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:
Martin Brodeur signed a one year deal with the St. Louis Blues today. So what can we expect? There’s a few possible scenarios that will play out here. One, the most likely, he comes in as a veteran backup and mentor for Jake Allen and Marty gets a start for every three or four of Allen’s until Brian Elliott returns from injury and takes the reigns in goal again. Two, Allen and Marty split time 50/50. Three, Marty starts over Allen until Elliott gets back and Allen gets sent down to the AHL if Marty is solid. That last one is really unlikely, Allen has already earned his stripes in the AHL and has nothing left to learn there. You can add Marty where you’d like, but consider him a short-term backup and insurance for the Blues and Allen. Anything he gives you is a bonus.
Victor Hedman, D (3 A, +3) – Ah! My Sun and Stars has returned to the ice and immediately set to proving that he is the premiere scoring defenseman in the NHL this season with a triple helping o’ helpers. He should be money for the rest of the season.
Ben Bishop, G (W, 32 SV, 3 GA, .914%) – Ah the disease of threes rears its ugly head again for Bishop, but he pushed away 32 of 35 for the victory so we can forgive it. Fun fact, Bishop is 8-0-0 lifetime against the Rangers.
Ondrej Palat, LW (1 G, 1 A, 2 SOG) – Believe it or not but Palat is probably the least talented forward on the second scoring line trio that has emerged for the Bolts this season. That’s not to say he’s bad, he just plays third fiddle to Tyler Johnson and Nikita Kucherov. He’s on pace for around 55 points and I’d say that’s about right. He’s good for eight to ten points a month and the ceiling is around 60 or 65 if you’re feeling generous. It’s probably more like 55 – 60, though.
Tyler Johnson, C (2 G, 1 A, 5 SOG) – After a quick three game skid Johnson is back on track with five points in his last three games and now sports a season line of 8/18/26 in 25 games played. That’s money. He’s money. I wish I drafted him anywhere and I’m not really sure why he wasn’t on my radar, but here we are. The only knock against him this season is that he isn’t getting top power play minutes so that limits his value to a degree, but he centers the second unit so he does get some time out there.
Nikita Kucherov, RW (1 A, 3 SOG, +3, 2 PIM) – Is there nothing he doesn’t do? Well, yes, yes there is. Still, a helper last night extends his scoring streak to three games. What’s better is he has only been held scoreless four times over his last 18 games dating back to October 24th. Over that span he’s posted 19 points putting him on track for around 70 by season’s end, a number I think he’ll fall short of, but not by much.
Martin St. Louis, RW (1 G, 3 SOG, -1) – The Mighty Mini Scoring Machine should not be doubted, and I’m the one guilty for doubting him. The Rangers are a bit of a mess so far this season but Marty is rolling with 20 points in 24 games after a sluggish start that saw him pot just one goal over his first 11 games. He’s put up nine since then and has 10 overall. At this point I see no reason why he won’t finish the season just shy of a point-per-game, a typical St. Louis season.
Kevin Hayes, RW (1 G, 2 SOG, -1) – Big Ole’ Kevin Hayes is fitting in fairly well on the Rangers’ third line with Carl Hagelin (1 A, 4 SOG, 2 PIM) and Lee Stempniak (1 A, 2 SOG) so he might have some value in the deepest leagues, but otherwise he’s a prospect best left on the wire. He could net 40 points this year, but that’s probably the ceiling. Moving forward he needs to work on his skating and foot speed and take more shots. There’s a lot of development needed here, but it looks like the Rangers are going to give him the opportunity to do it on big ice. He’s worth keeping in mind over the next few years, but mostly forgettable in 2015.
Sergei Bobrovsky, G (W, 24 SV, 1 GA, .960%) – Bob is suffering through playing for an injury ravaged Blue Jackets team that desperately needs guys like Brandon Dubinsky back in the lineup. His season line now sits at a mediocre 6-8-1/2.89/.910% and that’s pretty bleh for the former Vezina winner. The win does snap a five game skid that started shortly after his return from injury, so hopefully that was a combination of rust and not being 100% and he’s returning to form now.
