At this point in the season players start to break down and injuries tend to be more frequent. You may have suffered through the loss of guys like Jimmy Howard or Pekka Rinne recently so you’re keenly aware of the sting that comes with losing all-world players giving you all-world seasons. The increased likelihood and frequency of injuries means adding the right replacement at the right time is critical to the overall success or failure of your season, so you have to be Johnny-on-the-spot when your studs go down. When Howie tore his groin picking up his understudy Petr Mrazek, G (4 SV, 3 GA, .571%) was a no brainer and after three strong starts since taking over as the starter for the Red Wings, last night’s breakdown against the league’s worst team might make you want to send the talented young tender packing back to the wire, but if you do you will be making a big mistake.
They aren’t all going to be pretty for a young tender on big ice and last night was a good example of what can happen when a kid starts a bunch of games in a short period of time, for the first time, against Stanley Cup caliber opponents and then has a bit of a meltdown against a woeful squad like the Sabres. Don’t let that one start erase what he had done prior to the debacle beating the Blues 3-2 in OT stopping 27 of 25 shots, and the Predators 5-2 stopping 36 of 37 shots. Before that he held this same Sabres team to one goal on 26 shots for the 3-1 victory as well. As with any young player there are ups and downs, this was a down; but he’ll be back up very shortly. Tom McCollum, G (W, 7 SV, 1 GA, .875%) came in to relieve Petey and did an admirable job but only faced eight shots en route to the victory. Despite that, expect Mrazek to be back between the pipes for the Wings in their next tilt and for most of their games until Howie returns from his groin tear and he should continue to perform very well while doing so.
The long and short of it is at this point the season if you were smart enough to add Mrazek you can’t afford to let one bad start from a young goalie shock you into a bad move. Yeah, in H2H leagues he may well have cost you your entire week with this start, but the only person who will get the last laugh if you jettison the youngster now is the guy who adds him and gets another 5-8 solid starts from the kid at a time in the season where goalie starts come at a premium, and it’s those who are quicker to the wire to snatch those valuable numbers up that take the title. Remember, he held off two of the league’s beast teams in two straight starts and he sports a season line of 8-3-1/2.33/.916% in 13 GP and just 11 starts even after that horrid line from last night, so there is plenty of reason to hold him. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey recently:
Derek Stepan, C (2 G, 4 SOG) – Steps has been on a roll all season long and he kept going yesterday with two goals pushing his season line to a sexy 8/23/31/+11 in 30 games. Yes, Stepan has graduated to point-per-game status and I don’t see any reason he won’t maintain that pace for the remainder of the season playing in the Rangers’ top six.
David Perron, RW (1 G, 1 A, 5 SOG) – As predicted Perron has started hot after getting dealt from the great white north to the cozy confines of Sidney Crosby’s right side. He has six points (4 G, 2 A) in his last three games with at least a goal in each game over that span. I don’t think he’ll continue this level of production for the entire second half, but so long as he remains in the Pens’ top six he is a must own in all formats.
Sidney Crosby, C (1 G, 5 SOG) – Usually there’s no need to mention Sid because he’s expected to be the top point producing skater in the world, but after a dismal December marked by a long absence due to a case of the mumps and a bit of a cold spell after returning, the best player in the world has finally returned to his proper form and posted eight points (4 G, 4 A) in his last four games. Two of those contests were three point efforts, too. Expect lots more of the same from him in the second half.
Derick Brassard, C (1 G, 1 A, 3 SOG) – Brass continues his breakout season with another two-point performance. It’s hard to believe the Rangers offense is a good place to be for fantasy forwards after so many years of ineptitude and mediocrity, but here we are. The Rangers sport a top 10 offense and Brass is at the heart of it centering their top line between Rick Nash, LW (2 G, 4 SOG, +3) and Mats Zuccarrello, RW (1 A, +3, 1 SOG) so expect him to offer you another 25-30 points over the remainder of the season.
Kari Lehtonen, G (W, 38 SV, 3 GA, .927%) – Yeah, Kari ended up with the win here but he allowed three goals to “earn” it. If it wasn’t for the six goal outburst by the Dallas offense Lehtonen would have been left with yet another bad loss. There are no signs of improvement here and I don’t think you could or should rely on Kari in the second half. Any goalie sporting a season line of 19-9-7/2.98/.904% is droppable, don’t let the wins fool you.
Corey Crawford, G (L, 28 SV, 5 GA, .848%) – Crawdad looked unusually weak in this one, but no one is perfect so I’d consider this a glitch in the matrix and expect him to get back on track in his next start.
Tyler Seguin, C (1 G, 1 A, 4 SOG) – The drought is over and Seguin is scoring consistently once again! He’s put up four points (2 G, 2 A) over his last two games on the strength of back-to-back one goal, one-assist efforts. He was dealing with a nasty case of the flu and that can run even the best of us down for a few weeks, so I’d consider this a clear sign that Seguin is 100% healthy again and ready to rock the league with a 20-goal second half.
