Yesterday I wrote at length about the possibility that Henrik Lundqvist was poised to miss significant time with a mysterious neck injury that the Rangers were saying very little about. They didn’t have much to say about it this morning, either, other than the fact that Hank is out for at least a month, perhaps longer. The exact nature of the injury has not been disclosed and honestly, I wouldn’t expect to hear much about it for at least a few more days. All that is known is Hank did not develop a blood clot, suffer nerve damage or, despite the reports of intermittent headaches, he is not suffering from post-concussion syndrome either. This changes everything for the Rangers and Lundqvist fantasy owners. It goes without saying that Cam Talbot is now a must add everywhere as he is now the undisputed starter for the high powered Rangers with the 20-year-old, unfortunately named and wholly unproven MacKenzie Skapski getting recalled from the Hartford Wolfpack of the AHL to serve as Tablot’s backup.
Lundqvist wasn’t the only major injury news to come down yesterday, though the fact that Evander Kane is now done for the season should come as a surprise to no one. Just as it seemed he was healthy and starting to score again the Jets decided he needed shoulder surgery and he’ll be out for 4-6 months. With that timetable he may miss a bit of camp for next season, but hopefully he returns with a healthy shoulder with a chip on it ready to not completely suck for another season. To be fair, it sounds like he’s been playing with a bum shoulder all year and for a physical guy like Kane that makes doing anything painful and extremely difficult. I’m not ready to give up on him yet, but he sure does seem to be made of glass. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey recently:
Jake Allen, G (W, 23 SV, 1.000%, SHO) – Since Brian Elliott returned from his LBI and Martin Brodeur retired Allen hasn’t seen many starts, but the starts he’s getting are clearly sheltered minutes against weaker opponents having faced the Canes, Oil and Sabres in his last three starts. He won all three games. That might not be great for his fantasy owners, but it’s great for Allen’s development. When he was filling in as the starter earlier this year he showed flashes of brilliance but overall it was very clear that he isn’t ready to start for the Blues. I figure he’ll end up with another 10 or so starts before the end of the season and he should post solid numbers doing it given the situation.
Vladimir Tarasenko, RW (1 G, 5 SOG, +1) – I’m convinced that the main reason David Backes, C (1 A, 5 SOG, +1) and Alexander Steen, LW (1 A, +1) both recovered what looked like a lost season is the presence of Vladdy who is on pace for a 45-goal, 85-point season in just his second year on big ice. This line is absolutely unstoppable and I see no reason why they’ll slow down moving forward. A superstar is born, y’all!
Paul Stastny, C (1 A, 1 SOG, +1) – Ever so slowly Stas seems to be getting somewhat, kind of back on track with four points (4 A) over his last five games. The Blues are so jacked that Stastny almost has to get going at some point, but I wouldn’t put good money on it.
Jaroslav Halak, G (W, 16 SV, 2 GA, .889%) – The Halakness Monster didn’t see many shots last night and was cleanly beaten for both of the goals he coughed up on 18 shots. Regardless, he held on for the 3-2 victory in the shootout on the strength of Cal Clutterbuck, RW (1 G, 2 SOG, +1) and his two goals (one regulation, one in the shoot out). I don’t know how I feel about the Isles relying on Clutterbuck for their offense, but hey, it shows good depth and all that.
Mikhail Grabovski, C (1 G, 6 SOG) – It hasn’t exactly been a boon with Grabby since he returned from his injury and started filling in for the irreplaceable Kyle Okposo and so he was bumped down to the second line with Ryan Strome, C (1 SOG) and Frans Nielsen, C (1 SOG). That’s not a bad line to be on at all, but it’s not like skating with John Tavares, C (2 SOG, -1, 2 PIM), so his value takes a bit of a hit.
Steve Mason, G (L, 28 SV, 2 GA, .933%) – I’m not sure when Mason became a baller source of solid peripherals, but he’s absolutely rocking lately despite having his three game win streak snapped last night by the Isles. He might be a really good goalie if not for the lapses in concentration he seems to suffer from. The Flyers were up 2-0 late in the second when Mason lost focus and coughed up two clean goals to the Isles in less than two minutes. What could have been.
Robin Lehner, G (L, 27 SV, 2 GA, .931%) – Lehner has lost two straight and three of his four starts since filling in for the injured Craig Anderson, but he’s allowed no more than two goals in three straight games now. I still don’t think he’s worth adding because the Sens are horrible and he has been so inconsistent, but then his playing time isn’t exactly consistent either. As he settles in he seems to be getting comfortable and playing up to his talent level. I still firmly believe Lehner is the goalie of the future for Ottawa, but unfortch the future is tomorrow, not today.
Evgeny Kuznetsov, C (1 G, 2 SOG, +1) – Whosenetsoff has been disappointing this season but only if you bought the ridiculous hype around him coming into the season. He’s going to finish with around 35-40 points, with 40 being the high-end ceiling, but that’s not awful for the rookie at all. He remains an all-world talent that needs to adjust to and grow in the North American game and he will. Next year I can see him taking a step forward and putting up 50-60 points and 20 goals. As for the rest of this year, I figure 15 more points is what’s left in the tank for the 22-year-old.
Roberto Luongo, G (W, 29 SV, 2 GA, .935%) – After a stretch of somewhat meh play Lu returned to form with a very solid performance last night against the Kings. He pushed away 29 of 31 shots, but his recent stretch of bad play has ballooned his peripherals into meh territory (2.46/.918). He can recover, but the goals-against average might not be very pretty when the season ends. Ah, the pains of tending net for a team of kids.
Jon Quick, G (L, 17 SV, 3 GA, .850%) – On the other side of playing well, here’s Jon Quick. No, that’s not fair. He’s actually been pretty solid, most of the blame has to be laid at the feet of the team in front of him. I’ve watched a handful of Kings games this season and honestly, I can’t think of a single game where Quick didn’t get hanged out to dry at least once or twice, and Quick actually handles most of them well, but he can only do so much.
Aleksander Barkov, C (1 G, 2 SOG, +1) – Barky continues his solid second half play with another goal, the second he’s scored in his last three games. He’s putting up a point every other game or so and I’d say that’s the pace you can expect for the rest of the season. He wasn’t a consistent contributor in the first half, but he will be down the stretch. He’s also a guy you want to target in next year’s drafts. The Cats are only going to get better if they can keep their core together.
Nick Bjugstad, C (1 G, 5 SOG, +1) – A big part of the Cats’ core, if not the heart of it, is Jugs and here he is with yet another goal. His march towards a 20-goal season is all but assured and he could definitely find his way towards 25-30 before the end of the season. Like Barkov, he’s a no-brainer keeper and a guy you want to target next year.
Brandon Pirri, C (1 G, 3 SOG) – After last night’s tally Pirri has goals in four straight games and five points (4 G, 1 A) over that span. He’s been mostly forgotten, but Pirri is a solid young talent who langiuished in Chicago’s bottom six last year before being dealt to the Cats where he could get the TOI he needs to develop properly. He quickly hurt himself, of course, but now he’s back and looking strong on the Cats’ third line. He’s absolutely worth streaming while he’s scoring and the scoring may continue for a little while.
Pekka Rinne, G (L, 21 SV, 4 GA, .840%) – In his first game back after an eight game absence due to a knee injury Rinne looked rusty as hell and that’s putting it lightly. On one play, probably his worst of the season, the Preds were on the power play when Rinne handled the puck and lost track of Jacob Silfverberg, RW (2 G, 6 SOG, +3) who came from behind Rinne, knocked the puck off his stick and then deposited it the net for his first goal of the night. Mix in a few deflections and you have yourself a rough first game back. He’ll be fine, though.
Frederik Andersen, G (W, 44 SV, 2 GA, .957%) – So maybe Freddy is the opposite of most goalies and when he faces 40-plus shots, he plays really well, but when he faces fewer than 20, he plays really poorly? Anyway, he was awesome in this one and should continue to be a solid starter down the stretch.
Sami Vatanen, D (1 G, 3 SOG, +2) – I’ll admit I didn’t see Vatanen coming this season, but here he is with another goal. He remains on pace for a 50-point season, though I wouldn’t be surprised if he fell a bit short of that.
Rickard Rakell, C (2 A, 2 PTS, 1 SOG, +2) – Lord Rickard of the House Rackell hasn’t done much this season, but lately he’s absolutely worth streaming with six points (2 G, 4 A) over his last five games. He’s skating with Matt Beleskey and Jacob Silfverberg on the Ducks’ third line and there seems to be some solid chemistry developing there. Rackell likes to pass and Beleskey likes to finish. Sounds good to me. Add him where you can while he’s scoring.
Matt Beleskey, LW (1 G, 2 SOG) – He doesn’t do much, but he does score goals. Lots and lots of goals.
James Neal, RW (1 G, 5 SOG, 2 PIM) – Neal is on pace to finish with just one more point than Sami Vatanen. I wasn’t a fan of his going into this season and I doubt I’ll be a fan next season, either.
Colin Wilson, C (1 G, 3 SOG) – It seems like Wilson should slow down, but he hasn’t so far and it doesn’t look like he will anytime soon. If for some insane reason he’s still available in your league, no matter how deep, snatch him up pronto.
Andrei Vasilevskiy, G (W, 33 SV, 3 GA, .917%) – I figured the Bolts wouldn’t call up Vas to languish on the bench behind Ben Bishop and they didn’t disappoint giving Vas his first start just a few games after his recall. He was solid through two and stumbled a bit in the third, but a healthy dose of offensive support and he held on for the 5-3 victory. Expect Vas to continue to get a decent amount of starts moving forward, probably one for every three or four of Bish’s.
