It's hard to find a bigger fan of Blake Wheeler than yours truly. He's been excellent for years, and while he is showing some signs of aging, he's remained incredibly productive. Wheeler scored a goal and dished three assists in the 7-4 win over the Avalanche, adding two penalty minutes. Wheeler now has 7+48 in 42 games, a very strong point total. So where's the concern? Well, seven goals obviously isn't great, and his shot rate is closer to 2.5 now than 3 per game. Add in a career low shooting percentage and you can see why he's on pace for only 14 goals. He's still solid in PIM and has been a quality +/- player for a long time, so he'll still be a top 50 player for a few years. However, it would be a mistake to expect Wheeler to be a top 20 player again going forward. Here's a look at what else happened over the last two nights:
Like Patrice Bergeron, I'm back! After a long flight back home, it'll be difficult for me to return in the style he did. Bergeron had a goal and three assists with six shots in his season debut, a 6-3 win over the Canucks. There's not much to be said about Bergeron; get him back in your lineup immediately. Look for his linemates to take off as well. Let's take a look at what happened over the last two nights:
In the marquee match of the night in Washington, both goalies played extremely well. At the end of the game, Braden Holtby came out on top saving 29 of 30 shots in the 2-1 win over the Blue Jackets. He's managed to find a way to improve his goals against and save percentage the season after winning the Vezina Trophy. His counterpart in this game may be the favorite to win the Vezina this year but Holtby has solidified himself as the #1 goalie in hockey, both in real life and fantasy. I highly doubt that I will draft him next season solely because I'm anti-goalie in the first round but there's no doubt that Holtby will be the first goalie on my board. It looks like this will be the second season in a row that he finishes as the #2 overall goalie and that consistency is exactly what you're looking for in your top goalie. If you can find an issue with Holtby, let me know because he's seemingly perfect. Here's what else happened around the league the last two nights:
Holy smokes, over 5000 words! This is quite the recap of the last 5 days of hockey. I had a introduction all set to go around Milan Lucic but I had to erase it and give the lede to Michael Cammalleri. Cammalleri mysteriously missed six games in a row before returning on Wednesday night. It turns out that his 5 year old daughter Chloe had severe pneumonia which eventually required surgery. On this Thanksgiving weekend, we're thankful that she's going to make a full recovery. Dad returned and had a three game stretch for the ages. He started with a remarkable goal and three assists with 9 SOG in the 5-4 shootout win over Toronto. Cammy followed it up totaling a goal, assist, four shots and two PIM in the 5-4 loss to Detroit before scoring 2 goals on 4 shots in the 4-3 shootout loss to Pittsburgh. Just a measly 8 points in 3 games, no big deal. He's almost back to a point per game (just like last season) with three shots per game and solid penalty minutes. Cammalleri is still available in over 50% of leagues and to be blunt, that's a huge mistake. If you're in one of those leagues, go grab him now. Here's a look at the last five days around the league. I'm going to go through day by day but in the format most people like; just note that a player may be mentioned multiple times.
It's hard to say a team that finished in 7th place in their division with 84 points overachieved but I'd argue that the New Jersey Devils did just that. Amazingly, they were in playoff contention for the majority of the season until their all-world goalie Cory Schneider went down with an injury. The Devils had plenty of surprises among their forwards while their defense is as bad as it gets from a fantasy perspective. Will their forwards repeat or was last season a fluke? Let's take a look!
Will using The Force actually make your team better than picking up Justin Schultz would? Well, no. Not exactly. But it will stop you from making blind spec pickups and dropping guys who might actually be helping you already in some way. In either case, I’m going with “D”, which by the way is the subject of this week’s column. Here’s all the “D” you can handle – if you want to improve your team NOW instead of waiting for the fallout of all the deadline deals – all neatly sorted into three categories: Scoring help, Keepers only, and Peripheral Vision (which help in those “other” stats).
To start the year, John Gibson was stuck in the AHL because the Ducks wanted to get him playing time. It took an injury to Fredrik Anderson for Gibson to start getting playing time and now Bruce Boudreau has realized that Gibson, their goalie of the future, is their present as well. On Thursday, Gibson had his second consecutive 1-0 win stopping all 21 shots against the Oilers. On Sunday, Gibson stopped 19 of 20 shots in the 4-1 win over the Jets. In 15 starts, Gibson has an absurd 1.63 GAA and a .932 save percentage. After an absolutely dreadful start, the Ducks are in a playoff spot thanks mostly to Gibson. Here's what else has happened around the league going back to the 31st of last year:
As if losing Dan Boyle to the dreaded broken finger curse just one game into the season and John Moore to a five-game suspension wasn’t enough for the Rangers, they decided to go the next month or so on hard-mode with both Ryan McDonagh and Kevin Klein falling victim to their own injuries over the weekend. McDonagh suffered a separated shoulder on a hit from Evander Kane and he’s down for three to four weeks, but reports are that the Rangers expect he may be out for longer than a month. The big issue here is the injured shoulder in question is the same shoulder that Mac injured late last season, so this could turn out to be pretty bad for Mac and the Rangers. Klein suffered a foot contusion that will cost him at least a few games, but he should be back within a week or so. Regardless of how quickly Klein gets back the situation is dire on the Rangers blue line with four of their top-six defenseman now injured. How does this affect your fantasy fortunes? Well, obviously if you own McDonagh this is a fairly substantial blow. He wasn’t exactly lighting it up with just three helpers in 10 games so far, but given his ADP most of his owners were holding out hope that the points would start to flow sooner than later. The real problem here is for Henrik Lundqvist owners, who might be in a bit of trouble now too. Hank hasn’t been his normal stellar self to start the season but he’s largely been solid. Now that the Rangers defense is even more depleted it’s going to test Hank and I fear there’s going to be some ugly games in there. If you own Lundqvist all you can do is start him, but brace yourself, it could get nasty. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey last night:
Reid Boucher (1 G, 4 SOG, +1) is a pure sniper in every sense of the word and his shot is as quick as it is accurate, and it’s bloody quick. Last year Boucher potted 62 goals in 68 games for the OHL's Sarina Sting, breaking Steven Stamkos’ club record for goals in a season with 60 back in 2011-2012. How’s that for a pedigree? Dude’s leaving broken Stamkos goal scoring records in his wake on his way to the NHL. His nose for the prime scoring opportunities is not something that can be taught and he can’t be left alone for even a second in the offensive zone or the opposing team will regret it. It’s not all roses and rainbows for Boucher, however, and one of the big knocks against him is his size, or lack thereof. He stands at just 5’10 and around 194lbs and from what I’ve seen he tends to play with his head down a bit too often, which if you ask Pat Lafontaine about sometime, he, well… he probably can’t remember, but that’s kind of the point. His defensive game needs some work as well and that is always a bit scary as it will limit his TOI even as he develops. Still, the Devils think very highly of their young sniper and you might consider doing the same. He’s worth a flier in deeper leagues, totally worth owning in keeper leagues and a wait-and-see status for standard leagues. Anyway, here’s what else I saw on a short night o’ fantasy hockey yesterday:
Henrik Lundqvist looked more like the goaltender we came to expect this season. Finally. Lundqvist turned aside all 22 shots he saw and picked up a 2-o win over Washington. Please, blog, may I have some more?