What's the worst spot for a goaltender to start right now?  Probably against Toronto on the road.  Well, Matt Murray had that exact spot on Thursday, and did the exact opposite of what most expected.  In a game where Toronto's expected goal total was pushing 4, Murray stopped all 38 shots he faced, shutting out the powerhouse Maple Leafs 3-0.  Murray's upside is undeniable; it's just a matter of keeping him on the ice and the defense in front of him not being a total mess.  For now, expect the Pens to give him the vast majority of the starts, meaning you can safely cut Casey DeSmith.  The Penguins schedule is fairly soft over the next couple of weeks, so feel safe rolling Murray.  Let's take a look at what else happened over the last two nights:
Hey, everyone. This is being written before my Buffalo Bills face the Jacksonville Jaguars in the playoffs. I’m predicting 17-14 Bills. As you might know by now, my managing style and what I discuss in my advice column is maximizing games played and putting more skaters on the ice that your opponent. I use data pulled from my own league as well as the two RCL’s to give this idea some supporting data, so let’s hop to it. Using the Active Stats tabs from my most competitive league as well as the two RCL’s, I’ve compiled a table of every matchup we’ve played this year (I finally added weeks 11-13 to my master sheet!) Out of 580 data points, managers who have played ten or more skaters (as of the end of week 13) than their opponents are 65-5-6. 65 wins, 5 losses, 6 ties. Even 5 more players on-ice than your opponent moves your meter considerably closer to the Wins column (from a coin-flip to winning 62% of the time). Yes, some teams might have better players, or might put up more points (G+A), but nothing correlates more accurately to a Win than the difference of games played between teams. Points, goalie starts, you name it… the bottom line is, you want to put more decent skaters on the ice per week than your opponent, and wins will follow.
The Toronto Maple Leafs went from the basement to the playoffs as one of the biggest surprises of the season.  Rookies, Mike Babcock, Frederik Andersen, the vets, everyone contributed to this massive turnaround.  Now, the Leafs are looked at as a perennial playoff team with future aspirations of a true Stanley Cup contender.  I don't expect them to be a real contender this season, mostly because their blue line still needs a piece or two, but they should be a solid playoff team with plenty of fantasy contributors.  Let's take a look at the riches Toronto is working with:
The greatest goal scorer in the history of the NHL has made a massive push down the stretch to push many teams towards a fantasy championship. While his shot rate and goal rate have dropped this year, Alex Ovechkin is still a monster. He had his best game of the season scoring a hat trick and an assist with six shots in the 5-4 OT win over the Wild. That brings his totals to 33+33 on the season with a solid plus-minus and penalty minute contribution. Obviously it's disappointing his shot rate went from five per game to four per game but it's still outstanding. We discussed on the podcast where Ovechkin will rank for next season and while I don't think he's worthy of the top selection anymore, he's still a top five pick without hesitation. Here's to hoping he finally gets over the playoff hump and Ovechkin gets the accolades he deserves. Let's take a look at what else happened on Tuesday night:
In the Razzball realm, the panel of writers (total of one) has been down on Jonathan Toews since I've been writing in this space. There were plenty of questions about his overall place 10 days ago when he had 33 points in 46 games. Whatever Toews has been doing over the last four games, he needs to keep that routine going. Toews has been coming on but had the game of the season on Tuesday scoring a hat trick on four shots while adding 2 assists and a +5 rating in the 5-3 win over the Wild. Let's just say the Wild trying to use Matt Dumba against him didn't work well. Now, Toews has 42 points giving you the value you hoped for taking him in the early to middle rounds. The new wingers with Toews (more on them later) have brought an offensive surge that Toews owners can only hope continues. Here's what else happened around the league the last two nights:
Hopefully everyone's holidays went extremely well. The only thing my weekend was missing was hockey so I'm glad that things will be back tonight. I haven't updated how things went on Friday's games so here goes nothing. In my preseason rankings, I wrote the following about Charlie Coyle: "Coyle had a big second half to get over 20 goals and 20 assists for the season. Now, he’s going to be on the first line which should dominate the possession game. The shots need a slight boost but he’s a good bet for 25+25 or possibly slightly better." First line, check. Possession game, not quite dominant but still above average so still a check. Slight boost in shots, check. Good bet for 25+25 or slightly better, check. Coyle had a monster game on Friday scoring a goal and three assists with four shots in the 7-4 win over the Rangers. That puts Coyle at 12+15 in 33 games with just over 2 shots per game, 22 PIM and +13. Instead of 25+25, we're potentially looking at 30+35. Coyle is currently the 30th ranked forward and while I had him in my top 150, his consensus ranking ended up over 40 spots later. Hopefully he ended up being one of your last couple picks like he was for me in a bunch of leagues because he's been terrific and I don't see it slowing down. Here's what else happened on Friday night before the break:
In non-breaking news, Connor McDavid is really good at that hockey game that millions of people enjoy. In this space, we give credit where it's due and McDavid did something on Saturday for the first time in his young NHL career. In the 5-2 win over Dallas, McDavid had his first career hat trick scoring three goals on four shots while adding two penalty minutes. That game gives the wunderkind 22 points (8+14) in 19 games so far this season tying him for the league lead. He's a decent bet to end up leading the league in points and he's still only 19 years old. The future for him is so bright that it's blinding. Here's what else happened around the league this weekend:
It certainly hasn't been consistent on a game to game basis but T.J. Oshie's overall production can't be denied. He had his best game of the season on Wednesday with two goals and two assists (one shorthanded, two power play points) with three shots in Washington's 7-1 beatdown of the Penguins. That brings Oshie's totals on the season to 8 goals, 2 assists, 10 PIM, +10, 6 STP (4 PPP, 2 SHP) and 37 shots in 16 games. The big games have been there; 10 of Oshie's points are in his 4 multi-point games while he was 2 in the other 12. If he starts to put some games together, which I expect with the Capitals power play due for a hot streak, Oshie owners will get a guy who easily settles in the top 75 with the potential to push the top 50 if the plus-minus keeps progressing. Here's what else I saw around the league the last two nights:
Hey guys! I'm back now for the upcoming season and will be providing you content on almost a daily basis from now on. This will be the first post in a long series of articles over the next two months previewing each NHL team from a fantasy perspective. At this point, I haven't decided the order I'm going to do; it'll either be going from worst to first or division by division. Regardless, I'll be starting up with the Toronto Maple Laughs Leafs today. Let's get right to it!