With Kyle Okposo basically out for the rest of the season big questions about what will happen in the Isles’ top six loom large. In the past no one would have cared at all beyond when Okie was getting back into the lineup, but 2015 is a new year and the Isles offense is one of the best in the league posting a heady 3.2 goals per game, good for second in the NHL. So now that question of who replaces Okie on the Isles’ top line along side superstar pivot John Tavares, C (1 G, 2 SOG, +1) is pretty intriguing and Mikhail Grabovski, C (1 G, 4 SOG, +1) wasted no time answering it by putting the biscuit in the basket on a feed from Josh Bailey, RW (1 A, 2 SOG, +1) after JT started the whole dance with a nice feed of his own. The trio looked like they had some solid chemistry and word has it that Grabby is going to be replacing Okie in role and position moving forward. He absolutely has the ability to finish, so I’d go ahead and add him where you can as he could be in line for a strong second half push. That being said, he has a history of being streaky and if he goes cold, Ryan Strome, C (1 G, 2 SOG, +1) could step in and fill the gap without missing a beat.
When you drafted Matt Duchene in the third round this year you were drafting a guy that you expected 70-plus points and 30 goals from and given his history, his team and his expected line mates that those were totally reasonable expectations. Well, 33 games into the 2014-’15 season Duchene has just 10 goals and 10 assists and is on pace for just 50 points and 25 goals by season’s end. Currently riding a four game scoreless streak he’s slowly sinking on a team that is riddled with problems. Nathan MacKinnon has been hit by a serious sophomore slump and isn’t performing nearly up to the high expectations he set for himself after last year’s stellar performance. Gabriel Landeskog is putting up similarly weak numbers and looking just as lost as Jarome Iginla, Semyon Varlamov and Ryan O’Reilly. Lets face it, the Avs are a mess and they aren’t making any great strides to improve their situation as we approach the halfway mark of the season. Usually a dig into the advanced stats will show a star player doing everything right but getting unlucky, so the points should flow anytime, but sadly for Duchene’s owners that just isn’t the case so far this season.
Last night the unthinkable happened, Ben Bishop (5 SV, 1 GA, .800%) left the game late in the first period with what the Bolts say is a lower body injury. They call it an LBI, I call it a heart attack because that’s what I’m having watching Big Ben topple towards a possible stint on the injured list. Word has it he has to be re-evaluated before they can give a timetable for his return so they’ve called up their top prospect Andrei Vasilevskiy to help tend net with the woeful Evgeni Nabokov G (L, 18 SV, 3 GA, .857%) in the meantime. Proving he isn't the guy to carry the load in Bishop's absense, Nabby came in to replace Bishop and promptly gave up three goals on just 21 shots over two periods last night, gross. He has been awful in limited minutes this season and I sincerely doubt that he’ll do much better getting rolled out there as the starter in Bishop’s potential absence, so that makes Vasilevskiy an intriguing option if Bishop is out for an extended period of time.
When the season started I was mostly worried Zdeno Chara (1 SOG, -1) had lingering nerve damage after he’d been fighting the issue over the last season or so. Last year he had difficulty holding a stick towards the end of the year, but all signs looked good in the preseason so I ranked him accordingly. Well, the hand is fine, but the knee? Not so much. Chara suffered ligament damage to his knee yesterday while laying a big hit on NHL scoring leader John Tavares (1 A, 4 SOG, +1) in yesterday’s game. He’ll miss 4-6 weeks at which point they’re going to determine whether or not he needs surgery. Wow, that sounds terrible. They have to wait over a month just to see if the knee is bad enough that Chara needs to go under the knife? Let me just go ahead and call this right now, he needs surgery. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s done for the year, but you can’t just drop him until we know for sure, so stash him on IR and hope for the best. In the meantime this is a big blow to the Bruins and fantasy owners alike. Not only does it hurt his owners, but also Chara serves as the lynchpin to the Bs both offensively and defensively. They haven’t been playing well as a team to start the year and this injury will further erode their ability to step up and deliver. Tuukka Rask’s meh play is likely to continue to a degree, or at least continue more than we would have expected this season with Chara out. I want to say that this is going to give guys like Torey Krug (4 SOG, -1), Dennis Seidenberg (1 SOG, +1), and Dougie Hamilton (1 SOG) a boost in value that will come with an uptick in playing time, especially on the powerplay, but I really don’t think that’s the case here. I think the B’s are poorer without Chara, and the ripple effect will hurt more than it will help. You know, Johnny Boychuk (1 SOG, +1) sure seems like a good option right now, so may—oh right, well played Garth Snow. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey last night:
Goalies can be notoriously difficult to rank and project for accurately. I give each starter projections but I might not bother trying to predict what kind of numbers a backup is going to offer unless I have reason to believe that they're going to play enough to be worth owning. Most of the time, backups aren't, but there have been some gems in the understudy group in recent years. Cam Talbot's stellar work behind Henrik Lundqvist last year helped ease the pain of the wounds Jimmy Howard's 2014 campaign left me. Damnit, Howie! At any rate, Chad Johnson filling in for Tuukka Rask showed similar value. For the most part, though, backups are backups and largely worthless without a starter getting injured. Then we have the always wonderful goalie committees. Is there anything worse than goalie by committee? Yes, yes there is, but for the purposes of this post, no, no there is not. The Hurricanes look to provide a buttload of frustration for anyone willing to draft their way into that sad state of affairs again in 2015 with Anton Khudobin set for a bit of a regression and Cam Ward being, well, Cam Ward. On the flip side the duos of Brian Elliot and Jake Allen in St. Louis and Frederik Andersen and stud rookie John Gibson where if either guy is asked to go 60 starts their season would end up bleh, but limit them to around 40 starts a piece and they stay healthy and rested, the numbers stay sexy, and you stay happy with a cheap no. 2 tender. Anyhooze, lets get to the meat o' the matter, Razzball's 2014-2015 Fantasy Hockey Goalie Rankings:
What is it with Russians named Evgeny? Is there some sort of magic in the name? Maybe it’s the Vodka? Either way, Evgeny Kuznetsov (1 A, 2 SOG, even) has arrived and y’all best take notice as the kid has four points in his last two games and now plays on the second line for the Caps alongside Casey Wellman and Troy Brouwer. I know, those names don’t exactly strike fear into the hearts of their opponents but when you consider he just left the fourth line with Tom Wilson and Jay Beagle, it starts to sound a lot better, right? Either way, the initial chemistry Evgeny has with his teammates can’t be denied after back-to-back solid games on his new line. What’s better, he’s getting time on the Caps’ second power play unit and saw time with Alex Ovechkin. The only limit on Kuzentsov is Kuzentsov, and like many young Russians he’s passionate and highly skilled but who knows what that translates to over time. His weakness as defensive liability can cost him TOI at times, but most young offensively minded players suffer there and he’s improving steadily. His playmaking skills, however, are on par with Nicklas Backstrom’s (sans the PEDs, err, allergy meds!) and his wicked fake-slapper, slap-pass to Tom Wilson for a goal a few days ago against the Stars is evidence of that. He's wildly creative with the puck, has soft hands, great vision and is an all around offensive force. He lacks strength, but that's something he can improve on over time. It’s crunch time and there’s no reason to overthink snatching up a guy like Kuznetsov, so go get while the gettin’s good! Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey last night: