If you were asked “Which is the best line in hockey right now?” what would you say? The Kessel/Bozak/JVR line in Toronto? How about the Perry/Getzlaf/Penner line in Anaheim? You might even venture a really far out guess throwing the surging Nash/Kreider/Stepan line out there for the Rangers. Well, none of the above is the answer here folks, because the TVO line on Long Island has been dominating the league for the past month. John Tavares (3 A, 4 SOG, +1, 2 PIM) leads the league in scoring since December 17th and decided that his lead wasn’t quite big enough, so he added three helpers after scoring goals in back-to-back games prior to last night. That gives him 25 points in his last 17 games. Kyle Okposo (2 A, 3 SOG, +1, 2 PIM) now has 22 points in his last 17 games and is now tied for second in the league in scoring since Dec. 17th with Thomas Vanek (1 G, 1 A, 5 SOG, even) who clearly loves playing with Okie and Tavares, and who wouldn’t? He has 23 points in his last 17 games and holy hell is this line good or what? I know I have a history of bashing the Isles for not giving Tavares enough talent to work with, but he sure has it now. Unfortunately that hasn’t changed the fact that the Isles have a horrible defense and suspect goaltending, so despite the fact that the TVO line is scoring in buckets, it hasn’t been enough. Obviously all three of these guys are taken in your league and if they’re not, you’re in a really horrible league. The only player since Dec. 17th in the top 4 in scoring that isn’t an Islander is Flyers’ Wayne Simmonds with his own 22 points over that span, and there’s a guy worth adding and is likely still available, so add him where you can. Did I just start a feature about three guys and end up recommending you add someone completely different? You betcha! Just trying to keep you readers on your toes. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey last night:
Drew Stafford (2 G, 1 A, 5 SOG, even) has a pretty nice night with three points vs. the Panthers, but of course the Sabres lost anyway. Stafford used to have marginal value hovering around 50ish points a season, but he seems to have picked up right where he left off after last year playing horribly.
Eric Gelinas (1 G, 2 A, 2 SOG, +2) continues to produce at a monster rate for the Devils putting up another three points in a dominant 7-1 victory over the suddenly human Ducks. Gelinas has six points (2 G, 4 A) over his last six games and when I told you to pick him up last Monday I was being pretty serious. I’m still serious, pick him up!
Cory Schneider (1 GA, 26 SV, W) continues to get the starts and continues to play like he’s the best goalie in the league. Think that’s hyperbole? Over his last five games he’s only given up more than one goal once, when he gave up two in a 3-2 SO loss to the Leafs ten days ago. His season line sits at 8-9-7/1.88/.926/3 and if you have any questions that start with “Who do you like more, Cory Schenider or…” the answer is going to be Schenider nine times out of ten. He should be owned in 105% of leagues. 105% isn’t possible, you say? No worries! We’ll find a way to make it happen.
Kari Lehtonen (0 GA, 18 SV, W) finally had a solid game after three straight losses where he allowed at least three goals in each contest. Kari is immensely talented but his spotty health has always held him back, so to this point in his career he hasn’t had the chance to handle the no. 1 tender’s workload for a full season. Yeah he put in 68 games back in 2010-11, but outside of that he has never started more than 59 games in a season. He sits at 41 so far this year. If he strings together a few more good starts, consider moving him before the deadline for a goaltender that will be more reliable come playoff time.
Kevin Poulin (3 GA, 30 SV, W) might be decent option to add right now if it wasn’t for the horrid Isles defense. Sadly his numbers remain bleh with a season line of 11-14-0/3.10/.896 and despite his solid stretch to start this month that saw him hold opponents to just eight goals in four games, he’s coughed up 13 in his last four. You might be thinking about adding him, but I’ll warn you now, it won’t be pretty if you do.
R.J. Umberger (2 G, 4 SOG, +2) made himself useful with a few goals to the very few fantasy owners who own him in what I hope are very deep leagues. Oh who am I kidding, no one started this guy for these goals and he’s not likely to have a better game for the rest of the season. Is that a shame? Eh.
Damien Brunner (1 G, 2 A, 3 SOG, even) is really lighting it up lately with six points (3 G, 3 A) over his last five games. He wasn’t able to stick with the Wings and missed time this season with a bum knee, but he’s looking great on a surging Devils squad lately. If you need some scoring help, taking a flier on Brunner couldn’t hurt in the short term, but don’t get too attached to him, he can be streaky.
