With the fantasy season winding down it can be difficult to find value on the wire, but there are still a few gems to be had and they make all the difference come playoff time. Its not often that you win a league with the team you drafted and if you're winning late in the season you've most likely littered your lineups with guys that, to start the season, you never would have considered. If you aren't in the mindset right now, you aren't serious about winning. So who is available on the wire this late in the season that can actually help? How about Anders Lee, Adam Henrique and Artem Anisimov? Lee has just six games under his belt this season for the Isles, but with lots of room to roam after a flurry of deals left Garth Snow's roster wide open, Lee has taken advantage of his time with five points in six games so far. He's young, so it's hard to predict what he'll do, especially for the Isles, but the big (6'2" 210lbs) winger with a heavy shot and a nose for the next could offer up as many as 10 more goals and 15 more points for you going forward, and how many guys on the wire can you say that about right now? Not many, that's how many. Adam Henrique is no mystery to anyone in the know, but his five goals over the past week are a surprise to most of us. Not you? Well, aren't you special! Henrique has a whopping nine points over his last five games with a nine goal, six game goal scoring streak mixed in there. He might only have 38 points so far this season, but considering how well he's been playing lately it should be easy enough for him to notch 12-15 more and finish in the mid-50s by season's end. He's owned in ~92% of ESPN leagues, but available in an alarming 68% of Yahoo leagues, so he's out there if you need some scoring help, and who doesn't? Last, and least, is Artem Anisimov who has been underwhelming for the entirety of his short, yawnstipating career, but recently earned himself the second star in the NHL player of the week honors by scoring the game winning goal in three straight games. His 19 goals so far this season are a career high and he's probably good for another 10-12 points with a handful of goals sprinkled in before all is said and done. While there isn't much out there, you have to take what you can get when guys like Pavel Datsyuk go down with injuries, and if you're lucky, you can find one of these three to help fill the gap. Anyway, here's what else I saw in the world o' fantasy hockey yesterday:
It all began on a cool winter’s day when the young men from Calgary came down to play the feisty fellas in Vancouver in a nice, gentlemanly game o’ hockey. That lasted less than zero seconds because when the puck dropped all the starters paired off and fought one another
. What the eff happened?! Apparently Canucks coach John Tortorella
saw that the Flames were sending out their fourth line to start the game. Torts flipped the hell out for no apparent reason and it didn’t end with his usual ranting and raving and turning oh so many shades o’ purple behind the bench. No, Torts decided he needed to have a few more words with those boys from Calgary so he did what every rational, level-headed adult would do; he attempted to storm into their locker room
and basically challenged the entire team to a fight, or so much is what I gather in between the seemingly endless stream of obscenities from Tortorella. In the end 204 penalty minutes were dished out with Jason Garrison
, Dale Weise
, Kevin Bieksa
and Kellan Lain
all getting game misconducts. Lain made his NHL debut that night! A short but adventurous start for the kid, eh?! Ladislav Smid
, Chris Butler
, Blair Jones
and Kevin Westergarth
also received game misconducts for the Flames. Why does any of this matter? Well, for starters it’s effin’ hilarious and I wanted an excuse to write about it. And here’s my excuse; Garrison and Bieksa racked up some baller PIM that night, so some owners, somewhere, actually benefitted from this madness. If only we could own coaches and they could earn PIM, Tortorella would have just won many a roto team's PIM category in this game alone! Torts should probably be suspended. Anyway, here’s what else I saw last night on a short night o’ fantasy hockey:
was suspended for five games today after he kneed Boston's Brad Marchand
in the head in an ugly game against the Bruins yesterday. Earlier in the game the Bs’ Shawn Thornton
punched Brooks Orpik
twice in the head while in a scrum. The punches toppled Brooksie and he was taken off the ice in a stretcher, Thornton was tossed with a match penalty. Then, later, Neal sees an opportunity to get revenge after seeing Marchand get tripped up and fall to all fours. It’s then that Neal skates by and lays his knee into the side of Marchand's head. What really gets me is how nonchalant as he can be Neal was after the fact, not looking back or flinching in the slightest, instead he slowly coasts to his bench for a line change. Listen, I get defending your teammates and support it, but this eye-for-an-eye nonsense does nothing but put him on the sideline for a week and out of our lineups. Happy now, Jimmy? He should get more than five in my opinion, you be the judge
Regardless of what you think of the play we can all agree that this is not what Neal owners needed after he missed the start of the season due to injury. In any case you’ll be without him for the next week, so plan accordingly. You know, this is the kind of fluke event that keeps guys like Evgeni Malkin
from getting to 100 points on the season without 35+ goals to power the effort. Granted, Geno is hurt right now, but he should be back before Neal and he’ll wish Neal was there waiting to pick back up where they left off. See what revenge gets you? Nada! More hockey, less of this. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in fantasy hockey this weekend:
