A week ago, I said this about Steve Mason: "Michal Neuvirth is out for over a month so it’s going to be Mason’s show. Perhaps the extra starts will help him get into a flow but he’s certainly in the 'desperate for starts' category for now." After Tuesday's big game, it's been three strong starts out of four. Mason made 38 saves in the 3-1 win against the Panthers and if not for a horrible Matt Read turnover with less than two minutes left, he would have been a good bet for a shutout. Since Neuvirth went down, Mason has saved 107 of 115 shots which is more than solid. I picked up Mason for this start in multiple leagues and for now, I'd definitely grab him in 12'ers. He's less than 20% owned at the time of this writing so odds are he's available in your league. It may not be all peaches and cream but the volume alone has its value and the Flyers have played much better in their last five games. Here's what else I saw on the short Tuesday slate:
During last season, it looked like Eric Staal's career was on a steep decline. While he's still not close to the player he was in his prime, the 39 point season he had in 83 games in 2015-16 looks to be a thing of the past. Staal moved to Minnesota this offseason on a three year deal to center the first line and it's no surprise that Bruce Boudreau has helped revitalize his career. On Thursday night, Staal led the way for the Wild scoring a goal and two assists with six shots on goal being +3 in the Wild's 4-2 road win over the Penguins. That boosts Staal's totals to 5 goals and 6 assists in 12 games with almost 3 shots per game. He's shown an amazing ability to stay healthy throughout his career leading me to believe he has a pretty good chance to reach 60 points again. As the frequent readers know, I'm a big fan of the Wild's chances of success, at least from a regular season standpoint, and Staal is a big factor in that. For now, Staal should be considered a borderline top 100 player who should remain a clear hold for the entire season; I would not try to sell high on him. Let's take a look at what happened around the league the last two nights:
It hasn't even been two weeks since the regular season started and the hat tricks are already piling up! On Saturday, we had our most recent hat trick in Calgary as new Blue David Perron scored a hat trick on six shots and added an assist in the 6-4 win for St. Louis. Ken Hitchcock shuffled the lines before the game and the biggest beneficiary was Perron getting to play with Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz. Obviously it worked out better than anyone could have imagined. Perron was horrible to start last season in Pittsburgh but took off in Anaheim so there is fantasy potential here. For now, if I had room, I would grab Perron just to be able to stream him on Tuesday to see what happens. The Blues play the Flames again who are a complete dumpster fire defensively at the moment so it's an excellent spot for Perron to produce and there's a chance he turns into a hold. Let's take a look at what else happened around the NHL this weekend:
Everyone who reads this space knows my love for Brent Burns. His beard brings about a magisterial power that guides him on the ice. The Sharks played on Monday and Tuesday to open the week and their all-world defenseman delivered. In Monday's loss to the Rangers, Burns scored two goals and an assist with seven shots. He followed it up with 2 assists and three shots against the Islanders putting him in the early league lead for points. Burns and Erik Karlsson are in a class of their own right now among defensemen and should battle each other season for top dog status on the blue line. Here's what else I've seen around the league the last two nights:
Even by his lofty standards, Alex Ovechkin had quite the weekend. He went into the weekend with 497 career goals and managed to score two goals in both games he played to get 501. On Saturday, he scored the opening goal and then a coast to coast overtime winner to beat the Rangers 4-3 on his fifth shot of the game. On Sunday, he scored number 500 from his patented spot by the left hashmark and added 501 late to put the Capitals up 7-1. Here are the players who got to 500 goals faster than Ovechkin: Gretzky, Lemieux, Bossy, Hull. That's it. And those guys did it in an era where the game was wide open, not the dead era Ovechkin plays in now. I've said it before and people didn't agree in the comments but I still believe it; Ovechkin is the greatest goal scorer in NHL history. Here's to hoping he sticks around because he has a decent shot to break Gretzky's record which would be incredible given the low goal scoring in this era plus he missed time for two lockouts. Here's what else happened around the league this weekend:
Dustin Byfuglien started at forward, shifted to defense and now it looks like he's back at forward for the foreseeable future again. Leafs sophomore defenseman Jake Gardiner (1 G, 1 A, 2 SOG, even) has taken the opposite path, having shifted from wing to defense, but lets hope the comparison stops there and the back and forth that the Jets are forcing on Buff doesn’t end up happening to Gardiner. Regardless of what might happen, it was a good call to shift Gardiner because before the move he was a middle-tier forward at best, but on the blue line he’s got some serious offensive upside. What’s that sound I hear? The ring rang o’ the cash register, because this kid’s going to be money for fantasy owners very soon. Of course the big question is how quickly can he adapt to the new position at the NHL level? The answer is quickly! Even better, he already has! It helps that he was a good two-way forward to start, so he already had solid defensive chops or this experiment would likely have never taken place this late in a guy’s career, even though his NHL career has basically just started. But I digress, Gardiner is adapting quite well to his new role as evidenced by a solid rookie campaign back in 2011-12 when he put up 30 points (7 G, 23 A, -2) in 80 games. So far this season he has 16 points in 49 games and sits even with plus/minus. Not bad at all! When you project out over 80 games he’s looking at 26 points powered by seven goals, which is actually slightly lower than what he put up as a rookie, though I think he’ll have a minor surge sometime in the second half that gets his points total over his rookie season benchmark. The bottom line is this kid is good and getting better and he could be a top-four defenseman as early as next season, so if you are looking to plan ahead for your keeper league consider keeping Jake the Snake in your plans. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey last night:
