The Leafs are in the midst of their traditional mid-to-end-of-season collapse and it’s a surprise to exactly no one. Oh, you’re surprised? Were you also surprised that the sun came up this morning? Because baby, this is like clockwork for the Leafs. Looking at the team on paper coming into the season you figured they had to have a chance to be better than they were last season, perhaps even avoid the slump they’re in right now. Yeah, not so much, eh? Well, despite their perennial struggles you can’t lose hope yet and jettison James van Riemsdyk, LW (1 G, 8 SOG, +1), Tyler Bozak, C (1 A, 3 SOG, +1) or Phil Kessel, RW (zip, zilch, nada) for pennies on the dollar, because the upside is just much too high there and sooner or later they’re going to rebound and start producing again.
Bozo and JvR showed that they still have some magic left last night and the goal they hooked up on was a thing of beauty. Bozo took a between the legs pass from David Clarkson, RW (1 A, 2 PIM, +1) who was pinned to the boards and made his own crisp feed through the neutral zone hitting JvR right on the tape allowing him to glide in and put the biscuit behind Cory Schneider, G (W, 29 SV, 1 GA, .967%) to give the Leafs a 1-0 lead halfway through the third period. Jonathan Bernier, G (L, 22 SV, 1 GA, .957%) couldn’t hold fort and finally coughed up a goal, but the writing was on the wall; there’s still life left on Toronto’s top line.
Last night’s tally marks goals in two straight games for JvR dating back to his last game before the ASB. His 21 goals and 35-goal pace would be great if it didn’t come with a minus-bloody-16. That rating isn’t going to get better, either. I would imagine by the end of the year JvR will score his 35 goals and 70 points and have close to a minus-25 rating. If you’re in a league that doesn’t count plus/minus, he’s a top 25 skaters, but in standard leagues he nearly drops out of the top 50 if he finishes with a mark that bad.
As for Bozak, he ended a six game scoreless streak with that helper but it marks just his third point in 12 games with the other two points, a goal and an assist, coming in the same game against the Blue Jackets back on January 9th. There’s a ton of upside for Bozak and JvR on that top line for the Leafs, so don’t just drop him but don’t keep burning games in roto leagues with him either. Roll him out there in H2H leagues, bench him in roto until he gets going and hold on to both guys down the stretch. The Leafs might not start winning a lot of games, but Kessel, JvR and Bozak should start scoring again soon. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey recently:
Craig Anderson apparently hurt his hand playing the Leafs and he won’t be able to suit up tonight. Robin Lehner is starting and they’ve called up some schmohawk from the AHL you don’t really need to worry about right now. There isn’t much word on how bad Anderson’s injury is and of course he’s listed as Day-to-Day, so more updates as they come down. I can’t really recommend adding Lehner and if you’re that desperate for a goalie, your season is probably already over.
Pekka Rinne skated with the team this morning at practice. Hallelujah! Praise whatever supernatural deity you choose, I don’t care who gets this man back on the ice, just get it done. It’s a great sign that he’s skating already, but his timetable remains unchanged for now.
Martin Brodeur ended the best career a goaltender ever had in the National Hockey League recently when he announced his retirement and a move to the St. Louis front office for the remainder of the season. He finishes his illustrious career just nine wins shy of 700, but that doesn’t diminish anything this guy accomplished in his long, wildly successful career. There hasn’t been a better goalie before Marty and it will be long time before another of his kind is seen again. We salute you, Martin Brodeur! You might have played for the Devils, but at least it wasn’t the Flyers. Thanks for the memories.
Joffey Lupul was activated by the Leafs today and he’ll suit up tonight. Yawn. He’ll probably score a few goals right after coming back and then go ice cold and then soon after get hurt.
Cory Schneider, G (W, 29 SV, 1 GA, .967%) – There was no post All-Star Break rust for Schneids as he pushed 29 of 30 shots away to down the Leafs 2-1 in the shoot out. His record might be bleh (17-19-2) but his peripherals are getting better by the start and currently rest at a solid 2.37 GAA and a sexy .921 save percentage. He’s going to continue to get the lion’s share of the starts and he’ll probably handle himself well doing it, but the wins aren’t coming anytime soon; maybe next year if the Devils make the right moves (doubtful!).
Jonathan Bernier, G (L, 22 SV, 1 GA, .957%) – In one of the few starts that Bernie sees less than 30 shots a game and he stands up tall, does well, and still takes the loss. That’s the Leafs.
Braden Holtby, G (W, 27 SV, 1.000%, SHO) – I figured Holtby would get back on track sooner than later and here we go! Not only back on track, but screaming down the tracks towards a beastly stretch run for his owners.
Marc-Andre Fleury, G (L, 32 SV, 4 GA, .889%) – This wasn’t the way Flower wanted to get back to work, but it is what it is. There were some rumblings a few weeks ago that he was suffering from fatigue and his workload was just too high for him to maintain his stellar early season play. Flower scoffed at that notion, but with a few minor injuries and a few rough patches lately, I’m starting to think he really is tiring. That’s going to kill his owners down the stretch, so lets hope for your sake he was right and it’s just a cold spell. One way or the other, you have to start him whenever he’s in net.
Alex Ovechkin, LW (2 G, 5 SOG, +1) – Ovie is white hot lately with nine points (5 G, 4 A) in his last five games putting him on pace for 50 goals and around 80 points in a full 82 games by season’s end. That’s pretty baller, and when you combine it with the hits and the mountain of shots on goal, and his plus-12 rating, I’d say he’s easily earning his ADP and top 10 status this season. Fun fact! With these two biscuits Ovie has 408 goals in 727 career games. He’s just 29-years-old right now, so he could conceivably break the 500-goal mark before he turns 31. Beast.
Mike Green, D (1 G, 1 A, 6 SOG) – I wondered if Green would ever rebound fully to his old self and while I can’t say he’s 100% there, he’s pretty damn close this season. The six points (1 G, 5 A) over his last five games attest to that, but his 29 points in 40 games really scream that Green is a force to be reckoned with once again. If there was anything to knock Green for it would be his weak goal output so far (5) but he’s shooting at a 5.5% clip which about 3 points below his career average, so I’m willing to bet there will be a slight uptick in goals for him down the stretch and he’ll probably finish with around 12 or 13 and around 60 points when the fat lady sings.
Eric Fehr, RW (1 G, 3 SOG, +1) – With 15 goals in 44 games Fair Eric is on his way to flirting with a 30-goal season, or is he? I doubt it. He’s shooting at a 16.5% clip and that’s nearly six full points above his career average, so he’s going to slow down a bit as we get into the later stages of the season. This is a third line guy who gets zero time on the power play and has scored more than 20 goals just once in his nine seasons in the NHL. I doubt very highly that this is the year he cracks the 30-goal, or even 25-goal marker.
Jon Quick, G (W, 26 SV, 3 GA, .897%) – Yeah, Quick won this game, but he didn’t look good doing it. No one looked good in net in this game, but we’ll get to what Crawdad did in a moment. As for Quick, the disarray in the Kings defense has cost him dearly this season and perhaps exposed some of his shortcomings. The Kings have given Quick a ridiculously goalie friendly system to work in and the first time it broke down (this season) he turned into a pretty normal looking netminder, didn’t he? He’s not bad, mind you, but he isn’t mind blowingly awesome like he has been in recent season, either. I bag on Tuukka Rask not being able to live up to his ADP, but Quick is probably a more egregious offender there, and there’s no way he’s living up to his ADP. I don’t think you can expect Quick to rebound down the stretch, he’ll keep giving you what he’s given you to this point; meh and aw, damnit.
Corey Crawford, G (L, 23 SV, 4 GA, .852%) – It might seem like Crawdad hasn’t been quite right since he broke his foot during his drunken shenanigans at a show, but if you look at his last month of play and take away two rough games against the Stars, he’s been pretty solid. I figure he’ll rebound just fine and be a top 10 goalie down the stretch, worry not.
Tyler Toffoli, RW (1 G, 1 A, 1 SOG) – Toffy comes back from his injury, gets reunited with good buddy Jeff Carter, C (2 G, 1 A, 5 SOG) and my-oh-my did the sparks fly! The duo drove the Kings’ offense and combined for three goals, two assists and six shots on goal in the 4-3 victory over the Hawks. Tanner Pearson wasn’t around for this one, but its starting to seem like they really don’t need him to keep the magic alive, so whatevs. I like Toffoli down the stretch if he sticks on a line with Carter and they both get a bit of a bump in value if so.
Jake Muzzin, D (1 G, 3 SOG) – Here’s part of that shaky Kings D that’s hurting Quick’s numbers, but Muzz’s own numbers are pretty solid if you ignore his unsightly minus-16 rating. He’s on pace for around 40 points, but I figure he’s only good for two or three more goals at most, so I don’t know that he’ll get there. Factor that in with his meh rating and he’s not a super attractive option on your blue line, but his 108 hits and 62 blocks help. You could do worse for a 4th defenseman in deeper leagues.