When the season started everyone had high expectations for a young and extremely talented Colorado Avalanche team and why wouldn’t they? Last season Nathan MacKinnon, C (1 A, 2 SOG, +1) exploded onto big ice with a stellar rookie campaign potting 25 goals and finishing with 63 points in 82 games. Matt Duchene, C (1 G, 1 A, 6 SOG) returned to form and nearly put up a point-per-game with 70 points in 71 games and Gabriel Landeskog, LW (1 G, 1 A, 2 SOG) not only returned to his rookie season form after an injury shortened 2014 season, he took a step forward and finished with 65 points of his own. All the signs were there. All the signs were pointing to a huge year from all three guys in 2015, the new core of a dynasty in the making, but when the pucks started flying they sure as hell weren’t flying into the net for any of them. Fear not, dear readers, for the end of their struggles is nigh and at the quarter season marker the Avs are finally starting to warm up!
It all started a few weeks ago when Duchene had a ranty post-game interview stating that the Avs needed to get mad and stop accepting defeat after defeat, both small and large. Since then he’s put his money where his mouth is and posted seven points in his last seven games powered by four goals and apparently leading by example is a good way to go because he’s not the only one who heard the call. Landeskog has seven of his own points in his last five games and like Duche he’s just too good to keep playing as badly as he was. There may be temptation to look at try and sell now that they’re scoring, but I wouldn’t move any of these guys if you own them. Despite their recent successes they were so bad to start the year that you’ll be moving them for pennies on the dollar and in the end you’ll lose out big time. At this point it’s highly unlikely that any of them will hit their pre-season projections, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be near point-per-game forwards moving, well, forward, and I’d buy all three for a dollar (each)! Sadly, the same can’t be said for the aging Jarome Iginla, RW (1 G, 2 A, 5 SOG). Iggy isn’t the guy he once was and he isn’t going to score 30 goals again like he did last year for the Bs, but he’s going to net you 50 points ane 20 goals, so that’s worth owning. He skates on the top line with Landeskog and MacKinnon so that gives him value, anyway. If he goes on a decent streak I’d try to sell high, someone out there thinks he’s still a beast. Still, sit tight and enjoy the ride as the Avs are trending up lately, at least offensively, and should continue to roll as we move towards the halfway point in the season. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey this weekend:
Henrik Lundqvist, G (W, 21 SV, 2 GA, .913%) – Hank continues his rocky season waffling from good to bad on a night-to-night basis. All you can do is hold on to him and hope for the best, he’s too good to not get into a groove now that the Rangers are back to nearly 100% after a rash of injuries depleted their defense. Free agency and poor roster management by Glen Sather also depleted their defense, but that’s another story entirely.
Ray Emery, G (L, 30 SV, 4 GA, .882%) – The curse of the Philly Netminders continues as Emery looked exactly like Ray Emery normally looks out there. Awful, just awful.
Jakub Voracek, RW (1 G, 1 A, 3 SOG) – I always knew that Voracek was solid, hell I knew he was really good, but I didn’t ever expect him to compete with Sidney Crosby (2 SOG) for the league lead in points. Between Jake and Claude Giroux ( 1 A, 1 SOG, 4 PIM, +1) the top line for the Flyers is pretty deadly, it’s a shame their goaltending is so terrible. Actually no it’s not, I love seeing the Flyers suck it up.
Derick Brassard, C (2 G, 4 SOG, +1) – Brass should have been picked up a long time ago, but if for some cray reason he’s still available in your league, add him yesterday. He has 19 points in 23 games and that puts him on pace for nearly 70 points by season’s end, a mark he could absolutely reach.
Jhonas Enroth, G (W, 41 SV, 3 GA, .932%) – I wouldn’t own him or anything, but I have to give it to Enroth, he’s performing pretty well considering the team in front of him.
Dustin Tokarski, G (L, 23 SV, 3 GA, .885%) – Eight goals allowed in his last two starts and Toker is struggling a bit, but that’s to be expected. Unless he completely falls apart, which I highly doubt, he has zero competition for the backup job behind Carey Price, so he’ll get rolled out there again sooner or later.
Chris Stewart, RW (1 G, 4 SOG, +1) – Two goals in his last three games might make you think he’s finding his touch again, but don’t be fooled, dude is hot garbage.
Max Pacioretty, RW (1 G, 2 SOG) – Saturday’s goal snaps a mini three game pointless streak for Max. He has three goals in his last five games, but his pace has slowed and he’s looking at around 35 goals and 60 points by season’s end and that’s good and all, but disappointing considering the pace he set to start the season. No matter what the goals will be there, anyway.
Jonathan Bernier, G (W, 35 SV, 2 GA, .946%) – The first two months of the season have been pretty much identical for Bernie so it’s safe to say that he’s likely going to give you something in the range of a 2.50 GAA and .910 SV% every month from here on out. There might be a bad month, there might be a good month, but I’m willing to bet solid cash that he ends up with numbers in that ballpark this year.
Braden Holtby, G (L, 9 SV, 3 GA, .750%) – Holtby got the hook after giving up three goals on 12 shots in the first period to the Leafs by Justin Peters (L, 8 SV, 3 GA, .727%) who did even worse. Yikes. Unlike in season’s past, Holtby has zero competition for the starting job and this was one bad game so no worries there. There are some worries about Holtby getting tired as the season goes on, though. It’s one thing for him to not have to worry about losing the starting gig, it’s another situation entirely when his backup is completely incapable of giving him a night off.
Tyler Bozak, C (2 G, 3 SOG) – Bozo is absolutely on fire with five goals in his last three games and seven points over his last five. That puts him at 22 points in 23 games and like I’ve said in the past, there’s no reason he can’t keep this up so long as he’s healthy and has Phil Kessel (2 A, 2 SOG) and James van Reimsdyk (2 A, 2 SOG) on his wings. Either he’s putting the puck home or he’s dishing it to two world-class finishers. What more could you ask for?
Joffrey Lupul, LW (1 G, 1 A, 1 SOG) – There was so much promise here, but the injuries have taken their toll over the years and at this point it’s not so much waiting for the next injury, it’s realizing that the injuries have worn him down and he’s never going to be the player he was hyped to be early in his career. That doesn’t mean he can’t be a serviceable guy, maybe even a top-six guy, but right now he isn’t worth owning outside of deeper leagues.
Cody Franson, D (1 G, 3 SOG) – I think it’s safe to call this Franson’s breakout season at this point as he adds another goal to the mix bringing his season line to 4/11/15 in 21 games so far. That’s after missing the first few games of the season with an injury, too. He’s on pace for 50-plus points and while I’m still skeptical he’ll hit that mark, 40-plus seems like a lock at this point.
Ben Bishop, G (W, 26 SV, 1 GA, .963%) – The disease of threes struck Bishop for a short stretch earlier this month but otherwise he has been absolutely fantastic. His season line now sits at 14-3-2/2.27/.917 and he’s about the only thing keeping my goaltending from being a total disaster in the RCL. Please stay healthy. Please.
Robin Lehner, G (L, 28 SV, 4 GA, .875%) – After starting the season well and looking like he might finally live up to the hype (My hype, I won’t lie.) Lehner has hit a rough patch and his season line is getting worse by the start. By contrast, Craig Anderson seems to be playing well this season. Everything I thought I knew is a lie.
David Legwand, C (1 G, 3 SOG) – A rare point for Legs who gets a mention because I haven’t had the opportunity to do so all season. I may not again, either.
Ryan Callahan, RW (1 G, 1 A, 2 SOG) – 21 points in 19 games so far? Seriously, Cally? That’s not what I expected, but so long as he stays on the top line with Steven Stamkos (1 A, 3 SOG, +2) it appears that Cally will keep scoring until he gets hurt again.
