For the better part of the last decade Josh Harding has been stuck behind the oft injured but immensely talented Nik Backstrom in Minnesota. It kind of makes me feel for the guy, but then I remember he is getting paid an awful lot of money to sit there and wait for Backstorm to get hurt and every year which he does like clockwork. Please, blog, may I have some more?
He's always piled up the assists but Jason Spezza has never been known as a goal scorer. This year, it's a different story because if he wasn't injured, he'd have set a career high in goals. On Friday, Spezza scored a goal and an assist on four shots against the Blackhawks before Spezza scored for the fifth consecutive game Saturday, burying two goals on seven shots against the Blues. Spezza now has 28 goals and 25 assists in 64 games; his career high is 34 goals. Spezza is now a top 50 skater on the year and with the talent the Stars have, he should be around there next year. Here's what else I saw around the league this weekend:
It’s that time of year again. You’re in or you’re out. You’re contending in hockey or you’re mock drafting for baseball. You’re hunkered at the computer reading advanced stats or you’re naked and running crazily among the spring daffodils. Why are you naked? Who knows, it just seems to fit the picture. You’re either getting outta my car or into my dreams. Okay, this is now getting weird. Let’s get to the point.
The Florida Panthers have had so many high draft picks that among their young core, Vincent Trocheck tends to be forgotten. The 22 year old has taken a massive step forward in his progression this season and he had his best game to date on Thursday, scoring a goal and three assists in the 6-2 win over the Senators. Trocheck now has 20+25 with solid numbers in all categories with 15 games to go. He's 90% at this point (I'm surprised it's not 100%) and should make a nice target in the mid to late rounds in drafts next season. Here's what else I saw around the league on Thursday night:
Semyon Varlamov is the epitome of a goaltender who is the ultimate wild card. Insert Forrest Gump quote here, etc. One day he can give up 2 goals on 2 shots and get pulled like he did against Buffalo a few weeks ago and then you can get a 37 save shutout like he had against the red hot Ducks on Wednesday night. It was the first regulation loss for the Ducks in over a month. Patrick Roy has shown the willingness to go to Calvin Pickard if necessary but that's two monster games in a row for Varlamov so expect him to ride the Russian for the near term. Here's what else I saw on Wednesday night:
We are only a few days away from the trade deadline and the first big trade piece is off the market. The Jets moved their captain Andrew Ladd and sent him to the team they acquired him from in 2010, Chicago. The Blackhawks paid a massive price for the rental sending a first round pick, a conditional third, and Marko Dano. If you remember in the preseason, Dano was my favorite sleeper after he came on strong at the end of last season in Columbus. With Bryan Little out for the season, I expect Dano to be in Winnipeg right away. If that's the case, he's immediately worth consideration in 12'ers because his upside is through the roof. Ladd will go on the first line in Chicago on Jonathan Toews' wing which is also a big boost to his value. This is another trade, like the Columbus and Nashville blockbuster, that is a win for all players from a fantasy perspective. Here's what I saw on the ice the last two nights around the league:
I've wrote a ton about Nikolaj Ehlers this season. At the beginning of the year, I thought he was must-own until Paul Maurice inexplicably dropped him into the bottom 6. A couple weeks ago, he was bumped into the top 6 and I said grab him again. Yesterday, I wrote about him at length here since I had him as my top streamer. I said that, "The minutes are up and getting a matchup with the Coyotes, who will be on the second of a back to back having just played an overtime game last night, is close to ideal. I think Ehlers should be owned in 12’ers right now but at the least, stream him tonight." And that's me quoting me doing what Grey does! Ehlers was amazing on Tuesday scoring a hat trick on four shots with two penalty minutes. He now has points in 4 straight and 8 points in his last 6 games. As I said before, he should have been owned in 12'ers already but he is still widely available so grab him right now! Here's what else I saw on a busy Tuesday night:
While I've talked about the Flames being a major disappointment in this space multiple times this year, Johnny Gaudreau certainly doesn't belong in that category. The young gun is keeping a point per game this season and he had his best game to date on Friday, scoring a hat trick, adding an assist with five shots and two PIM in the 5-4 OT win against the Bruins. The shots are a little lower than you'd like for Gaudreau to reach true superstar status but he's probably pushing the top 25 overall at this point. Not bad for a fifth round pick who most thought was too small to make it in the league. Here's what else I saw on a busy weekend:
For the last few years, Connor Hellebuyck has been one of the best goaltending prospects in hockey. The former fifth round pick blossomed after being drafted and starred for the United States team in the World Junior Championships last year with a record of 7-1 and a GAA of 1.37 and .948 sv%. While that's clearly unsustainable, he posted a .921 sv% last year in the AHL on an IceCaps team that played wide open. With the injury to Ondrej Pavelec, Hellebuyck was called up to Winnipeg and promptly won two games giving up one goal in each. Yesterday, he stopped 32 of 33 shots in the Jets beatdown of Toronto. I don't have much to base this off of but I have a feeling Hellebuyck takes this opportunity and runs with it. I'm picking him up everywhere I can on the chance that he does; if he doesn't, he'll at least be a great fill-in in the meantime. Here's what else I saw on a short Wednesday slate:
Over the past week my posts have been focused on the fact that at this point in the fantasy season it doesn’t matter what happened before this point in the season, if a guy is scoring you pick him up and if he’s cold and you’re about to get knocked out of the playoffs, or knocked out of playoff contention, the time is now to make big moves. Sometimes that means you have to drop a superstar you can’t keep for next season that’s been nothing but an anchor for the last few weeks or more, and that can be tough, but if you don’t have the stones to make those big risky moves you don’t deserve to win. It’s harsh, but it is what it is. It’s a dog eat dog world and we’re just trying to get our just deserts. If you fancy deserts you might fancy winning, and if you fancy winning you might consider picking up the newest hot hand on the blue line, Marek Zidlicky, D (1 G, 2 A, 4 SOG).
