Jimmy Howard, G (2 SV, 1 GA, 3 SA, .667%) has the worst luck. Just hours after he was named to the 2015 All-Star Game in a rebound season he was caught out of position, slid awkwardly against the far post to try to stop a wrap around chance and suffered a slight groin tear in the process. He coughed up the goal, too. After an MRI revealed the slight tear the initial estimates are that he’ll be out for at least a week now that he’s on IR, and up to a month or longer depending on the severity of the injury. We won’t know for sure how bad it is until Howie undergoes an ultrasound for a more accurate assessment, but whether he’s out of a week or a month, you have to add Petr Mrazek, G (L, 12 SV, 2 GA, 14 SA, .857%) everywhere.
When the season started Mrazek was starting for the Grand Rapids Griffins of the AHL, a team he lead to the AHL championship last year in a stellar season posting a line of 22-9-4/2.10/.924% in 32 games. He’s shown himself to be quite capable of handling the rigors of the NHL in short stints with the Wings over the last three years, too, putting up a line of 8-8-1/2.02/.921 and 2 shutouts in 20 games on big ice so far. To this point he hasn’t really had a bad game and when he started three straight earlier this season he said he felt great. There’s a big difference between starting three straight and starting 10 straight, but in either case the kid is brimming with confidence and proclaimed his readiness to handle a starter’s workload if need be. That’s what you like to hear from a hungry, young, talented goalie that is about to take over the starting gig for one of the best teams in hockey.
The long and short of it is you can’t pass on Mrazek. If you don’t have room, you should probably make room. He’s shown very few signs of being unable to handle the NHL and this is going to be his shot to take the job and run with it. Obviously when Howie gets healthy he’s going to slot right back in as the starter, but Mrazek has a chance to completely usurp Jonas Gustavsson for the backup role behind Howie. The Monster has been practicing pretty steadily for the last few weeks and is about two weeks away from being NHL ready, but if over that time Mrazek plays well as the starter, and then continues to keep The Monster on the pine while Howie heals up, the Wings will be hard pressed to send him back to the AHL when Howie returns. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey recently:
Steve Mason joins Howie on the IR with his own LBI and he’s out for a couple weeks. That’s bad news for his owners but worse news is that Ray Emery is going to be the starter with Rob Zepp backing him up. If you are really, really desperate for help in goal you could consider picking up Emery, but you do so at your own risk. I wouldn’t buy that for a nickel, y’all.
David Pastrnak, LW (2 G, 2 SOG, +1) – Pasty is one talented young gun that you want to keep your eye on in the second half, but only if he sticks on big ice through this week. The flashy Czech winger potted the first two goals of his career on Saturday and looked fantastic doing it. The skill is there, but the big concern is his lack of size. He currently weighs in at just 167 lbs at 6 feet tall. That’s beanpole territory in a league where beanpoles are eaten for a light snack before pre-game warm ups. There’s a real concern that if the B’s keep their ultra talented young sniper on big ice for 10 games this year, they’ll not only lose a year of his entry level status, but he might also suffer a serious injury in the process. At just 18 years of age with an upside as high as the sky, there’s little reason for the B’s to risk it. We’ll know over the next few days what’s going to happen, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him sent back down to the minors for the remainder of the season.
Matt Duchene, C (1 G, 1 A, 6 SOG) – Nice of you to show up, Matt! Now give us 20 more games just like this and we’ll be good.
Sidney Crosby, C (1 G, 4 SOG) – If you own Crosby you likely used the first overall pick to get him and after a five-point (2 G, 3 A) December you’re aching for him to rebound in January, so this is a good sign. Better signs; he has seven points (1 G, 6 A) over his last six games and now that he’s mumps free, he should return to providing his owners with 15-20 points a month for the duration of the season. I hope.
Mikkel Boedker, LW (1 G, 1 SOG) – It might be a tough sell after a rough first half, but Boedacious might be heating up for a second half run. He has four points (3 G, 1 A) over his last two games, but his inflated 16% shooting percentage gives me pause. When I see that he’s on pace for just 24 goals with that inflated number buoying the paltry 12 goals in 41 games he’s scored so far, I’m less optimistic for a second half run.
Eric Staal, C (1 G, 4 SOG, -1) – When you look back at Staal’s season in 2015 you’re going to think it was bad, but really, he was clearly playing injured in the first half and he’s 100% healthy now. He has goals in three straight and four in his last five with six goals in his last seven games. Now that’s the Eric Staal we all expected to show up. He’s going to put up points like whoa moving forward, but his plus/minus will drag his value down a bit while he does it.
Melker Karlsson, C (1 G, 1 SOG) – So here’s the thing about Melky’s five game goal streak, he’s shooting at 26% right now. That’s insanely high and a correction is coming hard and fast. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t own him while he’s a) scoring and b) skating on the top line with Joe Pavelski, C (-1) and Logan Couture, C (4 SOG, -1, 2 PIM) but expect him to fall off that line quickly when he stops scoring. Also, Jumbo Joe Thornton, C (1 SOG, -3) is active again, so expect him to retake his top line role sooner than later, and with it, Karlsson’s production.
Joni Ortio, G (W, 36 SV, 1.000%, 36 SA, SHO) – What is it with first starts being shut outs this season? Don’t get too excited about this one, Ortio isn’t that great and despite solid numbers in the AHL this season (27 W, 2.52 GAA, .916%) he’s not going to stick on big ice for long. Stream while he’s up, but don’t expect him to save your team.
Kyle Okposo, RW (1 G, 5 SOG) – Okie has been okay so far this season, in fact, he’s on pace for 72 points in 80 games played this year, but with so few goals! Last night’s mark gives him just nine goals in 42 games putting him on pace for just 18 this season. That’s well below the 30 I expected, but there is hope for a second half surge. He’s currently shooting at a paltry rate of 6.4%, which is 3.5 points below his career 9.9 % average. That should normalize a bit and the goals should start to flow as a result. He could still finish with 80 points and 25 goals this season.
Roberto Luongo, G (W, 31 SV, 2 GA, .939%) – Did anyone really believe that Lu was going to head back down to South Florida and put up a Vezina caliber first half this season? No, no they didn’t and if they tell you otherwise they’re damn dirty liars, they are.
Ben Scrivens, G (L, 23 SV, 4 GA, .852%) – Poor Scribbles. I’ll give him this, his GAA remains over 3.00 but not by much and his SV% is just below .900, but not by much! That’s a feat when you tend net for the Oil, man. Yeah, it has reached this level of bleh up in Edmonton.
Jimmy Hayes, RW (1 G, 2 SOG, +2) – Big Ole’ Jimmy Hayes keeps on scoring goals and I keep expecting it to stop, but here we are. Last night’s tally gives him 13 goals in 32 games so far putting him on pace for 30 by season’s end. I seriously doubt he’ll score that many, but 20-25 sounds doable. There’s no way he tickles the twine 17 more times this season.
Brian Campbell, D (1 G, 2 SOG) – Remember when Brian Campbell was a premiere fantasy defenseman? This goal pushed his season line to 3/8/11/+6 in 40 games. My how the mighty have fallen.
Jordan Eberle, RW (1 G, 3 SOG) – He might only have 26 points in 41 games after last night’s game, but recently Eebs has been tearing it up with five goals and six points over his last six games, failing to register a point in just one game over that span. It’s a mini-run, but you’ll take anything you can get from Eebs at this point. Hopes that he’d put up a 70-point year are completely dashed on the rocks of despair, but he could fight his way to 55 by season’s end with a strong second half, which is very possible, but not probable.
Corey Crawford, G (W, 36 SV, 1 GA, .973%) – There are two factors keeping Crawdad out contention in the Vezina race; Pekka Rinne and Roberto Luongo.
Niklas Backstrom, G (L, 31 SV, 4 GA, .886%) – There is only one factor keeping Backs out of contention in the Vezina race: Niklas Backstrom. Also, he’s pretty old.
Matt Cooke, LW (1 G, 3 SOG) – Oh look, Matt Cooke scored a goal. May it be his last. Fun fact! Shea Weber, D (1 A, 5 PIM, +1) beat the ever loving crap out of Cooke last night after Cooke crosschecked Weber to the FACE. Typical Cooke.
Marian Hossa, RW (1 G, 1 A, 6 SOG) – Big Hoss might not be scoring goals at the rate he used to, but he remains more than serviceable with a season line of 9/22/31/+6 in 43 games so far. The biggest surprise for me is seeing him avoid a stint on IR, which is a good thing unless you consider it a sign that he’s due to get hurt, which he kind of is. If you own Hoss hold hope he stays healthy or try and sell high on his recent six points (1 G, 5 A) in five games run.
Brad Richards, C (1 G, 1 A, 3 SOG) – Considering what the Blackhawks paid Richards after the Rangers bought out his awful contract, they’re getting pretty much exactly what they paid for. Richards has seven points (2 G, 5 A) over his last five games and remains on pace to finish with around 20 goals and 50 points for the year. That’s solid for the Hawks and considering most of his owners likely grabbed him off the wire for nothing, that’s solid for fantasy owners, too. He should continue to have a mildly productive season in the second half.
Frederik Andersen, G (W, 28 SV, 4 GA, .875%) – Freddy looks like he might be starting a bleh run again. Despite winning his last three straight contests he’s allowed 10 goals over that span. His season line remains very respectable at 23-6-5/2.36/.915% in 35 starts, though, and should continue to provide tons of wins and solid peripherals in the second half.
Ondrej Pavelec, G (L, 39 SV, 4 GA, .907%) – For those of you who own Michael Hutchinson don’t fret when Pavs gets a start, he’s just going to give the Jets brass another reason to keep giving Hutch the majority of the starts moving forward. Last night he gave his team four more reasons to bench him on 43 shots, so I suppose it’s not that bad, but bad enough.
Evander Kane, RW (1 G, 4 SOG, +1) – Okay, so, I know the moment I endorse Kane for a second half run he’ll get hurt or just flat out do nothing, but here it goes. Kane could have a solid second half. Could. If he stays healthy, which is a huge if. Still, he’s shooting at a 7.4% clip, which is around 1.5 points below his career average of 9%, so there is some room for improvement here. At his current pace he’ll finish with 17 goals, but if there’s a slight uptick he can finish with 20. Throw in the 50 PIM and 95 shots in 28 games played and there’s recipe here for a productive forward in the second half.
Andrew Ladd, LW (1 G, 4 SOG) – Speaking of productive forwards, Ladd put another biscuit in the basket last night and is on pace for 31 this season. He’s also on pace for nearly 70 points, which I doubt he’ll hit, but he could flirt with that mark no problem. He has six points (2 G, 4 A) over his last five games and threw in 8 PIM over that span for good measure. I see no reason why he won’t continue to produce in the second half, but I wouldn’t expect a point-per-game from him.
Mark Scheifele, C (1 G, 1 A, 2 SOG) – Another Jet and another disappointing first half. Scheifelelelele was a first round, top ten pick for the Jets and he’s playing like my grandma with just 22 points in his first 43 games this season. He had a nice game last night, but has really shown very few signs of turning it around, or on, for the second half. It looks like he’ll finish with fewer than 50 points this year and that means come next year he’ll be a late round flier if he’s drafted at all. I think he could be a decent sleeper for 2016, but we’ll have to see what he does in the second half to earn that label.
Kyle Palmieri, RW (1 G, 1 A, 3 SOG) – Palms doesn’t see top six minutes, but he does play on a line with Ryan Kesler, C (9 SOG, -1, 2 PIM) and Matt Beleskey, LW (2 SOG, -3, 2 PIM) so there is room for growth if he sticks on that line in the second half. He was limited by injury in the first half, but still managed to put up 12 points in 19 games so far with a +2 rating and 27 PIM for flavor. He hadn’t seen much time with the man advantage to this point, either, but last night be scored both of his points on the power play. That’s a bit of a double edged sword, though, considering he gets so little time on the power play if he needs that space to score points he’ll have trouble maintaining his current pace moving forward.