When the season started no one expected much from Thomas Vanek, RW (1 G, 1 A, 3 SOG) after he crash-landed to end his 2013 season with the Habs. It was so bad by the end that the Habs were giving Vanek fourth line minutes or just flat out benching him during the Eastern Conference Finals, so if you expected a move to Minnesota to instantly fixed what ailed him, you were cray cray. Shockingly, the move did little to help matters but come to find out he was having some serious off-ice troubles that were at the heart of his sudden departure from the NHL’s goal scoring elite. Well, that nonsense has been cleaned up, he's been rocking it for almost two months and now Charlie Coyle, C (1 G, 1 SOG, +2) is joining the party.
At this point in the fantasy season the head-to-head playoffs are just weeks away and there are little to no options to help your struggling team out right now. The trade deadline has likely passed you by and the wire was long ago picked clean, or was it? There are always late season additions that can help if you’re quick enough to the oh-so-thin late season free agent pool and sometimes that requires you let go of old biases and wounds and give a guy that may have burned you earlier in the year another chance. Enter Mikael Granlund who has 15 points (3 G, 12 A) in his last 19 games centering the streaking Wild’s top line and is definitely worth picking up in all formats.
Last night the unthinkable happened, Ben Bishop (5 SV, 1 GA, .800%) left the game late in the first period with what the Bolts say is a lower body injury. They call it an LBI, I call it a heart attack because that’s what I’m having watching Big Ben topple towards a possible stint on the injured list. Word has it he has to be re-evaluated before they can give a timetable for his return so they’ve called up their top prospect Andrei Vasilevskiy to help tend net with the woeful Evgeni Nabokov G (L, 18 SV, 3 GA, .857%) in the meantime. Proving he isn't the guy to carry the load in Bishop's absense, Nabby came in to replace Bishop and promptly gave up three goals on just 21 shots over two periods last night, gross. He has been awful in limited minutes this season and I sincerely doubt that he’ll do much better getting rolled out there as the starter in Bishop’s potential absence, so that makes Vasilevskiy an intriguing option if Bishop is out for an extended period of time.
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:
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:
Chicago anchored itself to a 4-1 lead after the first period and never looked back in a 5-3 win over Minnesota to pick up its 20th win of the season. Bryan Bickell scored twice for Chicago and Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa each lit the lamp in the win. Please, blog, may I have some more?
It’s almost that time of year again, the kids are off to school, the coffee is flowing and the fantasy hockey drafts are about to be in full swing. Whether the season starts on October 11th or December 11th, fantasy hockey drafts roll on… the delay justs gives fantasy owners more time to tweak, trade and trash talk with other GMs until the season finally kicks off. Please, blog, may I have some more?
In case you didn’t know, Scott Gomez is still playing professional hockey. Shocking as that may be, the real shocker is that he’s still just 32 years old (and in case you were wondering, no he’s not from the Dominican, the age is legit.) I just find it hard to believe that a guy who averaged 71 Points a season from 2004-2008 could be reduced to this. Please, blog, may I have some more?
For those of you watched the All Star “fantasy” draft I commend you. Nothing like 40 incredibly awkward handshake-hugs between a bunch of guys who try and kill each other every night. Please, blog, may I have some more?