Phil Kessel (2 G, 8 SOG, even) now has five goals, five assists in his last five games. Man, he loves dem fives and his fantasy owners do too. If the Kessle/JVR line could get a solid center, they’d compete with the TVO Isles line for best in the league status. Alas, tis not the case. I like Tyler Bozak, but he can’t compare to Tavares, then again, who can? And Nazem Kadri has really disappointed this season, still, that hasn’t stopped Kessel from dominating.
James van Riemsdyk (1 G, 1 A, 4 SOG, even) doesn’t seem to mind that he lacks that solid center either. The lad is learning much from Obi-Phil Kenessel.
Tyler Bozak (2 A, 2 SOG, +1) feels like I don’t give him enough credit, so he got in on the action and added two helpers. Way to be, Bozo!
Nazem Kadri (1 G, 4 SOG, +1, 2 PIM) also felt insulted by my dismissal of his awful 2013-14 season and stretched his points streak to four games, he has six points (2 G, 4 A) over that span. Kadri’s second half is likely to be far, far better than his first half, but that isn’t say much. Still, I doubt many gave up on him, and if he gets time between Kessel and JVR, look out.
James Reimer (2 GA, 35 SV, W) seems to be best used in a backup role with his second solid start in the last week. When you ask him to take the reins on most nights he seems to break down, but spot start him and he’s a damn fine backup. Given that, and Jonathan Bernier’s stellar play, I can’t imagine this situation changing for the rest of the season barring injury, of course.
Ed Jovanovski (1 G, 1 A, 1 SOG, +3, 2 PIM) swears he’s still young enough to deliver in this league. I’m still very dubious on whether or not he can keep up a decent pace in his 17th season, playing for the Panthers, but so far he’s put up 4 points in 9 games and is on pace for 18 in 41. For you math majors, that’s 36 points in 82 games if he played the whole year. It seems Jovocop still has it!
Evander Kane (1 G, 1 A, 1 SOG, +2) returned from his latest injury to again raise the hopes of his owners with a good game. Let’s see him keep doing this and stay healthy, then I’ll get back on board. Don’t get me wrong, Kane is hella talented, but he has had a rollercoaster season and I’m glad I’m not on for the ride. If you are, my advice hasn’t changed, hold on and hope.
Artem Anisimov (1 G, 1 A, 3 SOG, +2, 2 PIM) looked like he might be developing into something special in New York for a spell, but that all seemed to die off pretty quickly once he was shipped off to Columbus in the Nash trade. He’ll be lucky to top 40 points this season, which would rock for a defenseman, but he’s a center, so…. blech.
Rick Nash (2 G, 6 SOG, even, 2 PIM) is officially on fire and it’s fun to watch. He added two more goals last night and is really clicking with Derek Stepan and…
Chris Kreider (1 G, 2 A, 3 SOG, even) continues to bolster his case for the Calder trophy with another very nice game. Playing alongside all world power forward Rick Nash seems to have lit a fire under the kid who didn’t really need one lit in the first place. If you don’t own Kreider in a keeper league, you be cray cray, but don’t think his value stops there, he’s worth owning everywhere.
Ben Scrivens (2 GA, 25 SV, L) has lost both starts since coming over from LA, though last night he looked far better than he did against the, uh, Wild last Thursday. With that porous Oil defense in front of Scrivens it’s only going to get uglier as the starts pile up for Scribbles.
Braden Holtby (2 GA, 24 SV, L) got the call in the first start of the post-Grubi era and performed well in a losing effort. This wasn’t Holtby’s fault, his team gave him squat for offensive support and the Caps fell 2-0. I expect Holtby will return to the no. 1 job with Michal Neuvirth backing him up and this game only reinforces that expectation despite the loss.
Nathan MacKinnon (2 G, 5 SOG, even) potted two more goals on the heels of a two assist game against the Preds a few nights ago and continues his own Calder campaign. MacKinnon might score 30 goals this year and is likely good for another 15 before season’s out, but I think Kreider wins ROY because his game is more balanced. That doesn’t change the fact that he’s immensely valuable in keeper leagues and well worth owning in standards.
Travis Zajac (2 A, +2, 2 PIM) once scored 60-plus points in back-to-back seasons and flirted with going further, but then it all fell apart with an injury in 2011-12. He hasn’t quite been the same since and his mediocre production continues. Even though he seems to be getting some table scraps from the recent Devils surge, I wouldn’t own him with your team.
Joffrey Lupul (2 A, 1 SOG, +2) now has five points over his last five, but only one goal. He swears that really awesome 2011-12 season wasn’t a fluke, but we all know the dark truth; it was the peak of his career.
Bryan Little (2 A, 1 SOG, +2) continues his career, or should I say breakout season extending his points streak to five game with a pair of helpers. He could hit the 70 point mark this season, and Jets or not, bleh plus/minus or not, he’s absolutely worth owning everywhere.
Ondrej Pavelec (2 GA, 40 SV, W) beat the Ducks and looked good doing it! I would never have advised anyone to start Pavelec vs. the (still Mighty) Ducks, but there you have it. Like Anderson, he won’t lose his starting job to Al Montoya despite his up and down play, though to be fair Anderson’s play is just down, while Pavelec at least has some sustained stretches of solid play mixed in.
Frederik Andersen (0 GA, 10 SV, L) was sent down to the AHL and called back up in the same week. It didn’t really matter to him, however, and he continued his stellar play and did so again last night in relief of the suddenly human Jonas Hiller. It remains to be seen what happens when Viktor Fasth returns from his LBI, but it’s safe to assume at this point that he’ll head back to the AHL despite his consistently magnificent performances. With that being said, Fasth is reportedly recovering slowly, so Andersen still has time left in the AHL this season.
Marek Zidlicky (2 A, 1 SOG, +1) is having one hell of a comeback season after a dismal 2011-12 season that saw him get traded from the Wild to the Devils. He’s on pace for 44 points and so long as the Devils don’t collapse, he’ll get there and maybe more.
Nathan Horton (1 G, 4 SOG, +1) seems to be playing quite well for the Jackets and now has six points in his first nine games since returning from his injury. Horton always had talent and his role was reduced in Boston from what it was in Florida, so that affected his production. In Columbus he’s a centerpiece guy and considering they signed him to a $37.1 million deal in July, he should be producing like this. Welp, he is, so if you need scoring help, get in on it while the gettins’ good, because who knows if he can keep it up, or even stay healthy.
Sergei Bobrovsky (3 GA, 26 SV, W) continues to be absolutely magnificent since returning from his injury and with Nathan Horton’s help, they have the Jackets on a role winning eight straight games. His recent stretch makes me wonder if he was playing hurt to start the season and is now, finally, fully healthy. Either way, if you were suffering through his rough first half, if looks like he’s poised to give you a Vezina quality stretch run.
James Wisniewski (2 A, 2 SOG, +1) remains the most underappreciated defenseman in fantasy hockey stretching his points streak to five games. He has 10 points in his last nine games and five of those came with the man advantage. I can’t say it enough; pick. him. up.
Alex Goligoski (2 A, 2 SOG, +1) will get his 30 points this season like he always does, but he won’t give you much more than that.
Craig Anderson (0 GA, 34 SV, W) had allowed a whopping 14 goals over his last four games before this shutout, so basically it means nothing. His GAA has remains over 3.00 for some time and his SV% languishes either just above or right below .900%. At some point Robin Lehner is going to get a shot, but it looks like that’s next year, because if this kind of play hasn’t cost Anderson his starting job yet, it won’t moving forward.
Roberto Luongo (1 GA, 28 SV, W) seems just fine after returning from his re-injured injury. It’s a good thing, too, because Eddie Lack was looking pretty bad towards the end of his tenure filling in for Robbie.
Jean-Sebastien Giguere (1 GA, 19 SV, L) started the season on a tear, but has since returned to his normal, old, mediocre self. He’s lost his last five starts and it looks like the Avs only have a chance of winning with Semyon Varlamov on the ice. With that being said, let me quickly contradict myself and mention that he came in for Varlamov in this game after Semyon coughed up three goals on the first ten shots he faced. I think that has more to do with Varlamov having a fluke off night and being tired due to the workload, so don’t expect a change in net in Colorado.
Cam Talbot (4 GA, 32 SV, L) only started this game because Henrik Lundqvist was sick. He got bombed by the TVO line and the Isles rolled 5-3. Hank should be back as soon as he’s healthy again, which is likely sometime this weekend.
Darcy Kuemper (4 GA, 32 SV, L) came back down to earth on the Jonas Hiller express with a 4-0 pounding from the Stars. The Wild were, of course, going to ride the kid while he was hot, but if he follows this game up with another stinker, look for Niklas Backstrom to return to the crease sooner than later. I still don’t think Kuemper is worth adding anywhere.