Jay Bouwmeester has been around the league for a while now, and once upon a time he was a reliable offensive threat from the blueline for the Panthers of all teams. Then he moved on to Calgary and he went from a top 5 guy to a fantasy non-factor overnight, not once hitting the 30 point mark for the Flames in three and a half seasons after averaging 42 points a year in the four years prior to being dealt. Since joining the Blues he’s decided to change colors again and pulled a full 180 (dig the mixed metaphors!) and now he’s on pace for an insane 64 points this season. At first I thought “Puh! Not bloody likely…” but then I started thinking about how ridiculous the St. Louis offense really is this season. Shall we break it down? Let’s shall; the Blues are 2nd in Goals Per Game with 3.4 (just 0.1 shy of league leading Chicago and 2nd overall with the man-advantage at 25.5%(!) putting their GA/GF DIFF at +35. Jay has just two goals but 19 assists and there’s plenty more where those came from. Paired with Alex Pietrangelo he has climbed into the top five in scoring for defensemen with his performance last night (1 G, 1 A, 3 SOG, +2) and now has 21 points in 29 games overall. He has 11 points over his last 12 games, a plus-15 rating for the season and you should go ahead and pick him up if he’s still available in your league. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in fantasy hockey:
Normally I focus on one player that stands out to me as I write these rundowns, but tonight I have to switch it up because the Edmonton Oilers have come alive! Semyon Varlamov stayed in the entire game taking an 8-2 pounding from the league’s youngest team. It's pretty ironic that back in 1995 when Avs Head Coach Patrick Roy was left in for all 9 goals scored effectively ending his career with the Habs (and he nearly retired completely) and now he's gone and done the same thing to Varlamov, classy. I never liked Roy. Anyway, here’s the rundown for the Oil:
Taylor Hall (3 G, 1 A, 7 SOG, + 1) is elite and should be the guy that leads this team back to greatness. He’s got all the skills and he put them all on display tonight.
Jordan Eberle (1 G, 1 A, 2 SOG, even) is the other half of the core of this offensive unit that could be one of the best in the league in the second half.
David Perron (1 G, 1 A, 4 SOG, +2) is having a career year and after not living up to expectations for years seems to have found a home in the Great White North.
Ales Hemsky (1 G, 1 A, 1 SOG, +1) is showing signs of life as well. He’s one of my second-half sleepers.
Mark Acrobello (1 G, 1 A, 5 SOG, +1) remains a risky add at best. He’s tiny and inconsistent, but could live well off the table scraps of others if the Oil take off like I think they can.
Sam Ganger (1 G, 2 SOG, even) should take this opportunity to step up and be a leader for this young bunch. He was once a highly touted prospect himself.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (1 A, 2 SOG, +1) chipped in an assist, but should be right in the middle of all the scoring sooner than later. What would a mention of the Oilers’ potential be without the Nudge?!
Nail Yakupov (1 SOG, -1) continues to be a huge bust and what a tickertease for his owners. I never buy in early on young Russians because so few of them pan out and Yakupov seems to be the same. On a team flush with young talent this kid is playing an embarassing season of hockey with a -17 rating and just 9 points in 28 games played so far. Nail, I think the KHL is calling.
After a terrible start to the season it seems like this young team is getting its legs and finding their identity as a team. They’ve won four of their last five games and with performances like this there’s a possibility this team might, may be able to ull itself out of the basement and fight for a playoff spot. After adding Breezy to upgrade their goalie situation and a favorable schedule going up to the Olympic break facing the likes of the Flames, Jets, Blue Jackets, Hurricanes and Predators, things are looking up for the Edmonton faithful. Is the horrible start a thing of the past? Maybe, but you can’t deny tonight’s results, and this didn’t come against a bad team with lackluster goaltending either. Don’t miss out on this potential buffet o’ fantasy black gold, grab some Oil while you can get ‘em cheap! Anyway, here’s what else I saw in fantasy hockey recently:
Evgeni Malkin (1 G, 3 A, 1 SOG, +3, 2 PIM)
decided he wasn’t putting in enough effort lately and upped his game with 4 points against the toothless Panthers. He even chipped in 2 PIM for good measure! Geno is on pace for 103 points which wouldn’t in itself be historic, but being on pace for just 21 goals would make it a season for the history books, so expect that this torrid pace to slow a bit, and hitting the century mark? I don’t think he’ll get there. Lies! They say. Slander! They cry. Not so! Just 15 of the 270 (~5%) 100 point seasons by a player came with fewer than 30 goals:
I didn't even bother ordering those by year, or goals, or anything, why? Well, I entered it that way and editing a table is really annoying, seriously. My laziness aside, it doesn't matter because the point remains the same. Break it down even further and you'll see that less than half of those seasons came with fewer than 25 goals. Even Malkin's own 100 point campaigns were always supported by buckets o’ goals with 47, 35 and 50 goals scored respectively. Should he break the 100 point marker this year it would be a rare achievement amongst rare achievements, making it unlikely. When you rely on others to score goals for you to score points, the control that player has over his own destiny is largely in the hands of other men. Other men being the likes of Sidney Crosby
and James Neal
