Tuesday, December 23, 2008

NHL Northeast booms and busts

Just before the Christmas Holidays is now a good time to look at the early part of the season to identify the booms and busts for the NHL Northeast Division teams.

Boston Bruins:
Phil Kessel = 21 goals, 16 assists, 37 points, +15
Kessel has already matched his career-best 37 points and is on pace for 52 goals and 92 points.
He's thriving on a line with Marc Savard and Milan Lucic. Kessel is currently on a 18-game scoring streak.
David Krejci = 12 goals, 24 assists, 36 points, +18
Krejci has easily surpassed his career-best 27 points of last season. He's having great success with Blake Wheeler and Michael Ryder. He currently has 27 points in the past 15 games.
Tim Thomas and Manny Fernandez = They have combined for 24 wins in only 33 games. They also boast a great 2.12 GAA to go with a phenomenal .930 save percentage.

Marco Sturm = 7 goals, 6 assists, 13 points, +9
Granted, Sturm has missed most of the season due to a concussion and a knee injury, but the left-winger was supposed to be a critical element of the Bruins' offense after notching 56 points last season.

Buffalo Sabres:
Thomas Vanek = 24 goals, 6 assists, 30 points, -1
Vanek currently sits second in goals scored behind Jeff Carter. He's been a force the whole season for the Sabres.

Maxim Afinogenov = 1 goal, 9 assists, 10 points, -14
Afinogenov is having the worst season of his career. He definitely needs a change of scenery to regain his confidence, but who will take a chance on this underachiever?
Tim Connolly = 2 goals, 5 assists, 7 points in only 6 games
The Band-Aid boy has never been able to stay healthy for extended periods of time in the past few years.
Connolly's career may come to an abrupt end as a result.

Montreal Canadiens:
Robert Lang = 11 goals, 14 assists, 25 points, +10
When GM Bob Gainey acquired Lang's services before the season, he was slotted as the Habs third-line centre. Now that Koivu is injured and Plekanec is slumping, the Canadiens need Lang's offensive skills and leadership to keep winning.
Josh Gorges = 1 goal, 5 assists, 6 points, +14
Gorges has been the Habs' most steady d-man this season, especially during Komisarek's absence. Not known for his offensive abilities, Gorges has been very reliable this season, while seeing an increase of ice time over last season.

Tomas Plekanec
= 6 goals, 7 assists, 13 points
Coming out of a very good season, Plekanec was slated to be the Canadiens first-line centre. Instead, Plekanec is having problems finding the scoresheet, having only two goals and one assist in the last 21 games.
Chris Higgins = 5 goals, 4 assists, 9 points
After missing the first few games with a lower body injury, Higgins had problems finding his groove and his scoring touch. Save for his hat-trick against Ottawa, Higgins has not met expectations after notching 52 points last season. He is currently sidelined four to six weeks with a separate shoulder.

Ottawa Senators:
Alex Auld = He has 9 wins and 8 losses, but his posting an excellent 2.34 GAA and a good .915 save percentage. Without Auld's resurgence, the Senators would be dead last in the Eastern Conference.

Mike Fisher = 3 goals, 8 assists, 11 points, -6
After three consecutive 20-goal seasons, the fans were expecting big things from Fisher. Instead, he has had problems finding the back of the net and provide much-needed secondary scoring for Ottawa.
Antoine Vermette = 3 goals, 3 assists, 6 points, -10
After improving his point totals in each of his four NHL-seasons, Vermette was due for a breakout season. Instead, Vermette only has one goal and one assist in the last 20 games.

Toronto Maple Leafs:
Matt Stajan = 9 goals, 20 assists, 29 points, -4
After being a healthy scratch earlier this season, Stajan has exploded offensively with linemates Nik Antropov and Alex Ponikarovksy who have a good season too so far.
Mihail Grabovksi = 11 goals, 9 assists, 20 points, -2
The rookie centre is having a great season with wingers Niklas Hagman and Nikolai Kulemin on the Leafs' second line. He's the Leafs centre of the future.

Lee Stempniak
= 1 goal, 4 assists, 5 points with the Maple Leafs
Acquired in trade for Carlo Colaiacovo and Alex Steen, Stempniak was supposed to provide plenty of offense to the Leafs after notching 13 points in 14 games with the Blues. Instead, Stempniak has yet to click with any other Leafs player.
Vesa Toskala and Curtis Joseph = They have combined for 13 wins in 32 games. They also boast a ludicrous 3.28 GAA to go with a shameful .880 save percentage. Joseph is clearly over-the-hill while Toskala is battling a groin injury. It's clearly time for hyped-prospect Justin Pogge to shine in Leafland.

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