I’m not sure if someone put a hit out on goalies in the NHL recently or there’s some there’s a really cranky Oilers fan sitting up in the bitter cold of Edmonton with a set of voodoo dolls he attacks routinely, but whatever the case may be, but life has been tough for starting goalies in the NHL lately. On the heels of the devastating news that the fantasy owners will be without the services of Henrik Lundqvist for at least the next three-to-four weeks due to a blood vessel injury in his neck two more starting goalies went down over the weekend when Frederik Andersen, G (L, 17 SV, 5 GA, .773%) took his neck to the back of the head and Steve Mason, G (8 SV, 0 GA, 1.000%) tried to stretch between plays only to have his knee buckle on him.
There’s good news and bad news here. The good news is that the better of the two goalies, Frederik Andersen, is listed as day-to-day and expected back sooner than later. He took the crossbar to the back of the head when Hampus Lindholm, D (-2, 2 SOG) ran into the net and tipped it over. Freddy looked horrible leading up to that point, so it was probably a mercy anyway, but by and large he’s been solid this year posting a season line of 29-8-5/2.37/.916 in 43 starts. There is no word on whether or not he has a concussion, so lets hope he doesn’t and he just needs to shake the cobwebs out with some rest over the next few days. In the meantime everyone’s favorite spaceman Ilya Bryzgalov becomes the defacto starter. That doesn’t mean you should go out and add him though, he’s been horrible this year and I doubt getting consistent starts will do much to improve his down right terrible play this season.
On the bad news side of this season’s goalie apocalypse, Steve Mason could be out for the rest of the season or he could be out for a month, we have no idea yet. Mase suffered a lower-body injury yesterday, went to the bench to stretch and his knee gave out. He wasn’t able to get to the locker room under his own power and is out indefinitely. He’s scheduled for arthroscopic knee surgery to find out what the source of the injury is and we’ll get a definitive timetable then, but from the sounds of it this could be a serious injury. It turns out his knee has been a problem since January and he had the option to get his knee scoped then, but said no like the warrior he is. Yeah, I’ll give Mase some props here despite my usual feelings towards him. Anyway, in expect Robb Zepp to get called up and Ray Emery, G (W, 5 SV, 1 GA, .833%) to split starts with him while Mason is out. Like with the Freddy injury, I don’t recommend you add either backup here, but if I had to choose, I’d go with Zepp. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey recently:
Corey Crawford, G (W, 25 SV, 2 GA, .926%) – Over his first 18 games of the season Crawdad was magnificent posting a sub-2.00 goals-against average to go with a save percentage of nearly .930 and all was right and good in the world. Then he went and broke his foot at a show, tweaked this, wanged that and fell off the map with 14 straight games of hot garbage through December and January. If you were worried that would continue, worry no longer because he’s put up five straight solid to stellar performances since and looks to finally be 100% again. He should regain his early season form and help quite a few teams to their respective fantasy titles down the stretch.
Brian Elliott, G (L, 24 SV, 3 GA, .889%) – Elliott hasn’t started more than 48 games in any season over the course of his career. He hasn’t started more than 39 games since 2010 and hasn’t started more than 36 games since joining the Blues in 2011. Last night was his 27th start over the season and lately he’s looked a lot more human than his 2.11 goals-against average and .923 save percentage might indicate. As the starts mount it appears like my early season concerns about late season fatigue may have been warranted after all and while his numbers are great, he remains completely unproven over the course of a full season. If he keeps struggling like he has been lately don’t be afraid to explore trade options as we approach the fantasy trade deadline.
Marian Hossa, RW (2 G, 2 SOG, -1) – Speaking of fatigue and injuries, I expected Hoss would have gone down with an injury already and that would be the limiting factor on his production. It turns out Hossa is the limiting factor and the twilight of his career is here in full force. He’s on pace to finish with the fewest points scored in the most games played since he played with the Trashers back in the late 2000s. If he goes on a streak, sell high and avoid him at the draft next season.
Carter Hutton, G (W, 34 SV, 2 GA, .944%) – Hutton was pretty terrible while he filled in for Pekka Rinne recently, but as the starts mounted he seemed to settle in to a semi-decent groove. He’ll get more starts down the stretch than you might expect to keep Rinne fresh for the playoffs, so he makes for a decent handcuff in that regard.