is nice, but what happens if Neal goes down again? I think Malkin is more likely to return to a point per game pace at some point and finish with 90ish points. Ho hum. Anyway, here's what else I saw in fantasy hockey recently:
Only able to break the 50-point mark once back in 2010-11 suddenly Alexander Steen is keeping pace with Ovie atop the league leaderboards and the biggest question in everyone’s minds is “Will it last?” My first instinct is to say no, it won’t. The biggest indicator that the Steen Goal Scoring Express is soon to derail is that his shooting percentage sits at a whopping 25.3%. Lets be realistic here, no one is going to score a goal once every four shots over the course of 82 games so expect that number to drop closer to his career average of 9.9%. Beyond his established personal averages, just 37 players in the history of the NHL have finished with a shooting percentage higher than 25% (100 shot minimum) and I think it's reasonable to say Steen will not become number 38 this year. It's not just the high volume of shots that are leading to Steen's early success, though, his Corsi numbers have long shown him to be a critical cog in the puck possession game and that keeps him in the mix for chances more often than not for the Blues. Unfortunately, outside of his inflated shooting percentage he isn’t doing much different than he has in previous seasons. His TOI numbers remain mostly consistent with previous years both at even strength and on the powerplay, and his shot totals and locations also line up, so what gives? Luck, and eventually it will run out. I think it’s reasonable to expect him to finish the year closer to 35-goals than 50 and with few assists to add to that he’s likely given fantasy owners more than half of what he’s going to give all season, so sell high where you can. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in fantasy hockey:
At just 5’9” he is one of the smallest players in the league, but Torey Krug’s game is anything but. Debuting with four goals in five games in last year’s Eastern Conference Semifinals he helped the B’s topple the Rangers and hasn’t slowed down one bit to start his rookie season. Currently tied for first in goals scored among defensemen with seven, he averages nearly 18 minutes a game and what’s more, he’s getting top powerplay minutes as well. Amid a roster dripping with talent from top to bottom it has been Krug, the rookie, that boosted the B’s lackluster powerplay and that’s just what the league needed, the B’s strengthening one of the few weak parts of their game. At any rate, being as small as he is as a defensemen does come with some increased injury risk, but so far Krug has shown himself to be tough as nails taking big hits and quickly shaking them off. To be successful he'll have to avoid those hits rather than endure them, as even the biggest guys have been felled by the plague of concussions in recent years. Most of the time he relies on his quickness and good vision to avoid getting hit too hard and while there are some concerns about his ability to handle larger power forwards on the defensive end, it’s all cylinders go where it matters to us. Going into the season Krug was more known than he would have been because of last year’s playoff performance, but he’s still available in 27% of Yahoo! Leagues. Listen, he has a booming shot, great hands, explosive acceleration and a tremendous hockey IQ so this rookie isn’t just for keeper leagues. If he's on Team USA's radar he should definitely be on yours, so add him where you can. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in fantasy hockey last night:
Jimmy Howard is on pace to start 75 games for the Red Wings and win just 21 one of them. I don’t think anyone thought Howard would revert back to his 2010-11 form so completely, but the similarities between that abysmal season and this year’s campaign are startling. This isn't about Howard, though, as he's been so bad it has opened the door for a once lauded, since (somewhat) forgotten name to reappear on your fantasy radar! Jonas Gustavsson. As recently as 2009 the Monster was touted as the best goalie in the world outside the NHL. Think about that, the best goalie in the world! So what happened? When he arrived in Toronto expectations were high and he responded by posting a decent rookie campaign with 16 Wins, 2.87 GAA, .902 SV% in 42 GP (39 starts), but the wheels quickly came off and after two consecutive disappointing years he was shipped off to the Wings. Was this a case of not living up to the hype? I don't think so. Rumors have it that the Leafs’ coaching staff tried to eff with his mechanics because they felt his style was too unorthodox for long term success at the NHL level. If true, that could very well be the source of his less than stellar play and likely some injuries as well. This season it appears that the Wings' coaching staff aren't repeating the mistakes of others and the Monster is gobbling up pucks left and right. Last season is a throw away due to the lockout, but this year he looks a hell of a lot better than Howard, doesn’t he? The sample size is still small but he looks absolutely fantastic in limited work so far. If Howard continues to struggle and Gustavsson continues to play well it won’t be long before the Wings start giving the Monster more starts. Does he have a chance to take over the starting job outright? No, I don't think so. Howard has a huge contract and the Wings simply can't afford to relegate him to a backup. Despite that, he’s absolutely worth adding in deep leagues and well worth keeping a close eye on in standard formats. Here’s what else I saw last night in fantasy hockey:
David Backes scored and Alexander Steen scored twice but it wasn’t enough to overcome the Winnipeg Jets who posted a shootout win 4-3 last night.
Evander Kane, Olli Jokinen and Tobias Enstrom each scored for the Jets. Please, blog, may I have some more?