Well, that didn’t take long. In just his second full NHL campaign, St. Louis rearguard Alex Pietrangelo has launched himself into the elite group of blueliners.
This despite a slow start where he managed just 11 points in his first 37 contests. In the midst of said slump, the Blues acquired Kris Russell - a favorite of coach Ken Hitchcock’s. The move cannibalized Pietrangelo’s power play time, but the 22-year-old has certainly seized the PP reins back - and with authority.
In his past 22 games, he has five goals and 23 points. Of those 23 points, 12 have come on the power play. He has single-handedly injected life into the Blues’ PP and I say this because for the better part of a month his partner, Kevin Shattenkirk, has been snakebitten. ‘Shatty’ has since shaken the cobwebs.
With Pietrangelo, the fourth overall pick in the 2008 draft, and Shattenkirk now in the zone and Andy McDonald back from his concussion, the Blues have suddenly become a team that can score. They have 23 goals in their past eight games (2.875 goals per game) after notching only 14 in the eight games prior to that (1.75).
The Blues are an underrated playoff team. They have the coaching, discipline, system - and now, thanks to Pietrangelo, offense.
WHEELING AND DEALING
Blake Wheeler is having a coming-out party. Now 25 and in his fourth season, the 6-foot-5 power forward has 40 points in his past 42 games and is plus-7 in that span. Now on a line with Andrew Ladd, he has awakened the captain to his own little hot run after a sluggish start. Ladd has five points in his past three games. The other member of the troika, Bryan Little, has six points in three. This line, made up of players between the ages of 24 and 26, is proving to be a legitimate NHL first unit. With Evander Kane leading the second line, the Jets have a one-two punch that many, back in September, thought they were lacking. You can find an in-depth look at Blake Wheeler’s statistical trend here.
CHEAP GOALTENDING HELP
If you are like many fantasy owners - in desperate need of a secondary goaltender – keep an eye on Curtis McElhinney, but don’t pull the trigger yet. The Blue Jackets have tried everyone in net short of my grandmother to stop the bleeding. But when their No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4 goalies keep getting hurt, they have no choice but to keep throwing the struggling Steve Mason out there. Now they have Curtis Sanford back as an option and McElhinney, on a rehab stint in the American League, will also be available to them soon. If he comes in and has a couple of good starts I think the Jackets will lean on him a lot and he’ll be worth a pickup. If I’m wrong, you’ll know within a week and you can always dump him. For the latest free daily NHL starting goalie information, visit Goalie Post.
INJURIES, FROM A FANTASY LEAGUE PERSPECTIVE
With Pavel Datsyuk on the shelf for the next couple of weeks (knee surgery), two linemates will take a production hit - just not his linemates. In Detroit’s first game with Datsyuk sidelined, Henrik Zetterberg moved into his spot alongside Johan Franzen and Todd Bertuzzi. So that meant Jiri Hudler and Val Filppula – Zetterberg’s usual linemates – had Danny Cleary with them. Nothing against Cleary, but he’s no Zetterberg.
Darryl Dobbs’ Fantasy Pool Look is an in-depth presentation of player trends, injuries and much more as it pertains to rotisserie pool leagues. Also, get the top 300 roto-player rankings on the first of every month in THN’s Fantasy section. Do you have a question about fantasy hockey? Send it to the Fantasy Mailbag.