Erik Cole, RW (1 G, 2 SOG) – On a line with Jason Spezza, C (1 A, 1 SOG) and Ales Hemsky, LW (2 SOG) you would assume it would one of those two skaters leading the way, but it has been Cole who has anchored this medicore line since getting promoted to Dallas’ top six last month. He isn’t going to blow up for a 30 point second half, but I can totally see another 10 goals and 10 assists moving forward. He’s absolutely worth adding in most leagues right now and is especially valuable in deeper pools.
Brandon Saad, LW (2 G, 7 SOG, -1) – Saad’s home on Chicago’s top line seems to be sticking as he builds better chemistry with Jonathan Toews, C (1 A, 1 SOG, -1) and Marian Hossa, RW (7 SOG, -1) by the game. Saad has six points (5 G, 1 A) over his last five games with a pair of two goal games mixed in over that span and he’s seen his TOI jump to around 18-19 minutes a game, too. Saad was worth owning before this promotion but he should be near 100% ownership now. If he sticks on this line for a while I can see him putting up a monster second half o’ goooooal scorin’.
Ondrej Pavelec, G (W, 28 SV, 3 GA, .903%) – For the second time in five starts Pavs has gone head-to-head with fellow bleh tender Mike Smith, G (L, 27 SV, 3 GA, .900%), but this time he won the battle. Super. They’re both gar-to-the-bage and I wouldn’t own either with your team. That being said, Smith is the undisputed starter in Arizona now that Devan Dubnyk has been traded to the Wild, so there’s that. Yay.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson, D (1 G, 5 SOG) – OEL isn’t going to live up to expectations this season, but he can still finish the year with a respectable 40 points. His plus/minus currently sits at an awful minus-14 and it can and will get worse as the season goes on, but he’s likely to top 20 goals and that’s a rare feat amongst blue liners, so you can’t deny that he still has decent value despite the horrible rating.
Dustin Byfuglien, D (1 G, 5 SOG, 6 PIM) – Have you seen Big Buff play lately? He’s going out of his mind with stellar play at every point on the ice. He’s shooting, he’s scoring, he’s hitting, he’s making his way to the box regularly, then getting out and hitting and shooting and scoring as soon as he’s back on the ice. It’s amazing. He’s amazing and he’s going to be the number one fantasy defenseman in the second half.
Bryan Little, C (1 G, 1 SOG, +1) – I’ve mentioned Little a few times as a guy who will score at a semi-regular rate but get no praise for doing so. These are the types of guys you want to fill in your roster with. Low cost, low risk, solid reward types that most people overlook, but keep your team producing while some of your bigger guns might be injured or enduring a cold spell. It’s not all about just having superstars on your squad, balance is key, and Little is a guy that provides that balance at low cost. Can you ask for more? Sure, but you’d be greedy if you did you greedy bastards.
Tomas Tatar, RW (1 G, 1 A, 2 SOG) – Tatar has been white hot lately putting up eight points (5 G, 3 A) over his last five games pushing his season line to 21/13/34/+5 in 46 games this season. He’s currently skating on with Riley Sheahan, C (-2) and Gustav Nyquist, C (1 G, 1 A, 2 SOG) and it seems to be clicking. I watched a bit of their game against the against the Preds on Saturday and these three were showing serious chemistry and basically doing whatever they wanted to the Preds D while they were on the ice. I can see Tatar reaching scoring 35-40 goals this season and from what I saw over the weekend, this line could stick for a while.
Henrik Zetterberg, LW (3 G, 1 A, 5 SOG) – Z hasn’t missed a game all season and while that would normally make me happy, when it comes to Z and injuries, it makes me worry. It feels like he’s due. Hopefully his back holds up and last night’s performance was good evidence that it’s doing a-okay for now. He’s a bit behind a point-per-game pace with 41 points in 46 games so far, but he should go on a streak at some point and finish he year with around 80 points, unless he gets hurt. Say it with me now, everyone! Please don’t get hurt, please don’t get hurt…
John Klingberg, D (2 A, +2) – When Klingy first burst onto big ice with eight points in his first eight games everyone and their mama was all about him being the second coming on the blue line. Preditcably enough a point-per-game pace for a rookie defenseman just wasn’t maintainable and the masses and their love receeded and I don’t know why. He regressed to normal production but he’s on pace to put up 40 points in just 68 games this season and that’s beast mode. Don’t hate, appreciate, pick up Klingberg if he’s available. Keep him if you’re in a keeper league, he’s going to be a monster producer in the years to come.
