In just his second full season with the Rangers 23-year-old power forward Chris Kreider, LW (1 G, 7 SOG, +1) burst out of the gates strong and quickly faded, often looking lost on the ice. His decent culminated with a demotion to the Rangers’ fourth line, a destination that Kreider is none too familiar or comfortable with, and following that he was a healthy scratch. The Rangers claimed it was a neck issue, but it was clear to everyone he was just getting scratched. It was clear that the sophomore was listless on the ice at times, bereft of the passion and drive that had propelled him to early playoff success two years ago and a hot start this season. Kreider hadn’t lost it though; he was suffering through the death of his Grandfather, and admitted that his heart just wasn’t in it during that difficult period. Well, that period is over, and he’s currently riding a three game point streak posting four points (2 G, 2 A) over that span. He enters the all-star break riding high, showing every sign of finishing this season with a bang and breaking out in a big way next year.
Every year Henrik Lundqvist, G (L, 15 SV, 5 GA, .750%) looks sluggish to start the season and every year he finishes as one of the league’s top netminders. Last season there were myriad problems that lead to a mediocre start for both Hank and the Rangers; a nine game road trip to open the season, a new coach and system to adapt to and a training camp plagued by contract issues with various key players. Combine those factors with Hank’s typical modus operandi and it was explainable at least, you could kind of understand how the god of goalies would show chinks in his armor early on. Normally he works those chinks out early on, but so far this season there are some worrisome trends in his game. So far Hank sports a very mediocre 9-7-3/2.70/.905% season line after allowing 11 goals in his past three games. This bad stretch comes after after blanking the Habs last Sunday and a very strong November. If you look at his lines by month you'll see an encouraging trend; he finished October with a line of 5-3-0/3.25/.891% and followed up in November with a much more Hank-like 4-3-3/2.05/.927%, so everything is green, right? Not so fast. Soft goals are a big problem for Hank this year, goals that he would have stopped in year’s past. Last night’s game winner was one of those and there's no real solution to the problem other than Hank stepping up his game and not letting the softies in. They aren’t all his fault, though, as the Rangers’ defense is looking lost more often than not and a few of the tallies from last night were as result of guys getting left on the ice for over two minutes, not clearing the puck when getting the chance (Dom Moore) and errant passes that become turnovers that become goals (Ryan McDonagh). He’s clearly struggling to pick up the puck through screens, too, something he’s noted himself in a recent post game interview. It used to be the only real way to beat Hank was on a deflection, now he's looking a lot more pedestrian. So what’s the deal? Has Hank lost it? I seriously doubt it, but I also seriously doubt a return to the elite status he has enjoyed since entering the league nine years ago. For the first time in his career Hank can’t stand on his head and carry the team like he has in the past and that’s shaken the Rangers, who already look shaken enough as it is. I hate to say it, but for Lundqvist owners this season is going to be a bit of a roller coaster. He’s going to go on some ridiculous streaks and some bleh streaks and in the end he may very well finish with the worst numbers of his career. For a netminder like Lundqvist that means a 2.45 GAA and .910 SV%, so it’s not going to kill you, but that’s just not good enough to justify his ADP. Huh, that seems to be a theme with some goalies this year. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey last night:
I figured that Brian Elliott would eventually tire and leave the window open for Jake Allen to step up and steal the job, but I never imagined that Elliott would get hurt this early in the season. Obviously it’s not because he’s tired, but an injury is an injury and Allen is now the starter while Elliott nurses his LBI back to health. Elliott is currently week-to-week and if you pair that with the dreaded knee injury for a goalie, that’s not a good sign. To make matters worse, the Blues quickly contacted Martin Brodeur for a tryout that I’m almost positive he’ll pass. Even if he does, Marty is 42 and he hasn’t been much more than solid in a few years now, so Allen should remain the starter barring some freak happenings. Grab Marty where you can, but only expect backup minutes at worst and a 50/50 timeshare at best. The St. Louis crease isn’t the only crease that’s looking out of order lately, Tampa’s Ben Bishop, G (W, 16 SV, 3 GA, .842%) is working his way into a similar pickle. Bishop is young and extremely talented, so I’m not super worried about his early heavy workload, but it’s going to worry me more and more as the season goes on. Evgeni Nabakov is clearly not the answer to backup Bishop, and I was hoping Stevie Y would give Marty Brodeur a call to fill the roll but that ship has sailed so Big Ben still stands tall but alone in the Tampa crease. We’ve seen how well putting the pressure of literally being the only goalie on the roster the team can depend on has done to Cory Schneider in New Jersey, I’m getting worried the same will happen with Bishop before long. It’s not all bad news though, at least for Alex Stalock owners! Antti Niemi, G (L, 17 SV, 1 GA, .944%) is still mediocre and did very little to make the case that he’s the undisputed no. 1 in San Jose while Stalock was out recovering from minor knee surgery. Even better news for Stalock owners, he’s skating with the team, says his knee feels great and is once again ready to take this starting job from Niemi. It could be that Stalock was suffering from a bum wheel to start the year and now that it’s taken care of, he could be even better upon returning. Stay tuned. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey this week:
