As the season wears on and the Olympic break looms, a few starters are starting to get up there in TOI and their teams are contenders, so what do you think they’ll do with their starters? If you said “rest them as soon as they can to keep them fresh for the playoffs” you’d be correct and I’m putting a gold star by your name! Every year there’s one or two backups or no names that come out of nowhere to start eight or nine of a team’s last ten games and looks amazing doing it. Those guys? Those guys win you titles. This year two backups stand out with the potential to become fantasy gold down the stretch; San Jose’s Alex Stalock (1 GA, 19 SV, W) and Anaheim’s Frederik Andersen. Neither Andersen nor Stalock saw much action for the first three months of the season, but in January they both saw a spike in starts with six each, a trend that should continue as the season winds to a close. Stalock handled himself nicely for a 19 save win last night because starter Antti Niemi coughed up four goals in his last start and with 47 starts under his belt, and the Olympics starting next week, I think the Sharks want to rest Niemi and that means nothing but good things for Stalock owners. Stalock has been great with his workload slowly but steadily increasing and in that span he put up a line of 3-3-0/1.79/.949/2. That has value anywhere, y’all! Similarly, Jonas Hiller (2 GA, 23 SV, L) backup Frederik Andersen has slowly eaten into Hiller’s starts much like Stalock has in San Jose. With Hiller headed to Sochi to tend net for the Swiss, his injury history and how well Andersen continues to play, Hiller is likely to continue split starts with Andersen more evenly moving forward. Andersen started 6 games to Hiller’s 9 last month and it’s 2 to 1 Hiller so far this month. What’s he done with his time? How about a line of 5-0-0/1.86/.939 in January. Yeah, his last game was a bit of bleh against the surging Blue Jackets, but overall he remains valuable and could be huge if Hiller goes down with another LBI. Never look past backups this late in the season, you never know who will become instant fantasy gold. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in fantasy hockey recently:
Evgeni Malkin (1 G, 1 A, 5 SOG, +2) might actually hit 30 goals this season and it was looking like he might not even approach that earlier this season. Does it really matter either way? Geno’s gonna get his, and so will his owners.
Bobby Ryan (0 G, 0 A, bleh) has hit a rough patch with just six points in his last 15 games dating back through January. All his owners can do is hope he gets his act together soon.
Marian Hossa (1 G, 1 A, 2 SOG, +2) has 16 points in his last 17 games as he quicky approaches a point-per-game pace. That’s pretty damn stellar for a guy who I was able to get mostly at the tail end of the first five rounds in almost every draft. He’s out performing a handful of guys who routinely went before him in drafts, so what does that teach us? Don’t doubt MaHo!
Martin Havlat (1 G, 1 A, 1 SOG, +2) returned from his latest tri-seasonal trip to the IR with some points! Havlat was once a high level, elite prospect that just couldn’t stay healthy. Now he’s an aging never-was that just can’t stay healthy. I’m seeing a pattern here. That being said, if you have the need and some room, Havlat is still really talented, he’s just made of glass, so if you need a scoring boost he might be a cheap source to stream.
Kari Lehtonen (2 GA, 19 SV, L) looks like he’s staying healthy (and now he’ll get hurt because I said that! You’re welcome, Lehtonen owners!) but he has been getting progressively worse, albeit slowly, but worse as the season’s gone on. He started hot but his GAA/SV% by month has been in steady decline, behold; Oct – 1.66/.945, Nov – 2.52/.914, Dec – 2.82/.914, Jan – 2.79/.900. Will the trend reverse? He’s started well this month, but with only two starts under his belt we’ll have to wait and see. If you own Kari and he’s your primary goalie, well, if you’re still a contender you should be proud because that’s freakin’ amazing, but seriously, trade him while he’s healthy.
Brooks Orpik (1 A, 4 SOG, +2) is pretty much worthless if you need him for scoring help, but if you’re in a league that counts hits and blocks this dude is money in the bank with 140 hits and 99 blocks in just 49 games so far this season.
Ryan Garbutt (1 G, 1 A, 4 SOG, +2) and you can add four hits and two blocked shots to that, too. Garbutt isn’t worth grabbing in standard leagues, but in deeper, stats heavy leagues this guy is a multi-category monster that should be owned.
Jonathan Toews (1 G, 3 SOG, +2) hurt his arm in the first period, went to the locker room, found some dirt, rubbed it on his arm and got back out there for the second period. He then scored a goal in the third for good measure. Why not?
Tommy Wingels (1 G, 1 SOG, +1) is laying the boom Brooks Orpik style and has 149 so far in 52 games. That wouldn’t be significant in and of itself, but he’s also scoring and is on pace for 45 points with 16 goals so this kid is definitely worth owning in hits leagues. If he stepped up his production a bit more and started flirting with 60 points, he’s going to be worth a look outside those hits leagues as well. I doubt that happens this year, but he did play along side Joe Pavelski last night and if that sticks, Wings might be worth a late season grab in your rush for a title.
David Clarkson (1 G, 2 PIM, 1 SOG) scored his first goal since January. Wow, that’s great! And by great I mean awful! Signing guys like this is why the Leafs can’t have nice things. You know, like a Stanley Cup. I never really liked Clarkson and thought his big season was a fluke. Aaaaand there you go.
Matt Niskanen (1 A, 3 SOG, +1, 2 PIM) remains on pace for a career best 47 points and that’d be a few better than Wingels will give you at Wing and Nisky is a defenseman. Nice! I would say I doubt he’s available anywhere, but would you look at that he’s still available in 25% of Yahoo leagues.
Drew Stafford (1 G, 4 SOG, even) has six points in his last five games, but only technically speaking because he missed a few games in that stretch. I suppose it’s good that he was starting to score, suffered an LBI, then returned to start scoring again right away. That said, he has been so yawnstipating on the league’s most bleh team that I can’t recommend owning him anywhere.
Michal Rozsival (1 A, +2, 4 PIM) only has six points in 32 games and he plays for the Blackhawks! That’s freakin’ terrible and so is Rozy.
Patrick Sharp (1 A, +2) scores a ton for the Hawks and this is his career year. I don’t think he’ll have a better season moving forward, and why would he? Hockey players aren’t fine wine, they’re more like Malt Liquor, so you need to pound that 40 while there’s still some fizz left in the bottle. This is Sharp’s tenth year in the league and going on 33 this year he might give us one or two more solid years, but he’s not going to be scoring a point-per-game again. What does that mean? It means he’s going to be cray overvalued come next year’s drafts.
Brian Gibbons (1 G, 1 SOG, +1) has goals in back to back games now, but he remains about as valuable to fantasy owners as an actual Gibbon would be.
Tyler Ennis (1 A, 3 SOG, even) still has time to get himself into gear, but playing for the Sabres is not going to make it easy. He’s going to come up short of matching his career best 49 points in 82 games from his sophomore season, but he’s still fighting. Oft forgotten about due to where he plays, Ennis is actually a very talented offensively minded winger with some real skills. He skates faster than greased lightnin’, has a sweet shot and good passing ability and don’t get me started on his puck handling abilities. That all being said, we can’t hold the Sabres as a team responsible for all Ennis’ troubles to date, he’s going to have to step up sooner or later. I wouldn’t own him, mind you, but he’s worth knowing about if he gets traded or by some miracle the Sabres find a way to not suck so completely real soon.
Valeri Nichushkin (1 G, 2 SOG, even) has been slowed by some nagging injuries and just being a young hockey player in general, but he still shows serious signs of promise. He’s probably only good for another 10-15 points before the season is out, though, so if there’s a hot hand on the wire and you’re wondering if you can or should drop Val to make the grab, do it.
Corey Crawford (0 GA, 29 SV, W) notched his first shutout of the season and that surprised me. The days of Antii Raanta getting starts are long, long gone but we knew that already.
Gabriel Landeskog (1 G, 5 SOG, 2 PIM) has ten points over recent seven game streak (4 G, 6 A) and he’s on pace to notch 66 points powered by 25 goals by season’s end and wouldn’t you know it, he’s only owned in 87% of Yahoo leagues.