Back in April 2013 the Washington Capitals were interested in adding some veteran help for a playoff push. The Nashville Predators had some help in the form of Martin Erat and so they struck a deal. Erat went to the Caps and Filip Forsberg (1 G, 2 A, 5 SOG) came over to the Preds in a package deal. At the time no one really batted an eye, but now all eyes are wide open watching “Fil the Thrill” roll through opponents night after night on his way to one of the best starts a rookie forward has had in years. I honestly didn’t see this coming, but after he posted just 34 points in 47 games in the AHL last year, honestly, who did? His preseason was stellar, but preseason means squat and I figured he was just playing hard against weak competition to earn himself a roster spot like any respectable rookie. The last I saw of Fil he was easy to knock of the puck, undersized, lacking strength and looking overwhelmed playing North American hockey, but clearly he had some skill. Oh my how things have changed. With a deceptively awkward but quick wrister at his disposal Fil stretched his point steak to seven games with the three-point effort last night. What’s more, he has a six game goal-scoring streak mixed in and 12 points (7 G, 5 A) over that span. He’s currently on the top line with James Neal (1 A, 2 SOG, +2) and Mike Ribeiro (1 SOG, +2) and that’s a good place to be. He hasn’t just been good, he’s been dominant and his line has outscored opponents 13-1 at even strength so far. The downside here, yes there’s a downside, is that there’s really no chance he can keep this scoring pace up. You know that. You don’t want to admit it, but he will. The upside there is that he’ll fall from dominant to thrilling, retaining tons of value all season long. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey last night:
If I asked you who would have the better numbers after a month or so of play, Tuukka Rask (L, 12 SV, 4 GA, .750%) or Jonathan Bernier (W, 25 SV, 1 GA, .962%), I’m willing to bet a case of beer and a back of pucks you’d snap back with Tuukka as your answer pretty quickly. To be fair so would I, and we'd both be wrong. To this point Bernier's sports a season line of 5-3-2/2.58/.917% while Tuukka is sitting ugly at 8-5-0/2.69/.901%. Believe it? You best. It seemed as though Tuukka was getting his act together after a rough October until he was bombed for four goals on 16 shots last night by a team that he has completely dominated in the past. When I say completely dominated, I mean never allowing more than two goals against them before last night completely dominated. To be fair, the Leafs are on fire right now so this is a different Toronto team that Rask has owned in the past, but still, I'm starting to worry about Rask's overall play this season. My gut says he'll be fine, but his stellar play this month comes against teams like the Cats, Oilers, Devils and Sens. That's not exactly the cream of the offensive crop, so it's expected that he'd handle them with general ease. It was also expected that he'd handle the Leafs in a similar fashion, too. If it makes Rask owners feel any better, he was pulled in the second for rookie Niklas Svedberg (2 GA, 15 SV, .882%) who promptly coughed up two of his own on 17 shots. At the heart of the matter here is Boston's decimated defense and most notably the absence of its heart and soul Zdeno Chara, so these struggles aren't wholly his fault. You can't trade Tuukka because his value is far, far below his ADP, so you'll just have to stick it out. This is yet another example of why you shouldn't be taking goalies in the first two rounds. If you own Tuukka, you most likely did just that. Well, while you took Tuukka I drafted Tyler Seguin and I couldn't be happier with my pick, how about you? Goalies are too unpredictable to justify taking that early, even the elites, and they often fail to live up to their ADP. It's not about what your early goalie grab gives you or doesn't, it's what you left on the board while doing it that's at the heart of the matter. Always remember my mantra; skaters first. Skaters first. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey last night: