If you hadn’t already seen or heard about the hit yet you’re about to get a heavy dose because the league has levied a four game suspension against Dustin Byfuglien today for his brutal cross-check to the back of the head of the Rangers’ J.T. Miller earlier this week. No one can deny it was a dirty play. It happened away from the puck and Miller was completely defenseless, so the suspension is absolutely warranted. I like Buff but I think he can get a bit out of hand sometimes and this is one of those times. This sort of thing is a risk with his style of play so it’s to be expected in small doses, but to pull this kind of crap when his team is fighting for their playoff lives and worse, fantasy owners are fighing for their own playoff lives and championship dreams this garbage costs his owners in the biggest way at the worst possible time. There aren’t many options at this point in the season, but there are moves you can make to mitigate the damage.
Buff now leaves his owners with the unenviable task of deciding to either drop him or hold him for the final game of the season. Yes, to make matter worse he’s likely to play on April 11th against the Flames, so you can get one game out of him in the championship round if your league goes that far. Why does that make it worse? Because if he was out for the rest of the season this is an easy call, but with his talent one game can be one hell of a game. You can’t let that hold you back making the right move now, though. Remember what I said about learning when to cut bait on a guy you really, really don’t want to but absolutely must to stay alive. This is one of those times so prepare to suffer and hope for the best.
If this week is your championship round he’s done so you can drop him for someone who will actually skate. That is unless of course you’re in a keeper league and you intend to keep the big fella, which you should. In that case you have to grin and bear it and hold on to him. In redraft leagues If you’re doing okay for now and have a deep defense you can risk it and hold on to him, but if you’re struggling in your matchup this week you should definitely let him go for someone who will actually play this weekend. If you’re in a deep league and there aren’t any decent replacements left on the wire, consider running with an open D slot and using his roster space to stream forwards who are likely to deliver more counting stats for you in the short term. No matter what you do it’s going to suck, so you have my condolences, so good luck! Anyay, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey recently:
Evgeni Malkin will miss his second straight game tomorrow with an undisclosed injury but he could be back for Sunday’s tilt. There’s really no way to tell so keep a close eye out for word over the next 24 hours.
Christian Ehrhoff has been ruled out for this weekend. There isn’t much info out there about what he’s dealing with but we can assume a concussion after that nasty hit he took. Expect to be without him for the rest of the season.
Valeri Nichushkin will suit up against the Blues tonight in his first game since early November. Remember, he’s coming back from missing the entire year after hip surgery, and a setback, so don’t expect much. That said, if you can pick him up as a keeper I’d consider it if your keeper crop is weak. He should be back to 100% and rolling strong by the start of next season.
Marc-Edouard Vlasic will miss at least two more games and will not play this weekend as he continues to deal with a lower-body injury.
Rasmus Ristolainen will suit up tonight after missing a game due to illness. I’d get him back in your lineups if you own him, he was hot before he went down with the plague. He’s a solid potential fill in for the now lost big Buff if he’s available in your league.
Sergei Bobrovsky, G (W, 25 SV, 3 GA, .893%) – When you look at Bob’s season you’ll see a tale of two goalies. Well, really, you’d see a tale of two months because he’s only put up two good months all season; December when he went 9-1-1/2.14/.937/1 in 11 starts and March posting a line of 10-2-0/2.41/.927 in 12 starts and a relief appearance. The good news is he was suffering through injuries and playing for an injury-plagued team all season, so we can excuse some of his poor play. More good news, he’s coming on strong late in the season when his owners need it the most, but the bad news is many teams that relied on Bob to this point didn’t survive to make the fantasy post season. I figure he bounces back next season, so long as the Jackets can put a full team on the ice every night, something they’ve had serious issues doing this year.
Jaroslav Halak, G (L, 36 SV, 3 GA, .923%) – In the end The Halakness Monster’s first full season as a starter will go down as mostly a success, but he was clearly much more valuable at the start of the season when both he and the Isles were white hot. You can expect him to bring in the wins for a few years and I figure his 2.43 goals-against average and .914 save percentage are about what you can expect from him as well. He’s not a top tier option, but he makes for a solid number two.
