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Blue Line Buzz: Defensive movers and shakers

by | Rotowire.com
  •  

Observations and Ponderings

Mark Streit may be one of the league's best offensive defensemen no one talks about, as he suffers from the same disease as John Tavares: being a member of the New York Islanders. Streit's overtime goal against Los Angeles on Saturday was Scott Niedermayer-esque. Streit collected the puck at center ice, built up speed and smoothly navigated his way through all four Kings' players and placed a slick backhander past Jonathan Quick. True, Streit is not greatest shut-down defender in the league, so we'll disregard his minus-19 rating, but he has goals in the last two games and three points over the last four contests. If you can take the plus-minus hit, grab him before your league's trade deadline. He runs a power play with Tavares and the quietly productive Matt Moulson, logs a ton of minutes each night and has 31 points on the season.

One of the best saves of the season undoubtedly had to be Dallas netminder Kari Lehtonen's pad save against Buffalo's Thomas Vanek Friday in the waning seconds of overtime. Lehtonen denied Vanek a tap-in after a nifty drop pass from his teammate, Christian Ehrhoff, as Lehtonen somehow lifted his leg off the ice while sprawled out on his stomach. Dallas eventually lost in a shootout, but Lehtonen's mind-blowing save secured a much-needed point for the Stars.

Those looking for slick stick handling, will want to check out Jamie McGinn's goal for the Sharks from Friday night, which iced their win over Chicago. McGinn stunned Corey Crawford from the side of the goal, changing the angle thanks to some deftly skilled dragging of the puck.

Philadelphia simply can not beat the Rangers, and made it five losses to their rivals Saturday. It does not matter if Sergei Bobrovsky or Ilya Bryzgalov is between the pipes. Bryzgalov missed the game with the flu, but he seems to be conspicuously absent from games against stronger teams. When Bryz does play, it's a rough outing as evidenced by last Sunday against the Rangers and two weeks ago against Boston. Regardless, the Flyers seem to be reverting to their goonish ways on occasion thanks to Tom Sestito and Zac Rinaldo, who combined for 43 penalty minutes on Saturday.

However, Scott Hartnell is enjoying a career season and roused the Philly faithful with a unique goal celebration Thursday against Toronto. After slamming home the game's opener, Hartnell immediately celebrated by fighting Dion Phaneuf, who had leveled him moments earlier. The fight seemed to draw a greater response than the goal.

If you weren't fortunate enough to grab Hartnell during the draft, hopefully you snagged his teammate Wayne Simmonds or New Jersey's David Clarkson in leagues that reward penalty minutes. Both are having career seasons; Clarkson has 21 goals and is close to cracking the 100 penalty minute barrier. Simmonds has been red hot since the All-Star break with five goals and two assists along with 12 penalty minutes.

If Evgeni Malkin does not win the Hart Trophy this season, then the same people who vote in college football polls now cast the ballots for the NHL's awards. Malkin has carried an injury-riddled Pittsburgh squad through the league's toughest division (or second-toughest, if you favor the Central) into playoff contention and starred in Saturday's boat race with Winnipeg, notching five points. Malkin's quiet leadership and ability to improve those around him is exemplary.

Staying in Pittsburgh, Kris Letang rejoined his team's success with a two-goal, three-point effort in Saturday's win over Winnipeg, ending a six-game point drought, his longest of the season.

You have to give Montreal's Tomas Plekanec credit for flying so boldly in the face of fashion. He singlehandedly has to be keeping the mock turtleneck makers the NHL uses in business, especially considering the hit designers took when Alexei Yashin retired.

NBC is continuing to promote their seven-team league on Sunday afternoons, with Washington and the Rangers facing off in the national spotlight this week. I'm not advocating the inclusion of Columbus and Minnesota on a weekly basis, but acknowledge a few more teams than the usual seven.

Colorado's Erik Johnson scored a goal Saturday. And no, that's not a typo. Johnson notched his first tally since December 17 and just his second of the season, meaning Johnson is only nine goals behind St. Louis' Chris Stewart on the year. Johnson has had a disappointing first full season in Denver, with 20 points through 51 games. Cracking 30 points, which Johnson should do, is still a good benchmark for a defender, but the Avs had been expecting more from the former first overall pick.

