Yesterday I wrote at length about the possibility that Henrik Lundqvist was poised to miss significant time with a mysterious neck injury that the Rangers were saying very little about. They didn’t have much to say about it this morning, either, other than the fact that Hank is out for at least a month, perhaps longer. The exact nature of the injury has not been disclosed and honestly, I wouldn’t expect to hear much about it for at least a few more days. All that is known is Hank did not develop a blood clot, suffer nerve damage or, despite the reports of intermittent headaches, he is not suffering from post-concussion syndrome either. This changes everything for the Rangers and Lundqvist fantasy owners. It goes without saying that Cam Talbot is now a must add everywhere as he is now the undisputed starter for the high powered Rangers with the 20-year-old, unfortunately named and wholly unproven MacKenzie Skapski getting recalled from the Hartford Wolfpack of the AHL to serve as Tablot’s backup.
The Leafs are in the midst of their traditional mid-to-end-of-season collapse and it’s a surprise to exactly no one. Oh, you’re surprised? Were you also surprised that the sun came up this morning? Because baby, this is like clockwork for the Leafs. Looking at the team on paper coming into the season you figured they had to have a chance to be better than they were last season, perhaps even avoid the slump they’re in right now. Yeah, not so much, eh? Well, despite their perennial struggles you can’t lose hope yet and jettison James van Riemsdyk, LW (1 G, 8 SOG, +1), Tyler Bozak, C (1 A, 3 SOG, +1) or Phil Kessel, RW (zip, zilch, nada) for pennies on the dollar, because the upside is just much too high there and sooner or later they’re going to rebound and start producing again.
Marred by injuries and a general inability to put the biscuit in the basket the first half of the 2015 season has been a huge disappointment for the Boston Bruins, but all that may be changing with the arrival of their newest weapon David Pastrnak, RW (2 G, 7 SOG, +4). They call him Pasta but he should be called butter because he’s on a roll (R.I.P Stuart Scott, you will be missed.) with five points (4 G, 1 A) in his first eight games on big ice including back-to-back two goal games. Not only that, the Bruins have one all three games that Pasta has suited up and he has a plus-5 rating over that span. It sure seems like the Bs have found their spark, but given the kid is just 18-years-old and he’s about to burn a year of his entry-level contract, fantasy owners and the Boston brass alike aren’t entirely sure what to do with him. Luckily for you, dear readers, I do! Pick him up, now.
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.
I’m not a fan of shootouts. I think they belong in the All Star Skills competition, not playing a critical role in determining who goes home with two points and who goes home with regrets. In a sport where individual achievement is only possible through teamwork we’ve boiled down deciding games to a one-on-one competition that’s antithetical to the very nature of the game. A game where who you play with and the chemistry you have with those players has as much impact on your chances for success as your individual skill does. Why does it have to be this way? Do the fans really prefer shorter games this much? How often do teams really go into double OT anyway? Bah. If thats the worry, lets adopt the AHL's new three-on-three OT rules and watch the fun! Of course this rant is brought on by the longest shoot out in the history of the universe last night between the Cat and Caps. Twenty rounds this circus went. Roberto Luongo, G (W, 23 SV, 1 GA, .958%) stood tall and man was I too harsh on Lu in the preseason; he’s been fantastic all year. He must really love living in Florida. I digress, on the other side of this madness was Braden Holtby, G (L, 28 SV, 1 GA, .966%) who took the loss but not because he played poorly. He held his ground for 19 rounds until he finally cracked and gave one up to Nick Bjugstad (1 SOG) in what was Jugs’ second attempt of the night. Why second attempt? Because the Cats ran out of people to take the bloody shots so they had to give him another go. Ugh. This proves who the better team was last night how, exactly? And of course this wasn’t the only shootout of the night, the Wings and Jackets needed one to decide their game too. Shootouts are so bunk, man. They're about as useful as FoxTrax. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey yesterday: 
Since Corey Crawford went down with his latest injury the Blackhawks have had six games and Scott Darling, G (L, 38 SV, 3 GA, .927%) has started four of them until Antti Raanta, G (W, 23 SV, 1 GA, .960%) won last night in the second game of a back-to-back. In fact, Raanta has only played in six games so far this season to Darling’s seven so it begs the question, has Darling usurped Raanta as Crawdad backup? It sure seems that way. It’s clear that Raanta isn’t a guy you can count on for long streaks of solid play. He’s fine in spot starts and sheltered minutes, but some time in the AHL wouldn’t hurt him at all, and so far it seems that the 6’ 6” Darling has caught the attention of Blackhawk’s Head Coach Joel Quenneville. When asked about the situation Quenneville didn’t offer much insight, but does he ever? He did have this to offer on Darling though "He's played well, every time he's been in the net he's been consistent, looks big (and) handles the puck well. Keep him going." That bodes well for Darling sticking around, but either way it doesn’t seem like we’ll have to wait very long to find out how this situation is going to shake out because Crawdad was a surprise participant in the morning skate for the Hawks this past weekend. He didn’t speculate on when he’ll return to the lineup but the fact that his foot is well enough for him to skate on is a good sign that he’ll be back in the next few weeks at most. If I had to put money down I’d say Darling has earned the backup job and it’s Raanta who will head down to the AHL when he returns. In the meantime, both should be owned in deep leagues. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey this weekend:
Before the season started I cautioned against drafting Semyon Varlamov expecting a repeat of last season and sure enough he sucked up the joint hard to start the year then hit IR with a bum groin. He came back, sucked it up so more and then exited once more with the same injury. Again he returned and again he sucked and yet again he re-injured the same groin and is now down for “a couple weeks.” Yeah, right. Listen, a goalie with a groin injury is a red flag. A goalie that hurts the same groin three times in less than a half a season is more than a red flag, it’s a signal to run for the hills and not look back. For now you stash him on IR, but don’t expect much from him moving forward. In the meantime rookie Calvin Pickard, G (W, 30 SV, 3 GA, .909%) has taken control of the Colorado crease and doesn’t appear to be ready to relinquish command of it anytime soon. With expensive backup Reto Berra struggling Captain Pickard seems to be the go-to guy for Patrick Roy right now. In a recent interview Roy said of Pickard "He deserves to play, he gives us a chance to win every night. We cannot ask for more from him." And how could you? Why would you? The kid has been stellar in the handful of starts he’s been given, win or loss, and seems to be getting stronger as he gets more time. There’s no reason for Pickard to be available in any leagues right now, deep or shallow, so if he’s available in your league add him yesterday. If you do, don’t drop another starter to do it. Remember that while he might out play Berra like whoa until Varly gets back, as soon as he does Pickard is headed back to the AHL unless the Avs cut or trade Berra, who has a one-way deal and cannot be sent to the minors. Regardless, in the meantime if you're thinking of adding Captain Pickard, make it so. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey last night:
I love Ilya Bryzgalov. He's hilarious! Have you heard some of the things that have come out of this guy's mouth? Here's one of my favorite gems “I’m very into the universe, you know like how was created, you know, like, what is it, you know? Solar system is so humongous big, right? But if you see like our solar system and our galaxy on the side, you know, like, we’re so small you can never see it. Our galaxy is like huge, but if you see the big picture our galaxy (is) like a small tiny-like dot in the universe." Oh god, never stop talking Breezy. Seriously. He's expected to practice with the AHL Admirals today and start for them tomorrow. His tryout culminates in this game and if it goes well he will likely be signed. In that event, there’s a lot of speculation about what would happen next. John Gibson has already exceeded the initial six-week timetable set for his return from a groin pull and word has it he won’t be ready to go until the end of December. That leaves at least a few weeks where Frederik Andersen needs more help than Jason LaBarbera can offer, hence Breezy getting the shot. TSN’s Pierre LeBrun speculates that Gibsy is destined to spend the rest of the season in the AHL with Andersen starting and Bryzgalov backing him up. That’s a viable hypothesis, but there are no signs that’s the case just yet. There’s a reason that Breezy can’t stick with a team for very long, so it’s not like the Ducks are looking for a long term solution here. Gibson will need a conditioning stint in the AHL when he gets back and it may be an extended stay, but for the rest of the season? I don’t know that Gibson benefits from spending too much time off big ice and Breezy isn’t known for his consistency. Questions about whether Andersen’s starting job are already being asked and I have to think that he’s safter with Breezy as his backup than Gibson, who showed some serious chops earlier this season before getting hurt. That said, the Ducks are going to use the kid gloves with their prized prospect, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see an Andersen/Bryzgalov duo in the Anaheim crease for the next few months at least. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey last night:
When the Sharks moved Brent Burns to the wing last year hoping he could elevate his offensive game to the next level they were quickly made to realize that Burns isn’t a scoring forward, he’s a scoring defenseman. After a meh season on the wing he was shifted back to the blue line and wouldn’t you know it, he’s been rocking it this season to the tune of 22 points in 29 games so far. The story with Dustin Byfuglien, D (1 G, 6 SOG, 2 PIM) is much the same, but with a few twists. After three 50-plus point seasons as a defenseman the Jets, in desperate need of scoring up front, decided to conduct their own little experiment and shift Buff to the wing. The idea had merit, he’d get top six minutes and he might just make for a bruising power forward with some solid offensive upside. So here we are a third of the way through the 2014-15 season and they’ve already shifted him back to the blue line and according to Jets Coach Paul Maurice he’ll remain there “until further notice.” That’s good news for fantasy owners considering he’s scored goals in each of his last four games and has five points over that span since the transition. He’s also taken 21 shots on goal and played as much as 28 minutes the other night. Expect him to return to the top power play unit and eat up some tasty minutes there, too. The question now isn’t whether you should pick him up if a frustrated owner dropped him already, but where he can gain eligibility at D back, if he ever lost it. In Yahoo leagues he’s been listed with D eligibility since the start of the season, but in ESPN he’s listed as a RW only and according to ESPN’s site it’s going to stay that way until next season. So be aware ESPN owners, you can’t grab him now and wait for his position eligibility to change because it won’t. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey this weekend: 
When you think of the Sabres lately one name generally comes to mind and he isn’t even in the league yet, yes I’m talking about McJesus himself, Connor McDavid. The Sabres are well on their way to winning the McDavid sweepstakes by bungling their way through the 2014-15 season looking like hot garbage from top to bottom, save one bright spot; Zemgus Girgensons. Girgs was the Sabres’ second first round pick in 2012 and he’s paying off pretty quickly for a team that desperately needs someone to do something positive. I mean the fact that the Sabres had two first round picks should say something in-and-of it self, but I digress, the 20 year old Latvian pivot works his butt off out there from whistle to whistle. He’s hard to knock off the puck, isn’t afraid to fight for position in traffic and while he isn’t a traditional dangler, he definitely has solid hands and fore-checks like whoa. He’s now the Sabres top line center and spends time on their top power play unit as well. Given that it’s the Sabres you can’t expect him to score a ton, but he’s posted a respectable season line so far with 8 G, 6 A, +3 (on the Sabres!), 48 SOG and 9 PIM to date. Wait, that doesn’t look as sexy as I made it sound, does it? Well! That’s because his real value comes from his ability to win faceoffs (161), deliver hits (57) and even block shots (24). There’s basically not much this guy doesn’t do and in roto leagues that’s pure gold. In deep category H2H leagues he has value too. ROS I expect him to end up with around 50-55 points, he has tremendous upside over the long term and it’s clear that the Sabres envision him as a team leader moving forward. Those in keeper leagues would do well to grab him and hold on tight. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey last night: