Blake Wheeler has been on fire for the Jets recently and may be about to duplicate the strong finish he put together last season. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
It feels weird to say this, considering that NHL teams only have about 30 games in the books, but we're heading down the stretch. With 17 to 20 games left on the schedule, there are some players you should be looking at for a hot finish - and of course, other players who are bound to cool off.
Between looking at the stats over the last two weeks, some PDO stats, as well as taking a quick peek at the second half of the 2011-12 season, you can make a few educated guesses.
Not that I think the Flames will suddenly start scoring, but they are the only team to have played just 27 games. That extra game or two will help. There is also the general feeling that Jarome Iginla will be traded, in which case some of the younger players will see tons of ice time.
San Jose Sharks
I would give this team another two games, but then - if they lose them - I would be pushing hard to land Joe Pavelski, Patrick Marleau and Logan Couture. Even Ryane Clowe, who I think will be traded, and Martin Havlat for stashing on the bench would be worth acquiring for cheap. A new coach or GM could be in the cards before March is over and when that happens you can expect the usual team-wide 'pop' in offense. It's always darkest before dawn…
Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg
Wheeler ended last season with 38 points in 42 games. He also has seven points in his past five games, indicating a similar run is on the way for the final portion of this campaign.
Alex Ovechkin, Washington
Most of Ovechkin's owners are frustrated. They've had enough. It's time for you to do them a favor by taking him off of their hands. He has just 24 points in 29 games - but 21 in his past 21. His shot total has risen as well, back to more Ovechkin-like levels.
Tomas Fleischmann, Florida
Last year Fleischmann took a nosedive in the second half, so this recommendation is contrary to that data. But the thing about 'Flash' is that he goes on these 20-game runs in which he's a top player in the league. This one's more of a gut feeling than anything else.
Dustin Brown, Los Angeles
After a terrible start, Brown had seven points over a five game stretch. After seeing his late-season surge in 2011-12, as well as the incredible playoff performance, more was expected. But he's starting to show a pattern - one that bodes well for his final 19 games.
While I believe it's folly to shed yourself of players from the highest scoring team - by far - in the NHL, it can't be denied that the Penguins have played the most games in the league (31). Furthermore, it can't be denied that Chris Kunitz is in over his head with 40 points in 31 games. And finally, this team has won like a gazillion games in a row. That can't continue, can it? Regardless, you could get a king's ransom for these players and I would at least shop around and see what is out there. In a one-year league, you could solve all of your problems with one shocking trade. Note - I would never trade Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin or Kris Letang in a keeper league. This advice is for one-year leagues.
Patrick Kane, Chicago
I find it hard to believe that Kane goes from a 0.8 points-per-game average a year ago, to 1.28 points-per-game this year. Not when his career best is 1.07. The Blackhawks have been unstoppable and Kane has been an MVP favorite all season long. At this point you can get whatever you want for him.
Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim
Fat contract in his back pocket and no more trade rumors hovering over his head, it will be interesting to see how Getzlaf's play changes. The production can't really improve - his numbers are already enough to put him seventh in league scoring. So if they can't improve, then they can do one of two things: stay the same, or decline.
Thomas Vanek, Buffalo
A season ago, Vanek had 39 points in 38 games, followed by just 22 points in 40 games. He has four points in his past eight games. Sell high - quickly.
Andrew Ladd, Winnipeg
Ignoring the fact Ladd is simply not a point-per-game player, the Winnipeg Jets have an 11.89% shooting percentage (per behindthenet.ca) when Ladd is on the ice five-on-five. That's completely unsustainable.
Damien Brunner, Detroit
Here's a disturbing trend - the most ice time in his past five games is 16:25, with Saturday's ice time of 12:26 being his lowest of the season. Using that 16:25 as a threshold, prior to those five games he had been given more ice time in 17 of 24 games. He has four points in his past 10 games, so the honeymoon seems to be over. At least for this year.
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