Sifting through the players in the Western Conference, Ryan Ma comes up with some suggestions for hidden gems.
The Ducks have struggled to register any sort of sustained offense this campaign, as their current 2.28 goals scored per game (29th ranked), indicates. A lot of that could singlehandedly be attributed to the lack of a puck-moving defenseman, with Lubomir Visnovsky being sidelined with a hand injury for the last 13 contests. Cam Fowler has done a decent job, but he isn't experienced enough to be a true number one blue-liner at the moment. Keep an eye on Kyle Palmieri, as he led the AHL in goals scored, with 17 before his recall to the big club. Palmieri spent 71.1 percent of his overall ice-time last contest alongside the dynamic duo of Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf. If he can keep that roster spot, he could be a great sleeper pick to snag for the second half.
Calgary is about to embark on a huge stretch of road games (11 of the next 13), for the next 24 days. The bright side is that they'll take their fourth-ranked road PP efficiency (23.8 percent), with them. For those poolies who forgot, this was the time, last season, where they began their ridiculous 27-11-9 run to finish 2010-11. Now might be a great time to make a push for the Flames' PP staples like Jarome Iginla, Olli Jokinen, Alex Tanguay or Rene Bourque.
Is there a goalie controversy brewing in the Windy City? Ray Emery has posted a 3-0-1 record along with a dazzling 1.57 GAA and .943 SP during his last four appearances, while Corey Crawford has posted a 2-1-0 record along with a not so great 3.77 GAA and .886 during the same span. The Blackhawks are the only team in the league that currently possesses four point-per-game players (Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, and Patrick Sharp). Given the amount of TOI that each of them are receiving, I wouldn't be surprised to see all four finish on this pace. Brent Seabrook is on pace for less than 30 points. I don't understand why he's still 66 percent Yahoo! owned in standard setting leagues.
The Avs essentially live and die by the play of Semyon Varlamov. In the nine victories this season, Varly has posted a 2.15 GAA along with a .932 SP and in 13 losses he has posted a 3.77 GAA along with a dismal .869 SP. It appears that the magic number is three. If he allows less than three goals, the chances of the Avs winning are quite high. If he allows more than three goals, the chances of them losing are even higher. Ryan O'Reilly continues to impress, but the team is certainly in trouble when a two-way player is leading the team in scoring. Stefan Elliott has had a great start to his NHL career. The way he manages to get the pucks on net is remarkable.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Despite all of the struggles this season, the Jackets actually are a decent offense at Nationwide Arena where they average 2.6 goals per game. It's the dreadful road woes that are really hurting the team (2.14 goals per game). Eight of the next 10 are away from Columbus, so it'll be interesting if the numbers normalize. Recently acquired Nikita Nikitin has had a very under-the-radar introd