The Pittsburgh Penguins are getting beat up by injury, disease and all sorts of nonsense this season and their luck didn’t improve with the news that Patric Hornqvist will miss at least a few weeks with a lower-body injury as he hit the IR for the first time this season a few days ago. Horny isn’t the only Pen down for a few weeks either, Blake Comeau suffered an upper-body injury a few days before Christmas and will be out until mid-January as well. The fun doesn’t stop there, either! Steve Downie joined the mumps brigade not too long ago, and though he’s returning this week and bringing his NHL leading 135 PIM with him, the Pens needed to shore up their top six in a bad way so they saved David Perron from the Oilers and banished Rob Klinkhammer and whoever the poor bastard that ends up being their number one pick in 2015 to the Great White North. While this does little to help Klink’s already minimal value, Perron gets a huge boost, but expectations should be tempered.
Perron had the best season of his career last year putting up 28 goals, 57 points, 90 PIM, 220 SOG, 116 Hits and 13 PPP but he hasn’t been able to replicate that kind of output so far this season as the Oil spiral down the rabbit hole of mediocrity at an alarmingly rapid pace. Shifting to the Pens top six and skating with either Geno Malkin or Sidney Crosby should provide a significant boost to his value and that’s not lost on owners anywhere as he’s become one of the most added players this season just hours after news broke today that he was pardoned from his icy prison.
The upside here is that Perron was shooting at a paltry 6.8% clip and that’s six points below his career average of 12.8% so you can expect his goal scoring to rise at a rapid pace, in fact, he’ll likely boom out of the gate when he takes the ice for the Pens, which won’t be tonight, but it should be this week. While I don’t see Perron finding a point-per-game pace groove that he hadn’t been able to achieve in his previous six seasons on big ice just because he’s playing with the Pens, I would add him anywhere he’s available, let him boom out of the gate and sell high like whoa right before the deadline and shore up your squad for the playoffs. Don’t sell the farm, though, he’s not that great. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey recently:
Kris Versteeg went to the Victor Hedman School of Shot Blocking and tried to use his hand to block an Eric Fehr shot and, hey, surprise! It didn’t work. There’s no word on how serious his injury is but you can expect it to be broken. If he needs surgery his season cold be over, if not, he’ll be back but will still require a long stint on the shelf. Sadface. Patrick Sharp should benefit from Steeg’s injury and move back up a line or two in the reshuffle.
Jaroslav Halak, G (W, 21 SV, 2 GA, .913%) – The Halakness Monster keeps winning games like it’s his job which is good because that is in fact his job. Since November 5th Halak has won 17 of his last 19 starts, but the general quality of his place in December was nowhere near what it was when he was killing it in November. The Isles are solid, Halak is going to keep getting wins and his peripherals will likely remain good enough to keep him in the top 15 amongst his fellow netminders in 2015.
Ondrej Pavelec, G (L, 28 SV, 4 GA, .875%) – This was Pavs’ first start in 10 days and he did squat with it coughing up four goals on 32 shots in a loss to the Isles on Wednesday. With Michael Hutchinson continuing to outplay him even when given a few starts in a row it appears that I was a bit too quick to declare Pavelec the starter for the remainder of the season. I figured the Jets would want to play it a bit safe with the young Hutch, but he’s been so good and Pavs has been very much himself after a hot start they’d be foolish not to roll Hutch out more often than not. I own Hutch and encourage everyone else to as well, but I wouldn’t own Pavs with your team, starter or not.
Ryan Strome, C (1 G, 3 A, 4 SOG) – After a monster four point effort on Wednesday and six points (1 G, 5 A) Strome is on pace for 60 points by season’s end and that’s a number I wouldn’t be shocked to see him meet. It’s easy to forget about Strome while other young studs like Brock Nelson, C (2 SOG) blow up like whoa, but don’t make the mistake of thinking Strome isn’t a beast himself. At this point he should be owned in all but the shallowest leagues.
Andrew Ladd, LW (2 G, 4 SOG, +1) – Ladd continues to crank away on a 30-goal year after putting another pair of biscuits in the basket on Wednesday night. He’s on pace for 220 shots and his shooting percentage (12.5%) is just slightly above his career average (11.6%) so there’s no reason to think he won’t hit that 30-goal marker this year. He’s not flashy, but he gets the job done.
Frans Neilsen, C (2 G, 1 A, 2 SOG) – Lately Frans has been playing with Ryan Strome and the two seem to be developing some chemistry making Neilsen worth a look in most leagues. He showed the ability to score last year potting 25 goals in 80 games and Strome has all the tools needed to feed him the puck. So you’re saying we have a gifted young playmaking center now paired with a solid finisher on his wing packaged nicely in a high-octane offense? Yes, please.
Andrei Vasilevskiy (W, 10 SV, 1 GA, .909%) – In a move that the Bolts claimed was about physical proximity but I think was about Evgeni Nabokov being over the hill and sucking, the young tender was called up for a spot start against the Sabres and only had to push away 10 of 11 shots for the win. He was promptly sent back down to the minors but I have a sneaking suspicion this won’t be the last time we hear from the young Russian this season.
Jhonas Enroth, G (L, 20 SV, 5 GA, .800%) – Remember when Enroth kinda looked solid for a bit and it seemed like he might be worth adding and I said no, stop, don’t? This is why.
Nikita Kucherov, RW (2 G, 1 A, 5 SOG) – I don’t know if Kuch can keep up the near point-per-game pace he’s maintained through 39 games so far this season, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he did. The second line for the Bolts remains one of the best scoring units in the league and the chemistry between Kuch, Tyler Johnson, C (3 A, +4, 1 SOG) and Ondrej Palat, LW (1 G, 3 A, 3 SOG) is palpable.
Henrik Lundqvist, G (W, 18 SV, 2 GA, .900%) – The Rangers are on fire and of course his Highness is at the heart of their current run posting another win on Wednesday night. After allowing 25 goals in his first eight games of the season he’s let just 42 get past him in his last 20 starts. His season line has improved to 17-8-3/2.39/.913% and it looks like the Lundqvist Paradox is solved; he’s still awesome.
Ryan McDonagh, D (1 G, 1 A, 3 SOG) – Mac was brutal to start the year like most Rangers, but after a stint on the IR to get his injured shoulder in order he’s returned to last season’s form and posted eight points in 12 games in December. He’s a plus-10 over that span and he’s now on pace to finish with around 40 points in 70 games, but I wouldn’t be surprised for him to finish with around 45-50 if he keeps going at this rate, which he can.
Derek Stepan, C (3 A, 2 SOG, +2) – Step is making it a habit to post big games lately and he now has 25 points in 23 games so far this season. He’s on pace for 75 points in 69 games by season’s end after breaking his leg in the preseason. That’s baller. He’s baller and he should have a very strong second half.
Martin St. Louis, RW (1 G, 1 A, 3 SOG) – The Mighty Mini Scoring Machine continues to score, but he’s slowed a bit in December with 9 points in 13 contests after putting up 13 points in 14 games in November. I figure he’ll finish with around 30 goals and 60-65 points and I’d buy that for a dollar!
Chris Kreider, LW (1 G, 1 A, 3 SOG) – Kreider snapped a four game skid with a pair of points on Wednesday night, but unfortunately those scoreless streaks have come far too often this season and he’s only on pace for around 40 points in 80 games this year. He’s been far too inconsistent to rely on, but his talent and top six minutes on a powerful Rangers offense makes him too potentially valuable to just drop, either. I hate owning guys like that so my condolences to his owners.
Jonathan Bernier, G (W, 25 SV, 3 GA, .893%) – Speaking of guys who are annoying to own, here’s Bernie with a win on the heels of a 43 save shutout against the Stars after allowing seven goals on 34 shots to the Flyers. So he’s allowed 10 goals over three games, but has a shutout in between. Ugh. The wins are solid (15), the save percentage is elite (.920%) but the GAA (2.65) fuglies up an otherwise solid season line.
Tuukka Rask, G (L, 25 SV, 3 GA, .893%) – Perhaps the key to Tuukka’s success in previous season was the rage. I haven’t seen him flip out yet this year and his season line is 15-10-4/2.58/.910% after 30 starts. Maybe he needs to get mad again? I know his owners are pretty furious.
Leo Komarov, LW (1 G, 1 SOG, -1) – After missing all of December with a concussion courtesy of Alex Ovechkin (1 G, 1 A, 4 SOG) Komarov returned with a goal on one shot. You know how I feel about one goal, one shot games but the Russian heat seeking missile did his job and laid nine hits on the Bs while doing it. Get him back in your lineups if you’re in hits leagues, there are few better at laying the boom than Leo.
Phil Kessel, RW (1 G, 1 SOG, -1) – Where Phil Kessel goes…
James van Riemsdyk, LW (1 G, 1 SOG, -1) – …JvR will follow.
Carl Soderberg, C (1 G, 1 A, 2 SOG) – With goals in back-to-back games and six points (2 G, 4 A) over his last five games Sods is on pace for around 60 points by season’s end and joins David Perron as one of the most added names in hockey lately. He should be owned pretty much everywhere, but 60 points is definitely the ceiling this season.
Torey Krug, D (1 G, 2 SOG, +1) – After a rough November that saw Tiny Torey Krug pot just one goal and, well, nothing else he’s rebounded in a big way in December with 8 points (4 G, 4 A) over his last 12 games matching Ryan McDonagh’s recent surge. Like Mac I expect Krug to keep putting up the points. If you want in on Krug for the second half, and I think you should if you need offensive help on your blue line, the time to get a good deal on him is running short.
