So you’ve survived the first round of the playoffs and you’re feeling good, but the game isn’t over so don’t slack now. Last week I touched on a few key bits of strategy to help you win your league and promised an update on one of the most important aspects to victory in the playoffs, tracking games remaining for all 30 teams. Since its Monday it should really be “games this week” but you mean what I know. There are a good amount of teams with four games this week, so that’s good, but some key players like Devan Dubnyk and the Wild only get a couple this week, so it’s as important as ever to keep your eyes on the schedule and make sure your key players aren’t left putting up goose eggs on off nights when you need them the most. Anyway, you know I’ve got your back so I won’t waste more time with a bunch of blah blah hoopla, you’ve got lineups to set and moves to make, so without further adieu he’s the breakdown for games remaining this week: Games By Team For The Week of March 30 - April 5: 4 Games– Washington, Tampa Bay, Vancouver, St. Louis, Colorado, Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto, Detroit, Buffalo, Chicago, Florida, Edmonton. 3 Games– Calgary, Dallas, Carolina, New Jersey, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Columbus, Arizona, San Jose, New York Rangers, Boston. 2 Games– Minnesota, Anaheim, Winnipeg, New York Islanders, Nashville.  I’ll update this list halfway through the week and be back again next Monday with another reminder. Good luck this week! Also, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey recently:
Kris Versteeg did his best impression of Dan Boyle the other night and blocked an Eric Fehr shot with his hand. It didn’t work and predictably his hand is broken. Hawks Head Coach Joel Quenneville said it’s doubtful that the injury will require surgery, so that’s good, but Steeg is down for a month or so. That’s bad. Despite the recent slow down in production, Steeg hits the IR third in points for the Hawks with 27 in 34 games played. He was on pace for 65 points, 20 goals and a plus-32 and considering his 10.8% shooting percentage is right in line with his career average of 11.5%, it’s a safe bet that he’d have hit all those marks. All this from a guy you likely picked up for nothing. Sadface. There’s a silver lining in this dark cloud, though, and his name is Teuvo Teräväinen.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are getting beat up by injury, disease and all sorts of nonsense this season and their luck didn’t improve with the news that Patric Hornqvist will miss at least a few weeks with a lower-body injury as he hit the IR for the first time this season a few days ago. Horny isn’t the only Pen down for a few weeks either, Blake Comeau suffered an upper-body injury a few days before Christmas and will be out until mid-January as well. The fun doesn’t stop there, either! Steve Downie joined the mumps brigade not too long ago, and though he’s returning this week and bringing his NHL leading 135 PIM with him, the Pens needed to shore up their top six in a bad way so they saved David Perron from the Oilers and banished Rob Klinkhammer and whoever the poor bastard that ends up being their number one pick in 2015 to the Great White North. While this does little to help Klink’s already minimal value, Perron gets a huge boost, but expectations should be tempered.
Before the season started I cautioned against drafting Semyon Varlamov expecting a repeat of last season and sure enough he sucked up the joint hard to start the year then hit IR with a bum groin. He came back, sucked it up so more and then exited once more with the same injury. Again he returned and again he sucked and yet again he re-injured the same groin and is now down for “a couple weeks.” Yeah, right. Listen, a goalie with a groin injury is a red flag. A goalie that hurts the same groin three times in less than a half a season is more than a red flag, it’s a signal to run for the hills and not look back. For now you stash him on IR, but don’t expect much from him moving forward. In the meantime rookie Calvin Pickard, G (W, 30 SV, 3 GA, .909%) has taken control of the Colorado crease and doesn’t appear to be ready to relinquish command of it anytime soon. With expensive backup Reto Berra struggling Captain Pickard seems to be the go-to guy for Patrick Roy right now. In a recent interview Roy said of Pickard "He deserves to play, he gives us a chance to win every night. We cannot ask for more from him." And how could you? Why would you? The kid has been stellar in the handful of starts he’s been given, win or loss, and seems to be getting stronger as he gets more time. There’s no reason for Pickard to be available in any leagues right now, deep or shallow, so if he’s available in your league add him yesterday. If you do, don’t drop another starter to do it. Remember that while he might out play Berra like whoa until Varly gets back, as soon as he does Pickard is headed back to the AHL unless the Avs cut or trade Berra, who has a one-way deal and cannot be sent to the minors. Regardless, in the meantime if you're thinking of adding Captain Pickard, make it so. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey last night:
An MRI revealed that Corey Perry is out for three-to-four weeks with a sprained knee as of yesterday. The long-term injury is a rarity for the normally durable Perry whose absence will send ripples through the fantasy hockey pond of Anaheim. Perry was rolling with 14 goals so far this season and serves as a lynchpin to their offensive success on the top unit. The open slot on the top line for the Ducks has been a revolving door so far this season and a bunch of guys in the Ducks lineup have benefitted from stints there. Most recently Matt Beleskey was scoring like who, but his value now takes a dive as most of his recent goal scoring success was found while playing with Getz and Perry, so you can expect that to dry up for the time being. It might not be all bad news, though; Ryan Getzlaf practiced with Devante Smith-Pelly and Rene Bourque on Tuesday and played with Bourque in OT last night. The promotion makes Bourque a decent streaming option worth considering. In season’s past he’s gone on runs where he scores a bunch of goals before going ice cold and this seems like a good opportunity for him to do just that. If you’re looking for scoring help, he’s worth taking a flier on in deeper leagues. As for Devo, the promotion doesn’t do much to up his value considering he occupied that spot while Perry was healthy and didn’t do much worth note with it before Perry’s injury. For those who lost Perry, there is no consolation here. You can grab Bourque, but there are no guarantees and he’ll pale in comparison. All you can do is stream his spot and hope for the best, but it’s never easy to lose your first round pick for a month. My condolences to his owners, which isn’t me so booyah! Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey yesterday:
I love Ilya Bryzgalov. He's hilarious! Have you heard some of the things that have come out of this guy's mouth? Here's one of my favorite gems “I’m very into the universe, you know like how was created, you know, like, what is it, you know? Solar system is so humongous big, right? But if you see like our solar system and our galaxy on the side, you know, like, we’re so small you can never see it. Our galaxy is like huge, but if you see the big picture our galaxy (is) like a small tiny-like dot in the universe." Oh god, never stop talking Breezy. Seriously. He's expected to practice with the AHL Admirals today and start for them tomorrow. His tryout culminates in this game and if it goes well he will likely be signed. In that event, there’s a lot of speculation about what would happen next. John Gibson has already exceeded the initial six-week timetable set for his return from a groin pull and word has it he won’t be ready to go until the end of December. That leaves at least a few weeks where Frederik Andersen needs more help than Jason LaBarbera can offer, hence Breezy getting the shot. TSN’s Pierre LeBrun speculates that Gibsy is destined to spend the rest of the season in the AHL with Andersen starting and Bryzgalov backing him up. That’s a viable hypothesis, but there are no signs that’s the case just yet. There’s a reason that Breezy can’t stick with a team for very long, so it’s not like the Ducks are looking for a long term solution here. Gibson will need a conditioning stint in the AHL when he gets back and it may be an extended stay, but for the rest of the season? I don’t know that Gibson benefits from spending too much time off big ice and Breezy isn’t known for his consistency. Questions about whether Andersen’s starting job are already being asked and I have to think that he’s safter with Breezy as his backup than Gibson, who showed some serious chops earlier this season before getting hurt. That said, the Ducks are going to use the kid gloves with their prized prospect, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see an Andersen/Bryzgalov duo in the Anaheim crease for the next few months at least. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey last night:
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:
The Minnesota Wild seem to have a bit of a goaltending problem. It’s not that they don’t have the personnel, in fact, to start the season you would have tought their duo of Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding would again be among the better goaltending situations in the league, but then the curse set in. Backstrom finally realizes how old he is and can’t keep it together, Harding starts the season healthy and finally gets a chance to take the no. 1 job for himself, does, plays like he’s going to win the Vezina and then gets laid low by his MS. And now, in what seems like an inevitability, Mr. Darcy is toppled by an injury during practice?! You read that right, Darcy Kuemper suffered an UBI in yesterday’s morning skate and is day-to-day for now, but it doesn’t sound very promising. That leaves everyone’s favorite Russian goofball, Ilya Bryzgalov (2 GA, 18 SV, W), all alone in the crease and he becomes the de-facto starter for the Wild. What the hell is going on with the Minnesota goaltending? Are they cursed? Does Paul Maurice sit in his office with a little goalie voodoo doll after hours or what? Breezy is a good option (depending on matchups) if you’re looking for some help in the crease towards the end of the week. Owned in just ~13% of ESPN leagues and 17% of Yahoo leagues, he should be available if you need him and I’m willing to bet there’s a handful of Kuemper owners who are sadface today, so turn that frown upside down and add Breezy! Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey yesterday:
When I took a look at the box scores from yesterday’s tilts all I saw was a bunch of yawnstipating schmohawks filling the score sheets! Outside of a handful of regulars like Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf getting their usual helpings o’ goals and assists, guys like Damien Brunner and Patrick Maroon were all I saw! Seriously, Maroon? What is this guy, from an old Bugs Bunny cartoon? These guys are boring as eff and you’d have to be a maroon to pick most of them up, so to kick this round up off I’m going to go over a few key free agent grabs that didn’t play last night, but could actually help you win starting with Boston’s stellar backup Chad Johnson. Johnson’s season has been absolutely stellar posting a season line of 16-3-0/2.04/.925/2 in 23 starts this season, so his track record is solid and his team is ridiculous. Despite the fantastic numbers Johnson is only owned in 60% of ESPN leagues and 20% of Yahoo leagues so he’s most likely available if you want to take advantage of Boston’s back-to-back game riddled schedule over the next few weeks. You know Boston want to keep Rask healthy and fresh and with a playoff spot already locked up Johnson might see starts even on nights that aren’t typical rest days for Tuukka. What does all this mean? It means you need to cash in on that shiz right now and add Johnson before someone else does. Mike Cammalleri is another key guy to grab like, yesterday, and if you’ve been living under a rock for the past week you might not have noticed that he’s posted 16 points over his last 12 games and nothing else really matters save that he’s posted 16 freakin’ points over his last 12 games. Big names don’t matter right now, goals and assists do, and Calamari is providing much o’ that! Add him? Yes. When? I already told you like four lines up, yesterday! Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey last night:
Matt Nieto (1 G, 5 SOG, +1) was drafted in the second round with the 47th pick in the 2011 draft but he could have gone much higher if it wasn’t for his defensive shortcomings that many scouts thought would limit his value at the NHL level. Fast-forward a few good seasons in the AHL and Nieto has proven that not only can he play defense, but that he can learn and adapt quickly on the big stage. So far this season he’s only posted 11 points in 38 games and that’s pretty bleh, even for a rookie. He’s young, but he’s also extremely streaky because his game is very north to south right now, so if he gets off course from his favorite scoring hotspots he can lose a handle on the game and make mistakes. Most of those mistakes are made in some poor decision-making when passing the puck if he’s out of his comfort zone, but on the other side of that coin he’s shown flashes of brilliance moving the puck at high speed, and this kid definitely flies. Once he settles in and starts making better choices with the puck his slick skating, playmaking ability and high energy will combine to make him a formidable offensive force for the Sharks and possibly an heir apparent for the aging but still effective Joe Thornton. Nieto will have to bulk up a bit to carry Thunder Joe’s mantle into the future, but he has all the tools to do the job. Is he worth much yet? No and I wouldn’t own him anywhere, but he does have five points in his last nine games. The Sharks project him to be a top-six guy and he wasn’t supposed to be getting NHL ice time yet, so just the fact that he’s logged 38 games so far this season is a good sign. Even better, he’s only now starting to produce offensively and he hasn’t been sent down yet, which means he’s doing a lot right that has nothing to do with putting the puck in the net. That’s a great sign, so keep an eye on him for seasons ahead as he could develop into one of the best playmakers in the game. Anyway, here’s what else I saw on the world o’ fantasy hockey last night: