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.
Every year Henrik Lundqvist, G (L, 15 SV, 5 GA, .750%) looks sluggish to start the season and every year he finishes as one of the league’s top netminders. Last season there were myriad problems that lead to a mediocre start for both Hank and the Rangers; a nine game road trip to open the season, a new coach and system to adapt to and a training camp plagued by contract issues with various key players. Combine those factors with Hank’s typical modus operandi and it was explainable at least, you could kind of understand how the god of goalies would show chinks in his armor early on. Normally he works those chinks out early on, but so far this season there are some worrisome trends in his game. So far Hank sports a very mediocre 9-7-3/2.70/.905% season line after allowing 11 goals in his past three games. This bad stretch comes after after blanking the Habs last Sunday and a very strong November. If you look at his lines by month you'll see an encouraging trend; he finished October with a line of 5-3-0/3.25/.891% and followed up in November with a much more Hank-like 4-3-3/2.05/.927%, so everything is green, right? Not so fast. Soft goals are a big problem for Hank this year, goals that he would have stopped in year’s past. Last night’s game winner was one of those and there's no real solution to the problem other than Hank stepping up his game and not letting the softies in. They aren’t all his fault, though, as the Rangers’ defense is looking lost more often than not and a few of the tallies from last night were as result of guys getting left on the ice for over two minutes, not clearing the puck when getting the chance (Dom Moore) and errant passes that become turnovers that become goals (Ryan McDonagh). He’s clearly struggling to pick up the puck through screens, too, something he’s noted himself in a recent post game interview. It used to be the only real way to beat Hank was on a deflection, now he's looking a lot more pedestrian. So what’s the deal? Has Hank lost it? I seriously doubt it, but I also seriously doubt a return to the elite status he has enjoyed since entering the league nine years ago. For the first time in his career Hank can’t stand on his head and carry the team like he has in the past and that’s shaken the Rangers, who already look shaken enough as it is. I hate to say it, but for Lundqvist owners this season is going to be a bit of a roller coaster. He’s going to go on some ridiculous streaks and some bleh streaks and in the end he may very well finish with the worst numbers of his career. For a netminder like Lundqvist that means a 2.45 GAA and .910 SV%, so it’s not going to kill you, but that’s just not good enough to justify his ADP. Huh, that seems to be a theme with some goalies this year. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey last night:
Yesterday I preached the virtue of patience, as in have some and don’t give up on guys after two or three games. There is no buy or sell high right now, at least not for the sane, because we’ve only just begun to rumble this season and the chips need to fall before we make the right calls. Next up on the “Don’t freak out, freaks!” front is Carey Price (L, 19 SV, 4 GA, .826 SV%) who has been struggling out of the gate so far this season. He coughed up 4 goals on 23 shots before getting yanked in the second in favor of Dustin Tokarski yesterday. Toker promptly gave up 3 more goals on 18 shots, so Price owners shouldn’t feel too bad. I don’t think anything went right for the Habs last night, honestly. Steven Stamkos victimized Price first on a nearly impossible angle shot for his first goal, then potted one on a break away after Victor Hedman hit him tape-to-tape on a sweet stretch pass and again for a third time on a booming slapper from the top of the circle on the man advantage. So take Stammer out of the game and Price only gives up one goal! That’s good, right?! Price isn’t typically a slow starter so 10 goals allowed in his first three games is a bit unnerving, but there’s not much you can do if you own him other than ride this out. He’s just too good to keep being this mediocre for long. I won’t recommend adding Toker as a handcuff quite yet, but I might have had he come in and done well in relief. He didn’t, so I won’t and I expect Price will get the next start for the Habs. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey last night: