You remember the old NHL tagline of “Game On” right? Well it’s Game On as the NHL prepares to get underway on Thursday night.
To that end, I participated in the third annual experts hockey league last night, the top event of its kind on the internet (last year I finished in third place, a respectable showing, that you can read about by clicking on the link to the Yahoo! Experts League).
I thought I would take a moment to get you all in the pucking mood by listing for you my squad, with a little note for each guy.
* The first number is the round the player was taken in, the second number in () is the overall spot the player was taken in the 12-team draft.
One final note. Each club kept four players from 2008-09 (any position), and the league uses four starters at LW, C, RW, six at D, and two in G.
Fanball – Flowers
1. (1) Joe Thornton (keeper) – 86 points is a 4-year low with Sharks.
2. (24) Corey Perry (keeper) – Devastating combo of points (72) and grit (109 PIM).
3. (25) Rick Nash (keeper) – Only 25, coming off first 40-goal season.
4. (48) Marc Savard (keeper) – Has 269 points in 238 games with the Bruins.
5. (49) Marc-Andre Fleury – 35 wins and a Cup to his credit last season.
6. (72) Sheldon Souray – 49 goals, 117 points and 233 PIMs last two healthy seasons.
7. (73) Nikolai Khabibulin – 2.33 GAA, .919 SV% last year. Now in Edmonton.
8. (96) Rob Blake – 10 goals, +15, 110 PIM and 198 shots for Sharks’ captain.
9. (97) Milan Lucic – Second season led to 17 goals, +17 and 136 PIMs.
10. (120) Ryane Clowe – Ready to bust loose after 22 goals, 30 assists.
11. (121) Kevin Bieksa – Name to remember as he scored 11 goals with 97 PIM from blue line.
12. (144) Craig Anderson – First year he will be given a true chance to start in net.
13. (145) Kimmo Timonen – Steady as she goes – 40-points in 7-straight years.
14. (168) Mike Smith – Over concussion symptoms, had a .916 SV% last year.
15. (169) Bryan McCabe – Still can score a goal (15 last year).
16. (192) Justin Williams – Injured last two years, before that was 30-goal man in 2005-06.
17. (193) Shawn Horcoff – Bombed last year with 53 points after All-Star selection in ’07.
18. (216) Marco Sturm – Leg is healed and had scored at least 20-goals previous 6-years.
19. (217) Stephen Weiss – Nothing exciting but did have 61 points and +19.
20. (240) Steve Downie – Could skate on top line with Bolts.
21. (241) Segei Shirokov – Talk of Canucks camp. Could be breakout star.
22. (264) Maxim Afinogenov – Signed with Thrashers. Will he rebound alongside Kovalchuk?
23. (265) Adrian Aucoin – May be slightly boring, but 10-goals in four of last seven seasons.
24. (288) R.J. Umberger – Needed depth late. He scored 26 goals with 234 shots last year.
25. (289) Nikolai Zherdev – Not on a team, but has to be the most talented 25th round pick ever.
* We only start two goalies but I figured I would add depth after missing out on the elite. MAF should be a horse who racks up the wins, and my other three keepers all could be considered legitimate starters. They may not be great, but some other teams will certainly be scrambling for help after I grabbed four of the top-30.
* Top-2 at center are massive in the point categories (Thornton, Savard). If Horcoff reaches his potential, and Weiss merely repeats, this is a strong group.
* I really like my LW. Not many better than Nash, and I think Lucic and Clowe could both be 30-goal scorers. Wanted to get one, but I got both. Sturm should be healthy and a 20-goal threat, possibly higher if he skates on first line with Savard.
* This is where my season might hinge. Perry is a stud, but after that, I need some luck. Zherdev and Afinogenov could surprise, but they could also be totals busts. The same can be said for Shirokov, but he has been uber-impressive this preseason, should skate on the second line, and might get first unit power-play time. Downie is a nice mix of offense and a pugnacious attitude, and if he skates on Tampa’s first line, that would be huge. And Williams out in LA, if the man could just stay healthy he would appear to be a lock for at least 25 markers.
* The D could be another strength, especially when you consider that five of my six starters scored at least 10 goals last season, while the other (Timonen) was a +19 with 43 points.
So there you have it. A solid unit that could certainly garner another top-3 finish this season, and with just a little luck from a couple of those foreign born skaters that I grabbed late, who knows, maybe I’ll have a chance to finish even higher this
By Ray Flowers
Tags: Adrian Aucoin, Bryan McCabe, Corey Perry, Craig Anderson, Joe Thornton, Justin Williams, Kevin Bieksa, Kimmo Timonen, Marc Andre-Fluery, Marc Savard, Marco Sturm, Maxin Afinogenov, Mike Smith, Milan Lucic, Nikolai Khabibulin, Nikolai Zherdev, R.J. Umberger, Rick Nash, Rob Blake, Ryane Clowe, Sergei Shirokov, Shawn Horcoff, Sheldon Souray, Stephan Weiss, Steve Downie