Johan Franzen can’t go very long without getting hurt and he kept the streak alive last night after hitting the IR with what the Wings are calling an “upper-body issue.” An issue? Like he has emotional baggage from his childhood issue? It’s an injury, call it what it is. Does calling it an “issue” make it seem less severe? Even if it did, why bother? Franzen’s 22 points in 33 games aren’t exactly bringing the house down, eh? Anyway, the point of this anti-Franzen rant is that his absence frees up an opportunity for AHL goals leader Teemu Pulkkinen and his cannon of a shot to get a chance on big ice and it will be exciting to see what he can do.
The former fourth round pick for the Wings back in 2010, Teemu Pulkkinen is blowing up the AHL this year. Currently riding an eight game goal scoring streak the 23 year old Finnish winger leads the AHL in goals with 20 and is second overall in points with 39 in 33 games so far. He was named to the AHL All-Star Team just the other day. A sniper in the purest sense of the word with solid, albeit somewhat careless playmaking ability, Pulkkinen has a massive, heavy shot that some say is among the best in hockey. That makes him a wonderful fit for the Red Wings power play, which now has a vacant spot with the departure of Franzen, who didn’t belong there anyway. Pulky has good hands, great vision and is an extremely creative playmaker, but that tends to get him in trouble with his possession game, which needs some serious work. His defense leaves a bit to be desired and all that creativity could get him in trouble on big ice, but you can’t deny the numbers at the AHL level and the Wings love his cannon of a shot, so he gets the call.
In deep leagues and keepers with long benches this kid is an absolute must add. Franzen is only on the seven day IR so his injury isn’t that severe, so if Pulky doesn’t boom out of the gate he may end up back with the Griffins in the AHL sooner than later. That being said, word has it Tomas Jurco is dealing with the worst back pain of his life and he too was out last night and may miss an extended period of time opening the window for Pulkkinen to carve out a place for himself with the Wings. Even if he doesn’t stick on big ice this year, keep this kid on your radar, because he will be at Wings camp next season and could very well make the team. In the meantime, deep league owners should consider adding him everywhere to see what he can do. Don’t sell the farm to add him, though, he’s completely unproven and could do nothing before being sent back down. Still, the ceiling is tantalizing high. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey yesterday:
Milan Lucic, LW (2 G, 3 SOG, +1) – Just yesterday I told you to hold Lucic because he’s poised for a solid second half and wouldn’t you know it he rewarded my loyalty with two goals! Combine last night’s tallies with his two helpers in his last game and he has four points in his last two and he’s looking good out there doing it. Again I say, hold Lucic. The points will come; everything else is already there.
Carl Soderberg, C (1 G, 6 SOG, +1) – He might be key to the second line of my HUT squad, but in reality he’s slowed down significantly from the torrid pace he set early on, but that was expected. After a goal last night he’s on pace to finish with 18 goals and 55 points and I’d say that’s about right. He might get to 20 goals before the fat lady sings, but 55-60 points is most definitely the ceiling here.
Niklas Svedberg, G (W, 14 SV, 1.000%, 14 SA, SHO) – At this rate Svedberg is going to overtake Tuukka Rask as the starter sometime next year. He didn’t have to do much for the shutout here pushing away all 14 shots the Devils could muster in a pathetic attempt to play hockey pushing Svedy’s season line to a beautiful 5-5-0/2.22/.922 in 12 starts. I imagine he’ll get another seven or eight starts before the end of the season and expect he’ll maintain stellar numbers for the duration of the season.
Cory Schneider, G (L, 40 SV, 2 GA, .952%) – It was a tough start to the year for Schneids but he’s definitely back on track despite the loss last night. His team gave him zero offensive support and yet still he pushed away 40 of 42 shots but ultimately came up short of the win. He’s 14-19-4 now with a 2.40 GAA and .919%, so the peripherals have finally reached respectable levels, but that W-L record, ugh. It isn’t going to get any better in the second half, either.
Cam Ward, G (W, 18 SV, 2 GA, .900%) – Cam Ward has better numbers than Cory Schneider. Not by much, but before the season started did anyone think these two guys would even be on the same goaltending planet, let alone side-by-side stats wise? Ugh.
Jhonas Enroth, G (L, 26 SV, 5 GA, .839%) – Buffalo goalies, don’t own, etc.
Jeff Skinner, RW (1 G, 3 SOG, +2) – It’s a shame to say it, but Skinner is definitely a bust this season. I didn’t expect him to score 70 points, but 30 or more goals seemed like a lock; he currently has nine after last night’s goal. That puts him on pace for just 19 by the end of the season and it was his first goal since December 20th, a span of eight games. It gets worse, he’s only on pace for 36 points. He hasn’t been the same since that string of concussions. A shame.
Jiri Tlusty, LW (1 G, 1 A, 2 SOG) – Lusty has 11 goals. Skinner has nine. What a world.
