Crashing the Net takes you around the league, touching on hot and cold players, battles for ice-time and what's going on in net.
Arron Asham, FlyersA physical player who harkens back to the days of the Broadstreet Bullies, Asham has actually been providing a nice boost of offense over the past few tilts. Never one to be confused with Jeff Carter, Asham has nonetheless scored three goals in his last five games, including a game winner (Carter has one goal in his last six games, by the way). But Asham still knows what puts food in his mouth: He also has nine PIMs over the past four games, and for the first time in his career he has reached double-digit goals (10) and triple-digit PIMs (119). He's nothing more than a depth player in deep leagues, but if you need a boost off waivers for the final week, he's worth a look.
Michael Grabner, CanucksMikael Samuelsson has returned to the lineup from a shoulder injury, and he brings with him 30 goals and 53 points. However, he returned to play on the third line, as Grabner continued to see time on the second unit thanks to his strong play of late. The Canucks first round pick in 2006, Grabner has 11 points in 18 games during his rookie season, and four points in his last two games, including his first career hat-trick on April 2nd against the Ducks. If Michael continues to see time on the second line and continues to fire the puck on net (he has 10 shots in his last two games), then you just might have a hidden gem you can roster for the final week of the season.
Peter Mueller, AvalancheLeft for dead in Phoenix, Mueller got a new lease on life when he was traded to the 'Lanche at the deadline. The move has rejuvenated the once-promising scorer, who has produced a whopping 20 points in just 15 games with Colorado. Mueller hasn't been some passing prima donna, either, as he has lit the lamp nine times, including four goals in his last four games. Unfortunately, he came up lame after a hit into the boards from Rob Blake in the Avalanche's last game (it seemed pretty innocuous at the time). "I haven't seen it, but I didn't think it was too bad," said Blake. "We were both going in there together and there were no elbows or anything like that." There's no word yet on how much time, if any, Peter will miss, but those that picked him up off the scrap heap have to hope he'll be right back in there while continuing to blister opposing teams nets.
Saku Koivu, DucksFreshly named the NHL's Second Star, Koivu had a great four game stretch last week with four goals and four assists for the Ducks (he also helped linemate Teemu Selanne to a big week with three goals and three helpers). In addition to the points, Koivu was also a highly impressive +5 (Selanne was a +6) as the Ducks attempt to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. Saku's first season in Anaheim has been positive, as he has recorded 49 points with a +13 in 69 games. With one more point, he will have reached the 50-point mark for the seventh straight season.
Jarome Iginla, FlamesIt's hard to bash a guy who is a team leader, a community leader and a 32-goal scorer. At the same time, Iginla has been all over the map this season with periods of hot and cold play. Thanks to his current stretch of futility (one goal in 13 games, including eight straight scoreless), Iginla could very well end the season with his worst goal total since 2000, when he pushed 31 pucks past netminders. Iginla has also been a minus player this year (-1), and his power-play points total of 21 is his worst mark since 2002. This season certainly isn't what anyone who drafted Iginla was hoping for, especially not after three straight years of at least 89 points.
Dion Phaneuf, LeafsPhaneuf has never gotten going this season. After scoring at least 17 times with 49 or more points in his first three seasons, Dion slumped to 11 goals and 47 points last season. This year, his production has gone down yet again, to 10 goals and 30 points. Unfortunately for the Leafs, the change of scene didn't do him any good -- he hasn't scored a single goal in 23 games (he has eight assists). On the year, Phaneuf has also seen a reduction in his PIM total with 77, meaning he'll likely set a five year low in that category as well (his previous low is 93). Not much has gone well for the Alberta native this season.
Devin Setoguchi, SharksA 31 goal scorer in his second season last year, Setoguchi was looked upon as a potential scoring star on the Sharks' second line this season. It just hasn't turned out that way. He has just 19 goals on the year, including three in 16 games, as he continues to struggle his way to the 20-goal plateau. In fact, if you remove his hot start to the year, when he lit the lamp four times in four games, Setoguchi has 14 markers in 63 games. That's just flat out ugly, folks. As a result of his poor play, he has found himself spending a good portion of the season on the third and fourth lines, and that isn't a recipe for goal scoring success.
Alex Tanguay, LightningSigned to a one-year deal in the hopes that he would provide something close to his career average of 0.84 points per game, Tanguay has delivered a disasterous season. Here is how profound his struggles have been.
• He has nine goals. He has never scored fewer than 13 times in a season and has lit the lamp at least 16 times in each of the past six seasons. He has gone a whopping 22 games without a goal.
• His total of 35 points means he will have to record at least seven points the rest of the way to avoid his career worst points total of 41 from last season (he dressed for only 50 games, 26 fewer than this season).
• He has never been a "minus" skater before. This year he is (-2).
• His points total of seven with the man advantage is only half of his previous worst of 15 power-play points.
Any way you look at it, the Bolts didn't get what they paid for with Tanguay's massively disappointing season.
Matt Climie, StarsThe Stars have a pretty good idea of what they have in Kari Lehtonen, the presumptive starter for the club next season. The team is also nearly certain to let Marty Turco walk this offseason, so it needs to find support for Lehtonen. Enter Climie, who is scheduled to start on Tuesday versus the Blackhawks. Climie, like Turco an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year, hopes to prove to the Stars that he deserves serious consideration as the backup netminder in the Lone Star State next season. Climie, looking for his first real shot at NHL work at 27 years of age, was 7th in the AHL in GAA (2.40) and save percentage (.921) this season. "We don't have a lot of intimate knowledge on him," head coach Marc Crawford said. "I'm also aware that he's played really well." If you need a start this week in net from a waiver-wire grab, Climie might be that guy, though it's not like he will be facing an opponent that lacks scoring talent.
Jaroslav Halak, CanadiensThe first net minder for the Habs to post back-to-back shutouts in four years, Halak was named the NHL's Second Star for the just completed week. Halak has continued to outplay Carey Price, and as a result he has a large games played advantage over the younger keeper (12 games to five) since the Olympic break. In those 12 games Halak has been magnificent, posting a 1.68 GAA and a .937 save percentage, not to mention a sparkling 9-2-1 record. There's no longer any doubt who should be in the net at the moment -- it's Halak.
Antti Niemi, BlackhawksNiemi has started the last five Blackhawks' games, and he appears likely to play on Tuesday as well. "Right now, he's going good," head coach Joel Quenneville said. "Tuesday (in Dallas) likely he'll be going again, and we'll go from there." While Cristobal Huet has struggled since the Olympic break, posting a hideous .833 save percentage in six games, Niemi has actually upped his save percentage slightly to .918 percent while seeing his GAA go down a hundredth to 2.15 in 13 games. Just like with the Canadiens, it's clear who Chicago has chosen to roll with in net come playoff time.
Tuukka Rask, BruinsRask, the NHL's Third Star from last week, allowed a mere two goals in two games despite a 1-1 record. Moreover, Rask has allowed a total of four goals in his last four games and seven in six games as his GAA has dipped to an amazing 1.97 in 42 contests. As a result of his scorching hot play of late, Tuukka now leads the NHL in GAA -- Niemi is second at 2.16 -- and save percentage (his .931 mark leads second place Ryan Miller, who is at .928). If Rask had played more games this season, it's quite possible he would be the front runner for the Vezina trophy.
* Fifteen teams play four games this week: Anaheim, Boston, Buffalo, Chicago, Colorado, Edmonton, Florida, Los Angeles, New Jersey, NY Islanders, NY Rangers, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Tampa Bay and Washington.
* One team plays only two games this week: Nashville.