One of my favorite late round gambles on the blue line this season was Erik Gustafsson. Gustafsson played 35 games last season and has 16 points and two shots per game. That doesn't sound great, but that was with zero power play time and limited minutes. Keith and Seabrook were falling off a cliff giving Gustafsson prime opportunity. He took advantage of it and then some. Gustafsson dished three assists on Monday night while putting a shot on goal and adding 4 PIM. That brings Gustafsson up to a whopping 17+42 with 34 PIM and almost exactly two shots per game. That's with 18 STP, a number which could be higher if he played on PP1 all year. So what do we make of Gustafsson for next season? Well, it's early to say. I think these numbers are mostly sustainable as long as Chicago doesn't add a PP specialist in the offseason. I don't expect them to with the young guys they have coming, especially Jokiharju, but there's always a chance. Gustafsson looks like he'll be a solid #3 next season, possibly a bottom end #2. The goals will probably come down a bit, but 40+ assists should be a near lock with Chicago's style and strong PP, and he's average in PIM and shot rate. If he's going to be better, it's because he takes a few more shots. Let's take a look at what else happened on Monday night:
Ben Bishop didn’t give up a goal for three straight games and the first period in Thursday’s game. Then, something sadly familiar happened: he was injured. Bishop left Thursday’s game against the Wild with Anton Khudobin playing in relief. Please, blog, may I have some more?
We are at the point in the season where it's more important to lead my posts off with the things that have the biggest impact going forward and not the best performances. Robin Lehner is currently day-to-day with what Barry Trotz called an upper-body injury. When asked if it was a concussion, Trotz wouldn't give an answer. Best wishes to Lehner to a speedy recovery no matter what the issue is, but he does have concussion history. Thomas Greiss started on Thursday and made 35 saves on 37 shots in the 4-2 win over the Senators. I wouldn't expect anything else against the Senators. I have been saying Greiss is must-own for a few months now, but for some reason he's still only 27% owned! If Lehner does miss time, Greiss has a legitimate chance to not only be a #1 goalie the rest of the way, but a top 5 goalie overall. Pick him up immediately if he's still available in your league. Let's take a look at what else happened over the last two days:
Three years ago, Ben Bishop was the #1 player in fantasy hockey. The following year, he struggled in Tampa, then they moved him to Dallas. Last season, Bishop was solid, but he's been at his best this season. Bishop posted a shutout on Tuesday, stopping all 28 shots he faced in the 1-0 win over the Rangers. Injuries have hurt his volume, but Bishop is approaching a 2.20/.930 stat line. That is pushing towards being the #1 goalie in the league again. He won't end up there because of the lack of starts, but with the Stars battling for the playoffs, Bishop has the ability to win people fantasy titles this season. The Stars play 14 games in the fantasy playoffs (more details on their schedule here) which is the most of anyone in the league. Look for Bishop to be a massive difference maker down the stretch. Let's take a look at what else happened over the last two nights:
Well if I had to guess who would have the second four goal game of the season, I'm not sure Brad Richardson would have been in the first 500 guesses. Richardson single-handedly carried the Coyotes to victory on Thursday with those four goals on six shots, adding two PIM with a +4 rating. Richardson has 16 goals in 48 games now, a career high in his 14th season. For those of you in deep leagues, I would grab Richardson for the faceoff boost too. In standard leagues, I'm probably passing still despite playing at a 27 goal pace. Everything about it screams unsustainable, but we have to give props to him burying four in one game. Let's take a look at what else happened over the last two nights:
It feels like forever ago that Tomas Hertl took the league by storm as a rookie. He's shown signs of promise since, but never really put it together. Until. Hertl had a hat trick on Tuesday to lead the Sharks over the Penguins. That brings him up to 19+22 in 43 games, both numbers rapidly approaching career highs in mid-January. He is providing no penalty minutes and a below average shot rate which caps his long term ceiling, but he looks to be a guy who is a fringe top 100 player for the next few seasons. I would say if I had to say where I rank him next year, my guess is just outside the top 100 just because the downside is much higher for a guy whose sole value is coming from points and not the side categories. Let's take a look at what else happened on Tuesday night:
Cory Schneider has been atrocious all season and Keith Kinkaid has had a brutal December. Enter Mackenzie Blackwood into the crease for the Devils, and the former second round pick has immediately caught fire. Please, blog, may I have some more?
It was quite the weekend for last season's Calder Trophy winner. Mathew Barzal entered Friday's game against the Senators with five goals on the season, and he matched that in two games. Barzal scored two goals and an assist against the Senators before scoring a hat trick against the Maple Leafs on Saturday. That brings Barzal up to 10+25 in 37 games with solid PIM and an improved shot rate. He's still only 21 years old so clearly the best is to come. For the rest of this season, I think he's just inside the top 50 now that his shot rate isn't far from average. If he can eventually get that up towards three a game, it's game over. Barzal has top 20 player upside down the line; hopefully the Isles get some more talent around him. Let's take a look at what else happened over the weekend:
To say the season for Philadelphia as been a mess is an understatement. First they fire Hextall as GM, then the mess last week of Hakstol being fired as coach, only to still be the coach for a couple days as new GM Chuck Fletcher said no decision has been made, only for Hakstol to be fired anyways. They were in last place in the Eastern Conference on Monday when Fletcher decided to recall Carter Hart. The 20 year old is arguably the best goaltending prospect in the league, and he received his first NHL start on Tuesday. Hart saved 20 of 22 shots against the Red Wings getting his first career win by a score of 3-2. Look, I'm not saying Hart is a future superstar. Goaltending is extremely unpredictable and it seems like Philadelphia has been cursed in net for a while. However, he has as good of a chance as any young goaltender to be a starter for years to come. For that alone, he's worth grabbing in all formats, especially dynasties. Who knows how long that Fletcher keeps Hart on the big squad, but it seems like he should be up going forward. Either he plays so well they have to roll Hart, or they fall out of it completely and want to get him more playing time. There's no guarantee it's good now either, but I doubt another goalie with more upside will show up on the waiver wire later on in the season. Let's take a look at what else happened over the last two nights:
It wasn't that long ago that people were talking about a Stanley Cup hangover for the Capitals. Now, the defending champs have won 10 out of 12 on the backs of their captain, Alex Ovechkin. Ovechkin recorded the 21st hat trick of his career on Tuesday extending his league lead in goals. He now has 25 goals and 14 assists in only 30 games this season to go along with 116 shots. That means he's below four shots per game, a rarity for The Great Eight, but still an elite rate. Sure, his shooting percentage is going to drop a bit, but there's no reason at all to expect a regression. I've seen a few articles on other sites that say you should sell high on Ovechkin, and I'd have to disagree. He gets drafted in the first round for his incredibly high floor, and nothing has changed to reduce that floor. Let the good times roll and enjoy what should be his eighth 50 goal season of his career. Let's take a look at what else happened over the last two nights: