On Thursday, for the third time this season, Zach Parise scored his third hat trick of the season, adding an assist and six shots in the 6-2 win over the Flames. While he's a step behind his usual pace, 22+25 in 64 games is nothing to sneeze at, especially with elite shots. However, I'll probably be staying away from him next year given where I suspect his ADP will be. He plays a heavy game, he turns 32 in the summer and is starting to miss chunks of the season more regularly. That's not to say I don't like his game but his days of a top 50 player, for me, are over. Here's what I saw around the league the last two nights:
The story of the weekend around the league was the goaltending performances. There were quite a few duds and a bunch of outstanding starts, including 3 shutouts Friday, 4 shutouts Saturday and one more on Sunday. The best of the bunch was a 38 save shutout by Fredrik Andersen in the 4-0 win against the Bruins on Friday. It's rare for the Ducks to be outshot but they buried their chances and were continually bailed out by Andersen. We all know that Andersen is very good at this point so the most telling thing was that in their next game, John Gibson received the start despite Andersen coming off a shutout. Bruce Boudreau is giving both of his goalies plenty of action and seemingly has a set schedule so you have to pay attention every day and start whoever gets the nod. Here's what else I saw around the league this weekend, starting with Friday's games:
The trade deadline looms, leaving some things uncertain, but for the most part we are getting to the part of the season where we know what we know what we know: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. Sometimes it’s hard to admit that your top ranked goalie just has not come out of his funk (Pekka Rinne, anyone?); or that the offensive juggernaut your goalie plays for just can’t buy a goal (Hello, Ben Bishop!). There are still surprises to watch out for, especially for those in keeper leagues, so keep an eye on the middle tiers if you’re looking to upgrade your goaltending situation. The top tier are likely untouchable; and for other reasons entirely, so are the bottom tier.
Welcome to Assume the Position, a new weekly feature that will focus on one specific player position each week. On a personal note, I love a good, deep league, the kind in which it's actually helpful to know who the backup goalie is in Buffalo. We'll be wading deep into the player pool on most weeks, so dynasty and deep redraft league owners, take note. We’ll start things off with a look at the goaltenders, breaking them up into four tiers, with comments on each. Below, goalies denoted in parentheses are the clear backup, while teammates that are hyphenated play in a more balanced timeshare. Rating goalies by the numbers alone is tricky business. We’ll revisit the chart throughout the season and hopefully give you a leg (pad?) up on the competition that goes beyond the numbers.
Normally when Alex Ovechkin is involved in a play and another player gets hurt, it’s because Ovie hurt him but this time Ovie wasn’t at fault when Kevin Shattenkirk tried to put hit on Ovie, failed, and crumpled to the ice unable to get up under his own power. It was a fluke, a freaky accident that has apparently ended the regular season for the Norris Trophy candidate and he’ll miss around six-to-eight weeks after undergoing abdominal surgery in Philadelphia last week. The Blues peg him as week-to-week but Mark Letestu and Brandon Dubinsky have both undergone the same procedure for the same problem, with the same physician, this season, and the took the full two months for either skater to return to action. Given that the final day of the regular season is April 11th, just two months from tomorrow, it’s safe to assume that Shattenkirk could be back in the playoffs for the Blues, but fantasy owners won’t be as lucky. So what do you do with a guy like Shats when the Blues list him as week-to-week and the doctors say two months? Honestly, I’d listen to history and the doctors. Unless Shats is super human, and despite his play this season, he isn’t, there’s no way he gets back in anything less than six weeks. After that, he’ll have to knock off some rust for a few games, so that takes another week. That means he could be back to form by the final week of the regular season. That’s the most optimistic scenario for Shats, and the Blues have no reason to push him back into action if it means he could reinjure himself and miss the playoffs, too. The Blues don’t care about your fantasy team, though they definitely should. At any rate, stash him if you have an open IR slot but if you get log jammed at IR because you have one of the sixty guys that suffered injuries over the last few weeks, it’s probably safe to jettison Shats to the wire to make room. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey recently:
The Arizona Coyotoes did a strange thing yesterday when they traded their best goalie, Devan Dubnyk, to the Wild for a third round pick. On the surface this might sound like a fairly yawnstipating deal. The Wild are getting killed in goal this season and it’s one of the few parts that don’t work for them, but adding a guy who has a career GAA of 2.88 might seem like the wrong direction to take to fix those woes, but if you take a deeper dive into his numbers you’ll find a goalie who has been burned by playing on some of the worst possession teams in the league for his entire career, and this season is no different. With Niklas Backstrom clearly past it and Darcy Kuemper both injured and clearly not ready to handle a starter’s workload, Dubs will get every opportunity to win the starting job right now and that means if you need help in the crease, he’s is definitely worth adding.
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.
Jimmy Howard, G (2 SV, 1 GA, 3 SA, .667%) has the worst luck. Just hours after he was named to the 2015 All-Star Game in a rebound season he was caught out of position, slid awkwardly against the far post to try to stop a wrap around chance and suffered a slight groin tear in the process. He coughed up the goal, too. After an MRI revealed the slight tear the initial estimates are that he’ll be out for at least a week now that he’s on IR, and up to a month or longer depending on the severity of the injury. We won’t know for sure how bad it is until Howie undergoes an ultrasound for a more accurate assessment, but whether he’s out of a week or a month, you have to add Petr Mrazek, G (L, 12 SV, 2 GA, 14 SA, .857%) everywhere.
Johan Franzen can’t go very long without getting hurt and he kept the streak alive last night after hitting the IR with what the Wings are calling an “upper-body issue.” An issue? Like he has emotional baggage from his childhood issue? It’s an injury, call it what it is. Does calling it an “issue” make it seem less severe? Even if it did, why bother? Franzen’s 22 points in 33 games aren’t exactly bringing the house down, eh? Anyway, the point of this anti-Franzen rant is that his absence frees up an opportunity for AHL goals leader Teemu Pulkkinen and his cannon of a shot to get a chance on big ice and it will be exciting to see what he can do.
If you are among the many owners who benched Semyon Varlamov, G (W, 54 SV, 0 GA, 1.000%, SHO) and David Backes, C (4 G, 6 SOG, +2) take some solace in the fact that it was the right call. It might sting, but don’t second-guess yourself here. Before either guy found some semblance of their 2014 selves on Wednesday night they were hot garbage with a side of crusty old gym socks so there was no reason to put either of them in your lineups. Generally the rule of thumb is to always, always start your big names. You drafted them, you can’t trade them and if there’s nothing better on the wire, you just slot them in and live or die with your decisions. But both Varly and Backes have been so bad this year that you almost had no choice but to bench them. With performances this good it begs the question whether or not either of them has found their stride for a big second half, but I’m sorry to say that neither is poised for a big run and neither of them has earned the right to be regularly inserted into your lineups moving forward, either.