Hello everyone!  After spending most of the last two months in Vegas (including during the Stanley Cup Finals), I'm back home and ready to start writing again.  I'll be picking up things in August when I'll be writing multiple posts a week, including my rankings early on in the month.  I have a few questions I would like the readers to answer in terms of what they'd like me to write besides my rankings, but I'll leave that for the end of this post.  For now, I'm going to write a quick blurb on the five biggest moves of the offseason and what their impact is for both real life and fantasy.  Let's get to it!
Antti Raanta has been very good when called upon this season for the Rangers. After recent developments, he's going to have a massive impact in the fantasy playoffs. Henrik Lundqvist is out for the next 2-3 weeks due to a hip injury allowing Raanta to be the guy for the Rangers. His strong play continued on Sunday stopping 23 of 24 shots in the 4-1 win over the Red Wings. Even after the recent rush of people going to grab Raanta, he's still available in two-thirds of leagues. If you're fortunate enough to be in your fantasy playoffs, stop reading right now, add Raanta and then come back and see what else happened over the weekend:
If you've watched the Jets play this year, you don't need me to tell you how talented Patrik Laine is. His shot is among the best that I've ever seen and his skating is explosive in its own right. The Jets top six was in a slump so Paul Maurice shuffled the lines on Tuesday. Granted, they play against the Stars, but the early returns were outstanding. Laine led the way scoring another hat trick on six shots while adding two penalty minutes. This puts him at 26 goals and 21 assists in 51 games, the second best goal rate in the league behind Sidney Crosby. I had him ranked in my top 100 going into the season but the days of getting him in that area of drafts is over. Hell, his days of going outside the first two rounds are over. The Jets are loaded with talent around him and Laine will only get better being 18 years old. Is he a first rounder next year? Right now, I'd lean towards no but he's firmly in the second round and it could certainly change over the next six months when I put my rankings out for next season. Regardless, watch this kid when you get the chance because it's remarkable. Here's what else I saw around the league the last two nights:
Let's play a quick game. Goalie A, in 32 games and 29 starts, won 18 games with a 2.27 GAA and .924 save percentage. Goalie B, in 54 games and 53 starts, had 23 wins, a 2.51 GAA and .918 sv%. Looks like you'd choose A pretty easily, correct? Just 5 less wins in 24 less starts with better percentages. Goalie A is Michal Neuvirth and Goalie B is Steve Mason. I have been calling for Neuvirth to get more action all season (half of those starts were when Mason was out) and after Mason made a fool of himself in game 2 and was lit up for 6 in game 3, Neuvirth got a chance with the Flyers' season on the line. He stopped 31 of 32 shots in the 2-1 win and kept the team alive for at least a couple more days. Neuvirth played very well on a tanking Sabres team and continued his success in Philly this year. I think there's a starting goalie here so it'll be interesting to see what happens with him in the offseason. Here's what else around the league Wednesday night:
Both divisions in the Western Conference are in the midst of a three way battle that will have a major impact throughout the playoffs. The Blackhawks found themselves playing three games in a row against their competitors and lost their third in a row. The Blackhawks were thoroughly dominated on Monday night by the Kings, losing 5-0 at home. Jonathan Quick posted the shutout for L.A. stopping all 32 shots he faced. Quick is currently the number 4 fantasy goaltender on the season with better numbers across the board than last season. The Kings remained in first in the Pacific while the Blackhawks remained in third. They have overcome being on the road before but it still makes things quite difficult for Chicago. On the other hand, the Kings getting home ice, a situation they're rarely in, would be a nice bonus against the Ducks or Sharks. Expect Quick to get the majority of the starts down the stretch to be one of the biggest difference makers in the fantasy playoffs. Here's what I saw around the league Monday night:
There were 12 games in the NHL last night and there was an insane amount of goals. Two games had 11 goals, three had 7 or more and another bunch had 5+. The goalie that had the only shutout of the night was Martin Jones, who arguably had the hardest matchup in the league, stopped all 33 shots he faced in Chicago. In his first season, Jones has been a workhorse (only 5 goalies have started more games) and has put up solid stats across the board, especially wins. He's a big reason why the Sharks are in prime position to get back into the playoffs after one season out. I'm not a huge fan of Jones going forward but he's still a very good #2 goalie going forward. Here's what else happened in an action packed night around the league:
Cam Fowler (1 G, 2 A, 3 SOG, +2) has a career plus/minus rating of -56, ouch! In his rookie season he posted a monster 40 points, but with a terrible -25 rating. He followed with a typically bad sophomore campaign posting just 29 points and a -28 rating on a less than stellar Ducks squad. And then last year, the lockout shortened season, and his season line was flat out awful with just one goal, ten assists, and a -4 rating in 37 games. That’s a tough way for a kid to start his NHL career and it can make fantasy owners flea en masse. Still, amid all those ugly numbers there was hope in the form of 123 shots, exactly, that he poured on net in each of his first two years. He’s back at it again with 51 in 33 games played and he’s on pace for another 40 point year, this time with a +6 rating and counting in the right direction. Not only that, Fowler is a great source of power play points with 11 so far this season while averaging just over 3 minutes per game on the man-advantage. Comparisons to Scott Niedermayer still stick with him and they aren’t unwarranted. Now that he’s maturing and the Ducks offense is one of the best in the league, Fowler is the fantasy gold his rookie season teased he might become. He’s rightly owned in 100% in ESPN leagues but just 61% of Yahoo! Leagues. Yet another player with a massive disparity in ownership between the two fantasy worlds. Thing is, he should be owned everywhere, period. Here’s what else I saw in fantasy hockey yesterday: