Crashing the Net: Richards, Heatley on fire

Publish date:

Crashing the Net takes you around the league you almost forgot about and all of the fantasy ins and outs, ups and downs.

Nicklas Grossman, Stars

Right off the top, this call has a lot to do with some advantageous bounces of the old puck. In addition, it's not like Nicklas has done much offensively as he hasn't posted a point in four games, has taken only three shots on goal in that time, and has a mere two penalty minutes on his ledger. So how in the heck is Grossman hot? Have you seen his plus/minus rating? Through four games the young blue liner is a +8 to lead the NHL, a total that was boosted quite nicely by his +5 mark in the third game of the season when the Stars took on the Flames. Plus/minus is very hard to get an accurate handle on since there is more to it than a mere player's performance, but so far so good with this skater. Keep in mind that in 151 games entering this season that Nicklas was a +1.

Dany Heatley, Sharks

Someone likes skating on a line with Mr. Joe Thornton. Yes it was a messy offseason, and yes people have rightly questioned Mr. Heatley's intentions, but there is no questioning the talent he brings to the ice, and in the past week he made a statement that the rest of the NHL couldn't miss -- he is back. Heatley scored five goals and dished out three assists in three games last week to earn the NHL's First Star of the Week award. Heatley recorded a hat-trick with a +6 rating against Columbus, and he now has a goal in 3-straight games and a point in 4-straigth after being held scoreless in his first game in teal. Pity the defender that is asked to shut down the Sharks top line.

Mike Richards, Flyers

So much for those dual shoulder operations slowing him down. Richards, the Flyers' captain, leads the NHL with six goals in the early going. He has already recorded a hat-trick, has scored a goal in four of five games, and has potted four of his markers with the man-advantage including one that went for a game winner. A year after recording career bests in goals (30) and assists (50), it appears that Richards is well on his way to boosting those totals in his fifth year in the NHL. What's the name of his doctor by the way? That guy obviously did a bang up job fixing both of Richards' wings.

Ryan Smyth, Kings

Smyth has always been able to score. The problem is injuries have dogged him almost every season of his career. Perhaps a move to California where it's always sunny will help. It certainly hasn't hurt so far. Smyth has played four games with his new club in Los Angeles and in those four games he has scored four times while dishing out three helpers. Besides the obvious benefits of scoring seven points in four games, it should also be pointed out that Smyth has recorded five of those points (3g, 2a) with the man-advantage making his strong start even more impressive from a fantasy angle. He hasn't scored 30-goals since 2006, but as long as he stays healthy he should be able to challenge that mark for the Kings.

David Booth, Panthers

Booth isn't a major scoring star, but the guy did have 31 goals and 60 points in his third NHL season last year. He has not been able to keep the momentum going this year as he has lit the lamp once in four games for his only point on the year. He has also taken just seven shots on goal, and when you combine that with a poor (-3) rating, it just hasn't been a good start for a guy who must produce offensively to be effective considering he has all of 78 PIMs in 197 games in his career.

Olli Jokinen, Flames

From 2002-2007, Jokinen scored at least 34 goals four times in five years (his one "failure" was a 26 goal effort in 2003). Last season, split between Phoenix and Calgary, he scored 29 times though he failed to record a marker the last 13 times he took the ice to end the regular season. Flash forward to this season and Olli has gone five games without a goal (he has two helpers). For a 30+ goal scorer, a stretch of 18 games without a goal is awful. Almost as bad, Jokinen has taken just five shots one net, one per game, in the early going. For a guy who is second in the NHL in shots since the start of the 2005 season that's simply pathetic. All of that said, Olli is simply too good to continue to struggle like this, so now is the perfect to pounce if his current owner is frustrated.

Chris Kunitz, Penguins

Last season Kunitz scored two goals in his first 20 games with the Ducks. Eventually he got going and recorded 16 goals and 35 points in 62 games with Anaheim before he was moved to the Penguins. Once united with Sidney Crosby he took off with seven goals and 11 assists in 20 games. However, he hit the skids big time in the playoffs with just one marker in 24 games causing some wonder how it's possible to skate alongside Mr. Crosby and not score goals through osmosis. Well, things have once again started slowly and Kunitz has gone five games this season without a goal. Dating back to the regular season last year that's one goal in 34 contests. Again, how is that possible skating the majority of the time on a line with Sidney Crosby?

Milan Michalek, Senators

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Long thought of as a bit of an underachiever in San Jose, Michalek was set to get a new lease on life with his move to the Senators in the Dany Heatley deal. Alas, Michalek hasn't been any kind of good in the early going as he has failed to record a single point in his four games with the Sens. He has also been a (-3) in the four contests, and has taken only nine shots on goal. Jason Spezza has also struggled a bit, and that hasn't helped Milan much, but at the same time it might just be time to admit what the Sharks seemed to have known -- Milan is a 25-goal, 60-point left winger. There is nothing wrong with that level of production, but at the same time if you go expecting more you'll likely end up disappointed.

Steve Bernier, Canucks

In case you have been under a rock, Daniel Sedin suffered a broken foot and will likely be out somewhere between 4-to-6 weeks. As a result, the Canucks vaunted first line will need some reinforcements, and that boost will have to come from Steve Bernier. A big, but not necessarily bruising forward at 6-foot-2, 225 pounds, Bernier will now skate alongside Henrik Sedin and Alex Burrows in what becomes a pretty tough line to face from a physical point of view. Bernier has never quite broken through as some had hoped, but he did score 15 times last season, had a strong preseason this year, and has three points in five games to start off the 2009-10 campaign.

Tomas Holmstrom, Red Wings

The Wings have had to juggle their lines do to health concerns, mainly the loss of Johan Franzen for something like four months with a torn ACL, and that means old names in new places. The biggest gainer of the group looks like it just might be Holmstrom who will now skate on the top line alongside Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk. It goes without saying that skating on a line with two of the top-15 or so forwards in the world should do a lot for you, and Holmstrom could certainly use the boost after an injury filled 2008-09 that resulted in his worst goal scoring effort since 2001 (he had 14 markers in 53 games lasts season).

Pekka Rinne and Dan Ellis, Predators

"Both goaltenders are playing extremely well," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "I can't make a bad choice." While that might be true and great news for the Predators, it clearly isn't a situation that fantasy owners like to see. Pekka Rinne was terrific last season with a 2.38 GAA and seven shutouts when the team really needed him do to the struggles of Dan Ellis (2.93 GAA, .900 save percentage). That led many to believe that Rinne would open the year as the starter on the club. However, Ellis was great in the preseason, and as a result Trotz chose to start the year with him in net and Ellis hasn't disappointed going 2-0 with a stellar .928 save percentage. For his part, Rinne finally made it on to the ice for the Preds last game, and though he came out the loser he made 41 saves on 42 shots in a brilliant outing. For now this situation is totally up in the air, and it may remain that way moving forward if neither goalie turns into a pumpkin at midnight.

Semyon Varlamov and Jose Theodore, Capitals

This was supposed to be the young ones battle to lose, but Varlamov has underperformed in the early going looking putrid in his two trips to the ice (5.11 GAA, .857 save percentage). As a result, is it possible that Theodore will be given the reigns and allowed to run with them? Jose will make his third straight appearance on Monday, and though his numbers also haven't been great (1-2-1, 2.90 GAA, .902 save percentage), he clearly has played better than Semyon. This situation bares a close eye because it is unlikely that either keeper will run away with the starts. However, those of you that chose Theodore late on draft day might have picked yourself up quite the bargain if things continue down the tracks the way they have started.

• Five teams play four games this week: Chicago, Colorado, Los Angeles, Nashville and Pittsburgh.

• Seven teams play only two games this week: Anaheim, Atlanta, Columbus, Florida, Montreal, St. Louis and Vancouver.

• Philadelphia plays only one game this week.