I said on Friday that I don't like leading off with the same person back to back, let alone the same month. Well, Devan Dubnyk deserves to be the lede again with his third consecutive shutout on Saturday stopping all 29 shots against the Stars. For those of you who own Dubnyk in weekly head to head leagues, congrats on winning the goaltending categories this week! Three starts, three shutouts for my most frequently owned goaltender, go me! In the big picture, this doesn't really change things for me; Dubnyk is a #1 goalie and will continue to be so. While it matters less in fantasy hockey (it still has an impact for streaming and matchups), this shows me that the Wild are for real this season. I harped on it in the preseason and on the podcasts (mostly the over-under) but Bruce Boudreau does amazing things for hockey teams. I'm sure we'll be talking about it on Tuesday's podcast. Anyways, let's take a look at everything that happened around the league this weekend.
It hasn't even been two weeks since the regular season started and the hat tricks are already piling up! On Saturday, we had our most recent hat trick in Calgary as new Blue David Perron scored a hat trick on six shots and added an assist in the 6-4 win for St. Louis. Ken Hitchcock shuffled the lines before the game and the biggest beneficiary was Perron getting to play with Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz. Obviously it worked out better than anyone could have imagined. Perron was horrible to start last season in Pittsburgh but took off in Anaheim so there is fantasy potential here. For now, if I had room, I would grab Perron just to be able to stream him on Tuesday to see what happens. The Blues play the Flames again who are a complete dumpster fire defensively at the moment so it's an excellent spot for Perron to produce and there's a chance he turns into a hold. Let's take a look at what else happened around the NHL this weekend:
We are only a few days away from the trade deadline and the first big trade piece is off the market. The Jets moved their captain Andrew Ladd and sent him to the team they acquired him from in 2010, Chicago. The Blackhawks paid a massive price for the rental sending a first round pick, a conditional third, and Marko Dano. If you remember in the preseason, Dano was my favorite sleeper after he came on strong at the end of last season in Columbus. With Bryan Little out for the season, I expect Dano to be in Winnipeg right away. If that's the case, he's immediately worth consideration in 12'ers because his upside is through the roof. Ladd will go on the first line in Chicago on Jonathan Toews' wing which is also a big boost to his value. This is another trade, like the Columbus and Nashville blockbuster, that is a win for all players from a fantasy perspective. Here's what I saw on the ice the last two nights around the league:
Amidst all the hoopla around the 27-year-old upstart Andrew Hammond and his unbelievable stretch of play filling in for the injured Craig Anderson it has been easy to overlook the rest of the Sens, but if you’re falling prey to that mistake, it’s to your own detriment. Hamrew isn’t the only Sen who is making noise lately; Mika Zibanejad extended his point streak to seven games with a helper this past Sunday and has seven points (3 G, 4 A) over that span. He’s had a somewhat disappointing year overall given the hype the 21-year-old center came into the season with, but don’t let the higher than reasonable expectations fool you, this kid is good and should only get better with time and right now he's playing like the guy everyone hoped he would be back in October.
At just 18-years-old Aleksander Barkov, C (1 A, 4 SOG) was the selected second overall in the 2013 draft by the Florida Panthers with high expectations. The hulking play making pivot out of Tampere, Finland did not disappoint in his first season on big ice putting up a line of 8/16/24/+10 in 54 games. That might not sound great but given the team he played for you could probably adjust those numbers up to something in the ballpark of 12/25/37/+15 in 54 games on a decent team. Fast forward to this season and he opened up with lots of injuries and garbage play posting just six points (2 G, 4 A) over the first three months of the season. Don’t let that deter you from adding him for scoring help down the stretch, though; he’s white hot lately and only getting better with each passing game.
Since Corey Crawford went down with his latest injury the Blackhawks have had six games and Scott Darling, G (L, 38 SV, 3 GA, .927%) has started four of them until Antti Raanta, G (W, 23 SV, 1 GA, .960%) won last night in the second game of a back-to-back. In fact, Raanta has only played in six games so far this season to Darling’s seven so it begs the question, has Darling usurped Raanta as Crawdad backup? It sure seems that way. It’s clear that Raanta isn’t a guy you can count on for long streaks of solid play. He’s fine in spot starts and sheltered minutes, but some time in the AHL wouldn’t hurt him at all, and so far it seems that the 6’ 6” Darling has caught the attention of Blackhawk’s Head Coach Joel Quenneville. When asked about the situation Quenneville didn’t offer much insight, but does he ever? He did have this to offer on Darling though "He's played well, every time he's been in the net he's been consistent, looks big (and) handles the puck well. Keep him going." That bodes well for Darling sticking around, but either way it doesn’t seem like we’ll have to wait very long to find out how this situation is going to shake out because Crawdad was a surprise participant in the morning skate for the Hawks this past weekend. He didn’t speculate on when he’ll return to the lineup but the fact that his foot is well enough for him to skate on is a good sign that he’ll be back in the next few weeks at most. If I had to put money down I’d say Darling has earned the backup job and it’s Raanta who will head down to the AHL when he returns. In the meantime, both should be owned in deep leagues. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey this weekend:
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:
I figured that Brian Elliott would eventually tire and leave the window open for Jake Allen to step up and steal the job, but I never imagined that Elliott would get hurt this early in the season. Obviously it’s not because he’s tired, but an injury is an injury and Allen is now the starter while Elliott nurses his LBI back to health. Elliott is currently week-to-week and if you pair that with the dreaded knee injury for a goalie, that’s not a good sign. To make matters worse, the Blues quickly contacted Martin Brodeur for a tryout that I’m almost positive he’ll pass. Even if he does, Marty is 42 and he hasn’t been much more than solid in a few years now, so Allen should remain the starter barring some freak happenings. Grab Marty where you can, but only expect backup minutes at worst and a 50/50 timeshare at best. The St. Louis crease isn’t the only crease that’s looking out of order lately, Tampa’s Ben Bishop, G (W, 16 SV, 3 GA, .842%) is working his way into a similar pickle. Bishop is young and extremely talented, so I’m not super worried about his early heavy workload, but it’s going to worry me more and more as the season goes on. Evgeni Nabakov is clearly not the answer to backup Bishop, and I was hoping Stevie Y would give Marty Brodeur a call to fill the roll but that ship has sailed so Big Ben still stands tall but alone in the Tampa crease. We’ve seen how well putting the pressure of literally being the only goalie on the roster the team can depend on has done to Cory Schneider in New Jersey, I’m getting worried the same will happen with Bishop before long. It’s not all bad news though, at least for Alex Stalock owners! Antti Niemi, G (L, 17 SV, 1 GA, .944%) is still mediocre and did very little to make the case that he’s the undisputed no. 1 in San Jose while Stalock was out recovering from minor knee surgery. Even better news for Stalock owners, he’s skating with the team, says his knee feels great and is once again ready to take this starting job from Niemi. It could be that Stalock was suffering from a bum wheel to start the year and now that it’s taken care of, he could be even better upon returning. Stay tuned. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey this week:
Yesterday I brought big Anthony Mantha to your attention and said you should keep an eye on him as he’s on the rise. Well, there’s another kid you should get to know that’s already on big ice and lately his star is rising fast. Nick Bjugstad, C (2 G, 5 SOG, +1) is on a roll with seven points in his last three games including multiple two goal games giving him six goals in his last seven games. In fact, he has nine points in his last eight games and these totals aren’t unexpected. He started the season slowly, but at just 22 years of age and one full season under his belt that’s not surprising. It was only a matter of time before he started producing, and here it is. Can he keep it up? Absolutely. Just like Mantha he’s a big boy at 6’5”, 215lbs and he knows how to use his big frame to create space and opportunities for himself. Clearly he knows how to cash in on those opportunities as well bringing a heavy, accurate shot to the table in his big bag o’ tricks. He’s not just big; he’s strong too often winning battles along the boards. With exceptional on-ice awareness and vision he rarely finds himself out of position. Lately he’s playing with fellow prospect Jonathan Huberdeau (2 A, 4 SOG, +1) and veteran Brad Boyes (+1) so it’s a solid line for him to grow on. I don’t expect more than 50 points from Jugs, but he could beat that mark if he and Huber gel like the Cats hope they will. In any case, he should be added in all keeper leagues if he was on the wire and in deep re-drafts as well. It may not be long before he’s relevant in all leagues, so like I always say, get it while the gettins’ good, y’all! Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey last night:
If I asked you who would have the better numbers after a month or so of play, Tuukka Rask (L, 12 SV, 4 GA, .750%) or Jonathan Bernier (W, 25 SV, 1 GA, .962%), I’m willing to bet a case of beer and a back of pucks you’d snap back with Tuukka as your answer pretty quickly. To be fair so would I, and we'd both be wrong. To this point Bernier's sports a season line of 5-3-2/2.58/.917% while Tuukka is sitting ugly at 8-5-0/2.69/.901%. Believe it? You best. It seemed as though Tuukka was getting his act together after a rough October until he was bombed for four goals on 16 shots last night by a team that he has completely dominated in the past. When I say completely dominated, I mean never allowing more than two goals against them before last night completely dominated. To be fair, the Leafs are on fire right now so this is a different Toronto team that Rask has owned in the past, but still, I'm starting to worry about Rask's overall play this season. My gut says he'll be fine, but his stellar play this month comes against teams like the Cats, Oilers, Devils and Sens. That's not exactly the cream of the offensive crop, so it's expected that he'd handle them with general ease. It was also expected that he'd handle the Leafs in a similar fashion, too. If it makes Rask owners feel any better, he was pulled in the second for rookie Niklas Svedberg (2 GA, 15 SV, .882%) who promptly coughed up two of his own on 17 shots. At the heart of the matter here is Boston's decimated defense and most notably the absence of its heart and soul Zdeno Chara, so these struggles aren't wholly his fault. You can't trade Tuukka because his value is far, far below his ADP, so you'll just have to stick it out. This is yet another example of why you shouldn't be taking goalies in the first two rounds. If you own Tuukka, you most likely did just that. Well, while you took Tuukka I drafted Tyler Seguin and I couldn't be happier with my pick, how about you? Goalies are too unpredictable to justify taking that early, even the elites, and they often fail to live up to their ADP. It's not about what your early goalie grab gives you or doesn't, it's what you left on the board while doing it that's at the heart of the matter. Always remember my mantra; skaters first. Skaters first. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey last night: