I’m not a fan of shootouts. I think they belong in the All Star Skills competition, not playing a critical role in determining who goes home with two points and who goes home with regrets. In a sport where individual achievement is only possible through teamwork we’ve boiled down deciding games to a one-on-one competition that’s antithetical to the very nature of the game. A game where who you play with and the chemistry you have with those players has as much impact on your chances for success as your individual skill does. Why does it have to be this way? Do the fans really prefer shorter games this much? How often do teams really go into double OT anyway? Bah. If thats the worry, lets adopt the AHL’s new three-on-three OT rules and watch the fun! Of course this rant is brought on by the longest shoot out in the history of the universe last night between the Cat and Caps. Twenty rounds this circus went. Roberto Luongo, G (W, 23 SV, 1 GA, .958%) stood tall and man was I too harsh on Lu in the preseason; he’s been fantastic all year. He must really love living in Florida. I digress, on the other side of this madness was Braden Holtby, G (L, 28 SV, 1 GA, .966%) who took the loss but not because he played poorly. He held his ground for 19 rounds until he finally cracked and gave one up to Nick Bjugstad (1 SOG) in what was Jugs’ second attempt of the night. Why second attempt? Because the Cats ran out of people to take the bloody shots so they had to give him another go. Ugh. This proves who the better team was last night how, exactly? And of course this wasn’t the only shootout of the night, the Wings and Jackets needed one to decide their game too. Shootouts are so bunk, man. They’re about as useful as FoxTrax. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey yesterday:Please, blog, may I have some more?
Last night the unthinkable happened, Ben Bishop (5 SV, 1 GA, .800%) left the game late in the first period with what the Bolts say is a lower body injury. They call it an LBI, I call it a heart attack because that’s what I’m having watching Big Ben topple towards a possible stint on the injured list. Word has it he has to be re-evaluated before they can give a timetable for his return so they’ve called up their top prospect Andrei Vasilevskiy to help tend net with the woeful Evgeni Nabokov G (L, 18 SV, 3 GA, .857%) in the meantime. Proving he isn’t the guy to carry the load in Bishop’s absense, Nabby came in to replace Bishop and promptly gave up three goals on just 21 shots over two periods last night, gross. He has been awful in limited minutes this season and I sincerely doubt that he’ll do much better getting rolled out there as the starter in Bishop’s potential absence, so that makes Vasilevskiy an intriguing option if Bishop is out for an extended period of time.
In 14 games for the Syracuse Crunch the Bolts’ 2012 1st round pick (19th overall) has shined posting a season line of 8-3-3/2.34/.918% in 15 games played winning seven of his last eight starts including shut outs on back-to-back nights against Rochester and Springfield earlier this month. The 20-year-old Tyumen, Russia native spent last season with Salavat Yulaev Ufa in the KHL but only appeared in eight games. He helped Russia to medals at the 2012, 2013 and 2014 World Junior Championships and lead them to gold at the 2014 World Championships, though, so clearly success follows him wherever he goes. Whether it follows him to the NHL remains to be seen, but one way or the other the kid is going to see time on big ice this week given the Bolts have back-to-back games on Friday and Saturday and there’s no bloody way they’ll trust the 39-year-old Nabby to start both games if Bishop is still out. Nabby will get the nod tonight, but start him at your own risk.
In the short term if you are a Bishop owner (I am, sadface) you’d do well to grab either Nabby or Vasilevskiy, but if I had a choice I’d go with the kid for now. Normally I wouldn’t recommend taking an unproven rookie over a vet like Nabby in this situation, but I’ve watched most of Nabby’s starts and he has looked slower than molasses out there and I firmly believe that Vasilevskiy has the talent to go on a mini-run in a short stint with the Bolts and it could be enough to help mitigate the damage while Big Ben heals up. Either way, don’t drop anyone important to make a move, we still don’t know just how bad the Bishop injury is. Say it with me now! Please be okay, please be okay, pleeeeease be okaaaay *sobs uncontrollably*. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey recently:Please, blog, may I have some more?
Since Corey Crawford went down with his latest injury the Blackhawks have had six games and Scott Darling, G (L, 38 SV, 3 GA, .927%) has started four of them until Antti Raanta, G (W, 23 SV, 1 GA, .960%) won last night in the second game of a back-to-back. In fact, Raanta has only played in six games so far this season to Darling’s seven so it begs the question, has Darling usurped Raanta as Crawdad backup? It sure seems that way. It’s clear that Raanta isn’t a guy you can count on for long streaks of solid play. He’s fine in spot starts and sheltered minutes, but some time in the AHL wouldn’t hurt him at all, and so far it seems that the 6’ 6” Darling has caught the attention of Blackhawk’s Head Coach Joel Quenneville. When asked about the situation Quenneville didn’t offer much insight, but does he ever? He did have this to offer on Darling though “He’s played well, every time he’s been in the net he’s been consistent, looks big (and) handles the puck well. Keep him going.” That bodes well for Darling sticking around, but either way it doesn’t seem like we’ll have to wait very long to find out how this situation is going to shake out because Crawdad was a surprise participant in the morning skate for the Hawks this past weekend. He didn’t speculate on when he’ll return to the lineup but the fact that his foot is well enough for him to skate on is a good sign that he’ll be back in the next few weeks at most. If I had to put money down I’d say Darling has earned the backup job and it’s Raanta who will head down to the AHL when he returns. In the meantime, both should be owned in deep leagues. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey this weekend:Please, blog, may I have some more?
Before the season started I cautioned against drafting Semyon Varlamov expecting a repeat of last season and sure enough he sucked up the joint hard to start the year then hit IR with a bum groin. He came back, sucked it up so more and then exited once more with the same injury. Again he returned and again he sucked and yet again he re-injured the same groin and is now down for “a couple weeks.” Yeah, right. Listen, a goalie with a groin injury is a red flag. A goalie that hurts the same groin three times in less than a half a season is more than a red flag, it’s a signal to run for the hills and not look back. For now you stash him on IR, but don’t expect much from him moving forward. In the meantime rookie Calvin Pickard, G (W, 30 SV, 3 GA, .909%) has taken control of the Colorado crease and doesn’t appear to be ready to relinquish command of it anytime soon. With expensive backup Reto Berra struggling Captain Pickard seems to be the go-to guy for Patrick Roy right now. In a recent interview Roy said of Pickard “He deserves to play, he gives us a chance to win every night. We cannot ask for more from him.” And how could you? Why would you? The kid has been stellar in the handful of starts he’s been given, win or loss, and seems to be getting stronger as he gets more time. There’s no reason for Pickard to be available in any leagues right now, deep or shallow, so if he’s available in your league add him yesterday. If you do, don’t drop another starter to do it. Remember that while he might out play Berra like whoa until Varly gets back, as soon as he does Pickard is headed back to the AHL unless the Avs cut or trade Berra, who has a one-way deal and cannot be sent to the minors. Regardless, in the meantime if you’re thinking of adding Captain Pickard, make it so. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey last night:Please, blog, may I have some more?
An MRI revealed that Corey Perry is out for three-to-four weeks with a sprained knee as of yesterday. The long-term injury is a rarity for the normally durable Perry whose absence will send ripples through the fantasy hockey pond of Anaheim. Perry was rolling with 14 goals so far this season and serves as a lynchpin to their offensive success on the top unit. The open slot on the top line for the Ducks has been a revolving door so far this season and a bunch of guys in the Ducks lineup have benefitted from stints there. Most recently Matt Beleskey was scoring like who, but his value now takes a dive as most of his recent goal scoring success was found while playing with Getz and Perry, so you can expect that to dry up for the time being. It might not be all bad news, though; Ryan Getzlaf practiced with Devante Smith-Pelly and Rene Bourque on Tuesday and played with Bourque in OT last night. The promotion makes Bourque a decent streaming option worth considering. In season’s past he’s gone on runs where he scores a bunch of goals before going ice cold and this seems like a good opportunity for him to do just that. If you’re looking for scoring help, he’s worth taking a flier on in deeper leagues. As for Devo, the promotion doesn’t do much to up his value considering he occupied that spot while Perry was healthy and didn’t do much worth note with it before Perry’s injury. For those who lost Perry, there is no consolation here. You can grab Bourque, but there are no guarantees and he’ll pale in comparison. All you can do is stream his spot and hope for the best, but it’s never easy to lose your first round pick for a month. My condolences to his owners, which isn’t me so booyah! Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey yesterday:Please, blog, may I have some more?
I love Ilya Bryzgalov. He’s hilarious! Have you heard some of the things that have come out of this guy’s mouth? Here’s one of my favorite gems “I’m very into the universe, you know like how was created, you know, like, what is it, you know? Solar system is so humongous big, right? But if you see like our solar system and our galaxy on the side, you know, like, we’re so small you can never see it. Our galaxy is like huge, but if you see the big picture our galaxy (is) like a small tiny-like dot in the universe.” Oh god, never stop talking Breezy. Seriously. He’s expected to practice with the AHL Admirals today and start for them tomorrow. His tryout culminates in this game and if it goes well he will likely be signed. In that event, there’s a lot of speculation about what would happen next. John Gibson has already exceeded the initial six-week timetable set for his return from a groin pull and word has it he won’t be ready to go until the end of December. That leaves at least a few weeks where Frederik Andersen needs more help than Jason LaBarbera can offer, hence Breezy getting the shot. TSN’s Pierre LeBrun speculates that Gibsy is destined to spend the rest of the season in the AHL with Andersen starting and Bryzgalov backing him up. That’s a viable hypothesis, but there are no signs that’s the case just yet. There’s a reason that Breezy can’t stick with a team for very long, so it’s not like the Ducks are looking for a long term solution here. Gibson will need a conditioning stint in the AHL when he gets back and it may be an extended stay, but for the rest of the season? I don’t know that Gibson benefits from spending too much time off big ice and Breezy isn’t known for his consistency. Questions about whether Andersen’s starting job are already being asked and I have to think that he’s safter with Breezy as his backup than Gibson, who showed some serious chops earlier this season before getting hurt. That said, the Ducks are going to use the kid gloves with their prized prospect, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see an Andersen/Bryzgalov duo in the Anaheim crease for the next few months at least. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey last night:Please, blog, may I have some more?
When the Sharks moved Brent Burns to the wing last year hoping he could elevate his offensive game to the next level they were quickly made to realize that Burns isn’t a scoring forward, he’s a scoring defenseman. After a meh season on the wing he was shifted back to the blue line and wouldn’t you know it, he’s been rocking it this season to the tune of 22 points in 29 games so far. The story with Dustin Byfuglien, D (1 G, 6 SOG, 2 PIM) is much the same, but with a few twists. After three 50-plus point seasons as a defenseman the Jets, in desperate need of scoring up front, decided to conduct their own little experiment and shift Buff to the wing. The idea had merit, he’d get top six minutes and he might just make for a bruising power forward with some solid offensive upside. So here we are a third of the way through the 2014-15 season and they’ve already shifted him back to the blue line and according to Jets Coach Paul Maurice he’ll remain there “until further notice.” That’s good news for fantasy owners considering he’s scored goals in each of his last four games and has five points over that span since the transition. He’s also taken 21 shots on goal and played as much as 28 minutes the other night. Expect him to return to the top power play unit and eat up some tasty minutes there, too. The question now isn’t whether you should pick him up if a frustrated owner dropped him already, but where he can gain eligibility at D back, if he ever lost it. In Yahoo leagues he’s been listed with D eligibility since the start of the season, but in ESPN he’s listed as a RW only and according to ESPN’s site it’s going to stay that way until next season. So be aware ESPN owners, you can’t grab him now and wait for his position eligibility to change because it won’t. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey this weekend:Please, blog, may I have some more?
When you think of the Sabres lately one name generally comes to mind and he isn’t even in the league yet, yes I’m talking about McJesus himself, Connor McDavid. The Sabres are well on their way to winning the McDavid sweepstakes by bungling their way through the 2014-15 season looking like hot garbage from top to bottom, save one bright spot; Zemgus Girgensons. Girgs was the Sabres’ second first round pick in 2012 and he’s paying off pretty quickly for a team that desperately needs someone to do something positive. I mean the fact that the Sabres had two first round picks should say something in-and-of it self, but I digress, the 20 year old Latvian pivot works his butt off out there from whistle to whistle. He’s hard to knock off the puck, isn’t afraid to fight for position in traffic and while he isn’t a traditional dangler, he definitely has solid hands and fore-checks like whoa. He’s now the Sabres top line center and spends time on their top power play unit as well. Given that it’s the Sabres you can’t expect him to score a ton, but he’s posted a respectable season line so far with 8 G, 6 A, +3 (on the Sabres!), 48 SOG and 9 PIM to date. Wait, that doesn’t look as sexy as I made it sound, does it? Well! That’s because his real value comes from his ability to win faceoffs (161), deliver hits (57) and even block shots (24). There’s basically not much this guy doesn’t do and in roto leagues that’s pure gold. In deep category H2H leagues he has value too. ROS I expect him to end up with around 50-55 points, he has tremendous upside over the long term and it’s clear that the Sabres envision him as a team leader moving forward. Those in keeper leagues would do well to grab him and hold on tight. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey last night:Please, blog, may I have some more?
