As promised we’re halfway through the week and I’m back with a quick update to help you track games remaining this week for all 30 teams. What? You think Wednesday is halfway through the week? Wrong you are, math majors! I’ll let you figure that one out but in the meantime pay attention. If one of your guys on a team with only a game or two left this week are hurt you have some tough decisions to make as we approach the weekend. Remember what I wrote about knowing when to cut bait on the right guys at the right time and with a little luck you’ll be just fine. Games remaining by team for the Week of March 30 – April 5: 3 Games– Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, Florida Panthers, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, St. Louis Blues, Washington Capitals  2 Games– Columbus Blue Jackets, Boston Bruins, New York Islanders, Phoenix Coyotes, Buffalo Sabres, Calgary Flames, Carolina Hurricanes, Colorado Avalanche, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota Wild, New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, San Jose Sharks, Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks 1 Game– Anaheim Ducks, Nashville Predators, Winnipeg Jets Remember that those totals include tonight’s games and there are 12 teams with two left right now that only play one game from Friday through Sunday and they are the Ducks, Bruins, Flames, Blue Jackets, Oilers, Kings, Wild, Preds, Isles, Rangers, Canucks and Jets. So keep these numbers in mind when making your moves and make sure to choose wisely my friends. Good luck to all and here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey recently:
For most of the season Rasmus Ristolainen, D (1 G, 2 SOG, +2) has been largely forgettable on a forgettable team. His season line currently sits at 8/9/17/-29 in 73 games played and that’s going to make most owners laugh and look elsewhere for blue line help at this point in the season, but if you did that you’d be making a mistake. As my mantra goes, at this point in the season it doesn’t really matter what has happened, it only matters what’s happening now and right now the talented young rearguard is starting to catch fire and is definitely worth a look in most formats now and should absolutely be on your radar for a breakout campaign in the next season or two.
Through nine seasons with the Buffalo Sabres Drew Stafford has mostly been a yawnstipating, forgettable skater that shows intermittent flashes of solid play but quickly regresses to his usual bleh. He did have a couple 20-goal seasons and even a 30-goal year back in 2010 when he potted 31 goals in just 62 games and it seemed like he might be poised to take a step to the next level. Alas, he never did and the Sabres didn’t help much by getting worse and worse until they hit rock bottom in 2014. Luckily for Staff he was traded to the Winnipeg Jets in the Great Tank for McDavid campaign and with 12 points (6 G, 6 A) in his last 11 games he’s playing at a level that he may never have achieved before on big ice.
Man, what the hell happened with Kari Lehtonen, G (W, 33 SV, 1.000%, SHO) this season? I honestly have no idea. Yes, the Stars have dealt with injuries since before the start of the season and that’s definitely hurt team chemistry. Yes, their defense is more offensively minded than they should be and when you mix that with a handful of youth on the blue line and you’ve got yourself a recipe for disaster. Yes, he sports a 31-14-10 record which is pretty stellar, but when you pair it with a 2.82 goals-against average and a .908 save percentage through 59 starts this season you’ve got yourself a recipe for a lot of disgruntled owners. Despite all that, and despite everything I’ve been saying for most of the season, Kari is getting hot at the right time and you’d do well to pick him up for the playoffs.
The trade deadline has come and gone in 2015 and we’re left with a flurry of moves that mostly didn’t matter. There were buyers, there were sellers and then there was the Buffalo Sabres who went into full tank mode and sold off every halfway decent asset they had on their roster in hopes to land Conner McDavid. Don’t believe me? They sent away Chris Stewart, Michal Neuvirth, Bryan Flynn, Jhonas Enroth, Tyler Myers, Drew Stafford and Joel Armia in deals leading up to or at the deadline and they basically took a bunch of draft picks, injured players and a few cases of Molson in return. That’s an impressive fire sale, but I’ll laugh my pucks off if they don’t land McJesus. At any rate, almost nothing the Sabres did at the deadline mattered for fantasy owners, it’s all about quality not quantity folks, but there were a few deadline deals that will shake up the landscape of a few NHL teams and might just offer some key opportunities for the savvy fantasy owner to capitalize on:
Last night fantasy owners took a huge blow when superstar winger Patrick Kane, RW (1 SOG) took a hit from behind, went awkwardly into the boards and suffered what is being called a significant upper-body injury that will keep him out for up to two-and-a-half months. It looked to me like it was a shoulder injury and those are always bad news. You can look no further than what happened to Rangers Captain Ryan McDonagh to know how long it takes for a star player to recover from a bum shoulder. Pro tip, it takes a while at best. Worse, it could be a collarbone injury and those take as long or longer to recover from. In either case there’s no word on just how badly Kane is hurt, the nature of his injury or just how long he’ll be out, but one thing is for sure you need to act now to try and fill the gap before the rush to the wire.
In a season full of woe and dammit, Nathan MacKinnon, C (3 G, 3 SOG) decided to get his shiz together finally and put up his best game of the season posting the first hat trick of his young career in a 5-2 win last night. That’s a good sign from a guy who exploded on the scene for 24 goals and 63 points as a rookie last season and won’t come close to touching those totals this season. Does that mean the kid is a bust? Hardly! At just 19-years-old the sky remains the limit for MacKinnon and the reasons behind his sophomore slump are not only easily fixable, the healing has already begun, making him a target ripe for the plucking at the trade deadline. It might not seem like it now, but if you do find a way to bring him on as a keeper, you'll thank me next season.
Just days after news came down that Evander Kane was going to miss the rest of the season after undergoing shoulder surgery he was traded to the Buffalo Sabres in a blockbuster deal last night that saw seven players change teams. Zach Bogosian and college netminder Jason Kasdorf get banished to the Sabres with Kane while Tyler Myers, Drew Stafford, and Joel Armia are headed to Winnipeg with the rights to 2014 second-round pick Brendan Lemieux and Buffalo's first-round pick in 2015. Kane is the centerpiece of the deal despite being lost for the season, but in the immediate future the truly tantalizing piece of this deal comes in the form of the 6 foot 8 inch Tyler Myers, D (1 G, 4 SOG) who after putting up two stellar seasons to start his career has become a bit of an enigma with three injury shortened, mediocre campaigns on one of the league’s worst teams.
I’m not sure if someone put a hit out on goalies in the NHL recently or there’s some there’s a really cranky Oilers fan sitting up in the bitter cold of Edmonton with a set of voodoo dolls he attacks routinely, but whatever the case may be, but life has been tough for starting goalies in the NHL lately. On the heels of the devastating news that the fantasy owners will be without the services of Henrik Lundqvist for at least the next three-to-four weeks due to a blood vessel injury in his neck two more starting goalies went down over the weekend when Frederik Andersen, G (L, 17 SV, 5 GA, .773%) took his neck to the back of the head and Steve Mason, G (8 SV, 0 GA, 1.000%) tried to stretch between plays only to have his knee buckle on him.
At this point in the season players start to break down and injuries tend to be more frequent. You may have suffered through the loss of guys like Jimmy Howard or Pekka Rinne recently so you’re keenly aware of the sting that comes with losing all-world players giving you all-world seasons. The increased likelihood and frequency of injuries means adding the right replacement at the right time is critical to the overall success or failure of your season, so you have to be Johnny-on-the-spot when your studs go down. When Howie tore his groin picking up his understudy Petr Mrazek, G (4 SV, 3 GA, .571%) was a no brainer and after three strong starts since taking over as the starter for the Red Wings, last night’s breakdown against the league’s worst team might make you want to send the talented young tender packing back to the wire, but if you do you will be making a big mistake.