Nikita Kucherov, RW (1 G, 5 SOG) – Back when I was pushing Kucherov hard, which has basically been all season, people were still asking whether or not he should be dropped seemingly regardless of how well he played at the time. He’s played well all season long and I’m happy to see the questions about him getting dropped are finally over. Dude’s the real deal; if you were lucky/smart enough to grab him while the grabbin’ was good, enjoy the ride.
Alex Killorn, C (1 G, 1 A, 2 SOG) – Since joining the top line with Ryan Callahan and Steven Stamkos Alex has been killing it with seven points in his last eight games. He has goals in four of his last five and he should be owned everywhere right now.
Jaroslav Halak, G (W, 34 SV, 1 GA, .971%) – Halak is the best goalie in the league right now as he extends his win streak to nine games. His season line now sits at 12-4-0/2.13/.926% and the Isles are sitting atop the Metro Division. I never thought I would write or say either of those things.
Corey Schneider, G (L, 25 SV, 2 GA, .926%) – For the love of all that’s holy, give this man a night off!
Thomas Greiss, G (W, 32 SV, 2 GA, .941%) – Grease is going to be used sparingly all season barring injury to starter Marc-Andre Fleury, but he should be solid in limited action. If he gets more than 20 starts this season I’ll eat my socks.
Anton Khudobin, G (L, 30 SV, 3 GA, .909%) – Seven starts and a 0-5-1 record is all Dobby has to show for his 2014-15 campaign so far. With Cam Ward playing halfway decent hockey this season and Dobby unable to buy a win I doubt this situation changes much moving forward. One of two things happened here; either Dobby was a flash in the pan last season and he’s going to be bleh moving forward or Ward’s okay play has limited Dobby to inconsistent starts and he can’t find a groove. Either way, I wouldn’t own either of them with your team.
Chris Kunitz, LW (1 G, 5 SOG, +2) – I don’t know what it is about Kunitz that makes me want to doubt him every year, but here he is again with 20 points in 23 games so far. He’ll keep scoring, I’ll doubt he’ll keep it up and the world will keep on spinning.
Justin Faulk, D (1 G, 2 SOG, -1) – Faulk is putting all of his offensive talents on display this season, it’s just a shame it’s basically a lost year for the Canes already. It’s clear they aren’t going anywhere this season, but they’re loaded with young talent and Faulk leads that pack, so there’s hope for the future. For now his plus/minus really limits his value, but if you can suffer through it the 50-plus points he’s on pace for are probably worth the pain. I wouldn’t recommend him in a roto league, but in H2H leagues his horrible rating is easier to absorb.
Elias Lindholm, C (1 G, 2 SOG, -1) – Speaking of young talent in Carolina, Lindholm is among their most promising prospects. He’s on pace for and absolutely capable of scoring 25 goals this year, but anything else is a bonus. Like most other Carolina players, his plus/minus will make baby Jesus cry, so he’s best left on the wire in most leagues outside of the deeper keepers.
Pekka Rinne, G (W, 21 SV, 1 GA, .955%) – Rinne’s season is getting a bit ridiculous at this point and despite his stellar play he has to come back down to earth sometime. Now isn’t that time, though. In 20 starts this season he’s allowed one or fewer goals 10 times and allowed more than three goals twice. His season line now sits at 16-3-0/1.82/.933%. If this is what happens when you lose a season to a hip infection, I recommend every goalie in the league sign up for one post haste.
Curtis McElhinney, G (L, 40 SV, 2 GA, .952%) – He’s bad and he should feel bad. Do you own him? If you do, you should feel bad too.
Ryan Johansen, C (1 G, 2 SOG, -2) – I thought it was pretty bunk when Joey was holding out for six million a year, but so far he’s clearly been worth that pricetag so kudos to the Jackets front office or getting him on what appears to be the cheap. His rating is going to continue to suffer, but with 25 points in 23 games he remains one of the most dynamic young scoring forwards in the game.
Mike Ribeiro, C (1 G, 2 SOG, +1) – Saturday’s tally snaps a three game skid for Ribs, but so long as he plays on the top line with Filip Forsberg (5 SOG, +1) and James Neal (2 SOG, +1) he should be fine.
Colin Wilson, C (1 G, 2 SOG, +1) – Wilson isn’t well known in fantasy circles because he hasn’t been able to piece together a consistent bit of scoring in his short career, but the skill is there. He has decent size and skill but falls short of the elite tier that would make him an attractive prospect, but at just 24 years old he still has the opportunity to establish himself as a solid scoring forward for the Preds. He currently spends his time on the second line with Calle Jarnkrok (1 A, 1 SOG, +1) and Craig Smith (1 A, 3 SOG, +1) and while those names aren’t the sexist out there, Wilson is scoring lately with six points in his last six games. He’s worth streaming for now and keeping an eye on moving forward.
Jake Allen, G (W, 36 SV, 2 GA, .947%) – Allen is showing the poise of a veteran after taking over for the injured Brian Elliott but that’s been Allen’s M.O. for some time, so it’s not surprising to see him doing well. He hasn’t been as good as Elliott was before the knee injury, so if Elliott came back soon I doubt the situation in the St. Louis crease would be much different than it was before the injury, but Allen has at least a few more weeks to create a goalie controversy.
Niklas Backstrom, G (W, 24 SV, 2 GA, .923%) – Backstrom has been great so far this season posting a season line of 3-2-1/2.01/.915% in limited action and that’s the key, limited action. He’s too old to take on a starter’s workload and not get hurt, but he’s too talented and expensive to get sent down to the AHL. I’m not really sure what’s going to happen when Josh Harding is ready to return, but my feeling is that Backstrom is going to be the odd man out if Darcy Kuemper can keep it together.
David Backes, C (1 G, 2 SOG, +1) – He’s going to give you goals and hits and not much else. Last season was a fluke.
Vladimir Tarasenko, RW (1 G, 5 SOG, +1) –The Tarasenko Express keeps chugging along and there is nothing fluky about his production. Vladdy is a special kind of scoring forward and he should finish the year among the elite ranks and stay there for many seasons to come. If you listened to my ranting last season and grabbed him in keeper leagues, you’re welcome.
Zach Parise, LW (1 G, 9 SOG) – The hardest working man in hockey kept up his point-per-game pace with a goal on nine shots in a 3-2 loss to the Blues on Saturday. If he stays healthy there’s no reason he shouldn’t continue like this all season long.
Mikko Koivu, C (1 G, 4 SOG) – Is anyone still holding this guy?
Calvin Pickard, G (W, 22 SV, 2 GA, .917%) – When I warned folks against drafting Semyon Varlamov this season I didn’t expect anyone in the Colorado system to step up and fill the gap, in fact, I figured Varly would play all year but put up meh numbers. Reto Berra has an opportunity to step up but he hasn’t, so it’s fallen to the rookie and wouldn’t you know it, he’s actually doing pretty well. The sample size is a bit small still with only six games under his belt, but so far Captain Pickard sports a season line of 3-3-0/2.20/.931% and he seems to be the go-to guy for Patty Roy right now. When Varly returns from his LBI he’s going to slot right back in as the starter, there’s no question there. The real question is who is going to back him up? Berra or Pickard? Stay tuned.
Anders Lindback, G (L, 42 SV, 5 GA, .894%) – I expected the Stars offense to be top five this season and with what seemed like a solid defensive core that their goalies would be extremely valuable all season; yeah, not so much. Kari Lehtonen continues to struggle and Lindback has been even worse. It’s hard to blame him when he gets peppered to the tune of 47 shots. That’s a common theme for the Stars who allow an average 32.5 shots per game, good for 25th in the league. Neither goalie is going to put up solid numbers until the Dallas defense gets its act together.
Corey Crawford, G (W, 19 SV, 1 GA, .950%) – Another game where Crawdad allows fewer than two goals pushing his season line to 12-5-1/1.87/.929%. The only goalie playing better hockey right now is Pekka Rinne and that’s saying a lot. I’m a huge fan of Crawford and am still pretty bullish on a Vezina run this season.