By the end of October it looked as if the opportunities for Alex Stalock to carve out the 40 or so starts I predicted he’d get this season were dwindling fast. Antti Niemi (L, 26 SV, 4 GA, .867%) was rolling strong on five straight starts, it seemed like the deal was sealed and Stalock would have to wait until next year to get his chance. Luckily for us Stalock owners, Niemi has provided ample opportunity once again for Alex to get back in the picture. Last night’s loss marks three in a row and four of his last five for Niemi who now owns a yawnstipating 6-5-1/2.79/.911% season line. Those numbers look like they belong to Ondrej Pavelec, and before this season that would be a grevious insult, but hey even Pavelec is looking better than Niemi this year. I digress, I was never a huge fan of Niemi’s so this doesn’t surprise me one bit. Alex Stalock is the goalie of the future in San Jose and despite some early struggles in limited work (that game against the Sabres haunts me still) I still believe he’s going to get his starts and Niemi may not even finish the season as the Sharks’ starter. During his current losing streak Niemi has coughed up 15 goals and the Sharks have lost four of those five contests. By contrast, Stalock sports a 2-2-1/2.38/.925% line is looking a hell of a lot better than what Niemi has offered up despite the fact that it has been built over seven fewer games. Stalock was supposed to start last night against the Cats but at the last minute the call was made to start Niemi. Bad call, San Jose. Lets get with the program and get Stalock so more starts, eh? If he’s healthy and he performs well in his next few games I’d say Stalock would be well on his way to making this thing a fight again. If that’s the case, he’s worth adding. If you still own him, hold him for now. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey last night:
So for the past week your boy JD has been felled by some seriously ebola level flu and I apologize for the lapse in updates, but damnit I was nearly on my deathbed. Not really, but it sucked like Craig Anderson trying to tend net, so I demand your sympathy and understanding. Since I’m demanding it, I suppose I should offer some sympathy and understanding to Ben Bishop (W, 17 SV, 3 GA, .850%) but my patience is starting to run a bit thin. Yes, the clock struck three on Big Ben again and his numbers continue to slide ever so slowly towards the bleh end of the spectrum. After last night he's sitting at a mediocre 9-1-1 / 2.44 / .910%. That’s not terrible, yet, but it’s slowly getting there and despite the sparkling record Bishop has allowed three goals in six of his last eight starts. The other two games he allowed two goals a pop. That’s not what you expect from your number one goalie and a guy expected to be a top five option in the crease for fantasy owners this year. If there’s a positive spin to this it’s that he hasn’t allowed more than three goals all year, but that’s little solace at the moment for his owners in roto leagues who are watching their ratios get rocked slowly but surely. The Bolts allow just 27.4 shots per game, so this isn’t a defensive problem, it’s a Bishop problem and he needs to solve it soon. I haven’t seen any signs of his surgically repaired wrist being the issue here, so lets just think happy thoughts (serenity now!) and expect that there are better days ahead for the young tender. If nothing else, he has absolutely no risk of losing his starting job with the woeful Evgeni Nabokov backing him up. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey this weekend:
Last season Henrik Lundqvist (L, 21 SV, 6 GA, .778 SV%) had a pretty terrible October finishing the month with a line of 3-5-0, 2.84 GAA, .908 SV%, 22 GA. He rebounded a bit in November but returned to blehsville in December finishing with an even worse line of 4-4-2, 3.08 GAA, .888 SV%, 29 GA. People freaked. Should I trade Lundqvist? Is he hurt? Is he past it? Ahh! Then, from January on he followed that crapfest he called a start to his season with three months of sub 2.00 GAA’s and SV% in the .930s. He finished the season with a very Hankish 33-24-5, 2.36 GAA, .920 SV% on route to a monumental run at the Stanley Cup that ended just short of success. Everything with Hank was fine. Everything with Hank is fine. Yet here we at the start of the 2015 season and again we are faced with another slow start from His Majesty. With it, of course, comes more panic from the masses and really, it’s the same story and erryone should relax, he isn’t this bad and he won’t continue to be. That being said, there is one key difference this year and that’s the Rangers defense. In that it’s not nearly as good as it was last year. Losing possession king Anton Stralman to the Bolts hurts, but what hurts more is his “replacement” Mike Kostka who was directly responsible for two of the four goals in the fourth that rolled the Rangers after the Isles took an early 3-2 third period lead on an unassisted Kyle Okposo goal. Dan Boyle being injured doesn’t help much either, but if losing Boyle does this to your team defensively there are deeper problems that need solving, but I digress. Hank should be fine and no, he won’t keep coughing up six goals a game. Still, his owners should beware. There are cracks and holes showing on the Rangers where few existed last season that may limit his value slightly relative to seasons past. This is why I do not advise using your first or second round pick on a goalie, y’all! Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey last night:
Patience is a virtue, that’s what they always said. Who are they? They don’t matter. What matters is the idea. As I’ve grown and aged like a fine wine I’ve discovered that patience is indeed a virtue. It doesn’t really matter what aspect of life you want to touch on, being patient is going to help you get where you want to go, and get what you want to get. So what do you need to achieve fantasy hockey glory? Say it with me now class, patience! Yes ladies, you need to relax and be patient. Every season some guys start slow. Every season some guys start hot. Every season the guys who started hot but had no business doing so, by and large, slow down or just stop scoring. Every season the guys who started slow but had no business doing so, by and large, start scoring. I’m fielding a lot of questions about whether or not to trade Nathan MacKinnon away for pennies on the dollar. Brock Nelson seems to be the guy everyone is willing to add and they don’t care who they drop to get him and Valeri Nishushkin is actually getting dropped after just two games. Two games, people. Are you kidding? Nelson has no track record, Nishushkin is playing sick and MacKinnon? You want to call what MacKinnon is doing a slow start already? You cray! If you want to throw away your fantasy season before it starts make those knee jerk moves now. If you want to win, sit tight and wait at least a few more games to see how the cookie crumbles. And for the record, no don’t trade MacKinnon. No, don’t drop Nuke for whatever wire fodder had a decent two game start and no, Nelson isn’t going to be the next big thing. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey this weekend:
We’re down to the final week of the season and most leagues have already been decided, but for those of you in leagues who are still fighting it out to the last puck drop, I’ll keep posting my daily roundups to keep you informed. Though I only took over Razzball Hockey halfway through the season I have to say I’ve enjoyed writing every word and I hope that I’ve been able to help shepherd a few of you to success this season. If not, well, I only take credit when you win, so don’t come knocking with all that sadface “I lost!” nonsense! Seriously though, it has been and I hope will continue to be a blast. Now then, for those of you still on the hunt for a title, how can we help? Patrik Hornqvist (2 G, 1 A, 4 SOG, 2 PIM, +3) might be an option! To hell with might, he’s the best option you’ve got this late. Even if it wasn't this late, the way he's been playing over the last two-three weeks has been unbelievable. I didn't mention him because there were other, hotter, better bets to ride to a title but I guess I can't deny it anymore. Horny has posted a whopping 10 points in his last five games with no signs of slowing down. Granted, no signs means squat because this kind of play is way above Hornqvist’s head, but while he’s scoring like there’s no tomorrow, you should add him, because in a few days there’s going to be no tomorrow! At least for fantasy hockey leagues this season, that is. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey this weekend:
Ryan McDonagh has officially broken into the elite ranks of fantasy defenseman this year with 43 points in 77 games all while maintaining his status as one of, if not these best lockdown defenseman in the east, and maybe the league. A lot of good that does his owners now that Alex Burrows leveled McDonagh in the waning seconds of the Rangers’ Tuesday’s 3-1 win over the Canucks. The Rangers brass is playing this one close to the chest and all they’ll say is the injury isn’t serious. That being said, they’re also going to play it safe with their new franchise defenseman and are prepared to hold him out of the lineup for the rest of the regular season to give him a chance to heal and be ready for a cup run. So where does that leave owners who were hoping to get a few more points from the young blue liner? Not up shiz creek like you might think thanks to Alec Martinez (2 A, +1), who keeps finding ways to score and with these two helpers he has a mini-two-game points streak going and five points in his last five. He should be added to any teams still left standing right now. Don’t think so? Take a look at who you have slotted in as your 4th defenseman, is he doing any better over the last month than Martinez? Then add Martinez. I know I did. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey yesterday:
Martin St. Louis (1 A, 2 PIM, +3) was supposed to help continued to struggle for the blue shirts, but managed to tally his third point in nine games as a Ranger. This is not the scoring boost that Rangers GM Glen Sather was hoping for when he moved Ryan Callahan to the Bolts for the veteran scoring monster. Cally, on the other hand, has four points in six games for Tampa. Anton Khudobin (1 GA, 46 SV, W) was put right back in net after taking a 2-1 loss and did not disappoint pushing 46 of 47 shots away for a 3-1 victory. Is there any doubt that Khudobin is the guy for the Canes? The only place there might be doubt is the Canes’ front office, but judging by the two-year deal they inked Khudobin to recently, I’d say that concept is fading fast. Cam Ward had an opportunity to take his starting job back, but he failed to do that like he has doing, well, mostly anything this season, and after this game the starters gig should be his and his alone for the next 12 games. Gustav Nyquist (2 G, 6 SOG, +1) is really the only thing keeping the Wings from tipping completely over and missing the playoffs for the first time in 22 years. He has three goals in his last two games and that gives in 35 points in 43 games since his call up earlier this year. Can Nyquist really be the only thing keeping the Wings afloat, you might be wondering. Well, have a look at the list of guys Babs had to scratch last night: Pavel Datsyuk, Justin Abdelkader, Jonathan Ericsson, Dan Cleary, Tomas Jurco, Darren Helm, Joakim Andersson and Teemu Pulkkinen. Those are the scratches, how about guys on IR? Henrik Zetterberg, Mikael Samuelsson and Stephen Weiss. So, if by some insane happenstance he’s still available in one of your leagues I think you know what to do.