Lately everyone wants to know if they should drop Braden Holtby (13-10-2/3.00/.915/1) for rookie upstart Phillipp Grubauer (5-2-2/2.02/.938) and while I preached patience with Hotly initially, I think it’s time to get on the Grubi train. Both goalies are young, and with any young athlete there are ups and downs, so it’s hard to make a move with such a small sample size to go on from the rookie who was only given a chance at the NHL level because of an injury to backup Michal Neuvirth earlier this season. Neuvirth’s agent has been whining to the media stating unequivocally “Let me just put it this way, I want Michal out of Washington.” Caps head coach Adam Oates was none too pleased to hear that, but Neuvirth had been completely displaced long before this anyway. It’s starting to sound as though his time with the Caps is coming to a close. So, Grubi isn’t headed back down to the AHL and since Neuvirth went down on Dec. 3 Grubi has started eight of the last 13 games for the Caps, including the last four in a row. He’s not only getting the starts, he’s getting starts against tough opponents that used to fall to Holtby and performing exceptionally well every time he hits the ice. Holtby, on the other hand, has imploded each time he’s been given a start over that span and was relieved by Grubi twice. Oates initially said that Holtby was their guy, but he seems to be talking out of the side of his mouth with that nonsense as they keep rolling Grubi out there game-after-game. At this point I have to endorse the rookie, though that comes with words of caution. Don’t lose track of Hotlby. He’s not a bad goalie, he’s just a young, struggling goalie and Grubi isn’t the second coming of a young Martin Brodeur, he’s a rookie performing well at the start of his career and that can end in a hurry. Still, the hot hand is the hot hand so go ahead and grab him if he’s available in your league as he may hold on to the starting job for some time. Given that he’s only owned in 16% of Yahoo! Leagues and 44% of ESPN leagues, you’ve still got a shot, so get to it! Anyway, here’s what else I saw in fantasy hockey yesterday:
Ben Bishop (2 GA, 28 SV, W) continues to have a stellar season limiting the Canucks in a 4-2 win last night. His season line now sits at 21-5-3/1.89/.935/3 and that has a lot of folks wondering why he was a US Olympic snub when the rosters were announced yesterday. He has the best numbers of any American goaltender right now but his 30 starts this year are a career high by a long shot, his previous being just 13 games played with the Sens last year before being traded to the Bolts and that’s why. Yes, Jon Quick is hurt. Yes, Jimmy Howard is struggling. Yes, Ryan Miller’s numbers look terrible, but the 27 year old Bishop has a lot more to prove than any of those guys, struggling or not.
Jonathan Bernier (2 GA, 41 SV, W) has won three straight, now sports a season line of 13-11-4/2.40/.931/1 and has completely taken over as the Leafs’ no. 1 with James Reimer putting up 3.00+ GAA for the past two months. It’s safe to say that if you’re waiting for Reimer to get more starts you’re going to be waiting a long time, so if there’s a guy on the wire that you want to grab let Reimer loose and ride the hot hand.
Jimmy Howard (2 GA, 24 SV, L) lost his second straight start after returning from injury, though at least in this one he didn’t give up six goals like he did against the Preds last week. Despite sporting a season line of 6-9-8/2.72/.907/2 he was selected as team USA’s third goalie behind Jon Quick and Ryan Miller and the only reason is the experience gap between him and Ben Bishop. If you own Howard you can only hold him and hope he turns it around as there’s no way you’ll get good value returned in a trade for him at this point. The silver lining to this cloud is that if hot, Howard has the ability to stay hot for a good stretch.
Eddie Lack (4 GA, 29 SV, L) won’t spend much more time as the team’s defacto starter with Roberto Luongo nearly ready to return from injury, so be prepared to drop him soon. Eddie has been solid filling in for Robbie, but stumbled in this one coughing up four. He’s struggled with injuries in the past but has a ton of talent, so keep an eye on him for the stretch should Luongo get hurt again.
Daniel Alfredsson (1 G, 3 SOG, +1) has four goals and six points in his last five games and remains fantasy relevant being on pace for 63 points by season’s end. Some folks said that Alfy might have one good season left him in on a team like the Wings and it appears that’s the case. At his age he’s always an injury risk and he hasn’t scored at a pace like this since 2009-2010, so don’t rely on him for much more than a scoring boost off the wire if you’re on Yahoo where he’s owned in just 61% of leagues.
Alex Killorn (1 G, 1 A, 3 SOG, +2) started the year with a few solid months that hinted he might be worth owning as a secondary scoring option in deeper leagues but when Steven Stamkos went down the lines reshuffled and he fell off the map. He’s on pace for around 50 points and that makes him a guy to keep an eye on, but not worth owning.
Valtteri Filppula (1 G, 1 A, 3 SOG, +1) keeps trying to justify that contract of his with 12 points (5 goals) in his last eight games and is now on pace for 31 goals and 66 points this season. That doesn’t quite do it, Flip. Still, he is absolutely worth owning in most formats with those numbers.
Dion Phaneuf (2 A, 1 SOG, +2, 2 PIM) put up another good game and has five points in his last five games, though his overall production is down this season. The Leafs are streaky so is Dion, he should end up in the mid-30s by seasons end. Remember when he was young and poured 200+ shots on net every year and threw in 100s of PIM to boot? Ah, those were the days! These days aren’t those days.
Victor Hedman (1 A, 5 SOG, +2) continues his breakout season and remains on pace for 47 points and 16 goals and despite that he’s only owned in 73% of Yahoo Leagues? Unless your league format penalizes you for good performance, you should go ahead and pick Hedman up immediately if he’s available in your league. Honestly, whom do you have at the back end of your blue line that’s better than Hedman?
Phil Kessel (1 A, 7 SOG, +1) won’t match the point-per-game pace he posted last year, but he’s still good for 40 goals and 70+ points. I’d buy that for a dollar!
Henrik Zetterberg (1 A, 6 SOG, +1) could have challenged for the Hart if he stayed healthy but, shocker, he didn’t. Still, he returned from his injury and picked up where he left off almost immediately. He has four points in his last three games and when healthy remains one of the best scoring forwards in the game.
Nikita Kucherov (1 G, 3 SOG, even) is another young Russian not living up to the hype. He’s on pace for just 21 points this season and for a guy who has often be labeled a “game breaker” he sure isn’t showing that kind of skill so far in his short NHL career. What’s that I hear? Is that the KHL calling?
James van Riemsdyk (1 G, 4 SOG, +1, 2 PIM) contributed across the board yesterday giving us a little of everything. He’s only on pace for 60 points, but with a Bobby Ryan-esque parity at 30/30 goals and assists, respectively. He’s never going to be an 80 point player, but the kid scores goals in bunches.
Ondrej Palat (1 A, 4 SOG, +1) is quietly rolling lately with 4 points in his last five games. The rookie had his best month in December with 2 goals and 6 assists in 13 games and while that’s a bit underwhelming, he is a talented prospect worth keeping an eye on in keeper leagues. He isn’t worth owning quite yet, but he has a natural nose for the net and if he bulks up a bit, he could be something special in a few years.
Tyler Johnson (1 G, 3 SOG, +1) is a rookie worth owning right now in keeper leagues, anyway. He has three goals in his last four games, four points in his last five and is on pace for 45 points in 80 games this season. Both Palat and Johnson share a common denominator in their respective 4 game point streaks, and that’s playing with Martin St. Louis. Once Steven Stamoks is reunited with Marty on the top line you can expect both to slow significantly.
Teddy Purcell (1 A, +2) is another Bolt who misses playing with Stamkos though he has mustered four points in his last five games. He’s only on pace for 45 points, as much as rookie Tyler Johnson, and that doesn’t bode well for the six year vet who many were hoping would have a breakout season in 2014. Yeah, it’s not happening. If you haven’t cut bait on Purcell yet, feel free to do so now. He’s worth tracking as he may streak down the stretch, but otherwise, meh.
Tyler Bozak (1 G, 1 SOG, +1) now has seven points in his last five and that’s more than he’s scored in any month this season so far. I doubt anyone outside of Toronto hoped for much from Bozak so given that we didn’t expect anything; he’s living right up to expectations! That’s something worth holding onto if you’re a Leafs fan. Fantasy owner? Notsomuch.
Justin Abdelkader (1 G, 3 SOG, even, 2 PIM) has always been more of a defensive guy than anything else, but he does find ways to score. The Wings hoped they could turn this kid into a power forward, and while that’s basically what he is, he’s not going to become a Ryan Getzlaf anytime soon.