Eric Staal, C (1 G, 4 SOG, +1, 2 PIM) – I hope you grabbed him when you could because Staal the Greater is finally 100% healthy for the first time this season and it’s showing on the score sheet night after night. He potted another one last night against the Sabres and has five points (4 G, 1 A) over his last five games and seven points over his last seven. He’s capable of giving you a huge second half and if healthy, I fully expect him to deliver.
Steve Mason, G (W, 26 SV, 2 GA, .929%) – After losing six straight starts Mason has clawed his way to two straight victories over the Sens and Caps. His perhiperals are slowly inching towards respectability (2.48/.919%) but his record is and shall remain fugly.
Jakub Voracek, RW (1 G, 5 SOG) – I suppose the only question now is whether or not Jake can hit the century mark by the end of the season. It’s possible, he’s already halfway there, but I think he’ll come up just short and most likely end up somewhere in the 90s. Still, that’s an amazing year from a guy you drafted expecting like 70 points from.
Corey Crawford, G (W, 42 SV, 2 GA, .955%) – After returning from injury last month Crawdad didn’t look so hot in four starts but he’s regained his form in his last four and I’d say all system’s go in what should be a solid second half for the gifted netminder.
Niklas Backstrom, G (L, 16 SV, 3 GA, .842%) – Darcy Kuemper is out with an LBI and so Nik filled in and did so terribly allowing three goals on just 19 shots, good for a 4-2 loss to the Hawks. I don’t expect much more than this while he fills in for the up-and-down Kuemps, so start him at your own risk. I don’t recommend it.
Jeff Zucker, RW (1 G, 5 SOG, -2) – When Zucker was pulled off the top power play unit his value sank, but since he returned to the unit he’s scoring like whoa though none of his points are coming on the power play. Weird. At any rate he has four points (3 G, 1 A) in his last two games and five points (4 G, 1 A) over his last five. The bummer here is he’s a minus-five over that stretch, so it’s not all good. Still, if you need some extra goals, Zucker is a decent souce and could end up with around 25 by season’s end. For you math majors, that means he has about 10-12 more to give in the second half.
Patrick Sharp, C (1 G, 1 SOG, +1) – The injury to Kris Versteeg allowed Sharp to jump up a line and he’s taking advantage of it with five points (3 G, 2 A) over his last five games on a whopping 26 shots on goal. There’s no reason to expect him to slow down in the second half on those fresh legs of his, so enjoy the ride.
Brad Richards, C (3 A, 3 SOG, +2) – Richards has clawed his way back into fantasy respectability with another solid stretch lately. He has six points (2 G, 4 A) over his last five with a couple of power play helpers mixed in for good measure. He’s on pace for around 18 goals and 50 points and I’d say that’s the ceiling for 2015 and beyond.
Brian Elliott, G (W, 24 SV, 2 GA, .923%) – So now we’re reaching the point in the season where I expected that Elliott would start to feel the wear and tear of a starter’s work load and start to fall apart. That hasn’t happened, but to be fair to me, he missed a month with that knee injury and he’s only started 18 games. He would have to start the next 40 games in a row to reach a starter’s workload by season’s end, so I’d imagine he’s going to remain strong in the second half. Jake Allen and Marty Brodeur will have to endure the pine, and you, dear Elliott owner, have little to fear down the stretch, he should be fine.
Antti Niemi, G (L, 16 SV, 5 GA, .762%) – Niemi has allowed 13 goals in his last three starts, losing two of the three and this is where I’d make a call for Alex Stalock, G (L, 5 SV, 2 GA, .714%) to get a chance but he came in last night to spell the struggling Niemi and coughed up two of his own goals to the white hot Blues. To hell with this situation, it makes me stabby (said every Sharks fan ever).
Melker Karlsson, RW (1 G, 2 SOG, -1) – Joe Thornton’s injury has allowed Karlsson to jump right to the top line and he’s making the limited time he has on that unit count with goals in three straight games. Once Jumbo Joe is back in the lineup Karlsson’s going to drop, but it might not be completely out of the top six right away. I’d add him in deep leagues for now.
David Backes, C (1 G, 1 A, 1 SOG) – Backes tickled the twine for the second straight night giving him five goals over his last two games and 14 on the season. Yeah, he was that bad leading up to this two game explosion. I’ll believe he’s back on track for a solid second half when this kind of play lasts for a week. The Blues as a team are off the chain right now, lets see what happens to Backes’ production when some of his teammates cool a bit.
Paul Stastny, C (1 G, 1 A, 4 SOG) – Stas is on fire with seven points (2 G, 7 A) over his last five games and last night’s tally was a power play goal, too. The start to his season was dismal, capped by an injury that forced him out for a bit, but now that he’s back, 100% healthy and finally clicking with his new team he’s firing on all cylinders. Barring injury, which is quite possible, expect a big second half from Stastny.
Alexander Steen, LW (1 G, 1 A, 3 SOG) – Speaking of on fire, have I mentioned that the Blues are hot like a nuclear blast right now? Like melt your face hot, man. Steen put up another two points last night and that gives him a whopping 11 points (3 G, 8 A) over his last five games with four power play points (2 G, 2 A) mixed in for good measure. He has at least one PPP in his last four games. That’s ridiculous. His season went from meh to “He’s a beast!” in a matter of a week.
