It can be hard to pivot away from the strategy that helped carry you this far and into the playoffs, but often you have no choice but to leave behind the ways that got you this far and adopt a more drastic approach in the playoffs. When your season starts you must be patient. Have patience with the elite veteran you know will get up to speed to actually get up to speed and start producing. Have patience with for the budding superstar you know will produce, he just needs time to adjust to the North American style. That works if you have the discipline, but now it’s do or die and the moves you make are as critical to your success as the moves you don't make. Now you need to act and learning to know when it's time to cut bait on a guy you really, really don’t want to. It gets a bit hairy in keeper leagues when you have to decide between now and next year, but in redraft leagues it gets pretty simple, pretty quickly; as the clock ticks down on your first round matchup you may have to bite the bullet and ditch your idle big guns for long shot streamers, and that’s okay so long as you make the right moves.
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.
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.
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:
Back in April 2013 the Washington Capitals were interested in adding some veteran help for a playoff push. The Nashville Predators had some help in the form of Martin Erat and so they struck a deal. Erat went to the Caps and Filip Forsberg (1 G, 2 A, 5 SOG) came over to the Preds in a package deal. At the time no one really batted an eye, but now all eyes are wide open watching “Fil the Thrill” roll through opponents night after night on his way to one of the best starts a rookie forward has had in years. I honestly didn’t see this coming, but after he posted just 34 points in 47 games in the AHL last year, honestly, who did? His preseason was stellar, but preseason means squat and I figured he was just playing hard against weak competition to earn himself a roster spot like any respectable rookie. The last I saw of Fil he was easy to knock of the puck, undersized, lacking strength and looking overwhelmed playing North American hockey, but clearly he had some skill. Oh my how things have changed. With a deceptively awkward but quick wrister at his disposal Fil stretched his point steak to seven games with the three-point effort last night. What’s more, he has a six game goal-scoring streak mixed in and 12 points (7 G, 5 A) over that span. He’s currently on the top line with James Neal (1 A, 2 SOG, +2) and Mike Ribeiro (1 SOG, +2) and that’s a good place to be. He hasn’t just been good, he’s been dominant and his line has outscored opponents 13-1 at even strength so far. The downside here, yes there’s a downside, is that there’s really no chance he can keep this scoring pace up. You know that. You don’t want to admit it, but he will. The upside there is that he’ll fall from dominant to thrilling, retaining tons of value all season long. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey last night:
Heading into this season all eyes were on rookie Evgeny Kuznetsov (1 A, 1 SOG) of the Caps and why not? The big Russian seems to have all the tools he needs to be an offensive powerhouse in the NHL. He showed some serious chops in his time with the KHL, but we all know that has to be taken with a grain of salt. Still, I fully expect he’ll break the 40-point mark this season, however, Kuz isn’t the only rookie worth knowing about in D.C. this year. Lost in all that Kuz hype is a dynamic Swede on the verge of a breakout and his name is Andre Burakovsky (1 G, 2 SOG, +1). I blame myself for not mentioning him earlier, I should have, but he slipped my mind so I’ll do it now. Well I already did it. In fact I’m in the middle of the mention at this very moment, and so are you! Trippy, man. I digress, Burakovsky is an offensively gifted pivot in the mold of Henrik Zetterberg, who coach Barry Trotz compared the kid to just the other day. The comparison might seem pretty lofty, but when you break down the kid’s bona fides it starts to seem pretty accurate. Last season Burakovsky lit the OHL up in his first go at North American hockey scoring a gaudy 87 points in 57 games for the Erie Otters. He followed that up by posting seven points in seven games in the World Junior Classic-20 division and then 14 points in 14 games in the U20 (all) International Juniors. Damn, that’s sexy. Do I sense a new mancrush coming on? Mayhaps! There’s plenty of room in my hockey heart for another and this young man is a leading candidate. He’s a strong skater with a remarkably high hockey IQ that will serve him well as he adjusts this season. Couple that with a sick wrister and the top six minutes he’s going to be getting and what does it all add up to? Me adding him in every keeper league, that’s for sure. He’s worth owning in standard leagues while he’s scoring too, and with five points in five games so far he’s doing just that. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey last night:
Patience is a virtue, that’s what they always said. Who are they? They don’t matter. What matters is the idea. As I’ve grown and aged like a fine wine I’ve discovered that patience is indeed a virtue. It doesn’t really matter what aspect of life you want to touch on, being patient is going to help you get where you want to go, and get what you want to get. So what do you need to achieve fantasy hockey glory? Say it with me now class, patience! Yes ladies, you need to relax and be patient. Every season some guys start slow. Every season some guys start hot. Every season the guys who started hot but had no business doing so, by and large, slow down or just stop scoring. Every season the guys who started slow but had no business doing so, by and large, start scoring. I’m fielding a lot of questions about whether or not to trade Nathan MacKinnon away for pennies on the dollar. Brock Nelson seems to be the guy everyone is willing to add and they don’t care who they drop to get him and Valeri Nishushkin is actually getting dropped after just two games. Two games, people. Are you kidding? Nelson has no track record, Nishushkin is playing sick and MacKinnon? You want to call what MacKinnon is doing a slow start already? You cray! If you want to throw away your fantasy season before it starts make those knee jerk moves now. If you want to win, sit tight and wait at least a few more games to see how the cookie crumbles. And for the record, no don’t trade MacKinnon. No, don’t drop Nuke for whatever wire fodder had a decent two game start and no, Nelson isn’t going to be the next big thing. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey this weekend:
Suddenly there’s lots of talk of some 22-year-old KHL winger getting lots of offers from NHL teams, twelve offers in fact, and it makes me wonder, who is Jiri Sekac? Jiri is a 22-year-old, 6’2”, 190lb left-winger from the Czech Republic who has recently become a hot commodity in a relatively shallow 2014-15 free agent pool. Why, you might wonder, is this guy seemingly the next big thing? First, he isn’t. His popularity has spiked just recently after a solid 2014 season for the KHL’s HC Lev Praha. How solid? Well, if you consider the KHL a step above the AHL and one below the NHL, not exactly mind-blowingly solid, but solid in a fundamentals sort of way. Ah yes, those valuable fundamentals. The fundamentals that lay the groundwork for future success in any activity one might engage in! The key term here is future, and it isn’t tomorrow yet. This year Sekac put up a line of 11 G, 17 A, 28 P, 18 PIM, + 12 in 47 GP in the regular season and followed up in the playoffs with 1 G, 7 A, 8 P, 24 PIM, + 1 in 21 GP. Wow, this is the guy that has “more than a dozen solid offers” from NHL teams? Maybe there’s more here than meets the eye? Lets take a deeper dive...