Jon Quick, G (L, 19 SV, 1 GA, .950%) – Quick has looked very mortal allowing eight goals over his last two games, but I wouldn’t worry too much, he’s fine.
Brad Richards, C (2 G, 5 SOG, +2) – I figured Richards was done when he signed with the Blackhawks, but only because I had watched just how slow he had become on the Rangers. Somehow he’s worked his way back to the top-six for the Hawks and centers the second line with Patrick Kane (2 SOG, +2) and Kris Versteeg (2 A, 2 SOG, 2 PIM, +2) on his wings and that’s a good place to be. If he stays healthy I figure he’ll end up with 20 goals and 55 points, I’d say 65ish is the ceiling.
Brandon Saad, LW (1 G, 3 SOG, +1) – With nine points in 14 games this month Saad is looking about on par with what you’d expect from him at this point, but I don’t know that his scoring will continue once Patrick Sharp returns from his injury and Saad is bumped to the third line.
Karri Ramo, G (W, 26 SV, 1.000%, 26 SA) – Ramo is starting to create some space between himself and Jonas Hiller for the starting gig. Ramo has back-to-back shutouts blanking the Sharks and Coyotoes and has won all five of his starts this month. His season line now sits at 6-2-1/2.28/.919% and for the foreseeable figure I’d bet that he continues to edge out Hiller for more starts. If nothing else, it’ll be a 50/50 split.
Devan Dubnyk, G (L, 26 SV, 3 GA, .897%) – It took seven starts but Dubs finally lost one in regulation pushing his season line to 5-1-1/2.43/.922%. I have almost no confidence that he’ll keep this up, but he’s better than Mike Smith so he’ll at least be getting a decent amount of starts going forward. What he does with those starts remains to be seen. He’s worth owning if you’re hurting at goalie, but anything you get is a bonus.
T.J. Brodie, D (1 G, 2 SOG, +2) – Brodie was due for a step forward this season and he’s definitely taking it with another goal pushing his season total to 21 points in 25 games. There is no better offensive defensive pairing than Brodie and Mark Giordano (1 A, 1 SOG, +2) who has posted a ridiculous 46 points in 25 games so far this eason. I fully expect Brodie to flirt with 50 points by season’s end.
Jiri Hudler, LW (1 G, 2 A, 4 SOG) – With another goal Saturday night Hudler now has eight points in his last four games with five goals over that span. Obviously he won’t keep this up and often surges early in the season only to slow to a crawl later on. I don’t think this season is going to be any different and his value isn’t going to be higher than it is right now so sell high, my friends.
Johnny Gaudreau, LW (1 G, 1 A, 5 SOG) – Gaudreau continues his breakout season with a goal and an assist on five shots. He’s on pace for about 60 points and that’s the ceiling, so expect somewhere in the neighborhood of 50-55 by season’s end. He’s a must own in all keeper leagues and most re-drafts at this point.
Antti Niemi, G (W, 30 SV, 4 GA, .882%) – Alex Stalock is healthy again and just chopping at the bit (I hope) to get in there and show Niemi how its done. Niemi meanwhile continues to do all he can to give Stalock a chance, and I have to give him props for that. All Stalock needs is a good three or four game stretch and he can start to pull away with the starting job.
Frederik Andersen, G (W, 14 SV, 5 GA, .737%) – Freddy continues to struggle in November after a stellar start to the season. As his struggles continue to linger and John Gibson continues to heal my concerns for Andersen worsen. He needs to get it together and fast if he’s going to hold Gibsy off upon his return.
Matt Beleskey, LW (1 G, 5 SOG, +1) – Whoever plays with Corey Perry (2 G, 1 A, 6 SOG) and Ryan Getzlaf (1 G, 2 A, 6 SOG) is worth owning while they stick with that line and lately it has been Belly, so stream him while the streamin’ is good.