Amidst all the hoopla around the 27-year-old upstart Andrew Hammond and his unbelievable stretch of play filling in for the injured Craig Anderson it has been easy to overlook the rest of the Sens, but if you’re falling prey to that mistake, it’s to your own detriment. Hamrew isn’t the only Sen who is making noise lately; Mika Zibanejad extended his point streak to seven games with a helper this past Sunday and has seven points (3 G, 4 A) over that span. He’s had a somewhat disappointing year overall given the hype the 21-year-old center came into the season with, but don’t let the higher than reasonable expectations fool you, this kid is good and should only get better with time and right now he’s playing like the guy everyone hoped he would be back in October.
Owned in just 21% of ESPN leagues, 20% of Yahoo leagues and 36% of CBS leagues, Zibanejad makes for a great pickup for supplementary scoring down the stretch and into your fantasy playoffs. He skates on the top line for the Sens with Bobby Ryan and rookie phenom Mike Hoffman and the chemistry has been getting better and better as they season rolls on between these three. It’s finally reaching a fever pitch and if the second half of 2014 is any indication, Mika and company are in for a big 2015 and you’d do well to get on board now. Most of the high expectations he faced coming into the season relate to the departure of Jason Spezza and the hope that Zibachmadenijad could fill the gap. That expectation was pretty crazy considering the skates he was being asked to fill, but despite that and the Sens early season woes, he’s set career highs in goals (17), assists (30) and points (37) and sports a plus-3 rating on a pretty poor possession team. While 37 points in 62 games is pretty underwhelming overall, the fact that he’s put up 14 points in 18 games since the All-Star Break should pique your interest and your clicky finger as you hed to the wire and pick him up. That’s if you want to win, of course. If you want to lose, well then just let someone else grab the streaking center and you can find your entertainment watching that guy roll to your league’s title. Will Zib winyou’re your league? No, but it’s guys like him that can the difference late in the season. Don’t sleep! Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey recently:
Kyle Okposo returns to the lineup tonight so everyone hold your breath and hope he looks as good as he did right before he went down with this fluke injury. So long as his vision is there he should be good to go after a game or two o’ rust. Get him back in your lineups pronto.
Jonas Gustavsson wasted no time getting re-injured yet again and will be out indefinitely with concussion-like symptoms after a collision with the Bruins’ Milan Lucic over the weekend. The Wings have recalled Petr Mrazek to fill the gap and he’s been stellar in the AHL for the Griffins since being sent back down to make room for Gus on the big roster. It’s about time that the Wings part ways with Gus and give Pete his just dues and that’s probably what will happen come next season. As for this year, concussions can linger and Gus could be done for the year. If Mrazek is out there he’s worth grabbing in goalie starved leagues, like every other contender the Wings want to keep their stud goalie healthy and that means getting Pete some starts down the stretch.
Semyon Varlamov might be hurt, but he might not be hurt and he’ll skate with the team this morning to see just how badly he might or might not be hurt. Thanks for all that valuable info, JD! Calvin Pickard has been recalled just in case Varly can’t go, so it’s serious enough that they’re willing to carry three goalies for a bit just to test the waters. If Varly does miss time, Captain Pickard is the guy because the Patty Roy clearly has zero confidence in Reto Berra.
Valeri Nichushkin is expected to return to big ice in the next week or so. There’s going to be so much rust here that it’s not worth picking him up for the few games he’s going to get in, but he’s definitely up there on the keeper list for 2015. Other skaters have come back strong from hip surgery and Nuke should be no exception. If he’s healthy to start 2015 and finds his way back to the top line with Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn he’ll be a monster.
Michal Neuvirth, G (W, 22 SV, 3 GA, .880%) – In his first start with the Isles Neuvi did okay, but coughing up three goals on just 25 shots isn’t exactly stellar. Maybe he was saving his best play for the run up to the deadline in a desperate attempt to get traded to a contender? Either way, if he can regain his post-trade form he can make a run on Jaroslav Halak, but not like this.
Jonathan Bernier, G (L, 39 SV, 4 GA, .907%) – Once upon a time Bernie was a solid netminder and frankly I think he still is, but who the hell could do better between the pipes in front of the woeful Leafs than what he’s had to offer so far this season? Maybe Roberto Luongo in his prime. It’s going to get worse before it gets better for any Leafs goalie and it goes without saying avoid them like the plague now and at the draft table for 2015.
John Tavares, C (1 G, 1 A, 4 SOG) – You knew JT was going to blow up eventually and blowin’ up he is. After last night’s third consecutive multi-point game he has eight points (4 G, 4 A) over his last five games and 24 points (10 G, 14 A) over his last 20 games. Most of that work comes since Kyle Okposo went down with his bum eyeball, too. Ball.
David Booth, LW (1 G, 3 SOG, +1) – Don’t look now but Booth has points in four straight with goals in three straight over his last five games. He’s also put 17 shots o goal, sat in the box for eight minutes and managed a minus-1 playing on the Leafs’ third line with Leo Komarov, RW (8 Hits) and Trevor Smith, C (1 SOG, +1). He’s not getting any power play time, but if he keeps this up he might make his way onto the league’s 9th worst power play unit. Underwhelming, I know, but if you’re desperate for scoring in deep leagues, he’s worth a flyer.
James van Reimsdyk, LW (1 G, 1 A, 2 SOG) – Is there anything about the 2014 Maple Leafs that isn’t incredibly disappointing? I can’t think of anything. In that vein, here’s JvR with a nice two-point game. That’s nice, but given that he hadn’t scored a goal in seven games until this tally and it was just his second goal since January, he isn’t doing his owners any favors at this point. We’re past the trade deadline so you have to stick with him, but don’t expect much for the rest of the season.
Phil Kessel, RW (5 SOG, -1, 2 PIM) – In the first half of the season Kessel did his thing putting up 44 points (19 G, 25 A) in his first 48 games and it seemed like at the very least he was a bright spot for the woeful Leafs. Since then he has just seven points (3 G, 4 A) in his last 19 games. That’s terrible, but he isn’t terrible, I think he’s just given up like most of the Leafs. Can you blame them at this point? Don’t expect much from your Toronto skaters ROS.
Jimmy Howard, G (W, 36 SV, 2 GA, .947%) – Since returning from his injury Howie has been mostly solid, but not quite himself. He put up a rusty game, then a few solid games, then a stellar showing against the Rangers. Then the wheels fell off a bit and then the Flames spanked him for four goals on 23 shots last Friday. After relieving the now re-injured Jonas Gustavsson on Sunday and giving up a goal on seven shots in that effort he rebounded nicely allowing just two goals on 38 shots to the Oil last night. The Wings are beast and Howie is a stud, so don’t worry, he’ll get back on track and stay there.
Nail Yakupov, RW (1 G, 6 SOG, -1) – For a minute there it seemed like Yaky might actually be living up to the first overall draft pick the Oil wasted on him when he put up nine points (4 G, 5 A) in 12 games last month and he’s continuing to try and make himself look semi-decent out there despite his team’s inevitable clinching of a few rounds of golf in mid-April.
Teemu Pulkkinen, LW (1 G, 1 A, 2 SOG) – PulCannon found the back of the net last night and added a helper for good measure and you can expect a lot more of that from him in the coming years. For the rest of this season he could produce, but I think he’s mostly just up to get reps in on big ice when it counts ahead of a full season with the Wings in 2015. That’s when you want to own him, but he’s worth a flyer in deep leagues this year and should be high on your keeper lists. He rocked the minors this season and despite spending time on big ice still leads the AHL in goals (34) and points (61). He looks more comfortable out there with each passing game and when he settles in that heavy shot of his is going to result in lots and lots o’ gooooooals.
Pavel Datsyuk, C (1 G, 1 A, 3 SOG) – I figured Evgeni Malkin would have a stellar, but injury shortened year and post a point-per-game pace despite playing in around 65 games. Turns out I mean Dats, my bad. In 54 games this season he’s put up a line of 23/33/56/+12 and continued to crank away with his second multi-point effort in as many games last night. Its all systems go for all the Wings, especially Dats, so enjoy the ride if you stuck out his early season injury woes.