Roberto Luongo, G (L, 23 SV, 2 GA, .920%) – The Cats have lost 8 of their last 11 games and Lu has struggled through the cold spell as well. Honestly, what the Cats were doing early this season probably wasn’t sustainable for an entire season, but it did give us a look at what could be as their core players mature and improve. That all being said, what happens in a few seasons does nothing for you if you own Lu now, and if you do, expect that the wins are going to be fewer and far between now and the peripherals? They’ll remain respectable, but he won’t finish with stellar numbers by any stretch of the imagination.
Aaron Ekblad, D (1 G, 4 SOG, +1) – Ek is currently on pace to finish with around 15 goals and 50 points and given how well he’s played so far this season I bet he can hit both marks. The goals might be a reach, honestly, but he’ll definitely end up pretty damn close to 50 points after posting 30 in his first 51 games this season. He remains one of the most valuable keepers on the board.
Filip Forsberg, C (1 G, 4 SOG, -1) – Speaking of valuable keepers, if it wasn’t for Fil the Thrill Ekblad would be nearly guaranteed to win the Calder. Alas, Fil is here, he is ridiculous and he’s definitely the front-runner. With a goal last night he extends his point streak to five games with at least a point in nine of his last ten and there’s no telling if and when he’ll slow down. At this point, I’d be shocked if he kept this pace up for another two months and shocked if he didn’t. I guess I’m mostly just in awe at this point.
Wayne Simmonds, RW (1 G, 3 SOG, +1) – After his tally last night Simmonds has five points (3 G, 2 A) over his last five games after a long cold spell saw him put up just three points in his previous 13 games. The cold spell couldn’t last forever and Simmonds should remain a valuable source of just about everything a healthy fantasy team needs to win down the stretch. Hold on tight.
Jakub Voracek, RW (1 G, 3 SOG, +1) – Lets be honest, there was no way Jake was going to keep up an early season pace that saw him put up 47 points in 37 games through the first three months of the season. He’s not going to fall off the map, but his 11 points in 14 games last month is probably about right. He could work his way back to a point-per-game pace, but don’t bank on it.
Jaroslav Halak, G (W, 8 SV, 2 GA, .800%) – A quick glance at Halak’s line from last night and you might assume he was pulled after one or went down with an injury. That might have been preferable to the reality; he allowed two goals on just 10 shots to the lowly Sabres and barely hanged on for the 3-2 victory. The Isles have lost four of their last six since losing Kyle Okposo and while I don’t expect them to totally implode without him, it hasn’t been pretty. If the Isles can’t get back on track Halak’s value will plummet down the stretch as wins are his primary source of value given he’s sporting a 2.41 goals-against average and a .910 save percentage at this point.
Anders Lee, C (1 G, 1 SOG, -1) – Since being promoted to the top line Anders has seen his goal-scoring spike, but I don’t think it will last. He put up four goals in each of the last three months in 14, 13 and 12 games played respectively. Now he has three in his last four games. That’s not going to be sustainable for him even if he does continue to spend time on the top line with John Tavares, C (1 A, 3 SOG, -1).
Mikhail Grabovski, C (1 G, 1 SOG, +1) – Initially Mikhail Grabbed the top line slot when Okie went down, but he was quickly demoted to the second line with Frans Nielsen, C (1 A, 4 SOG, +1) and Ryan Strome, C (3 SOG, +1). That’s not exactly a bad place to be and Grabby is making a case to stick in the Isles top six with goals in two of his last three games. He isn’t going to give you much else besides goals, but goals you’ll get; probably another ten of them if he keeps going strong.
Marcus Foligno, LW (1 G, 1 A, 2 SOG) – Another solid game from Fogg—oh wait, wrong Foligno.
Ben Bishop, G (W, 25 SV, 3 GA, .893%) – Oi, I can’t take more of these three goal games from Bish. I didn’t expect him to repeat last season’s stellar performance, but I definitely expected more than his 2.38/.912 peripherals offer. He’s getting wins and will keep getting them, but he’s going to have to keep that third goal from getting behind him if he wants to push those numbers in the right direction. At this point you have to stick with him; the Bolts are healthy and winning and he actually has a solid backup in Andrei Vasilevskiy now, so the only thing stopping Bish from returning to his form from last season is Bish.