John Tavares, C (1 G, 1 A, 1 SOG) – JT continues his march towards the scoring title, but unfortch for him no one told Sidney Crosby. It will be a race right down to the wire to see which one ends up with the scoring crown this season, regardless of who wins JT has had a magnificent season and should continue to provide this type of season for many years to come.
Ryan Strome, C (1 G, 1 SOG, +1) – Strome will be right there with JT as they try to lift the Isles out of their seemingly permanent state of mediocrity. He potted another goal last night, his 17th of the season and second in as many games. This tally also extends his point streak to four games and pushes his season line to a very solid 17/32/49/+21 in 77 games. The sky is the limit for the Isles’ future second line center, so expect a big step forward for this talented young pivot in 2015.
Brandon Dubinsky, C (1 G, 2 SOG) – Those of us who drafted Dubs should have known better. In the future here’s a rule of thumb for you; if a guy has off season abdominal surgery and isn’t expected back in the lineup until at least a month into the regular season and his game is a gritty, slam bang slugfest then don’t draft him. I know, I know, it’s hard to look past his multi-category goodness, but I’m hard pressed to call his season anything but a bust at this point.
Ryan Johansen, C (1 G, 4 SOG) – Joey is white-hot right now and carrying many of his owners through the H2H playoffs. His goal last night extends his point streak to a robust nine games, he has 12 points (4 G, 8 A) over that span and should finish the season well around 30 goals and 75 points. That’s about what you can expect from him next season, too. But there is still enough upside for him to step up to the John Tavares level. Can he? Sure. Will he? Only time will tell.
Jack Johnson, D (1 G, 3 SOG) – JJ scored his third goal in as many games last night and has four points (3 G, 1 A) over his last four games. I’d like to say he’s stepped up since the Jackets sent James Wisniewski to the Ducks but really he hasn’t done much more than he normally does. He’s scoring at the moment, though, so if for some reason he’s on the wire and you need some help on your blue line he’s worth streaming.
Petr Mrazek, G (L, 22 SV, 3 GA, .880%) – The Wings are making sure that Mrazek gets some reps in as the Wings wind down their season and prepare for the playoffs, but damned if he isn’t inconsistent lately. He seems to waffle from good to bad on a start-to-start basis, so deploy him with caution; it seems like you’ll either get a superb start from him or a bucket of bitter tears like last night. Oof, that’s an ugly save percentage.
Carl Soderberg, C (1 G, 1 A, 2 SOG) – Peeps were all about Sods early in the season but I wasn’t getting on board and I still haven’t. Mind you, he had upside and he could have kept his torrid early season pace going, but there really is no track record to support those expectations and as the season winds down and he moves in on 50 points for the year all I can think is “Yep, that’s aboot right.” In any case his two point game last night extends his point streak to four games, he has six points (2 G, 4 A) over that span and he’s absolutely worth streaming right now.
Loui Eriksson, LW (1 G, 3 SOG) – It should come as no surprise that with Sods’ recent surge Loui would follow suit; they do play on the same line after all and they’ve been pacing each other all season. Sadly that pace is far less than Loui used to regularly produce, but he’s scoring right now and that makes him well worth streaming.
Carey Price, G (L, 15 SV, 4 GA, .789%) – Price got lit up for the second straight game allowing four goals on just 19 shots to the Caps last night. The Bolts potted as many goals on him in his last start, too and this bit of poor play by Price comes at the worst possible time for his owners. All you can do is start him and hope for the best, don’t even consider dropping him for a streamer.
Alex Ovechkin, LW (2 G, 4 SOG) – Ovie sure does like to score goals.
Andrew Hammond, G (W, 28 SV, 1 GA, .966%) – After a minor streak of poor play it seemed like the wheels came off the Hamburgler’s Cinderella, err, end of season play, but he’s back on track now after holding the high powered Bolts to one goal on 29 shots after limiting the Red Wings to one goal in the start before that. He remains a risky start due to the high degree of uncertainty here, but he seems to be back on track for the moment.
Mark Stone, RW (1 G, 1 A, 2 SOG) – Stone Cold potted his 20th goal of the season last night extending his current point streak to four games in the process. He has five points (2 G, 3 A) over that span and for a guy who scored just eight points (4 G, 4 A) in 23 games in the NHL before this season he sure is taking a giant leap forward this season. At just 22-years-old his season line of 20/36/56/+15 could be on the low end of his potential production in years to come so don’t sleep on him at the draft table next season. This year was surprising, but it was no fluke.
Jonathan Drouin, C (1 G, 3 SOG) – So in the preseason I pegged Drouin for a 50-point campaign. He’s going to come up pretty shy of that mark given he only has 31 points with just a week left to go in the season and we can blame that almost solely on his lack of goals. I didn’t expect a 30-goal season from him, but I figured 15 or 20 on the high end was definitely do able. Don’t let this rough rookie season get you down on Drouin next year, though, he’s only going to get better and when he does break out it’s going to be a year that he wins entire leagues on his own.
Roberto Luongo, G (W, 31 SV, 1 GA, .969%) – It might be troubling for the Cats to see Lu cough up three or four goals to better opponents but then hold the lowly Canes to just one goal on 32 shots, but it doesn’t give fantasy owners any pause as Lu delivered a much needed strong game last night. As per the usual he’s a must start.
Aleksander Barkov, C (1 G, 1 A, 3 SOG) – I’ve been all about the Cats youth all season but since Jaromir Jagr joined the club at the trade deadline they have kicked into another gear I didn’t think we’d see from them until at least next season. Barky has six points (3 G, 3 A) over his last five games on the strength of a trio of two-point performances. Like many of the Cats I’m about to mention he should be owned on just about every team left alive.
Brandon Pirri, C (1 G, 2 SOG, +1) – Pirri continues his unreal goal-scoring streak with another tally last night. He has four goals over his last five games and 16 over his last 22. That’s ridiculous, but the upside was always there for Pirri. What’s odd is that he’s more of a playmaker than a finisher, so I don’t know that you’ll see a return to 25-goal form next season but you can absolutely expect him to build on this season and be worth a late round flier in next year’s drafts.
Vincent Trocheck, C (2 G, 1 A, 2 SOG) – Pirri plays with Trocheck lately and since the two were put on the same line they’re lighting it up. Trocheck has had an up and down season and at times spent stretches as a healthy scratch for much longer than I was comfortable with, but it doesn’t seem to have affected his ability to make this late season TOI count. He’s another young Cat with tons of upside and while he’s likely to top out at around 50 points next season, he’s definitely worth a late round flier in next year’s drafts as well.
Jonathan Huberdeau, C (2 A, 4 SOG, +2) – Hoob steps up again with his third two-helper game in his last four games. He has seven points (1 G, 6 A) over his last five games and has been white hot since getting paired on a line with Jagr. I’ve been all about him since the deal and I’ll be all about him in 2015, too. If for some reason he’s available, snatch him up. The Cats are hot, don’t sleep!
Jaromir Jagr, RW (1 G, 1 A, 3 SOG) – Considering the Cats have expressed interest in re-signing Jags and he’s said that he feels like he has seven or eight years left in the tank, I’d say you can expect to see the 43-year-old future hall of famer back in a Cats uniform next season. He’s provided the leadership that a young Florida squad so desperately needed and it’s paying off for him and the rest of his teammates. He has six points (3 G, 3 A) over his last five games and has nearly maintained a point-per-game pace since joining the Panthers. If for some insane reason he’s still available in your league, snatch him up and ride his secondary scoring goodness to your league championship.
Henrik Lundqvist, G (W, 26 SV, 2 GA, .929%) – After a shaky first period against the Boston Bruins in his first game back Hank has been his usual self allowing just five goals over his next eight periods of play. He’s won back-to-back games and helped the Rangers clinch the Metropolitan division and home-ice advantage for the first two rounds of the playoffs. He looks to be in top form again and that will keep Cam Talbot on the bench, likely for what little remains of this season. Start his Majesty with confidence.
Devan Dubnyk, G (L, 23 SV, 3 GA, .885%) – A Doobie loss? Only because he went up against what is arguably the league’s best overall team. That save percentage definitely stings at this point in the season but this means little in the grand scheme; start him with confidence.