Henrik Zetterberg, C (3 A, 2 SOG, +2, 2 PIM) – Like I said, all systems go!
Niklas Kronwall, D (1 G, 1 SOG, +1) – The Red Wings could have used Keith Yandle because since Niklas Lidstrom retired they’ve longed for a number one defenseman to anchor their blue line. At the moment that’s Kronner, but he’s a bit too injury prone and just below the elite level that the Wings are really used to having back there. Still, he has 38 points (8 G, 30 A) in 65 games and should at least flirt with 50 by season’s end and for fantasy purposes that’s a low-end number one, anyway.
Justin Abdelkader, LW (1 G, 3 SOG, +1) – Abs is slowly developing into a Lucic-ish skater that puts up solid production (38 points in 58 games) for a guy who likes to lay down the hits (133). He’s already set career highs in goals, assists and points and should end up flirting with 25 goals before all is said in done this season. I can see him taking another small step forward in 2015, but 50 points and 150 hits is nothing to scoff at, and that’s what Abs has to offer. I’d buy that for a dollar!
Antti Niemi, G (W, 39 SV, 1 GA, .975%) – Nemo found himself in this one, but he’s still Nemo and his little fin isn’t going to cut if for the Sharks next season. I’m not sure where he’ll end up but I doubt he re-signs with San Jose. I’ve never really been a fan and this year does little to change my mind.
Marc-Andre Fleury, G (L, 29 SV, 1 GA, .967%) – Flower has to be in the Vezina talks with a robust season line of 30-14-7/2.14/.925 in 52 games so far this season. He won’t win it, but he should be in the conversation.
Sidney Crosby, C (1 G, 5 SOG, +1) – When I saw Sid’s name on the score sheet with a goal, his second in his last three games, my first thought was “Nice to see you remembered where the back of the net was guy!” and then I thought, “Jesus, how fickle am I? He’s put up 67 points in 62 games and I’m complaining? Man, there’s no pleasing some people.” Oi, tell me about it.
Pekka Rinne, G (W, 27 SV, 1 GA, .964%) – There’s nothing like a start against the depleted Coyotes to get a goalie back on track.
Louis Domingue, G (L, 38 SV, 2 GA, .950%) – Lou started the season in Portland with the back-up job and he has since worked his way up to big ice. He’s a talented young netminder that uses his big 6-foot-3-inch frame and solid positioning to plug up the net and look good doing it. He made a strong case to stay on big ice last night pushing away 38 of 40 against the high-powered Predators, but lost when he coughed up the second goal in OT. Sadface. Still, he looked a hell of a lot better than Mike Smith has at any point this season, so he could be in for a few more starts down the stretch as the ‘Yotes look to build for next season. If you’re really desperate for goalie starts, he could be a source, but we’ll have to wait and see.
James Neal, LW (1 G, 5 SOG, +1) – I’m not one to revel in the lack of success—you know what, yes I am. Neal is a huge douche out there and I figured he’d fall apart after leaving the Pens and he sure as hell has. He won’t score 30 goals this year; he won’t even end up north of 50 points. For a first line winger who is supposed to be a beast, the most notable thing he’s accomplished in recent memory is, well, nothing. He’s done nothing of note this year and I doubt he will next year, either.
Eddie Lack, G (W, 29 SV, 1 GA, .967%) – Lack is stringing together some solid starts for the Canucks and he won another one in strong fashion last night blocking 29 of 30 shots he faced for a 2-1 victory over the league leading Ducks. He’s a risky start, but he’s playing well and he’s a starter, so roll with him for now.
Frederik Andersen, G (L, 14 SV, 2 GA, .875%) – Freddy owners beware, with John Gibson lurking about games like this and his last against the Pens where he coughed up four goals on just 20 shots are bad signs. If Gibsy stays hot and Freddy stays cold, shiz is not going to be pretty for Freddy owners down the stretch. This is why I preached the handcuff; it’s so critical for you to own both goalies to get full value in situations like this.