Its well known for those who read this blog that I don’t have a very high opinion of hockey in South Florida. In fact, I often call it “hockey hell” and for many years that’s been pretty accurate. I mean hell is hot, right? And it’s muggy, and it rains like a bastard for all of four minutes a day without warning and then stops. Does this sound like a place for hockey?! I don’t think so. Despite that the Florida Panthers have been slowly trying to build a decent hockey team from the ashes of years past when they actually contended for the cup and wouldn’t you know it, they’ve finally hit on a solid combination of guys that might actually turn this team into a winner and could help you do the same with your fantasy squad.
We are all aware of Aaron Ekblad (1 G, 2 SOG, +2) and his talents, but there are a handful of other guys on the Cats that are worth cashing in on now before they blow up. Leading the pack right now is Vincent Trochek, C (1 G, 2 A, 2 SOG, +3). I’m a big fan of Trochek, who at 5’ 11”, 190lbs is a slightly undersized but can bulk up and fix that sooner than later. Trochek has peerless on-ice vision and excellent puck handling skills that he’s putting on display on a nightly basis since joining the Cats on big ice this season. His passes are crisp and his hockey IQ is high, but he needs to work on his skating and back checking, so he’s bound to be a healthy scratch now and then until he cleans up those aspects of his game. Still, the kid skated with Team USA in the World Championships this year and he’s not going back to the AHL anytime soon. So far this season he has 11 points in just 14 games and while he doesn’t get much time on the power play, while he’s clicking with Jimmy Hayes he’s worth streaming. He’s absolutely worth owning in most keeper leagues.
Speaking of big Jimmy Hayes, RW (1 G, 1 A, 3 SOG, +2), he’s a guy who should be on your radar as well, at least for now. At 6’ 4”, 210lbs Hayes doesn’t lack for size, but he definitely lacks in skating ability. He tends to labor and lumber around the ice, but that hasn’t stopped him from scoring as he continues to play well with 12 points in 16 games so far, but he’s limited to around 13 minutes of ice time right now, so that keeps his value down. He’s an underrated playmaker with solid passing ability and decent vision, but his shooting percentage is slightly inflated at 14.6% too, so expect the rookie to regress a bit sooner than later. Still, he’s worth streaming while he’s clicking with Trochek. So don’t be shy, pick one or both of these guys up and cash in on the Cats’ recent success. It might not last long. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey recently:Please, blog, may I have some more?
Every year Henrik Lundqvist, G (L, 15 SV, 5 GA, .750%) looks sluggish to start the season and every year he finishes as one of the league’s top netminders. Last season there were myriad problems that lead to a mediocre start for both Hank and the Rangers; a nine game road trip to open the season, a new coach and system to adapt to and a training camp plagued by contract issues with various key players. Combine those factors with Hank’s typical modus operandi and it was explainable at least, you could kind of understand how the god of goalies would show chinks in his armor early on. Normally he works those chinks out early on, but so far this season there are some worrisome trends in his game.
So far Hank sports a very mediocre 9-7-3/2.70/.905% season line after allowing 11 goals in his past three games. This bad stretch comes after after blanking the Habs last Sunday and a very strong November. If you look at his lines by month you’ll see an encouraging trend; he finished October with a line of 5-3-0/3.25/.891% and followed up in November with a much more Hank-like 4-3-3/2.05/.927%, so everything is green, right? Not so fast. Soft goals are a big problem for Hank this year, goals that he would have stopped in year’s past. Last night’s game winner was one of those and there’s no real solution to the problem other than Hank stepping up his game and not letting the softies in. They aren’t all his fault, though, as the Rangers’ defense is looking lost more often than not and a few of the tallies from last night were as result of guys getting left on the ice for over two minutes, not clearing the puck when getting the chance (Dom Moore) and errant passes that become turnovers that become goals (Ryan McDonagh). He’s clearly struggling to pick up the puck through screens, too, something he’s noted himself in a recent post game interview. It used to be the only real way to beat Hank was on a deflection, now he’s looking a lot more pedestrian.
So what’s the deal? Has Hank lost it? I seriously doubt it, but I also seriously doubt a return to the elite status he has enjoyed since entering the league nine years ago. For the first time in his career Hank can’t stand on his head and carry the team like he has in the past and that’s shaken the Rangers, who already look shaken enough as it is. I hate to say it, but for Lundqvist owners this season is going to be a bit of a roller coaster. He’s going to go on some ridiculous streaks and some bleh streaks and in the end he may very well finish with the worst numbers of his career. For a netminder like Lundqvist that means a 2.45 GAA and .910 SV%, so it’s not going to kill you, but that’s just not good enough to justify his ADP. Huh, that seems to be a theme with some goalies this year. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey last night:Please, blog, may I have some more?