Recently some had speculated that when Ryan Callahan went down with an injury it would be Nikita Kucherov (3 G, 6 SOG, +2) that would step up to the Stamkos line. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be. Instead he’s found some seriously strong chemistry with line mates Ondrej Palat (1 A, 1 SOG, +2) and Tyler Johnson (4 A, 3 SOG, +2) on what is fast becoming one of the better lines in hockey. Last season Kucherov didn’t look very good at atime and at others he looked flat out lost, but it wasn’t all bad as he showed flashes of brilliance that had become his hallmark as he exceled at every level of play on his way to the NHL. Still, he tallied just 9 goals and 18 points over 52 games played so it didn’t exactly leave anyone with a high expectations of a breakout campaign in 2015. The big question is whether or not his current scoring outburst is the start of something big or will it burn itself out sooner than later? Well, Kucherov has incredibly hands and sports an elite wrister that would put most in the NHL to shame. He relies on his generally sharp offensive instincts to drive a fast pace and has shown natural nose for the net, but he could stand to bulk up at bit standing at 5’ 11” 178 lbs. I like the kid and I think he could do well this year, but he sees limited time on the power play and that limits his value. Obviously the seven points in three games is an unsustainable pace, but this isn’t just a passing fad, this kid is good and he’s going to get better. Expect the scoring to dry up and come in streaks, but with his talent the streaks may continue to be fairly grand affairs. He’s only owned in 15% of Yahoo! Leagues and 8.7% of ESPN leagues, so go snatch him up and stream him while the streamin’s good! In keeper leagues, considering holding him for longer if you can. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey yesterday:Please, blog, may I have some more?
When asked whether or not Anthony Duclair (1 G, 2 SOG) was going to stick with the Rangers or get sent back to juniors, Rangers Head Coach Alain Vigneault quipped, “Talent has no age.” True enough, but the question isn’t whether or not Duke is talented, it’s whether or not he’s ready for big ice. Few dispute Duke’s promise as a potential top-six forward in the NHL. Over the last few seasons in the QMJHL he ate up the competition to the tune of tune of 215 points in 183 games. Last season he nearly tallied 100 points in 59 games falling just short with 99 powered by 50 goals. Yeah, the QMJHL is known for inflated scoring numbers, but still, that’s baller. He’s shown himself to be useful at the NHL level already too, getting his NHL career off to a hot start with five points in seven games, points in three of his last four and sporting a healthy plus-five rating over that span. It sure seems like he belongs with numbers like that, but really, he probably belongs in the AHL.Please, blog, may I have some more?
The Los Angeles Kings are starting to look a little unbalanced. Anze Kopitar (1 SOG) has just three points in eight games. You can never really rely on Dustin Brown (2 SOG) for points and Justin Williams (1 A, 3 SOG) has just two points in eight games. Marian Gaborik did his thing and immediately got hurt and he’s still not back. Slava Voynov is suspended indefinitely due to alleged domestic violence issues at home. Despite all that, the Kings are 6-1-1 and sit atop their division. Why? How? That’s 70s Line, that’s how. Jeff Cater (1 G, 3 A, 1 SOG), Tyler Toffoli (1 G, 3 A, 2 SOG), and Tanner Pearson (2 G, 3 SOG, +2) continue to light it up and have carried the Kings so far this season. When I say carried, I mean they pick up the team plane and walk it from city to city on road trips, carry everyone’s bags off the plane and to the hotel, then dress everyone for the game and then win it basically by themselves with a dash of stellar goaltending from Jon Quick (W, 22 SV, 2 GA, .917%). But seriously, this line has accounted for 16 of 21 goals scored by the Kings this season. That’s 76% of the team’s total offense. They combined for 10 points last night and 33 points (16 G, 17A) and a plus-32 rating over the last seven games. That’s obviously not sustainable for the Kings and this torrid pace has to slow for That 70s Line, especially for Pearson and Toffoli, both of whom are more likely to finish around 50 points rather than the 90+ they’re on pace for. If ever there was a time to sell high, this is it. You can probably flip any guy on this line for a King’s ransom, so try floating some offers out there and see what you can get. You never know, you might end up with a killer package in return and when the other shoe drops and this line comes back down to earth, you’ll be laughing all the way to a playoff berth. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in fantasy hockey this weekend:Please, blog, may I have some more?