Valtteri Filppula, C (1 G, 2 A, 1 SOG) – There’s no mistaking that Flip is a bust this season. On one of the best offensive teams in the league he sports a minus-9 and looks like he’ll finish with less than 20 goals and 60 points, both marks I thought he could hit if he stayed on the top line with Steven Stamkos, C (2 A, 3 SOG) and Ryan Callahan, RW (1 G, 1 A, 5 SOG) this season. Alas, he didn’t and of course his offensive production suffered as a result. I was a fairly big fan of his going into this season, not so much anymore.
Nikita Kucherov, RW (1 G, 2 SOG, +1) – Kooch extended his goals streak to three games with a tally last night and has four points (3 G, 1 A) over that span. He fell off for a bit but he’s back on track and screaming towards a 30 goal, 70-point year putting him among in the top three best wire grabs of the season. Don’t lose faith, the juice is real with Kooch.
Victor Hedman, D (1 A, 1 SOG, +2) – My Sun and Stars looks like he’s back at 100% finally and has points in three straight games now. Two of those points are goals and he’s looked absolutely fantastic out there lately. The slump is over.
Kari Lehtonen, G (W, 34 SV, 2 GA, .944%) – Kari has been consistent in one aspect of his game this season; he sucks. No, that’s not fair, he’s actually pretty talented but he’s playing like he’s tending net for the Oil. A lot of the blame can be placed on the porous Dallas D, but really, Lehtonen has let in a lot of soft goals and generally looked lost all season. I doubt that changes much down the stretch, but if you need goalie help and some other owner jettisoned Kari to the wire, he’s worth a flier.
Cam Talbot, G (L, 22 SV, 3 GA, .880%) – Two games into the reign of King Talbot he’s playing more like the court jester than the monarch he replaced allowing three goals in both games he’s started since Henrik Lundqvist went down with a vascular injury in his neck. While Talbot did hold the Stars to just two goals until Ales Hemsky, RW (1 G, 1 A, 3 SOG, +2) beat him in OT for the game winner, he’s faced just 60 shots in his last three starts and allowed eight to get past him, losing the last two. I expect he’ll get better, but there’s a reason he’s a backup and all the talk that he could be a starter for a few other teams in the league is a bit overblown if you ask me, and if you’re reading this, you kind of are! He’s still worth owning as the Rangers’ starter, though.
Jason Spezza, C (1 G, 2 A, 3 SOG) – Over his last give games Spazz has six points (2 G, 4 A) and has been scoring fairly consistently since early January. In fact, he has 15 points over his last 17 games failing to post at least a point in just four of those games. What’s more he isn’t doing this on the top line, either, so there’s a glimmer of hope that he can find a way to sort of, kind of salvage his lost season. Even better, he’s elevating his line mates Erik Cole, LW (1 G, 3 SOG, +1) and Ales Hemsky to respectability, too. This is the exact scenario I expected to see at the start of the season, but I’ll take it down the stretch. Spazz could be good for 20 more points down the stretch, mostly helpers though.
Chris Kreider, LW (1 G, 3 SOG) – I’m a big fan of Kreider and with every game I’m buying in more and more. His 28 points in 49 games is nothing to write home about, but I’ve touched on his ability to produce in multiple categories across the board ala Brandon Dubinsky and I think they’re actually somewhat similar players. Kreider has a much, much higher offensive upside, though. You’d be a fool not to get on board with Kreids next season, he’s due to break out in a big way.
Carl Hagelin, RW (1 G, 6 SOG, 2 PIM) – Unlike Kreids, Hags’ upside is limited but he gets the job done with his speed and is valuable in the deeper pools, anyway.
Ondrej Pavelec, G (W, 25 SV, 3 GA, .893%) – And the goalie merry-go-round continues in Winnipeg with Pavs looking positively mediocre out there last night after Michael Hutchinson lost his fourth straight start in the Jets’ previous tilt against the Hawks. Expect more variable play from the rookie and consistently yawnstipating play from Pavs down the stretch.
