When it comes to the fantasy playoffs, you're looking for two things. One, you want to get as many starts from your players as possible. Getting one or two extra starts from your bottom end guys / streamers goes a long way. The other thing you want is your superstars to carry you. Because I was in California for the last four days, my time for writing was non-existent. The good news is two fold. One, I got to meet Grey! He is the man, plain and simple. Secondly, I'm here to catch up on everything that's happened since last Thursday and it starts with Sidney Crosby. On Friday, Crosby scored two goals and an assist with four shots to push the Penguins past the Devils. He followed that up on Sunday with a hat trick on six shots against the Panthers. Both are huge wins for the Penguins given their current injury situation and it was massive for people in the fantasy playoffs. Here's to hoping you have Crosby because you're ahead of the field right off the bat. He's the number 1 skater at the moment and as of now, I'd rank him first overall going into next season. That can be debated at a later time but there's no denying that Crosby is having one of the best seasons of his illustrious career. Here's what else happened over the last four days:
On the most recent podcast, Reid and I talked about the impending return of Jack Eichel. You can get extensive coverage at the link above but to summarize, everything that we expected showed its face in Tuesday's game. In the 5-4 win in Ottawa on Tuesday, Eichel stuffed the score sheet totaling a goal and an assist, both on the power play, in addition to five shots and two PIM. The "Big 5" for the Sabres all had multiple points in this game and it's not a coincidence. I'll get to the rest of them later but with Eichel returning, all of the top Sabres on the first power play unit get a major boost. Now is the time to either add (Sam Reinhart), buy low (Rasmus Ristolainen, maybe Ryan O'Reilly) or hold tight (Kyle Okposo) to the big guns. This should be a top 5 PP unit going forward and with Eichel returning along with 2 of their best 3 defensemen sooner than later, the depth on this team increased drastically benefiting everybody. Here's what else I saw around the league the last two nights along with some big news for the readers / listeners of the podcast:
In my season preview for the Chicago Blackhawks, I projected that Richard Panik would be the new player that slides into the Blackhawks' top 6. "Panik should get a chance in the top 6 because quite frankly, the Blackhawks don’t have anybody else. He could be a decent streamer but I can’t expect anything more from the 25 year old." And that's me quoting me doing what Grey does! In the long term for the season, I still think that'll be the case, but for now, Panik is must-own. After scoring in the season opener, Panik had an assist on Friday and came back with a hat trick on four shots on Saturday, both against the Predators. He's getting power play time right now and with 5 points in 3 games, Panik should be held for the time being as he rides the hot streak. Here's what else I saw this weekend around the NHL:
I both love and hate the first few weeks of the season. Love, because the excitement of the start of the NHL season makes me feel like I’m twelve again, collecting Pepsi bottle caps with the faces of all my favourite players on the under-side; and memorizing all the stats on my hockey cards – that my step-mom will eventually sell without my permission, in a box for $2 at a garage sale. Yeah, Gretzky rookie card and all. Sigh.
As far as top heavy teams go, the Colorado Avalanche may be at the top of the pack. They have their three young studs at forward leading the way offensively but then a bunch of question marks behind them. Same goes with the defense where they have a few strong players, some aging guys and more question marks. As I've talked about in this space multiple times, Patrick Roy was clueless behind the bench and he abruptly quit his job in the summer. He's been replaced by Jared Bednar who won the AHL championship with the Lake Erie Monsters (Columbus affiliate) last season. Bednar rose through the ranks and was a winning coach every season in the AHL and ECHL making me think the Avs made a fairly big coaching upgrade. The help of a system can only help the players so let's take a look at the players Bednar are working with:
Everyone knew that Shayne Gostisbehere wasn't going to get a point in every game like he was when he was first called up. He's an amazing offensive talent but everyone goes through rough patches, especially 22 year olds. Ghost broke his recent slump in a big way scoring twice on three shots to lead the Flyers to a 4-2 win over the Lightning snapping their nine game winning streak. Shockingly, the Flyers are only two points out of the playoffs right now and they can thank Ghost and the first line for carrying them. The shots are great, the power play points are elite and so are the goals. Where will Gostisbehere rank among defensemen for next season? It's a very tough question to answer at this point. More than likely it's in the top 20 which is outstanding for somebody who was in the AHL to start the season. Here's what else I saw on Monday night around the league:
I've always been a huge Peyton Manning fan and thought he was the G.O.A.T. before last night. Even though he didn't play well, it was great to see him win a second Super Bowl. I'm glad he said was going to have a bunch of beers after the game as well, although he should pick something better than Budweiser. Wait, I'm supposed to talk about hockey here. Whoops... The weekend had less action than normal due to the Super Bowl but there was plenty going on. Kyle Okposo had the best weekend of everyone. On Saturday, he had an assist in the blowout loss but on Sunday, Okposo went off with a hat trick, assist and eight shots in the 8-1 massacre of the Oilers. He now has a good chance of setting a career high in points, penalty minutes and power play points which is outstanding. At 27 years old, Okposo is about to enter his prime and as long as he stays healthy, he should be a 60-70 point player for the next couple years. Here's what else I saw around the league this weekend:
In my preseason defenseman rankings here
, I included a detailed breakdown on why I liked John Klingberg
so much for this season. Almost everything I said has come to fruition. Klingberg is definitely a top 10 defenseman next year and is going forward this year, the Stars power play is amazing, he's well on his way to double last year's 12 power play points (he has 10 already) and with 20 points in 18 games, he's well on his way to getting 60 points. He's also exactly at two shots per game so there's no limit to how good Klingberg can finish this season. On Saturday night, Klingberg was involved in all 3 Stars goals, assisting on both goals in regulation before scoring the winner in overtime. He's the #1 defenseman so far this season based on ESPN's player rater, which isn't perfect by any means, but it illustrates just how good he's been. I'd say the number 10 overall player and 5th best skater is even better than what I thought his best case scenario was. I hope you drafted him on some teams because you won't be able to acquire him now.
Here's what I saw in the games this weekend:
The first quarter of the season is in the books. We’ve seen the West dominate the East. Tampa Bay was looking real good until Steven Stamkos broke his leg. The Pacific Division looks like it’s going to be a race to the end of the season. Please, blog, may I have some more?
The Buffalo Sabres shuffled their way to the cellar of the Northeast Division in 2013. It’s not that bad of a place to be given that the other four teams in their division all made the playoffs. Please, blog, may I have some more?