Crashing the Net takes you around the league you almost forgot about and all of the fantasy ins and outs, ups and downs.
Alex Burrows, Canucks
The most valuable forward in the NHL in March? Maybe not, but when a guy scores 11 goals, dishes out four assists, and is a +13 in 14 games, well then, he's certainly in the discussion. Skating with the Sedin Twins has made all the difference in the world for this rugged winger, though no one could have expected an outburst like we have seen over the past 14 games from this Quebec native.
T.J. Oshie, Blues
Thirty-six points in 51 games is a fine rookie season, but the production for Oshie has seriously ramped up of late. In his last 13 games Oshie has 13 points (4g, 9a) not to mention a plus/minus rating of +7. Moreover, dating back to the start of the new year, Oshie has 31 points in 38 games during which time he is a +14. This is one rookie to watch moving forward as his overall game, including his leadership skills, are certainly top-notch.
Ales Kotalik, Oilers
Ales broke an eight game pointless spell with a four point effort on Mar. 19. Unfortunately, he then went two more games without a point while recording a (-3). Hardly the type of consistency one is looking for. Regardless, Ales has been consistently excellent of late with a goal in 4-straight contests. That's right, after going pointless in his first six games with the Oil, Kotalik has five goals and three assists in seven games. Don't be afraid to run the Czech native out there every game the rest of the way.
Dustin Penner, Oilers
It's been yet another season of roller-coaster action for Dustin. However, it's been mostly thrills of late as he has scored three goals in his last six games to go along with four assists in seven contests. He is also a +3 in that time, and though he hasn't produced a single PIM in eight games, but he has produced a bit on the power-play (three points in his hot spell) and for now he remains in the favor of the coaching staff. He has shown a an extremely inconsistent approach over the years, but for now it seems to be all positive.
Jason Pominville, Sabres
It hasn't been all peaches and cream this season as Jason has just 58 points, this after a career best total of 80 last year. He will also need the streak of all streaks to avoid failing to score 25 times for the first time in three years (he has only 16 markers), but on the positive side his play has improved of late. Pominville has recorded a point in each of the last six games accounting for two goals and eight assists, or honestly, his production would look much worse. Still, we are concerned about today and tomorrow not yesterday, and for now he is hot.
Ryan Shannon, Senators
Shannon has 17 points in 28 games for the Sens as he has begun to produce the secondary scoring that they have lacked for most of the season. Even better, he has produced 11 of those points in his last 12 games while he has scored a single goal in each of the past four contests that he has participated in. Moreover, the smallish winger also has points in five straight games (4g, 2a) and he just might be available on waivers depending on the depth of your league. All of that makes Shannon a terrific target if you need a late boost in the scoring department.
Zdeno Chara, Bruins
The massive blue liner hasn't scored a goal in eight games (he has 16 overall). That's not too strange as blue liners can go long periods without lighting the lamp. What is odd for a player who has a +23, and one who has finished with at least a +14 in five of the past six seasons, is the fact that he is a poor (-4) in his last five games. Add in the fact that he has only four PIM in seven games, leaving him 20-PIM short of an eighth straight season of 100, and one can see a slight crack in the armor of this amazingly consistent performer.
Dany Heatley, Senators
With seven games to go Dany needs to score five times for a fourth straight 40-goal campaign. With seven games to go Dany needs to score 15 points for a fourth straight 80-point campaign. With seven games to go Dany needs to go +39 for a fourth straight season with a +29 rating or better. OK, he probably isn't going to do all that (wink, wink), so one can say without reservation that this has been his worst season since joining the Senators. In addition, his play has ground to a halt of late with just one goal in four games and not a single assist in seven contests. It's tough to say that a season of 35 goals (14 on the power-play), 32 assists and 80 PIM is an outright disappointment, but in this case it certainly is from one of the top scoring left wings in the NHL.
Milan Hejduk, Avalanche
Twenty-six goals and 55 points give him a sixth straight year of at least 24 goals and 54 points. However, there is much to be concerned with here. Never a minus player at any point in his previous nine seasons, Hejduk currently sits at (-21). Despite the solid goal total, he has scored only once in his last 10 games during which time he has also dished off only one help (that's two points in 10 games for those of you who started flunking match when problems required you to count on more than your fingers and toes). He is also a monstrously hideous (-14) in his last 10 contests. Add that all up and he has been one huge liability to fantasy squads in the month of March.
Olli Jokinen, Flames
Jokinen has eight goals in 13 games in a Flames' uniform, a tremendous total. However, all of that scoring was done right after he joined the club in the trade deadline deal with the Coyotes as he has failed to light the lamp in seven games. Moreover, he has only one assist in five games and his plus/minus in his last 12 games is a terrible (-7). These things usually have a ways of balancing themselves out over the long run with players of this skill level, after he is just one goal short of a fourth straight 30-goal campaign, but this will be the first time in four years that he will fail to record at least 71 points (he currently has only 55).
Patrick Kane, Blackhawks
After a five-game point streak, this second-year marvel has gone five games without a single point. He has also posted a (-1) rating in each of the past three contests, and we all know he is rarely involved in the rough stuff (only two PIM in 13 games). This latest slump puts Kane in danger of failing to match his point total of 72 from his rookie season as he currently rests at 64 points, though he does have three more goals this season with 24. Overall this has been a strong second season, but when his owners need him most down the stretch, he has been pretty invisible.
Bryan McCabe, Panthers
After a season of just 54 games played due to injury in which he scored just five times and produced 23 points, McCabe's '08-09 season of 12 goals and 33 points for the Panthers certainly shouldn't be viewed as an abject failure. At the same time, he did score 15 times with 57 points in his last healthy season (2006-07 with the Leafs), a season which capped a three-year run of at least 53 points a stanza. Still, his point total has diminished, and as of late "diminished" isn't nearly a strong enough word to describe his lack of production. A better term would be non-existent. Over the past seven games, McCabe has failed to register a single point while recording a (-4). In addition, he has only six PIM in his last 16 games so he isn't adding any value there either. Overall we can say he has had a fair season, but of late it has been fairly ugly.
Jonathan Cheechoo, Sharks
This has been the least productive season of Cheechoo's career since a 66-game rookie season. Having scored at least 23 times with an average of 36 goals a season the previous four years, he has lit the lamp only 10 times this season as he has been asked to fill a third line checking role on most nights due to the fine play of Ryane Clowe (22g, 30a, 11 PP goals). However, Patrick Marleau recently tweaked his lower-body, and as a result the now healthy Cheechoo -- he had missed two games of his own with a lower-body injury -- is being asked to skate with Joe Thornton in the short-term (Marleau should be back in a couple of games). While it's certainly too late to make much of a difference, perhaps Cheechoo and Thornton can rekindle some of their old magic over the next few games giving Cheechoo some value in deep leagues (he scored the game-winning goal for the Sharks on Monday night while firing six shots on net).
We'll just say it. Jonas Hiller should be the starting netminder if the Ducks are serious about making the playoffs. Numbers don't ever tell the whole story, but in this case they seem to be pretty definitive. Here are each netminders marks in March:
Giguere: 2-2-1, 3.13 GAA, .879 SV%Hiller: 5-2, 1.82 GAA, .937 SV%
Yes, we touched on this battle last week, but apparently Ducks' coach Randy Carlyle missed the piece, so we thought we would review things again this week. Here is what he said recently. "There are peaks and valleys, and right now, it is what it is from a standpoint that we're going to make those decisions. Hopefully you make the right one, because both players have performed in tough circumstances for us." Coaches love to lean on the guys that have 'been there before,' but at some point don't you have to go with the player who is performer at a higher level, pedigree be damned?
Craig Anderson, Panthers
Tomas Vokoun is second in the NHL with a .925 save percentage. However, he has won only one of his last eight appearances despite allowing more than three goals only once. What is a team to do in such circumstances? Turn to its backup goalie of course. Anderson has won his last three starts, and overall his save percentage is just a hair behind Vokoun's at .924. What does all of this mean for a club that sits in ninth place, one point out of the playoffs? It means they will ride the hot hand, and for now that hand belongs to Anderson. HC Pete DeBoer said that Anderson will continue to play in net at least until the team loses. ''I don't care if we win 10-9,'' he said. While we love Vokoun, it should be mentioned that since joining the Panthers at the end of the 2006-07 season, Anderson has truly been remarkable going 23-13-7 with a 2.52 GAA and a .928 save percentage. Guess he might deserve more work after all.
Chris Mason, Blues
Fresh off being named the NHL's Star of the Week for his 4-0 effort with a 1.72 GAA, Mason sits alone as the man in net for the Blues (he has for a long while actually). Though his overall record is just 23-20-6, Mason has been smoking since the All-Star break going 18-7-5 with a 2.06 GAA in those 30 games. In addition, his save percentage has been superb at .925, and he has even racked up three shutouts for the Blue Notes in that time. As impressive has been his consistency as he has allowed more than three goals just three times in his last 19 appearances. After last seasons failures (2.90 GAA, .898 SV%), it's great to see him rebound with a performance that is almost spot on what he did for the Predators in 2006-07 (2.38 GAA, .925 SV%).
Carey Price, Canadiens
In a 13-game stretch that started back on Jan. 21, Price went 2-10-1 as he was bombed for 50 goals. In stepped Jaroslav Halak who went 5-2 with a .931 save percentage in February. However, Halak hit a bump in the road in March going 0-3 with a 3.45 GAA (despite a .917 SV%), causing the Canadiens to turn back to Price who hasn't lost in regulation since March 6th as has won four games while losing three in extra time. "He's beginning to look more like the player we've seen for the first 50 games and not the last 20," general manager and head coach Bob Gainey said. "I see his body language in goal now and he doesn't resemble someone who's always guilty." Though his overall numbers are way down from last year (2.81 GAA, .904 SV%), Price figures to start pretty much every game the rest of the way as Montreal tries to hold onto it's perilous grip off a playoff spot.
* Seven teams play four games this week: Anaheim, Chicago, Dallas, New Jersey, Phoenix, San Jose and Vancouver.
* Three teams play only two games this week: Carolina, Colorado and Detroit.