When the Ducks dealt Bobby Ryan to the Senators everyone wondered just what they were getting back in Jakob Silfverberg (1 G, 3 SOG, +1), the key player in the deal for the Ducks. Well, if last night’s return to action after missing 24 games with a broken hand is any indication, they might have something special. Jacke (swedish nickname for Jakob, just an FYI) scored a goal and picked up right where he left off back in October when he was matching Ryan point for point through most of the first month of the season. He wasn’t keeping that beautifully OCD parity with his goals and assists that Bobby likes to maintain, but despite missing those 24 games he’s on pace for as many goals. I guess he figures he needs to score a goal for every game he misses? What a work ethic on this kid! So what can he do for the rest of the year? It remains to be seen whether or not he pans out into a top-six forward or not, but he’s absolutely worth a flier in most leagues because the boy loves to score some goals and we love guys who love scoring goals. Jacke is mature for his age, strong, smart and a great skater with a solid set of technical skills. He has a nose for the net, as I’ve mentioned, but his shot lacks a bit of accuracy at this point in his young career. Still, he’s an immensely talented young player and worth a flier in most leagues. That’s the second time I’ve said so in this paragraph alone, so go get him! Anyway, here’s what else I saw in fantasy hockey last night:
Normally I focus on one player that stands out to me as I write these rundowns, but tonight I have to switch it up because the Edmonton Oilers have come alive! Semyon Varlamov stayed in the entire game taking an 8-2 pounding from the league’s youngest team. It's pretty ironic that back in 1995 when Avs Head Coach Patrick Roy was left in for all 9 goals scored effectively ending his career with the Habs (and he nearly retired completely) and now he's gone and done the same thing to Varlamov, classy. I never liked Roy. Anyway, here’s the rundown for the Oil:
Taylor Hall (3 G, 1 A, 7 SOG, + 1) is elite and should be the guy that leads this team back to greatness. He’s got all the skills and he put them all on display tonight.
Jordan Eberle (1 G, 1 A, 2 SOG, even) is the other half of the core of this offensive unit that could be one of the best in the league in the second half.
David Perron (1 G, 1 A, 4 SOG, +2) is having a career year and after not living up to expectations for years seems to have found a home in the Great White North.
Ales Hemsky (1 G, 1 A, 1 SOG, +1) is showing signs of life as well. He’s one of my second-half sleepers.
Mark Acrobello (1 G, 1 A, 5 SOG, +1) remains a risky add at best. He’s tiny and inconsistent, but could live well off the table scraps of others if the Oil take off like I think they can.
Sam Ganger (1 G, 2 SOG, even) should take this opportunity to step up and be a leader for this young bunch. He was once a highly touted prospect himself.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (1 A, 2 SOG, +1) chipped in an assist, but should be right in the middle of all the scoring sooner than later. What would a mention of the Oilers’ potential be without the Nudge?!
Nail Yakupov (1 SOG, -1) continues to be a huge bust and what a tickertease for his owners. I never buy in early on young Russians because so few of them pan out and Yakupov seems to be the same. On a team flush with young talent this kid is playing an embarassing season of hockey with a -17 rating and just 9 points in 28 games played so far. Nail, I think the KHL is calling.
After a terrible start to the season it seems like this young team is getting its legs and finding their identity as a team. They’ve won four of their last five games and with performances like this there’s a possibility this team might, may be able to ull itself out of the basement and fight for a playoff spot. After adding Breezy to upgrade their goalie situation and a favorable schedule going up to the Olympic break facing the likes of the Flames, Jets, Blue Jackets, Hurricanes and Predators, things are looking up for the Edmonton faithful. Is the horrible start a thing of the past? Maybe, but you can’t deny tonight’s results, and this didn’t come against a bad team with lackluster goaltending either. Don’t miss out on this potential buffet o’ fantasy black gold, grab some Oil while you can get ‘em cheap! Anyway, here’s what else I saw in fantasy hockey recently:
The Los Angeles Kings held a 4-0 lead after the first period and thought they were on cruise control at home against the Phoenix Coyotes. Dwight King scored twice in the opening period and so did Anze Kopitar and Jordan Nolan. Please, blog, may I have some more?
Despite the best efforts of Jakub Voracek, Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds, Kimmo Timmonen and Ilya Bryzgalov, things certainly didn’t turn out to be Always Sunny in Philadelphia when it came to the 2013 Flyers. Please, blog, may I have some more?