I figured that Brian Elliott would eventually tire and leave the window open for Jake Allen to step up and steal the job, but I never imagined that Elliott would get hurt this early in the season. Obviously it’s not because he’s tired, but an injury is an injury and Allen is now the starter while Elliott nurses his LBI back to health. Elliott is currently week-to-week and if you pair that with the dreaded knee injury for a goalie, that’s not a good sign. To make matters worse, the Blues quickly contacted Martin Brodeur for a tryout that I’m almost positive he’ll pass. Even if he does, Marty is 42 and he hasn’t been much more than solid in a few years now, so Allen should remain the starter barring some freak happenings. Grab Marty where you can, but only expect backup minutes at worst and a 50/50 timeshare at best.
The St. Louis crease isn’t the only crease that’s looking out of order lately, Tampa’s Ben Bishop, G (W, 16 SV, 3 GA, .842%) is working his way into a similar pickle. Bishop is young and extremely talented, so I’m not super worried about his early heavy workload, but it’s going to worry me more and more as the season goes on. Evgeni Nabakov is clearly not the answer to backup Bishop, and I was hoping Stevie Y would give Marty Brodeur a call to fill the roll but that ship has sailed so Big Ben still stands tall but alone in the Tampa crease. We’ve seen how well putting the pressure of literally being the only goalie on the roster the team can depend on has done to Cory Schneider in New Jersey, I’m getting worried the same will happen with Bishop before long.
It’s not all bad news though, at least for Alex Stalock owners! Antti Niemi, G (L, 17 SV, 1 GA, .944%) is still mediocre and did very little to make the case that he’s the undisputed no. 1 in San Jose while Stalock was out recovering from minor knee surgery. Even better news for Stalock owners, he’s skating with the team, says his knee feels great and is once again ready to take this starting job from Niemi. It could be that Stalock was suffering from a bum wheel to start the year and now that it’s taken care of, he could be even better upon returning. Stay tuned. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey this week:
Ondrej Pavelec, G (W, 19 SV, 1 GA, .950%) – Pavs finally snaps a five game losing streak that I think we all expected to come sooner or later. He isn’t nearly as good as he played the first month of the season and I expect his peripherals will continue to weaken as the season pushes on. There’s bad news for Pavs and his owners, too, as backup Michael Hutchinson has been stellar all season and despite the small sample size, he’s the hot hand right now and he’s getting the starts accordingly. If Hutch can continue his solid play and Pavs returns to his usual mediocre form, Hutch could be the starter by the end of this year, and by “this year” I mean 2014. If you own Pavs you’d do well to make room on your roster and handcuff him to Hutch.
Jhonas Enroth, G (L, 24 SV, 2 GA, .923%) – In his last three games Enroth has allowed just three goals and won all three tilts. That’s good! He plays for the Sabres though, and he allowed 11 goals in the two starts before this solid three game stretch. That’s bad. Like I always say, you souldn’t bother owning Sabres goalies at this point in the season, hot or not.
Chris Stewart, RW (1 G, 1 SOG, +1) – Wow, this guy is still in the league? I would have figured he’d have long since jumped ship to the KHL after no NHL team would have him, but then I realized that I forgot just how awful (and desperate!) the Sabres are. It’s hard to believe this is a guy that scored 40 goals once.
Bryan Little, C (1 G, 5 SOG) – Wednesday’s tally gives Little goals in three straight games, but he’s slowed down from an early luke warm start and has just six points in 14 November games. He’s on track to score over 25 goals and I’ll buy that, but I doubt he’ll see north of 55 points by season’s end. Hell, 50 would be a bonus at this point.
Jaroslav Halak, G (W, 25 SV, 2 GA, .926%) – Halak stretches his winning streak to a robust eight games after he went on a bit of a slide in late October losing four straight. He’s allowed just eight goals during his eight game streak and has pitched three shutouts blanking the Coyotes, Avs and Flyers. He also held the Pens to one goal and the Bolts and Ducks to just two goals apiece. Halak is a solid goalie, but he isn’t masterful and he’s playing masterful hockey lately. If ever there was a time to sell high on a guy, it’s right now.
Braden Holtby, G (L, 32 SV, 3 GA, .914%) – Holts might be 2-3-0 over his last five but that’s no fault of his. Before Wednesday’s loss to the high powered Isles (I never thought I’d say or type those words, in that order.) he hadn’t allowed more than two goals in any game over that stretch, but have no fear, the Caps will start scoring and that will bring the wins to Holtby’s nightly line.
Alex Ovechkin, LW (2 G, 4 SOG, 2 PIM) – Speaking of the Caps getting it together on offense, someone else is going to have to step up and help Ovie out. He’s at 20 points in 21 games with 11 goals and a minus-three rating, so he’s about exactly where I expected at this point. He’s good for 50 goals and a negative rating again this year.
John Tavares, C (1 G, 4 SOG) – I’m actually a bit surprised to see a minus-four rating on Tavares’ season line considering how great the Isles offense has been so far this year. I imagine it’s going to start improving sooner or later considering how often he and Kyle Okposo (1 SOG) put the biscuit in the basket, but the defense needs to step up to help the case.
Leo Komarov, LW (2 G, 2 SOG, +1) – Tack two more on for Komo who now has goals in back-to-back games with five points in his last four. He’s on pace for nearly 60 points now and while I’m dubious he’ll get that far, you can expect at least 45 points and close to 200 hits from the guy. I’ve been saying he’s worth owning in any hits league and he just keeps making the case for me. Hell, at this point he might be worth owning in some standard formats, at least while he’s scoring.
Tyler Bozak, C (1 G, 2 SOG) – Bozo continues his near point-per-game pace and honestly I think he can keep it up. Injuries and poor talent around him have held him back, but this year he seems to be healthy and he won’t find better finishers on his wings than James van Reimsdyk (3 SOG, -2) and Phil Kessel (2 SOG, -1). I somehow doubt he finishes the season with 85 points, but he could absolutely kick in 70-plus.
Blake Comeau, LW (3 G, 4 SOG, +2) – A hatty is about the last thing I expected to see from Comeau, but with Pascal Dupuis out for the rest of the season with blood-clots in his legs and Beau Bennett out with yet another injury, Comeau will continue to see top-six minutes and skate alongside Geno Malkin for the time being. Like I said earlier this season, as long as he’s on Geno’s line, he’s worth owning.
Evgeni Malkin, C (1 G, 2 A) – Speaking of Geno, I never doubted his skill just his ability to stay healthy. The season is still young.
Jimmy Howard, G (W, 22 SV, 2 GA, .917%) – Howie is looking slightly more vulnerable in November than he did in October, but not by much. It seems like every year I draft Howie he falls flat, so then next season I avoid him and he does well. Clearly the only effective strategy is to draft all-Howie, all the time.
Steve Mason, G (L, 11 SV, 3 GA, .786%) – Only Mason would follow up a 46 save shutout by allowing three goals on 14 shots his next time out. Don’t let the shutout fool you, he isn’t turning a corner and he isn’t getting better. The only corner he’s going to turn is off Bitterness and Defeat Boulevard to Waivers Way. If the Flyers had any other option to go with, they would. They don’t.
Claude Giroux, C (1 G, 1 A, 4 SOG) – Right now Giroux is on pace for 102 points. I don’t buy that. I will buy an easy 90-plus, though.
Jakub Voracek, RW (1 G, 1 A, 4 SOG) – Jake has to be one of the biggest surprises of the season; I know I didn’t see it coming. He’s currently on pace for 117 and I honestly can’t see him getting there, that’s Sidney Crosby (2 A, 3 SOG, -1) territory, but he could surprise everyone and break the century mark this year. In other words, yes, I think this will continue. No, don’t sell high. Ride the wave.
Pavel Datsyuk, C (2 G, 2 SOG, +2) – Ugh, only Dats can make me say “ugh” when he scores two goals. He has 13 points in just 11 games so far this season and if he could just stay healthy for more than five minutes he’d be up there with Crosby, Giroux, Voracek and company. When he’s healthy, he’s money. But honestly, while he’s healthy for 30 seconds, I’d sell.
Tomas Jurco, LW ( 1 G, 2 SOG, +1) – Jurco is an immensely talented young player that had to rebuild his game from the ground up when he hit big ice a few seasons ago. He was dubbed the “youtube” guy by teammates because of his incredible displays of puck and stick handling mastery, but that sort of nonsense doesn’t translate well to an actual NHL game. He’s not scoring enough to warrant adding yet, but five points in his last five games does warrant your attention. He has the talent to break out at any time.
Stephen Weiss, C (1 G, 1 A, 2 SOG) – He’s only played three games so far due to injury but he’s making the games count with four points in those three games. He’s scored multiple points in both games since his return and is skating with the ever fragile Pavel Datsyuk, which bodes will for continued production while Dats is healthy. That means it could end at any time, but get it while the gettins’ good, y’all!
Henrik Zetterberg, LW (1 G, 3 SOG, +1) – Z started red hot with 14 poinst in 10 games in October, but he was skating on a line with Dats and Justin Abdelkader (+1) at the time, a unit that doesn’t look to be reforming any time soon. Since then he’s scored just 5 points in 12 games in November, but you can’t cut bait on a guy this talented. His back seems fully healthy so just let the Wings get back to full strength and you’ll see a spike in his numbers again.
Henrik Lundqvist, G (L, 25 SV, 4 GA, .862%) – It pains me to say it, but the 32 year old Hank might not be the goalie he once was. That means he’s fallen from amazingly elite to just amazing, but the elite bit was the important part. A 2.60 GAA and .911 SV% are far from elite and I honestly don’t know if he’s going to bring that GAA down below 2.40 or the GAA over .915% by season’s end. Good numbers for most goalies, mediocre for the King.
Rick Nash, LW (1 G, 1 A, 2 SOG) – With goals in three straight Nashty brings his season total to 15 goals in 21 games. Tack on eight helpers and he’s at 23 points over those 21 games so far and well on his way to a 50 goal season.
Dan Boyle, D (1 G, 2 SOG, +2) – Boyler notches his first tally of the year but I don’t see him scoring more than 35 points this season. He’s past it. I love the guy, but he’s past it. You know how you know he’s past it? The Rangers gave him $4.5 mil per for two years at 38 years old. You can always count on Glen Sather to offer awful deals to defensemen that were worth it five years ago.
Ryan Callahan, RW (2 G, 1 A, 5 SOG) – I figured Cally would have a solid year playing on the top line with Steven Stamkos (1 G, 2 A, 1 SOG) but I’m pretty shocked that he’s on pace for 40 goals and 80 points. I don’t buy it, but I will buy 30 goals and 65 points by season’s end. You have to figure he’s going to get cold at some point, then hurt.
Nikita Kucherov, RW (1 G, 2 SOG) – I was a big pusher of what Kucherov is selling this season and I’m going to continue to push. Pick him up. He’s on pace for nearly 70 points and 30 goals, both totals he can reach. Pick. Him. Up.
Roberto Luongo, G (W, 11 SV, 1.000%, SHO) – Lu needed just 11 stops to notch a shutout over the hapless Canes who continue to slide the wrong way. The Cats are cruising with Lu at the helm, though. I’m sorry I doubted you, Lu.
Cam Ward, G (W, 27 SV, 1 GA, .964%) – Ward is clearly the number one goalie for one of the worst teams in the league. That’s fitting.
Nick Bjugstad, C (1 G, 3 SOG, +1) – Jugs keeps rolling in November and has four goals over his last five games with five points over that span. After scoring just one point, a helper, in eight October games he’s come alive with eight goals in 13 games this month. That puts him on pace for 50 points and that sounds aboot right. He’s a no-brainer in any keeper league and is slowly gaining enough notoriety to be owned in standard formats as well.
Martin Jones, G (W, 28 SV, 1.000%, SHO) – Jones started both games in the back-to-back set for the Kings this week and I’m not sure why. There’s no word on a Jon Quick injury so we’ll let cooler heads prevail and declare this a one time thing due to some freak happenstance and that Quick should be back in there next game. That said, Jones looked great rebounding after getting beat for four goals on 33 shots against the Wild on Tuesday.
Darcy Kuemper, G (L, 6 SV, 4 GA, .600%) – I know what you’re thinking but don’t be impatient with a young goalie in a high-pressure situation. Yes, he’s pretty up and down right now but again, that’s to be expected. He won four games in a row and looked solid doing it before dropping his last two and he held the Bolts to just two goals last Saturday, so it’s not all bad. Hold tight and keep an eye on how Josh Harding is doing in his AHL conditioning stint.
Tyler Toffoli, C (1 G, 2 SOG, +1) – There was no way Toffey was going to keep rolling the way he did in October. You knew that, I knew that. He tallied 14 points in 11 games in October and has followed that up with five points in 12 games this month. That’s actually about what you can expect from him month-to-month for the rest of the year, around five to eight points, maybe ten tops. He’ll probably end up with around 50 points by season’s end.
Justin Williams, RW (1 G, 1 SOG, +2) – Williams is on one of his streaks and has six points over his last five games. He’s worth owning while he’s hot.
Corey Crawford, G (W, 27 SV, 2 GA, .931%) – He’s keeping his GAA under 2 and yet still very little love for early season Vezina votes. I don’t know why. Do people doubt him still? You shouldn’t.
Calvin Pickard, G (L, 42 SV, 3 GA, .933%) – Two games in a row Captain Pickard had to come in to spell Reto Berra and both times he shut out his opponents en route to consecutive 4-3 victories. It made sense then that they’d just give him a start and see what he could do, but unfortunately it came against the Hawks and the tagged him for three goals and the loss. That said, he stopped 42 of 45 and he’s looked a lot better than Berra has lately so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get the call next game, too.
Ryan O’Reilly, C (1 G, 4 SOG) – The Avs are absolutely chocked full of disappointment this year but fewer disappointments are bigger than the first quarter of Ryan O’Reilly’s 2014-15 campaign. He has just 12 points in 23 games and a monstrously awful minus-12 rating. The day that you can safely drop him is coming pretty soon.
Karri Ramo, G (W, 32 SV, 1.000%, SHO) – I bet when the Flames added Jonas Hiller they had higher hopes for him, they certainly expected he would put up better numbers than his backup Ramo, but that isn’t the case. In fact, their numbers are nearly identical and Ramo is trending up lately while Hiller continues to trend down. If I owned Hiller, which I don’t, I’d absolutely handcuff him to Ramo.
Jiri Hudler, LW (2 G, 4 SOG, +1) – Hudler has five goals in his last five games with tallies in three straight. He and Johnny Gaudreau (2 SOG, +1) are really clicking but I doubt Hudler puts up more than 65 points this year. He often starts hot and slows down, so selling high isn’t a bad idea.
Pekka Rinne, G (W, 37 SV, 1.000%, SHO) – Maybe it’s Rinne that’s costing Crawford early season Vezina props? Either way, Rinne is the frontrunner for the award right now. I was not big on him coming into the season because goalie + funky hip = sadface, but the hip is clearly 100% and Rinne is back at the top of his, or anyone else’s game.
Viktor Fasth, G (L, 24 SV, 1 GA, .960%) – It’s games like this that really make me feel bad for Oil netminders. Yikes.
Filip Forsberg, C (1 G, 2 SOG, +1) – The Thrill snaps a three game scoreless streak with the only goal of the night scoring the game-winning goal in OT. He will start slowing down sooner than later. He’ll remain valuable all year, but he’s not going to score 15 points a month.