While the team was struggling through the first month or so of the season, pool staples such as Claude Giroux, Vincent Lecavalier, Scott Hartnell and Kimmo Timonen were upping the frustration meter on their owners with few points and dreadful plus-minus totals.
However, the Flyers’ long-awaited surge has put their top players -- some of whom may already been dropped and are available -- back on the radar. Since opening November with just two total goals in four games, the Flyers have tallied 21 times in six games, going 5-0-1 heading into Saturday’s tilt against the Islanders. And, again proving that scoring is infectious, it’s been an across-the-board turnaround.
Giroux finally netted his first (and second) goals of the season during the run, and has added four assists and a plus-6. He has more than doubled his season points totals the past seven games and is finally producing like a first-round fantasy pick. The buy-low window is pretty much shut on him. Hartnell is 3-2-5 over that same stretch, Jakub Voracek 2-4-6, Lecavalier 3-2-5, Wayne Simmonds 2-2-4 and Brayden Schenn 3-3-6. Even the third line has chipped in nicely. Steve Downie -- whose return from IR on Nov. 12 helped kickstart the hot streak -- Matt Read and Sean Couturier have contributed four goals and 13 points. Even the back end looks better with Timonen rediscovering his game with four points and a plus-6, and goalie Steve Mason going 3-0-2 in his past five games.
Do we write this all off as a hot streak that every team goes through a few times a season? In this case, no. Most of these players have been solid fantasy contributors in the past and, with the occasional dip, continue to produce decent numbers.
-- Ryan Kesler owners, no doubt, weren’t thrilled to see their man back centring the second line on Tuesday, at least not after his whirlwind tour on the wing with the Sedins. However, a 3-2 home loss to Florida that night prompted even further line changes, with the twins separated once again on Friday -- Kesler centring Daniel and Mike Santorelli, Henrik flanked by Chris Higgins and Alex Burrows. It’s John Tortorella. Live with it.
-- Islanders’ Michael Grabner was a heathy scratch Tuesday against the Maple Leafs. Who could have foreseen this coming after the Austrian winger with the pull-you-out-of-your- seat speed had three-point nights in two of his first three games this season? Alas, he has mustered just two assists over the next 16 games and has nothing since their Oct. 17 win over the Oilers. He was back in the lineup Friday, but as a fourth-liner.
-- With the Rangers scoring all of one goal in their two previous games, Rick Nash’s return from his concussion on Tuesday was a welcome sight. The big winger skated with Brad Richards and Ryan Callahan while Derek Stepan -- Nash’s centre before he took that elbow to the head against San Jose on Oct. 8 -- remained with Mats Zuccarello and Chris Kreider. The fantasy loser appears to be Carl Hagelin, who is now down to the third line.
-- Alex Steen’s unsustainable mid-30s shooting percentage of a month ago has, indeed, dropped to 23.3, but the Blues forward is still scoring because his 3.5 shots per game are a full shot more than his career average.
-- The Canadiens caught lightning in a bottle on Tuesday when they inserted Brendan Gallagher on a line with Max Pacioretty and David Desharnais, the new trio netting three consecutive goals -- all by Pacioretty. It was held off the scoresheet (save for an assist from Desharnais) Friday against the Caps, but totalled 11 shots on goal. As long as the Habs are winning, expect the new line to stick.
The Avs hoped to have Matt Duchene back Saturday in L.A., but have pushed back his anticipated return to Wednesday … Bryan Bickell is out for two to three weeks after hurting his ankle on Thursday against the Jets. Last year’s playoff revelation had been relegated to the third line … Alexander Semin is out indefinitely with a concussion … Brandon Dubinsky has been sidelined with a bruised foot. Nothing serious … Canes G Anton Khudobin may begin an AHL conditioning stint next week … Ray Whitney (groin) was eyeing a Saturday night return … Jeff Carter (foot) is practising and could be back this coming week … Evgeni Nabokov (groin) will miss the next month … Tyler Bozak might be back Saturday, though his hamstring hasan’t fully healed.
Why the Wings demoted him in favour of re-signing Dan Cleary remains a puzzler, but, skating on a line with Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen, the skilled youngster scored twice in his first game back up on Thursday and appears ready to start making an impact as long as he remains a top-sixer. Piled up 21 points in 15 AHL games.
Ex-Leaf’s stunning numbers are further proof that often it’s not so much the goalie as the defensive system he plays behind. Has faced 26 or fewer shots in five of his six starts since replacing injured Jon Quick went down and will hold the job until around Xmas.
Rookie has a highly respectable seven points in 13 games since being promoted, six of those coming on the power-play while earning praise from teammate Jaromir Jagr, no less. Coming off a rough year in the AHL, but did score 16 for Albany two seasons ago.
Lanky rookie has won his past three games, including a 27-save SO of the Wings on Tuesday. Pekka Rinne, obviously, is still the guy long-term when he returns but the Preds will ride whoever is hot and right now it’s Mazanec.