Despite scoring one goal since the New Year, San Jose's Brent Burns is on a tear the last week, with eight assists in the last four games. Burns started slowly, by his standards, but a good finish can put him close to the 40-plus points San Jose had been hoping for when they dealt for him this past summer.

Lucy Moved The Football Again

After Ryan Whitney jumped in on Edmonton's fun last week, and Fantasy owners pounced on him, but Whitney disappointed owners this past scoring period. The brittle blue liner failed to register a point in three games this week, not contributing to any of Edmonton's nine goals. He's notoriously streaky, but his bull market phases help owners immensely, you just have to deal with the bear market days.

Another Panther on the Prowl?

Florida defender Jason Garrison, still leading all NHL defensemen with 13 goals, left Saturday's win over New Jersey with a lower-body injury, playing only 9:08. Garrison has been quiet lately compared to his rate of production earlier in the season, with five points in the last 15 games. Garrison will not play in Sunday's game, according to Florida play-by-play announcer Steve Goldstein. The nature of Garrison's injury is not known, but if he is out for a while, the Panthers will be down both him and Dmitry Kulikov.

True, Kulikov's production while he has been injured was the same as when he was playing prior to the injury, but the Panthers need someone other than Brian Campbell to shoulder the load. Youngster Erik Gudbranson played solidly in Saturday's win over New Jersey, grabbing an assist and seeing power-play time later in the game. Gudbranson has just five points on the season but boasts tremendous upside as one of the Panthers' top prospects. The former third overall pick who played his OHL hockey in Kingston probably won't challenge Erik Karlsson for the defensemen scoring lead, but he did pot 12 goals his last year in the OHL. Gudbranson has been on the radar of keeper league owners since 2010 and he could see a boost in value if Garrison is injured for a while. Gudbranson is a physical player with much upside.

Sword Play

Buffalo enigma Tyler Myers has been enjoying his team's recent run of success, as Ryan Miller is not the only player apparently turning their game around. Let's face it, Myers was primed for a bounceback season only to start abysmally, yet is starting to find his way back to relevance. Myers grabbed an assist in three straight games this past week while his teammate, Christian Ehrhoff, had a goal and an assist in two contests. There is nowhere but up to go for both Myers and Ehrhoff, but they appear to be on their way, following their teammates' lead.

Talk To Me, Goose

It might seem like we're jumping to conclusions, but Pittsburgh may have won the James Neal-for-Alex Goligoski trade from last winter. Goligoski can still go on to have a great career, but it won't be riding shotgun with Malkin or Sidney Crosby. Goligoski has certainly had his ups and downs this season, but the Minnesota native is turning the corner as Dallas battles for a playoff berth. Goligoski has six points over the last six games and eight in the last eight dating back to before the All-Star break. The talent has always been there, as evidenced by his breakout season last year, but it has been frustrating as he is one of those players that has too much potential to simply reserve on a weekly basis.

Conversely, Sheldon Souray has been mostly invisible since the calendar turned to 2012, as he has two points in 13 games. Souray is battling an ankle injury, but given that he has five points since November 11, most owners probably moved on after being rewarded with a strong start.

Something Blue

To say Columbus is having a slightly forgettable season is putting it lightly. Newly acquired Jeff Carter is a shell of himself and Rick Nash remains buried in obscurity. The Jackets did get a glimpse of their future this past week courtesy of rookie defenseman David Savard, who registered a two-point night in Tuesday's rare win, grabbing his first career goal. Keep your eye on him. Fedor Tyutin continues to lead the way for Columbus rearguards with 22 points. Sure, he has a minus-14 and his three points over two games may have ended a nine-game points drought, but he could be kicking around on your league's waiver wire if you're willing to endure his inconsistency.

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Player News
Anders Lee
Islanders' Lee Likely Scratch Saturday
Anders Lee, C, NYI
4/26/2015
News: Anders Lee is likely to be a scratch for Game 6 on Saturday, Zac Boyer of the Washington Times reports.
Analysis: Anders Lee will likely be replaced by Eric Boulton in the lineup. The 24-year-old had been ineffective through the first five games of the Islanders' series and all signs point to Lee sitting out for Game 6.