When the season started I was mostly worried Zdeno Chara (1 SOG, -1) had lingering nerve damage after he’d been fighting the issue over the last season or so. Last year he had difficulty holding a stick towards the end of the year, but all signs looked good in the preseason so I ranked him accordingly. Well, the hand is fine, but the knee? Not so much. Chara suffered ligament damage to his knee yesterday while laying a big hit on NHL scoring leader John Tavares (1 A, 4 SOG, +1) in yesterday’s game. He’ll miss 4-6 weeks at which point they’re going to determine whether or not he needs surgery. Wow, that sounds terrible. They have to wait over a month just to see if the knee is bad enough that Chara needs to go under the knife? Let me just go ahead and call this right now, he needs surgery. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s done for the year, but you can’t just drop him until we know for sure, so stash him on IR and hope for the best. In the meantime this is a big blow to the Bruins and fantasy owners alike. Not only does it hurt his owners, but also Chara serves as the lynchpin to the Bs both offensively and defensively. They haven’t been playing well as a team to start the year and this injury will further erode their ability to step up and deliver. Tuukka Rask’s meh play is likely to continue to a degree, or at least continue more than we would have expected this season with Chara out. I want to say that this is going to give guys like Torey Krug (4 SOG, -1), Dennis Seidenberg (1 SOG, +1), and Dougie Hamilton (1 SOG) a boost in value that will come with an uptick in playing time, especially on the powerplay, but I really don’t think that’s the case here. I think the B’s are poorer without Chara, and the ripple effect will hurt more than it will help. You know, Johnny Boychuk (1 SOG, +1) sure seems like a good option right now, so may—oh right, well played Garth Snow. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey last night:Please, blog, may I have some more?
It might be Miller Time all the time somewhere in the world, but last night in Vancouver it was anything but. Ryan Miller (L, 8 SV, 5 GA, .615%) was bounced from the game shortly after the start of the third period after he coughed up five flippin’ goals on just 13 shots. This might make some of his owners panic, but I’m here to quell your worries, so relax guy! Most of the goals weren’t really Miller’s fault, so lets break ‘em down. The most egregious example of Miller getting hung out to dry was when Chris Tanev plowed into his own goalie and laid Miller out. While the two were tangled up Miller made a futile attempt to stop the puck but he couldn’t do much more than wave his glove hand at it while Tyler Seguin potted one in a wide open net. It didn’t start there, but it didn’t stop there either. On another goal Jamie Benn took a shot from the outside and the puck was headed wide, so Miller did what all good goalies would do, he reached his blocker out to push the puck away. He makes contact and the puck starts to move safely away from the net only to be deflected in off the knob of his stick as he pulls his blocker hand back. Then there’s when Nick Bonino dropped his stick when skating through the neutral zone on the pentalty kill. He decided to go grab his stick because hey, killing a penalties without a stick is tough, right? Well, while did it left the Canucks essentially in a 5 on 3 in their own zone and bang boom, another goal. Yes, there are some he should have stopped and yes, I’m not big on Miller this year, but it really wasn’t all bad news for Miller owners. In his words “It just wasn’t my night.” Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey yesterday:Please, blog, may I have some more?
It was a rough weekend for defenseman in the NHL and a rougher one for the poor saps that own the newly fallen. The biggest blow due to injury fell from the heavens like Mjölnir and smashed me right in the face when my sun and stars Victor Hedman broke his finger while trying to block a shot. He’s out 4-6 weeks after successful surgery to fix his mangled digit. Now where can I go to get successful surgery on my broken heart? Nowhere?! What a world. I guess I’ll just have to pine away and gaze longingly at his stat line over the last week plus and wonder what could have been had he not tried to block a slap shot with his damn hand. The Rangers lost Dan Boyle to a similar injury and it makes me wonder, why the hell are these guys trying to block shots with their hands? Have they not seen the fastest shot competition? Do they not know they’re trying to use their hands to stop a frozen piece of vulcanized rubber flying at nearly 100mph in their direction? I’m all about sacrificing the body for the good of the team and some of us totally need those blocks, but come on! Suffice it to say there is no replacing Hedman but Anton Stralman is reportedly moving to the Bolts’ top powerplay unit with Jason Garrison slated to get time on the second unit, so the value of both jumps a bit with this news.
Unfortch for fantasy owners broken fingers (and hearts!) weren’t the only issue that plagued some of fantasy hockey’s defenseman since last week. Slava Voynov was suspended indefinitely today due to a domestic violence incident that apparently left the victim hospitalized. I won’t joke about this because there is nothing funny about it. I also don’t know the details of the situation, but what I have read says that whoever he attacked (assuming he did) was rushed to the hospital and the extend of their injuries was such that the hospital staff called the cops on Voynov. This doesn’t sound good at all, but details are scant right now so if you can afford to, I’d try to hold off on dropping him until we get a clearer idea of how long he could be out. That being said, since this is non-hockey related absence he won’t be eligible for IR or IR+, so if you can’t afford to have a deadweight defenseman clogging up your bench, drop Slava and add whomever you can to fill the void. Luckily his season started somewhat slowly so the void isn’t that big. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey this weekend:Please, blog, may I have some more?
Heading into this season all eyes were on rookie Evgeny Kuznetsov (1 A, 1 SOG) of the Caps and why not? The big Russian seems to have all the tools he needs to be an offensive powerhouse in the NHL. He showed some serious chops in his time with the KHL, but we all know that has to be taken with a grain of salt. Still, I fully expect he’ll break the 40-point mark this season, however, Kuz isn’t the only rookie worth knowing about in D.C. this year. Lost in all that Kuz hype is a dynamic Swede on the verge of a breakout and his name is Andre Burakovsky (1 G, 2 SOG, +1). I blame myself for not mentioning him earlier, I should have, but he slipped my mind so I’ll do it now. Well I already did it. In fact I’m in the middle of the mention at this very moment, and so are you! Trippy, man. I digress, Burakovsky is an offensively gifted pivot in the mold of Henrik Zetterberg, who coach Barry Trotz compared the kid to just the other day. The comparison might seem pretty lofty, but when you break down the kid’s bona fides it starts to seem pretty accurate. Last season Burakovsky lit the OHL up in his first go at North American hockey scoring a gaudy 87 points in 57 games for the Erie Otters. He followed that up by posting seven points in seven games in the World Junior Classic-20 division and then 14 points in 14 games in the U20 (all) International Juniors. Damn, that’s sexy. Do I sense a new mancrush coming on? Mayhaps! There’s plenty of room in my hockey heart for another and this young man is a leading candidate. He’s a strong skater with a remarkably high hockey IQ that will serve him well as he adjusts this season. Couple that with a sick wrister and the top six minutes he’s going to be getting and what does it all add up to? Me adding him in every keeper league, that’s for sure. He’s worth owning in standard leagues while he’s scoring too, and with five points in five games so far he’s doing just that. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey last night:Please, blog, may I have some more?
Often when a goalie makes 49 saves the focus is on how stellar the goalie performed and why not? Making that many saves in a single game is quite the feat. When I saw that Jonas Hiller (W, 49 SV, 1 GA, .980 SV%) accomplished that very feat last night my immediate reaction was not “Wow, killer game from Hiller!” it was “Jesus, the Flames gave up 50 shots on goal?” Make no mistake, Hiller was absolutely brilliant last night, but that does that make him a brilliant goaltender. So far the Flames are third overall in shots against. That’s not good. They’re offering up almost 37 shots a game. The only teams that are worse in this department are the Avs at 37.5 shots against per game and Buffalo at 39 against per game. Surprised to not see the Oil up there? Me too! In fact, Edmonton is tied for 11th overall allowing 31.3 shots per game despite already allowing 22 goals. Ouch. At any rate, the high shots against average is elevated a bit for the Flames due to the 50 they allowed last night, but the trend remains clear; the Flames defense is suspect and shows few signs of tightening up soon.
