Our buddy Reggie had some things to take care of so I will be your substitute teacher for the day. Feel free to harass him for his picks for the week or check out what he really has going on over at BaseballPress.com while the hot stove starts churning. Getting back onto the subject, this week’s Crashing the Net focuses on some hot plays, top line players and those who might be turning the corner. Last week, we mentioned players like Anders Lindback, Tomas Fleischmann and Cam Fowler.
Alex Steen – C, St. Louis Blues (27 % Yahoo! / 61 %CBS)
Kevin Dupuis first mentioned Steen about two weeks ago as a player getting a heavy amount of powerplay minutes; we thought we would continue the trend and sing the former Maple Leafs’ praises. As of right now the pivot is 14th amongst forward PPTOI/G and has started to produce at even strength as well with five points over his last three games. Playing mostly on the third line has proved to be a jump start for Steen as he started to produce while playing right wing with Matt D’Agostini and Jay McClement. While we rarely recommend playing third liners in mixed leagues, his role as a powerplay specialist combined with extended even-strength ice time– only one second less than Steven Stamkos on average– make him a safe play in most formats.
Steve Sullivan – LW, Nashville Predators (24% Yahoo! / 38% CBS)
Even though Sullivan has played on the Preds’ top line all season, he still manages to sneak under the radar. Now that the team is actually winning that may change. Over the past five games, the veteran left wing has put up two goals and two points which has helped the team avoid a regulation loss over that span, winning four of five. His eight goals tie with Patric Hornqvist for the team lead while his 17 points fall one short of his centerman Cal O’Reilly. How many other first line wingers are available in 76 percent of leagues? We mentioned him before, now go out and grab him!
Derek Stepan – C, New York Rangers (9 % Yahoo! / 29% CBS)
Through thick and thin coach Tortorella has stuck with Stepan on the top line. Even with captain Chris Drury returning, the options remain Stepan and Eric Christensen. Needless to say this coach seems emfatuated with the former Team USA captain, comparing him at one point to Brad Richards. So far Stepan has developed chemistry with Michael Del Zotto on the powerplay while not looking out of place between Ruslan Fedotenko and Marian Gaborik. There is a good chance you can grab him on the waiver wire and obtain a first line center in the process.
Jack Skille – RW, Chicago Blackhawks (2% Yahoo! / 7% CBS)
Similar to Stepan, Skille gets the chance to play with a superstar in Jonathan Toews. At this point, he seems to be one of the team’s best options on the top line, if not their only option. As long as Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa are out, Skille will have value as he plays on the first line with Toews and Viktor Stalberg. However, considering he does not play on either powerplay units, his value may be limited and expire as soon as the Blackhawks get healthier. Drafted 7th overall in 2005, this Wisconsin native has failed to dominate on any level which probably accounts for his late break into the League. Nevertheless, his goal against the Avalanche coupled with his pedigree are enough to take a risk in deeper leagues.
Johnny Boychuk – D, Boston Bruins (3% Yahoo! / 44% CBS)
Suddenly the Bruins need Boychuk to step back up after losing both Matt Hunwick and Mark Stuart abruptly. Although injured earlier in the season and held without a goal to this point, we think the 26-year-old will have no problem turning things around. Keep in mind that Boychuk posted an impressive two goals and six points when the games mattered in the playoffs last season. He also scored an overwhelming 20 goals and 65 points with the Providence Bruins of the AHL the season before. With a powerful shot from the point and a strong supporting cast, Boychuk should translate his past offensive success to the NHL level sooner rather than later.
Andrej Sekera – D, Buffalo Sabres (0% Yahoo! / 3% CBS)
Getting paired with reigning Calder Trophy winner Tyler Myers has been a success for the fourth-year defenseman. In fact, by stepping up in the team’s time of need, he effectively benched the team’s captain Craig Rivet. A quick glance at his peripherals may seem to be misleading but keep in mind he has a modest six points over his last 19 games. His numbers look solid across the board when prorated as he is on pace for over 100 shots and plays important minutes both at even strength and on the second powerplay unit. Sekera has only missed one game so far this season after spending the majority of his NHL career shuffling in and out of the lineup. As long as he continues to play on the top line his numbers should only improve, especially since this projected playoff team is starting to get back to 100 percent healthy.
Brian Boucher – G, Philadelphia Flyers (7% Yahoo / 22% CBS)
Opposed to last year, Boucher has shown flashes of his previous NHL success. His 2.21 GAA and .918 SV% have been stellar, especially his most recent win over the streaking Pittsburgh Penguins. At the moment he has won three in a row and five of his last six, making the case for additional playing time. Although Sergei Bobrovsky took the second half of back-to-back games, there appears to be a goaltending shuffle and therefore Boucher should be applied as a handcuff to his rookie counterpart. The Flyers are the best team in the League right now so it is actually not uncommon to see a roster-able backup.
Others to Monitor
Erik Cole – LW, Carolina Hurricanes (13% Yahoo! / 17% CBS)
Cole has been put back on the wing of longtime teammate and captain Eric Staal– where he has historically shown his offensive upside. Last night the move translated to an important goal against the Florida Panthers. Perhaps more encouraging was Cole taking three shots on goal rather than one in his previous three games. If the Canes go on one of their notable winning streaks it will likely be with Cole riding shotgun to their best offensive weapon. In deeper leagues this production simply cannot be ignored.
Jamie McBain – D, Carolina Hurricanes (13% Yahoo! / 46% CBS)
Like Cole, McBain is the beneficiary of some line juggling of his own. His defensive partner, Jay Harrison, is currently sidelined which has actually given McBain a promotion to the top defensive pairing– alongside workhorse Joni Pitkanen. Just like Cole, McBain rewarded head coach Paul Maurice with a goal and took three shots on net as well. His three goals and 10 points over 14 games last year gave us a good idea of what the rookie can do while playing important minutes, he just needs the opportunity to play. Moving from the third pairing with an enforcer as his partner to the top unit should do just that.
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