Eric Staal, C (1 G, 2 SOG, +1) – Despite the Canes losing the last three games Staal has points in each game and goals in his last two. This could be the awakening his owners have been waiting for but given how inconsistent Staal has been so far this season I would temper your expectations for now. That said, he’s never failed to produce at a solid level in his career so far and there’s little reason to think that while healthy he won’t start pouring on the points again. His plus/minus is going to be brutal, though.
Sergei Bobrovsky, G (W, 28 SV, 1 GA, .966%) – Bob continues his up and down season with a solid win and looks a hell of a lot like Jonathan Bernier so far this season. I’m not sure that’s a good thing, but it’s not bad, either.
Ryan Johansen, C (1 G, 3 SOG, +1) – Joey’s hot start faded a bit in December and it took a five game scoring streak to end the calendar year for him to salvage the month and put up a bleh line of 1 G, 6 A, 21 SOG, -5 over his last 12 games. No worries, though, despite the Jackets’ struggles this season he’s been just fine and I expect a strong second half surge.
Darcy Kuemper, G (L, 23 SV, 2 GA, .920%) – Kuemps has shown flashes of brilliance and flashes of mediocrity this season and from time to time I think Nik Backstrom is going to continue to eat up some of his starts. At this point I’d call Kuemps a low-end no. 2, highish-end no. 3.
Jimmy Howard, G (W, 12 SV, 1 GA, .923%) – Howie has looked solid in three games since returning from a short stint on the shelf and that relegates Petr Mrazek to the backup role once again. Mrazek was solid in Howie’s absence, but not so much so that Jonas Gustavsson won’t reclaim his place as Howie’s backup when he returns from his shoulder injury later this month. If you’re in a deep league and relying on Mrazek for spot starts it’s a good idea to handcuff him to The Monster if you can.
Corey Schneider, G (L, 25 SV, 3 GA, .893%) – It looked like the Devils might start giving Keith Kinkaid some starts but alas, that’s not the case. Schneids keeps getting rolled out there game after game but at least he’s been looking a lot better lately than he did earlier this season though I hear that Kinkaid will get the start tonight, so there’s that.
Kari Lehtonen, G (W, 32 SV, 1.000%, 32 SA) – Of course he was on my bench for this one, but there’s really no excuse for that because December has been Kari’s best month this season with a line of 7-3-0/2.53/.915% in 10 starts. He’s not exactly back on track, but he’s definitely moving in that direction. If he strings together a few more good starts the buy low window will start to close, but it’s still wide open at the moment if you want to take a risk. I think he has all the tools to put up a strong second half.
Ales Hemsky, RW (1 G, 2 SOG, +1) – Hey, an Ales Hemsky sighting! Despite goals in back-to-back games he has just 12 points (4 G, 8 A) in 33 games played and he sports a fugly minus-11 to boot. I had high hopes for him coming into the season, but I had high hopes for a lot of Stars coming into this season and they aren’t really panning out like I, well, hoped. You’re dead to me, Ales!
Ryan Garbutt, LW (1 G, 6 SOG, +2) – Here’s another disappointing star that has been on a mini-run of late with points in three straight games (2 G, 1 A). His shooting percentage is inflated and he’s on pace for 19 goals at that rate, which means he won’t get there. So he won’t score 20 goals and he’s not spending time in the box, either. Yawn.
Antti Niemi, G (W, 28 SV, 1.000%, 28 SA) – Ugh, this crap again. Niemi looks passable for like three games then, just as rumbles start that my boy Alex Stalock is going to get his just dues and starts, Niemi does this. Boo, Niemi. BOOOOO! So long as this trend continues the Sharks seem quite content to roll with Niemi more often than not.
Joe Pavelski, C (2 G, 4 SOG, +2) – If I asked you who had the most goals in the league over the last 12 months would you guess it was Pavelski? No, you wouldn’t, stop lying, liar. I digress, with these two tallies Joey P has 44 goals over the last calendar year and that’s the most in the NHL over that span. He’s a beast.
Semyon Varlamov, G (W, 26 SV, 3 GA, .897%) – Varly has been okay since returning, but I wouldn’t write home about it. Apprently I’d write to you about it, but not home. Either way I wasn’t a fan of his going into the season and I’m not a fan now. That’s not news. The news here is that Calvin Pickard lost out and was sent back down to the AHL because despite how bad Reto Berra has been, he has a one-way deal, so he’s staying on big ice for now.
Steve Mason, G (L, 29 SV, 4 GA, .879%) – Mason’s peripherals remain passable (2.57 GAA) to pretty damn good (.917%) but that 6-11-6 record of his is, well, appropriate for his skill level. (I’m saying he sucks.)