Since opening day in October, the San Jose Sharks have been the best team in the NHL. They have been poised and consistent, stringing together win streaks with regularity and rarely losing more than a game in a row. While centre Joe Thornton has been a sure top 10 fantasy pick for years, the Sharks have another veteran emerging as a legitimate first round pick for the next few seasons; goaltender Evgeni Nabokov. While not as flashy as a Roberto Luongo or as fundamentally sound as a Martin Brodeur, Nabokov can be your fantasy hockey savior if you’ve got him, and your worst nightmare if you don’t.
His value can be indicated by the 80 wins he’s compiled over the last two seasons, which is tops in the league. In our current era where most starting goalies suit up for 60 games or less, Nabokov’s 90% start rate is unmatched, especially when you consider the strength of the Sharks team in front of him. It’s likely that he will be at the top of my projections for 2009-10, so if you own him in a keeper league, consider him untradeable. With fantasy sports, nothing is certain, but Evgeni Nabokov is as close to a sure thing as you’ll find.
The surging New Jersey Devils appear to be the real deal, and Martin Brodeur doesn’t seem to have lost a step after his return from bicep surgery, as he tied Patrick Roy’s all-time wins record Saturday night in Montreal. Zach Parise has been a man possessed in the second half of the season, and should break the impressive 83 point career-high projection I had for him. Evidently, the Devils make for an extremely difficult matchup for any opponent in the first round of this season’s Stanley Cup playoffs.
The young Pittsburgh Penguins are up five spots to 11th in this edition of the power rankings. They have played a more inspired brand of hockey since the All-Star break, and their key additions, Chris Kunitz and Bill Guerin, have paid immediate dividends. A first round matchup with the Boston Bruins, Washington Capitals, or Philadelphia Flyers could make for a long, but massively entertaining series.
I know it’s a tad late, but here are our Power Rankings at the 3rd quarter of the 2008-09 season.
|1.||(1)||San Jose Sharks||11.||(16)||Pittsburgh Penguins||21.||(21)||Dallas Stars|
|2.||(2)||Boston Bruins||12.||(19)||Florida Panthers||22.||(23)||Toronto Maple Leafs|
|3.||(3)||Detroit Red Wings||13.||(11)||New York Rangers||23.||(24)||Los Angeles Kings|
|4.||(4)||Washington Capitals||14.||(20)||Columbus Blue Jackets||24.||(26)||Ottawa Senators|
|5.||(9)||New Jersey Devils||15.||(12)||Anaheim Ducks||25.||(28)||St. Louis Blues|
|6.||(7)||Chicago Blackhawks||16.||(13)||Buffalo Sabres||26.||(18)||Phoenix Coyotes|
|7.||(8)||Calgary Flames||17.||(17)||Edmonton oilers||27.||(27)||Tampa Bay Lightning|
|8.||(5)||Philadelphia Flyers||18.||(14)||Minnesota Wild||28.||(22)||Colorado Avalanche|
|9.||(6)||Montreal Canadiens||19.||(25)||Nashville Predators||29.||(29)||Atlanta Thrashers|
|10.||(10)||Vancouver Canucks||20.||(15)||Carolina Hurricanes||30.||(30)||New York Islanders|
|Note: Brackets indicate prior power rank.|