Will Steven Stamkos be able to score 50 goals in 50 games? Probably not. However the incredible pace that he has been able to set from the beginning of the season has certainly left the others so far behind, that he must now be considered within the top 3 players of hockey, if he wasn’t before. It is a coming of age for Stamkos, and some accomplishment for an Ontario kid who was able to meet one of the other 3, Sidney Crosby, during the Stanley Cup Final before he had even played an NHL game, as part of the elite of the 2008 draft. He is still only 20, just a year older than me, but he is now a superstar.
Incredible to think that Stamkos was left out of the talent class that won Canada a gold medal in the Vancouver Olympic Games, however he has more than been able to make not only a case for 2014, but to be able to lead the team whether in a Lightning jersey, or a Canadian one. Clearly the Yzerman influence is already bringing everything out in Stamkos. He leads the league in goals with 19, including 10 powerplay goals, leads also in points with 34, and has 3 game-winning goals. These are absolutely huge numbers, and the makings of not only a fantasy powerhouse, but the signs of a force for years to come.
Stamkos brought his goal total up to 19 with a hat-trick against the Flyers in a wild 8-7 win, however this week also saw Jonathan Toews and Jarome Iginla each also able to have 3-goal nights. Toews’ trick came against the Oilers in a 5-0 win, and Iginla’s came against the Blackhawks on Friday night, as finally he is beginning to heat up offensivelywith 5 goals in his last 2 games.
Meanwhile in the defensive side of things, the netminder who is still riding the hottest streak is the Canadien’s Carey Price. Since Nov.11 Price has won 4 from 5 to take the league lead, including a 41-save shutout at home to the Flyers, following by another at the Bell Centre on Saturday night against the Leafs to a national audience. These performances are even more impressive considering Price has already had more shutouts in a week than he managed the whole of last year, and he is now just one win short of matching last season’s total of 13.
The hottest team of the week is the Phoenix Coyotes, who after topping Vancouver last night made it six wins in a row. Ilya Bryzgalov has won five of those six, and has not had a save percentage under .900 since the first of those five, a 5-4 win against Calgary on November 12. The Western Conference is still looking very strong, with teams like Los Angeles, Colorado, Phoenix, and Columbus all having 7 wins in their last 10. These were the so-called up and coming teams, while the Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks are 7th, and conference finalists San Jose are 11th. Many people’s favourite for the Cup this year, the Vancouver Canucks are still only 8th, and have lost three straight including a 7-1 demolition at home to Chicago on Saturday. Roberto Luongo was chased, and before then he had not lost in regulation at Rogers Arena. It was the shock result of the week for sure.
Though it is Detroit who are truly setting the pace in the NHL right now. 8-1-1 in their last 10 with an offense that is quickly erasing the memory of last year’s slow start. Henrik Zetterberg had two game-changing goals last night to take his team to overtime, Pavel Datsyuk has 6pts in his last 3, but it is the old-timers who are making it look easy right now. Brian Rafalski had seven assists in three games this week, and Nick Lidstrom had 3pts last night including a beautiful game-winner to push his numbers to over a point a game.
Just goes to show, if you still put up good numbers all round at 40 years old, age really isn’t an issue when it comes to fantasy value!