Kyle Okposo, RW (1 G, 1 A, 5 SOG) – Okie had some trouble scoring goals in the first half but he kept dishing out the helpers so his numbers remained fairly solid, but the lack o’ goals form a guy you expected around 30 from was getting a bit infuriating. Well, rejoice Okie owners, the drought is over like whoa! On the heels of his monster four goal game against the Pens he put the biscuit in the basket once again in a two-point effort on Saturday night against the Habs. That gives him six points (4 G, 2 A) over his last five games and puts him on track for 25 goal, 80 point year. Delicious.
John Tavares, C (1 G, 1 A, 8 SOG) – It’s hard to believe the Isles have been so good this season while Okie and JT have been solid, but not quite themselves. Okie woke up and wouldn’t you know it, JT has joined the party with eight points (3 G, 5 A) over his last five games and returns to just shy of a point-per-game pace with 44 points in 45 games so far. For a bit people were getting worried that JT wasn’t flying at his normal altitude, but patience was preached and patience has been rewarded.
Alex Steen, LW (1 G, 1 A, 2 SOG) – You’re making me look bad, Steen.
Nathan MacKinnon, RW (1 G, 1 A, 6 SOG) – At his current pace Mac is going to finish this season with less than 50 points, that’s terrible for a guy you probably burned your second or third round pick on and there’s really no salvaging the season at this point. He might come on strong, but I doubt it, especially considering last season he was white hot in the first half and faded steadily as the season wore on. I think he’ll rebound next season to put up a good year and he’s going to be a solid sleeperish pick under the right circumstances next season.
Jordan Eberle, RW (1 G, 4 SOG) – Eebs remains one of the few guys on the Oil who is even trying, it seems. He put the biscuit in the basket again on Saturday and that put shim on pace for a paltry 22 goals and 50 points this season. Still, if you can absorb the horrible plus/minus you’ll get, he is probably good for another 10-12 goals and 20-25 points in the second half.
Anton Stralman, D (1 G, 1 A, 1 SOG) – It’s good to see Stralman putting the puck in the opposition’s net and not his own. Keep up the good work, buddy! (Stop effing over Ben Bishop you bastard!)
Devan Dubnyk, G (W, 25 SV, 1 GA, .962%) – Right after Dubs was traded I wrote about how he has a real chance to do good things for the Wild and in two starts since the move he’s posted an 18-save shutout and this performance. There’s no reason to leave him on the wire. He’s in a goalie friendly system and his deeper numbers indicate there’s more talent here than his career numbers show. If you need help in the crease you’d be a fool not to add Dubs.
Sami Vatanen, D (1 G, 1 SOG) – Vats Domino is back on the top power play unit for the Ducks, so his value gets a decent spike there. He’s slowed a bit from his torrid first half pace, but that had to be expected. He should still finish with around 50 points, and that’s ridiculous for a guy that basically no one drafted.
Joni Ortio, G (W, 19 SV, 3 GA, .864%) – Is holding three goalies a thing in the NHL now? The Blues are doing it, the Wild will have to soon and the Flames are now part of the club as well. They like what they’re seeing from Ortio so he’s sticking with the team for now. I don’t know whether he actually looks good or he just looks good by comparison, but here he is putting up decent numbers in the short term. There are a lot of goalies that are offering short-term value right now and Ortio is among them. Add him if you’re looking for goalie help, but don’t expect miracles.
Sean Monahan, C (1 G, 3 SOG) – I have a big mancrush on Money and he keeps cashing in with goals, goals, goals as expected. He’s on pace to finish with 50 points and 25 goals in a full 82 games in his rookie season and if it wasn’t for Filip Forsberg and Michael Hutchinson he’d be right there in the Calder debate. Not only is he scoring points, he’s winning face offs like a champ with 498 so far this season. He’s going to be a beast in the coming years and remains a no-brainer keeper.
Carter Hutton, G (L, 1 SV, 3 GA, 4 SA, .250%) – Wow does this line look horrible. Honestly, the Preds defense completely failed Hutton and hanged him out to dry a few times early in the game allowing the Wings to pass the puck and own the Predators’ defensive zone completely. Hutton will be back, but Marek Mazanec, G (L, 18 SV, 2 GA, .900%) filled in admirably and may get the next start for the Preds. Last year when Rinne was hurt these two battled for starts and it was Mazanec who won the battle, so I wouldn’t be shocked if that was the case again this year too.
Dustin Tokarski, G (W, 27 SV, 4 GA, .871%) – Toker’s short lived stint as the starter for the Habs will be over this week as Carey Price is set to return, but the last few games have been pretty rough for the young netminder. He should be fine, but he won’t get much work in the second half with Price ahead of him.
Robb Zepp, G (W, 24 SV, 3 GA, .889%) – When Steve Mason went down with an LBI the Flyers said Ray Emery would be the starter but Zepp has taken all the starts since then and done halfway decent job with them in the process. Add Zepp if you need some goalie help, but don’t expect much more than what Mason gave you while he was healthy.