Semyon Varlamov, G (L, 24 SV, 5 GA, .828%) – I expected Varly to have a tough year, but the indicator I attacked was what looked like his inflated save percentage, a notoriously fickle stat that has a lot to do with the team in front of the goalie. The Avs allow a ton of shots and Varly stops a ton, so the save percentage has remained high this year. His goals-against average has also remained high this year, however, and after 34 starts he’s put up just 14 wins and a 2.51 GAA. I don’t expect him to do much better than he has already down the stretch, but he has shown flashes of brilliance over the last month now that his janky groin is fully healed.
Matt Duchene, C (1 G, 1 A, 3 SOG) – Duchene is going the way of Jason Spezza and put up his best month of the season in January with 10 points (3 G, 7 A) in 13 games. He has 12 points in his last 16 games now and I’m holding out hope that he can at least give his owners ten-to-twelve points a month for the remainder of the season. That said, he failed to tally a point in the three games leading up to last night and put just three shots on goal in all three games combined. So I’m not holding my breath for anything consistent and neither should you.
Dustin Byfuglien, D (1 G, 2 A, 6 SOG) – I list Big Buff at D because that’s where he belongs, but apparently Jets Head Coach Paul Maurice didn’t get that memo, because he’s slotted Buff back in at forward for the last five games and Buff’s scoring went flat until last night. So let me get this straight. He gets moved to the wing and struggles, gets shifted back to D and dominates, so naturally it’s time to move him back up to the wing? Are you kidding me, Maurice? Seriously. At any rate, he’s skating in the top six on line with Mathieu Perreault, C (1 G, 2 A, 4 SOG) and Mark Scheifele, C (2 A, 2 SOG, +1) while on offense, so it could be worse.
Jacob Trouba, D (1 G, 2 SOG, +2) – It’s good to see some signs of life from Trouba after a four game scoreless streak. He came back from his latest injury hot with three points in his first four games back, too, so there’s good news for Tuba. He’s probably only good for 4-5 more goals and 10-12 more points and he gets time on the second power play, which is good enough to be a middle of the road third or solid fourth defenseman.
David Pastrnak, RW (1 G, 3 SOG) – Pasta burst onto big ice with four goals in two games and the world lost their shiz, then the 18-year-old went cold until last night when he finally potted his fifth goal of the year. He’s a no-brainer keeper for next season, but anything you get from him for the rest of the year is a bonus. He’s young, he’s learning on the fly and he’s undersized, but the offensive juice is real.
Tomas Hertl, RW (2 G, 1 A, 3 SOG) – After putting up 25 points in 37 games in his rookie season Tomas Turtle was bound to disappoint in his sophomore campaign, especially after tearing up his knee, but I think most of us expected a bit more from the kid this season. Last night he woke up in a big way with two goals and a helper and given his streaky nature he might be in for a huge run o’ goal scoring, so if he’s on the wire and you need goal scoring help (you can always use more) he’s worth a flier in deep leagues.
Devan Dubnyk, G (W, 18 SV, 1.000%, SHO) – In six starts for the Wild Doobie has four shutouts. That’s not sustainable. You knew that, but I thought I’d reinforce the concept anyway. Sell high here. Not because he’ll fall off and start sucking down the stretch, quite the contrary I think he’ll be very solid for the Wild and fantasy owners alike, but there is never going to be a time where he’s hotter and has better numbers, so you might as well shop him around and see what you can get.
Petr Mrazek, G (W, 22 SV, 1 GA, .957%) – Jimmy Howard is back and Jonas Gustavsson is healthy now too, so you would assume that means Mrazek is headed back to the AHL but that isn’t the case, yet. Wings Head Coach Mike Babcock said Pete would get the start on Wednesday despite the Wings sporting three healthy tenders, so hold on to him for this one as he’s been red hot lately winning his last three starts and allowing no more than one goal in each game. In fact, he’s 8-1 since taking over for Howie and despite a rough three game stretch that saw him surrender 14 goals, he’s been stellar. Expect Mrazek to be Howie’s understudy next season and for The Monster to walk, but for the rest of this season it remains to be seen who will stick on big ice behind Howie.