I don’t believe either Calgary tender, Hiller or Karri Ramo, are good enough to handle the crazy shots load their defense is leaving them with. Hell, I doubt any goalie is. It might not be that bad if their shot differential wasn’t horrible, but it is and as it stands they offer up almost 13 more shots than they take. That’s a recipe for sadness and defeat. To make matters worse Hiller has shown himself to be streaky, injury prone and definitely doesn’t perform well when he’s fighting for time in net. Ramo was solid last year and he remains solid this year, in fact, he’s looked better than Hiller until last night’s game and last night’s game does nothing to take the shine off of Ramo’s work so far this season, it just gives Hiller a polish. If I was a Hiller owner I’d hope he can build off this start and string together a few more good ones. If he can, and the shots are still being poured on by the opposition, I’d try to sell high before it’s too late. I won’t, though, because I wasn’t foolish enough to draft Hiller anywhere. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey last night:Please, blog, may I have some more?
Last season Henrik Lundqvist (L, 21 SV, 6 GA, .778 SV%) had a pretty terrible October finishing the month with a line of 3-5-0, 2.84 GAA, .908 SV%, 22 GA. He rebounded a bit in November but returned to blehsville in December finishing with an even worse line of 4-4-2, 3.08 GAA, .888 SV%, 29 GA. People freaked. Should I trade Lundqvist? Is he hurt? Is he past it? Ahh! Then, from January on he followed that crapfest he called a start to his season with three months of sub 2.00 GAA’s and SV% in the .930s. He finished the season with a very Hankish 33-24-5, 2.36 GAA, .920 SV% on route to a monumental run at the Stanley Cup that ended just short of success. Everything with Hank was fine. Everything with Hank is fine. Yet here we at the start of the 2015 season and again we are faced with another slow start from His Majesty. With it, of course, comes more panic from the masses and really, it’s the same story and erryone should relax, he isn’t this bad and he won’t continue to be. That being said, there is one key difference this year and that’s the Rangers defense. In that it’s not nearly as good as it was last year.
Losing possession king Anton Stralman to the Bolts hurts, but what hurts more is his “replacement” Mike Kostka who was directly responsible for two of the four goals in the fourth that rolled the Rangers after the Isles took an early 3-2 third period lead on an unassisted Kyle Okposo goal. Dan Boyle being injured doesn’t help much either, but if losing Boyle does this to your team defensively there are deeper problems that need solving, but I digress. Hank should be fine and no, he won’t keep coughing up six goals a game. Still, his owners should beware. There are cracks and holes showing on the Rangers where few existed last season that may limit his value slightly relative to seasons past. This is why I do not advise using your first or second round pick on a goalie, y’all! Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey last night:Please, blog, may I have some more?
Yesterday I preached the virtue of patience, as in have some and don’t give up on guys after two or three games. There is no buy or sell high right now, at least not for the sane, because we’ve only just begun to rumble this season and the chips need to fall before we make the right calls. Next up on the “Don’t freak out, freaks!” front is Carey Price (L, 19 SV, 4 GA, .826 SV%) who has been struggling out of the gate so far this season. He coughed up 4 goals on 23 shots before getting yanked in the second in favor of Dustin Tokarski yesterday. Toker promptly gave up 3 more goals on 18 shots, so Price owners shouldn’t feel too bad. I don’t think anything went right for the Habs last night, honestly. Steven Stamkos victimized Price first on a nearly impossible angle shot for his first goal, then potted one on a break away after Victor Hedman hit him tape-to-tape on a sweet stretch pass and again for a third time on a booming slapper from the top of the circle on the man advantage. So take Stammer out of the game and Price only gives up one goal! That’s good, right?! Price isn’t typically a slow starter so 10 goals allowed in his first three games is a bit unnerving, but there’s not much you can do if you own him other than ride this out. He’s just too good to keep being this mediocre for long. I won’t recommend adding Toker as a handcuff quite yet, but I might have had he come in and done well in relief. He didn’t, so I won’t and I expect Price will get the next start for the Habs. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey last night:Please, blog, may I have some more?