The New York Islanders have one of the best offenses in the NHL, in fact they have the second best offense in the entire league. Let that sink in for a moment. Yes, it’s true, the Isles sport the second best offense posting 3.2 goals per tilt and they show absolutely no signs of stopping anytime soon. In fact, they’ve been picking up the pace lately and could soon be the best offense in the league. The engine that drives this goal scoring machine is their top line, anchored by the dynamic duo of John Tavares, C (1 G, 1 A, 6 SOG) and Kyle Okposo, RW (1 G, 1 SOG, +1). The wild card has been the coveted third spot that has mostly been used by Isles Head Coach Jack Capuano to stream whoever the hot hand is at the moment, and lately with eight points (2 G, 6 A) over his last eight games that’s been Josh Bailey, LW (1 G, 1 SOG, +1).
Going into the season it seemed guys like Brock Nelson, C (3 SOG, +3, 2 PIM) and Ryan Strome, C (1 A, 2 SOG, +2) would eat up Bailey’s opportunities to break into the top six, but he’s been good enough to hold his own despite the strong seasons from both Nelson and Strome so far. Bailey is a playmaker first, and he’s a damn good one at that. He sports a very high hockey IQ and good on ice vision that lead him to play a very methodical, cerebral game that seems to gel well on a line with two elite finishers. He sports solid speed with an increasingly powerful stride that allows him to accelerate at a decent rate. Combine that with solid footwork and good puck handling skills and Capuano might have finally found the guy who can stick on the top line and produce with the big boys for the remainder of the season. If he does, chances are he’ll rack up the assists in the second half with an outside chance at scoring 20 goals and I’d buy that for a dollar.
JB is owned in just 4% of Yahoo leagues, 3.6% in ESPN and 18% in CBS leagues. Man, those CBS owners are on top of their shiz, aren’t they? Way to be, y’all! For the rest of you, the fear of Capuano moving Bailey off the top line can’t deter you from picking the kid up in the meantime. Also, over the course of the season the JT/Okie/Bailey line has been rolled out about 10% of the time, making it the most consistent combination for the top line to date. With Mikhail Grabovski out indefinitely with an LBI there doesn’t seem to be a better candidate to occupy that spot and did I mention he’s getting time on the second power play unit as well? Really? Really. You should pick him up. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey recently:
Jaroslav Halak, G (W, 25 SV, 4 GA, .862%) – Despite the stellar win-loss record (25-9-0) The Halakness Monster has been getting tagged lately, coughing up 10 goals in his last two games but managing to split them with a win and a loss. That’s mostly because the team in front of him is so beast they make up for Halak’s streaky play and pot seven goals in support. Must be nice! He remains a top option, but after the last two games his peripherals have risen and fallen to 2.41/.910% and while that’s respectable, it wasn’t long ago that he was rocking a sub 2.20 GAA and a SV% better than .915%. Frankly I think he’ll be a bit over valued at draft tables next season.
Ray Emery, G (L, 18 SV, 2 GA, .900%) – Whether it’s Ray Emery or Ray Charles in net the Flyers are going to get about the same result and sure enough here’s Emery coughing up two goals on just 20 shots after the Isles chased Robb Zepp, G (L, 16 SV, 4 GA, .800%) halfway through the game on route to a 7-4 beat down. Zepp was looking okay for a few starts there, but there’s a reason that the 33-year-old tender is just now making his way to big ice. Can you guess what it is? Hint: He’s not very good.
John Tavares, C (1 G, 1 A, 6 SOG) – Everyone in the know knew to wait it out on JT’s slump over the last month or so. For him a slump is maintaining less than a point-per-game pace and recently he’s snapped out of it in a big way with three straight two point games, his last two coming with delicious goals as well. He should be a top five skater for the rest of the season.
Anders Lee, C (1 G, 2 SOG, +1) – Lee extended his point streak to five games with another goal last night. He has five points (4 G, 1 A) over that span and seems to have found a good home on the Isles’ second line skating with Frans Neilsen, C (1 A, 4 SOG) and Ryan Strome, C (1 A, 2 SOG, +2) who are also both worth picking up as they streak along with Lee. I don’t think Lee will keep it up for very long, he’s a streaky guy, but you have to ride the hot hand when you can. Strome remains a no-brainer keeper and Neilsen is a short run streamer when he’s scoring, like Lee.
Johnny Boychuk, D (2 A, 3 SOG, +4) – The Bruins are missing this guy like whoa this season.
Michael Del Zotto, D (1 G, 1 SOG, -1) – Remember when this guy scored 41 points for the Rangers and everyone thought he was the next big thing? What ever happened to that?
Brayden Schenn, LW (2 A, 5 SOG, +1) – I still hear people complaining about Schenn’s production this season and I still have no idea what these people expected from him. He’s on pace for 50 points, around 200 hits, 140 shots on goal, 20 PPP and 40 PIM. That’s a solid year from a solid role player. With a little luck he can hit the 20-goal mark, too. So why the beef, y’all?!
Michael Grabner, RW (1 G, 1 A, 2 SOG) – He doesn’t have a spot in the Isles’ top six, but Grabs still has a scoring touch and skating anywhere in the top nine on a high octane offense like the Isles’ warrants your attention in deep leagues. Grabs missed most of the season to this point recovering from sports hernia surgery, but in 12 games this season he has four goals and six points and could be good for another 10-12 goals over the rest of the season. In deeper pools that can make a big difference, so if you need some goals, Grabs might be available on the wire to help.
Anton Khudobin, G (W, 34 SV, 1 GA, .971%) – It seemed like Cam Ward had completely taken back the Carolina crease earlier this season when Dobby couldn’t buy, beg or steal for a win, but lately the tables have turned and it’s Dobby who is clearly the superior tender. That’s always been the case, but the play is finally starting to show it. I wouldn’t touch this situation with a ten-foot stick, but Dobby is a solid guy to take a flier on if you’re in need of goalie help. There’s no guarantee of starts, but right now he’s hot and that’s worth owning.
Eric Staal, C (2 G, 6 SOG, +2) – Staal has been all over the place with injuries this season but he continues to have a solid second half with a couple more goals last night. He has seven points (6 G, 1 A) over his last nine games and generally seems to be recovering from an abysmal December that saw him post just six points (3 G, 3 A) over 14 games.
Radim Vrbata, RW (1 G, 2 SOG) – Despite returning to skating along side Daniel Sedin, LW (1 A, 1 SOG) and Henrik Sedin, C (1 A, 2 SOG) again the scoring touch isn’t quite what it was in the first half of the season for Vrbata. I preached selling high here and this is the kind of slow down I expected. He’s still more than capable of giving you 60 points and 30 goals, but that’s a bit off the lofty expectations his strong first half gave his owners. If he goes on a scoring streak, move him before the deadline.
Ryan Miller, G (W, 23 SV, 1 GA, .958%) – Miller has been stellar lately allowing just five goals over his last five games. During that stretch he posted shutouts in back-to-back starts beating the Flyers 4-0 and then the Canes 3-0 followed up by a 2-1 victory over the Cats last night. Before that he held the Wings to just one goal on 30 shots as well and now sports a sexy season line of 23-9-1/2.28/.919% in 33 starts. Them durr is top ten numbers right durr. I don’t think Miller is a top ten goalie anymore, but he’s playing like one lately.
Roberto Luongo, G (L, 21 SV, 2 GA, .913%) – It was bound to happen and Lu has finally hit a cold spell. After a red hot first half he’s started the second half with four straight losses to the Jets, Avs, Oil and finally the Canucks last night. He’ll get the ship back on course, worry not, most of his troubles come from the Cats’ inability to score more than two goals in any game he’s lost recently. That doesn’t excuse the four he coughed up against the smoking hot Jets on route to a 8-2 loss in that one, but still, the offense needs to give Lu more than a couple a game if they want to win more games.
Sergei Bobrovsky, G (W, 25 SV, 1 GA, .962%) – Bob’s GAA is 2.80. I said recently that using GAA as an indicator of how well a goalie has played and will play is dangerous, it’s a shallow number that doesn’t tell the whole story. That’s true. But it’s also true that GAA is a core fantasy category and you need a lot better from Bob than that shiz. He’s been so streaky this season I don’t know what will happen, but I’d put decent money on that GAA coming down into the 2.50ish range before the end of the year.
Devan Dubnyk, G (L, 20 SV, 3 GA, .870%) – Dubs could have been better in this one, but what can you do. Nothing changes here, he remains a solid option on the wire if he’s still available. Word has it Darcy Kuemper is ready to return and it sounds like the Wild are going to try the three goalies thing. Good luck with that. Dubs remains the best option in Minny and if you own Kuemps, if you haven’t added Dubs as a handcuff already, you must not care very much about winning.
Brandon Dubinsky, C (1 G, 3 SOG, +2) – Another Dubs, different team. This Dubs has only played 18 games due to sports hernia surgery that cost him basically the first half of the season, but since his return he’s put up 16 points over those 18 games and continues to add hits, faceoff wins and PIM along with a solid scoring pace. He should continue to be one of the more valuable multi-category contributors moving forward.
James Wisniewski, D (1 G, 2 A, 3 SOG) – The Wiz is rolling lately with five points (1 G, 4 A) over his last five games putting him on pace for a 42 point campaign. The idea that he’s a 50-point defenseman is laughable (Ha!) because he’s so not. He is, however, a very solid blue line option if you can suffer the bleh plus/minus.
Zach Parise, LW (1 G, 4 SOG) – The Hardest Working Man In Hockey stretched his point streak to three games with a goal last night. He has goals in each game over that span and 34 points in 38 games overall. He’ll give you an old school Bobby Ryan like 35/35/70 season before all is said and done and I’d buy that for a dollar!
Brian Elliott, G (W, 17 SV, 1 GA, .944%) – When the season started the Blues weren’t 100% sure about Elliott. I wasn’t 100% sure about Elliott. Lots of fantasy owners were pretty sure about Elliott. They were mostly right so far as he continues to play extremely well and if he hadn’t missed a month of the season he would absolutely be in the coming Vezina discussions. If he can stay healthy, he’ll be a top option in the second half.
Semyon Varlamov, G (L, 27 SV, 3 GA, .900%) – Varly has been stellar since returning from his latest groin injury, though I don’t think it can last given how porous the Avs D is and frankly, their paradoxical allergy to holding onto the puck for more than a few strides. If you own him you have to run with him, there’s no choice. The second half should be better than the first, anyway.
Matt Duchene, C (1 G, 1 SOG, -1) – Every game like this gives me hope, then two or three goose eggs pass by and I lose hope again, only to have him reignite the tiny flame once again with a goal. You’re killing me, Duche. Killing me.
Alex Stalock, G (L, 29 SV, 5 GA, .853%) – There’s always next year. Right? RIGHT?! *sobs*
Joni Ortio, G (W, 33 SV, 1 GA, .971%) – As the starts go by Ortio continues to entrench himself in the goalie logjam in Calgary. They seem content to run with three goalies for now, so hold Ortio if you have him and if not, definitely add him if you need help in the crease while he’s a) hot and b) actually on big ice, he could get sent back to the AHL at any time.
Jon Quick, G (L, 21 SV, 2 GA, .913%) – I’ve harped on Tuukka Rask’s inability to live up to his ADP and the dangers of drafting elite goalies in the first few rounds, but Jon Quick is equally deserving of my ire in this vein as well. Rask, Quick, Lundqvist, those are the top three goalies off most draft boards this year and only Hank has turned his season into one worth such a high pick. Quick’s season line to this point? A very non-elite 16-11-10/2.45/.912% exposing, perhaps, that Quick isn’t as good as his ridiculous numbers over the last few years have indicated. The biggest difference this year is the Kings’ defense has been decimated by injury, plague and crime and the redonkulously goalie friendly system is breaking down a bit, and with it, Quick’s numbers. So you see, friends, sometimes it’s not about the goalie but the team around the goalie that costs you. Skaters first, my friends, skaters first.
Sean Monahan, C (1 G, 1 SOG, +1) – Mancrush intensifies.
Dennis Wideman, D (1 G, 6 SOG, +1) – I can’t believe Wideman is going to score 20 goals and top 50 points, but he keeps scoring and he looks to be on pace to achieve both of those feats. Even if he does finish this year strong, this is a fluke, and he’s going to be way, way over valued in drafts next season. Don’t be fooled. That being said, this year he’s worth owning everywhere, obviously.