Bolts striking frequently
By Thomas J. Harrigan, Fantasy Sports Writer
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The Tampa Bay Lightning have struck in the same place time and time again this season, scoring an NHL-best 4.88 goals per game.
Tampa Bay's top-six forwards, led by last season's leading goal scorer Steven Stamkos, have actually scored more goals per game (3.12) than 24 NHL teams.
The Lightning have been a fantasy owner's dream with five players averaging more than a point per game.
Stamkos is the big gun; he already has seven goals, nine assists and 30 SOG after scoring 60 in 2011-12. But the team's second line, centered by Vincent Lecavalier, has been just as potent. Lecavalier, Ryan Malone and rookie Cory Conacher have combined for 13 goals, compared to 12 for the top line of Stamkos, Martin St. Louis and Teddy Purcell.
Conacher has been the biggest surprise with five goals and seven assists in his first eight NHL games. The 5-foot-8 rookie went undrafted due to his small frame, but he was a lethal producer in the AHL over the last two seasons. Conacher had 39 goals and 41 assists in 75 games for the Norfolk Admirals in 2011-12, and he added 12 goals and 16 assists in 36 games for the Syracuse Crunch during the lockout.
Conacher's 180-pound frame might make him susceptible to injuries as the hits pile up over the course of the season, but St. Louis is similarly statured at 5-foot-9, 177 pounds, and he has played 731 of a possible 738 games over the past nine seasons. Tampa Bay clearly knows how to keep little guys healthy. For Conacher, it will help having 6-foot-4 bruisers Malone and Lecavalier on the same line.
If you're looking for a reason to sell high on Conacher, however, here's one: his five goals this season have come on just 14 shots, or roughly 1.8 SOG per game.
Veterans Malone, Lecavalier and St. Louis are all off to unbelievable starts. Malone has four goals and one assist, Lecavalier has four goals and seven assists and St. Louis has three goals and 11 assists.
If any one of them is a creation of the team's hot start, it's Malone. His career high for goals is 27 and points is 51, both set in 2007-08. He has never attempted 200 SOG and despite getting a lot of power-play time, he doesn't produce many PPP. He does have the ability to rack up the penalty minutes, but fantasy owners shouldn't expect his current level of production to continue.
Lecavalier might fall off as well. Yes, he's a former 40-goal and 100-point producer, but he has only put up 103 points in 129 games over the last two seasons, his 12th and 13th in the league. Plus, he has shown the propensity for getting banged up the last two years. He suffered a bone bruise in his foot after taking a slapshot off it late in Saturday's game.
It's safe to trust St. Louis, however. His 74 points last season were his lowest since 2005-06, but it's easy to pinpoint the decline. Tampa Bay struggled mightily on the power play, ranking 25th in the NHL with a 15.3 percent success rate (41 for 268), and St. Louis' power-play assists went from 37 to 12 in one season.
The Lightning power play has been much better this season -- 13 of 36, a 36.1 percent success rate, second in the league -- and St. Louis already has five PPA. He's also taking more SOG this season after dropping to 185 in 2011-12 after eight straight campaigns with 200-plus SOG.
Tampa Bay's forwards aren't the only players who have gotten in on the scoring this season. All of the team's top four defensemen -- Matt Carle, Victor Hedman, Sami Salo and Eric Brewer -- rank in the top 28 at the position in Yahoo! league. The Lightning had zero players rank in the top 50 blueliners last season, so it remains to be seen if they can keep it up, but it's certainly worth picking them up considering the lack of depth at the position in fantasy leagues. Fantasy owners should especially target Salo and Carle, who both see a lot of power-play time.
The Tampa Bay offense has made a winner out of goaltender Anders Lindback, who is 5-1 despite a 2.84 GAA. Lindback has won two games in which he allowed three goals and one in which he surrendered four.
Lindback might not be a great fantasy goaltender, but he has something in common with fantasy owners: satisfaction with Tampa Bay's supercharged start.
02/03 20:40:21 ET