Rick Nash, LW (1 G, 3 SOG) – I thought Nash could fight his way to 50 goals this year but it appears the only guy in the league capable of doing that is Ovie. Fair enough then.
Thomas Vanek, LW (1 G, 3 SOG, 2 PIM) – Earlier this season I predicted now that his off-ice troubles are getting handled that the talented Austrian sniper might get back on track and he’s done just that. After putting up a paltry 29 points (9 G, 20 A) in the first 46 games of the season he’s rebounded in a big way with 22 points (12 G, 10 A) in his last 30. That’s about the pace he used to put up for a full season and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that he’s right off the ice and now he’s right on the ice. He’ll be undervalued at next year’s drafts unless he has a big post season, which he could, but if not don’t be shy about drafting him in the middle-to-late rounds next season. He’ll deliver.
Jake Allen, G (W, 17 SV, 1 GA, .944%) – The Blues continue to handle Allen quite well and he continued to make good use of his starts steering aside 17 of 18 shots to help douse the Flames 4-1 last night. I’d imagine he’ll get another start before the post season but even if he doesn’t he’s had a fairly successful rookie season posting a line of 20-6-4/2.40/.907% in 34 games. Expect a step forward next season with more starts, more wins and sexier peripherals. I’d imagine he’ll be the outright starter for St. Louis by the end of next season and if not, certainly by the start of the 2016 season.
Sean Monahan, C (1 G, 1 SOG) – With a goal last night Money has graduated to the 30-goal club in his rookie season. I figured he had a shot at it, but it’s always impressive when you see a rookie pot 30 goals. The sky is the limit here, though given he’s put up a 30-goal, 60-point campaign in his first season I wouldn’t expect an immediate jump to the 70 or 80-point club in 2015. That doesn’t mean he won’t take another step forward and warrant keeping him if you can, or drafting him in the mid-rounds at next year’s drafts though.
Paul Stastny, C (1 G, 1 A) – It has been a rough season for Stas but he’s getting his act together in the second half and has sort of started to play like the guy we all expected we’d get at the start of the season. That being said, he’s been pretty inconsistent even now and really I’m not sure why. I figured he’d be able to jump into the St. Louis system and really tear it up with all the talent in that lineup but Stas hasn’t sustained any significant stretches of strong play all year. Honestly, he could rebound next season but I’m not going to risk drafting him to find out.
Corey Crawford, G (W, 35 SV, 1 GA, .972%) – Crow gets back on track with a solid game last night against the Canucks. He’s been a bit up and down lately, but overall his season line of 32-17-5/2.28/.924% in 54 games keeps him in the elite tier for fantasy goalies. If he hadn’t broken his foot at the show he’d probably be a top five netminder this season, but alas, he did and he isn’t. He’s still top 10 though and could put up a Vezina quality season in 2015.
Eddie Lack, G (L, 35 SV, 3 GA, .921%) – Since taking over for the injured Ryan Miller Lack’s play begs the question; why did the Canucks sign Ryan Miller again? The two goalies are putting up almost exactly the same numbers as the starter and in fact Lack has the edge in save percentage. Seems like they could have saved a lot of money and given Lack the starter reigns, but then it’s always good to have a solid veteran in net you can lean on. Either way, Lack seems to be positioning himself as the goalie of future for Vancouver.
Jordan Eberle, LW (1 G, 1 SOG) – If only there was like ten games left in the season instead of five I bet Eebs could get to the 70 points I pegged him for in the preseason. Last night’s tally pushes his season line to 23/39/62/-17 in 77 games as he tries like hell to make me look good. That gets you a gold star, brother!
Marian Gaborik, RW (2 G, 1 A, 3 SOG) – Ugh, Gabby might be the only guy in the league that makes me cranky when I see him do well. He’s so inconsistent and he gets hurt all the time so he makes for a H2H nightmare, but he can provide decent secondary scoring in roto leagues. No matter what, I’ll never own or draft him again and now that he’s not scoring 30 or 40 goals anymore his value is pretty limited moving forward. He isn’t getting any younger, y’all!
Ben Scrivens, G (L, 16 SV, 5 GA, .762%) – Ow.