Kari Lehtonen, G (L, 24 SV, 4 GA, .857%) – Ugh.
Victor Hedman, D (1 G, 2 SOG, -1) – My Sun and Stars finally snapped a long nine game goal drought with a goal last night. It’s weird seeing Hedman struggle and I can only assume his broken hand is the source of the issue. Yeah, it’s healed, but it’s likely that it caused him to change his stick and shot mechanics just enough to throw his game off. Hopefully he’s starting to get the proper feel back and the points will start to flow again. They sort of have to, he’s just too good to keep struggling like this.
Nikita Kucherov, RW (1 G, 1 A, 4 SOG) – Hedman wasn’t alone in his long goal drought, or alone in snapping it. Kooch snapped a month long 13 game goalless streak before potting one last night. He only scored six points, all assists, in 12 games last month but he should recover sooner than later and get back on track. Even after a month-long bleh streak he remains on pace for 70 points this season.
Tyler Johnson, C (2 G, 5 SOG, +2) – Johnson joined Kooch and Hedman in snapping a long goalless streak and put his first biscuits in the basket in nine games last night. With three of the Bolts’ biggest offensive cogs all snapping out of long funks I’m left to ponder, who the hell has been scoring for the Bolts lately? Steven Stamkos, C (1 G, 1 A, 3 SOG) and Steven Stamkos?
Ondrej Palat, LW (2 A, 3 SOG, +2) – Did the Bolts just take last month off or what? Palat ends his six game scoreless streak with two helpers last night but hasn’t scored a goal in eight games and only has three in his last 14 games. Two of those three came in the same game, too. Palat was on pace for a 65-point campaign, but it’s looking like he may end up in the 50s again, but that’s hardly bad, just not great. Don’t trade him for pennies on the dollar at the deadline, the Bolts are too stacked to stay this quiet on offense for long and if last night is any indication, quiet time is over.
John Klingberg, D (1 G, 2 SOG, +1) – Klingon keeps on rollin’ with another goal last night. He burst onto big ice with a huge offensive push and then slowed a bit, as all rookies will, especially rookie defenseman. Then came the chorus of “He isn’t living up to the hype!” My, oh my, how fickle we are, eh? Luckily Klingy didn’t get the memo and he’s been one of the best offensive fantasy defenseman for a solid month now and shows no signs of slowing. He’s a no-brainer keeper this year, but he might be poised for a slow down in his sophomore campaign next season, so be careful not to over pay.
Petr Mrazek, G (W, 28 SV, 1.000%, SHO) – Of course right after I said you could safely drop Mrazek if you needed to, he posts two straight wins with a shutout. Jonas Gustavsson was recalled from Grand Rapids a few days ago and Mrazek got the call last night, so the Wings either aren’t ready to trust The Monster with the starter’s job or we’re looking at a 50/50 split until Jimmy Howard returns. This will be an interesting situation. If Mrazek outplays Gustavsson, the Wings might have a tough decision on their hands when Howie returns. That said, Mrazek is young and needs PT and he won’t see much behind Howie, so I would imagine one way or the other, Mrazek will finish the season in the AHL.
Cam Ward, G (W, 28 SV, 1 GA, .966%) – Well, he won a game and he looked solid doing it. That’s good! He did this against the lowly ‘Yotes, though. That’s bleh. Again, avoid this Carolina goalie nonsense if you can.
Mike Smith, G (L, 40 SV, 1 GA, .976%) – I’ll give Smith this, he played really well last night and his team completely let him down. That said, his record is now 9-21-5 and I’d tell you his peripherals but I wouldn’t want to offend your sensibilities. Lets just say they’re awful and hey! What a coincidence, so is Mike. As a goalie, I mean, he could be a really nice person, right?
Antti Niemi, G (W, 33 SV, 1 GA, .971%) – Nemo looked great in this one, so he should look awful in the next tilt, good after that, then bad two games in a row and then Alex Stalock will get a start, cough up three goals and we’ll repeat this vicious cycle all over again.
Brent Burns, D (2 A, 4 SOG, +2) – With these helpers Burns remains on pace for a 60-point season, which would likely put him at the top of the offensive defenseman pile this year. His goal scoring has slowed with just three tallies in his last 21 games, but I think he’ll pick it up again soon and end up with close to 20 goals by the end of the season.
Ryan Miller, G (L, 33 SV, 5 GA, .868%) – Like I’ve said from the start of the season; solid wins and bleh peripherals.
Radim Vrbata, RW (1 G, 4 SOG, +1) – Vrbata has certainly slowed from his torrid early season pace but remains more than relevant with four points (2 G, 2 A) in his last four games. He remains on pace for 35 goals and 60 points for the season, which would tie or break career marks in both categories.