98, and his (-10) is a career worst mark. Even worse, Redden has only one goal since October 10th, that's 69 games folks, and there is no end in sight to his offensive failings.
Wojtek Wolski, Avalanche
It's been a month since he beat a goalie (13 games) and in that time he has only four assists while he has recorded a (-7). Perhaps it is time to face facts. First, Wolski just isn't a top shelf player. Second, for the most part, he has failed miserably when given the responsibility of leading the club. Third, his goal total has regressed from 22 to 18 to 14, and unless he has a big final two weeks his point total will have regressed as well from 50 to 48 to his current total of 40. The 2004 first round draft pick just hasn't progressed as hoped and he might always be one of those talented players who circle the fray without getting involved on most nights.
P.J. Axelsson, Bruins
With the Bruins dropping Milan Lucic to the fourth line, P.J. was given the plum assignment of skating on the top line with Marc Savard and Phil Kessel. While there is certainly no guarantee that the lines will remain this way, Savard is fourth in the Eastern Conference in assists (55) while Kessel is tied for ninth with 31 goals, so offense is aplenty on the top line. Axelsson has long been a grinding defensive winger, and while he would figure to continue in that role despite the new assignment, you can't help but get a little bit excited about a potential spike in points for a guy who hasn't recorded even 30-points in a season since 2002-03 (he currently has six goals and 21 assists).
Dave Bolland, Blackhawks
After producing just 17 points in 39 games as a rookie, Bolland has scored 17 goals with 25 assists in 71 games this season. In addition he has been defensively responsible with a +20 mark giving him a lot of value in deep leagues. Why is he mentioned here? Well, the reason is that he has seen some time on the power-play of late, despite the fact that he is viewed by all as more of a defensive specialist. Bolland only has two power-play points this season, he has actually has more points while killing penalties (2g, 2a), but this is just another reason to like him as a depth play.
Marian Gaborik, Wild
Skating almost 18 minutes in his first game back since late December, Gaborik was less than stellar on the ice though he still managed to put six shots on net. At this point he is on someone's roster so you know he will be activated and in the lineup, but the question isn't will he produce, he has 419 points in 492 career games, the question is will he be able to stay healthy long enough to make a difference? Anyone got a magic-8 ball laying around that we can pose the question to?
Patrick Sharp, Blackhawks
Sharp was sidelined for 16 games due to a knee injury, but in his first contest back on the ice, well, it was like he never missed a game as he scored twice, including once on the power-play, while dishing out an assist. Sharp should immediately be returned to your fantasy lineup as his last goal gives him a second straight 25-goal effort, while his last power-play tally gives him nine, to tie the career best mark he posted last season when he scored a career-high 35 times overall.
James Sheppard, Wild
The Wild are divulging any details, but it appears that Mikko Koivu, the club's leading scorer, will miss at least one-to-two weeks with a knee injury. Into that void will likely step Sheppard whose play has improved of late even if the numbers don't show it (one assist in seven games). This 2006 first round draft selection has all of eight goals and 28 assists through 150 NHL games so he isn't likely to suddenly morph into a scoring star. Still, if he skates with Owen Nolan and P-M Bouchard he should be set up nicely to greatly increase his scoring presence over the final couple of weeks.
Currently in ninth place, the Ducks are pushing hard for a playoff spot despite not settling on who their No. 1 keeper is. Here are the numbers for the two options in March.
-- Jonas Hiller: 3-2, 2.16 GAA, .925 SV%-- J-S Giguere: 1-1-1, 2.98 GAA, .883 SV%
The numbers clearly favor Hiller, and in fact if we go back over Giguere's last 18 starts the numbers are abysmal: 7-8-2 with a 3.43 GAA and a .882 save percentage. With numbers like that, one has to question why the Ducks haven't realized what we all have -- this just isn't Giggy's year.
Brian Elliot, Senators
Minor league, NHL star, flop, NHL star. That is how Elliot's 2008-09 season has gone. As the team from up north surges for a last gasp effort to make the playoffs, Elliot's play has been consistently solid as he has gone 8-0 in the month of March with a 2.37 GAA. Moreover, he has allowed more than three goals only once, so even though this save percentage has been rather tame at .905, he has kept the team in every game allowing the offense to take charge. Overall he is 15-4-3 and has clearly captured the #1 role leaving Alex Auld to chart face-offs from the bench on most nights.
Detroit Red Wings
At 24-6-7, Chris Osgood is having a tremendous season. Wait, stop -- reverse that (thanks for that line, Willy Wonka). Osgood has actually been fairly brutal this season despite the record as his .884 save percentage is the worst in the league for a netminder with at least 30-appearances, while his 3.18 GAA has only been "bettered" but two other hapless losers (Vesa Toskala at 3.26 and Joey MacDonald at 3.29). He does have two shutouts on the month, but he has also been pulled twice from games in favor of Ty Conklin who has also labored of late with his worst monthly numbers since October (2.76 GAA, .892 SV%). Neither goalie has been consistent enough which only makes the Red Wings battle with the Sharks for supremacy in the West even more impressive.
Tim Thomas, Bruins
When the discussion of the NHL's best goalies come up Thomas rarely is mentioned amongst the elite in the game. That will change after the season that he is putting up as he leads the league in GAA (2.11) while his save percentage is also top (.931). In three of the six months this year Thomas' GAA has been under two, and in the other three months it has been 2.40, 2.40 and 2.37. When the worst you do is to post a mark of under two and a half goals a game you are doing something right.
Cam Ward, Hurricanes
It only seems like he has made every start since New Year's. The truth is that it has only been 22 straight games between the pipes. In those starts he has gone 14-6-2, but it has been his play in the month of March that has been superlative as he has posted a 2.15 GAA and a .923 save percentage. Ward is just three victories off his career-high of 37, and his GAA (2.50) and save percentage (.914) have both improved for the third straight year. He could play out the string for the 'Canes, and whenever he is in the lineup you will want him in yours.
* Twelve teams play four games this week: Anaheim, Calgary, Columbus, Detroit, Edmonton, Florida, Minnesota, Nashville, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Tampa Bay and Vancouver.
* Four teams play only two games this week: Boston, Phoenix, Pittsburgh and Washington.