Jaden Schwartz, C (3 A, 3 PTS, +2) – Oi. Blues. Hot. Lots of Goals. Points galore. Yah, is good.
Vladimir Tarasenko, RW (2 A, 2 SOG, +2) – Okay, I’m sick of mentioning Blues now.
Jay Bouwmeester, D (1 G, 2 SOG, +2) – Dammit. The Blue are so hot, even Bouwmeester picked up a goal. He has six points (2 G, 4 A) in 33 games so far. Uhm, that’s horrible. I could do that.
Pekka Rinne, G (W, 18 SV, 2 GA, .900%) – Vezina.
Kari Lehtonen, G (L, 21 SV, 3 GA, .875%) – What’s the opposite of the Vezina? Anizev? *shrugs* I’ll run with it. Anizev.
Jason Spezza, C (1 G, 1 SOG) – Wow. One shot and one goal. Thanks for picking up the pace in the second half for your owners, Spazz. You’re aces.
Shea Weber, D (2 G, 5 SOG, +1) – Last night marks Weber’s second two goal game in his last five and he’s on track to tally 20 by the end of the season with around 60 points. That’s spot on, expect another 25-30 points from him in the second half.
Semyon Varlamov, G (W, 36 SV, 2 GA, .947%) – Before you get excited about Varly’s second half prospects, remember, this win comes against the Senators. It barely counts.
Jarome Iginla, RW (2 G, 5 SOG, +2) – It seems like…
Danny Briere, C (1 G, 1 SOG) – … everyone on the Avs…
Brad Stuart, D (1 G, 2 SOG, +1) – …and I mean everyone…
Erik Johnson, D (1 G, 4 SOG) – …is scoring goals…
Matt Duchene, C (1 A) – …but Matt Duchene. But don’t worry; he’s not too worried about it, so everything is fine. It’s good to know Matt is sleeping well despite his woeful mediocrity.
Mike Smith, G (W, 34 SV, 1 GA, .971%) – It was Mike Smith vs. Ondrej Pavelec, G (L, 26 SV, 4 GA, .867%) so something had to give. If any two goalies could have found a way for both of them to lose, it’d have been this duo.
Mikkel Boedker, LW (2 G, 1 A, 2 SOG) – Ugh, Boedacious you’ve betrayed my trust. I expected 30 goals and 60 points from you and the best you’re likely to give is around 25 and 55 points. Hey, that’s actually not too far off the mark! That plus/minus is awful, though. That being said, the Coyotes are pretty awful this year, so there’s that.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson, D (1 G, 4 SOG, +1) – Oh-eee-el is another disappointing ‘yote, but he does have three goals in his last five game and he’s on pace for around 23 by season’s end. I doubt he gets there, but 18-20 is absolutely in the realm of possibility. He’ll only end up with 40 points, give or take, but if you get 20 goals from a rearguard you keep your mouth shut and you take it. That sounded dirty. It wasn’t mean that way (Yes it was).
Aleksander Barkov, C (1 G, 2 SOG, +3) – Talk about busts, Barkov has been terrible. That being said, he’s only 19 and there’s still a ton of talent here. He has a modest three points (1 G, 2 A) in his last four games but I couldn’t expect him to break out in the second half. That being said, he’s already on my list for 2016 sleepers.
Jonathan Huberdeau, C (2 G, 1 A, 3 SOG) – Huubs might not be doing anything particularly spectacular this season but he’s improving on his semi-disastrous 2014 season with a solid campaign in 2015. He’s likely to finish around 45-50 points with 15 or so goals, both new career bests for the talented young pivot. Like Barkov, I see him having a solid 2016 campaign, though he can bring some value to the table right now in deep leagues.
Cam Talbot, G (W, 28 SV, 3 GA, .903%) – Talbot didn’t shut the Kings out, but he did play a solid game pushing away 28 of 31 Kings shots to hold on for the 4-3 victory. Henrik Lundqvist will own the second half like he owned the first half for the Rangers, but Talbot will get another 10-12 starts in the second half and remains one of the more valuable backups out there.
Jon Quick, G (L, 22 SV, 4 GA, .846%) – Quick has been solid this year, but he hasn’t been near his 2.00/.920% self of the last few years. Honestly, those weren’t sustainable numbers forever, so Quick has gone from otherworldly to world class. It’s not exactly a huge downgrade, but he’s definitely not worth your first or second round draft pick, but then what goalie is? The answer? None, no goalies are worth your first or second round pick.
Dan Boyle, D (1 G, 1 A, 4 SOG) – Boyler is old but he’s playing a promiment role on the league’s third best offensive team and he’s scoring lately with five points (2 G, 3 A) over his last five games. What’s better is three of those points (1 G, 2 A) came with the man advantage. I’ve seen him out there on a lot of league’s waiver wires, so if you need scoring help from the blue line, he’s worth adding.