Riley Sheahan
Wings' Sheahan Nets Game Winner
Riley Sheahan, C, DET
8:38 PM
News: Riley Sheahan scored the game-winning goal in Saturday's 4-0 win over Tampa Bay. He is riding a three-game, three-point scoring streak.
Analysis: He's delivering clutch points and is seeing time on the power play where two of those three points -- both goals -- have come. Great postseason debut.

Petr Mrazek
Wings' Mrazek: Second Shutout In Last Three Games
Petr Mrazek, G, DET
8:31 PM
News: Petr Mrazek blanked the Lightning on Saturday for the second time this postseason. He delivered a 28-save, 4-0 victory and staked the Red Wings to a 3-2 series lead.
Analysis: Geez, you think this guy's confidence is soaring right now? Wow. The shutout is his second in three games who came into this series with no previous NHL playoff experience. And by the way, the Bolts were only the NHL's highest-scoring team during the regular season. Jimmy Howard who?

Braden Holtby
Holtby Strong In Caps Loss, Makes 35 Saves
Braden Holtby, G, WAS
8:17 PM
News: Braden Holtby made 35 saves in a penalty-filled, 3-1 loss to the Islanders on Saturday night. He allowed two goals.
Analysis: The game was chaotic and the winning goal was scored when the Isles poked the puck loose out of a shoving match that was going on between the benches and broke in on net. Braden Holtby was left on his own with a wide-open Nik Kulemin streaking at him. The Caps return home for Game 7 on Monday and Holtby will be between the pipes.

John Carlson
Carlson Nets Caps' Only Goal In Game 6
John Carlson, D, WAS
8:06 PM
News: John Carlson scored the Capitals only goal in a 3-1 loss to the Islanders in Game 6 on Saturday night. It came on the power play.
Analysis: He has three points in the six-game series and Monday's tilt will determine who moves on and who heads to the golf course. John Carlson is coming off a massive year and will be part of the core group that hopes to send the Islanders packing.

Nikolay Kulemin
Kulemin Scores Winner For Isles, Forces Game 7
Nikolay Kulemin, LW, NYI
7:13 PM
News: Nikolay Kulemin scored the game-winning goal in Saturday's 3-1, Game 6 win over the Capitals.
Analysis: He was Johnny on the spot and wide open in front of Braden Holtby on a strange play. He went across the top of the crease and wrapped the puck inside the left post after bulling his way through a melee between the benches. There were simply too many Caps out of the play and Kuly took advantage. It's his second point of the postseason.

John Tavares
Tavares Helps Lead Isles To Game 6 Win
John Tavares, C, NYI
7:07 PM
News: John Tavares had a goal and assist in Saturday's Game 6 win over the Capitals. He opened the scoring seven minutes into the game and set up the winner.
Analysis: He now has six points in six games and is the reason the winning goal was scored. There was a bit of a shoving match going on in between the two benches and he gathered the puck up and took off up the middle. He tried to split the defenders and was bowled over by two Caps before he could get the shot off. The puck squirted to a teammate, who set up Nik Kulemin who wrapped it in while those two Caps were still in the corner with John Tavares.

Ronalds Kenins
Canucks' Kenins A Healthy Scratch In Game 6
Ronalds Kenins, LW, VAN
6:10 PM
News: Ronalds Kenins will be a healthy scratch for Game 6 against the Flames on Saturday, Mark Spector of Sportsnet.ca reports.
Analysis: Ronalds Kenins took the ice in the first five games of the series but didn't cut the mustard for Game 6. At this point his status for a potential Game 7 will be unknown until pregame warmups Monday.

Ryan Miller
Canucks' Miller To Start In Game 6
Ryan Miller, G, VAN
5:37 PM
News: Ryan Miller will start in net against the Flames for Game 6 on Saturday.
Analysis: Ryan Miller made the most of a relief appearance in Game 4 and had a solid outing as the starter in Game 5 that secured his spot in net for Saturday. His last time out resulted in 20 saves and one goal allowed, but the 34-year-old will be taking the ice for a second-straight elimination game.

Calvin de Haan
Isles' de Haan (Shoulder) Sits Out Saturday
Calvin de Haan, D, NYI
5:28 PM
News: De Haan (shoulder) was unable to take the ice in Game 6 against the Capitals on Saturday.
Analysis: De Haan was considered questionable heading into Game 6 and ultimately stayed off the ice as a result of his current shoulder injury. His next opportunity to skate will be in Game 7 on Monday.

 
 
 
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