Al Montoya, G (L, 21 SV, 2 GA, .913%) – Word has it the injury to Roberto Luongo isn’t serious and he should return to action soon, but in the meantime it looks like Montoya is going to get the lion’s share of the starts for the Cats. That will go one of two ways; horrible or great, there isn’t going to be much middle ground here. If you’re desperate for some starts go ahead and add Montoya, he can be an effective netminder for short stretches, so it might work out, but don’t expect much. EDIT: wasn’t serious enough to warrant him missing much time at all. He’ll either start tonight or in the next tilt for the Cats. Don’t bother with Montoya.
Aaron Ekblad, D (1 G, 2 SOG, -1) – With all the Filip Forsberg Calder hype poor Aaron Ekblad isn’t getting much attention, but the first overall pick has been stellar both defensively and offensively putting up a season line of 3/6/9 in 22 games played so far. That puts him on pace for a very heady 45 points by season’s end, and given how talented he is I think there’s an outside chance he’ll get there. Most likely he ends up coming in short of that mark though, I figure somewhere in the 35-40 range. Still, that’s great for a rookie defenseman and he remains a no-brainer keeper.
Boone Jenner, C (1 G, 2 SOG, +1) – You know an offense is struggling when Jenner is one of your two goal scorers with Max Calvert (1 G, 1 SOG, +1). Max who? Exactly. Neither is worth owning, I just thought I’d highlight the Jackets’ struggles right now. Even if Sergei Bobrovsky gets back into form sooner than later, the wins are going to be few and far between until the Jackets heal up. If it doesn’t happen fast and the Jackets continue to sink there might be a bit of a fire sale at the trade deadline in Columbus.
Carey Price, G (W, 26 SV, 3 GA, .897%) – Unlike the concerns with Henrik Lundqvist, Price is just fine. This win wasn’t stellar, but most of Carey’s performances are. Stop being so greedy.
Calvin Pickard, G (L, 26 SV, 4 GA, .867%) – Captain Pickard seems to have the confidence of Patty Roy as he started over Reto Berra for the second straight game. That streak is likely over after he coughed up four goals on 30 shots, so expect to see Berra back in there for the Avs’ next tilt.
Max Pacioretty, RW (1 G, 6 SOG, +1) – Yeah, he’s scoring goals. Yeah, that’s what you draft him for. But I’m greedy and I want assists, too. In the early goings it looked like Max might have finally started reading this blog and listening to my advice, but alas, the assists have ceased flowing and his season line is looking as top heavy as ever at 12/8/20 in 26 games played. The plus-11 is nice, though. Who am I kidding? So are the goals.
P.K. Subban, D (1 G, 1 A, 2 SOG) – Subs hasn’t kicked it into high gear yet and he’s still on pace for a 50-point campaign. I think he’ll have a few stellar months where he posts double digit points and finish the year around 60 like we all expected.
Jiri Sekac, LW (1 G, 1 SOG) – I’m still not a huge fan of his, but really only in fantasy world. In reality he’s a solid third line winger that will do well for the Habs. In fantasy world he’s a solid third line winger that isn’t really worth your attention unless you’re in the deepest of leagues. Even then it’s questionable for now; maybe next year.
Tyson Barrie, D (1 G, 1 SOG, +2) – The lede for yesterday’s post was focused on the Avs offense getting going and I left this guy out, but that’s mostly because Barrie hasn’t needed to warm up like a lot of his teammates, he’s been hot all year. A goal last night pushes his season line to 3/16/19 in 25 games played and that puts him on pace for a beastly 62 points by season’s end. Honestly, I think he can get there. It’s a stretch, but we could very well be witnessing Barrie’s ascension to the scoring rearguard elite. On a side note, I picked this guy up off the wire in a deep league when Hedman went down and I still can’t fathom how he ended up there unclaimed. It’s an active league, too. Jackpot!
Danny Briere, C (1 G, 1 SOG) – Oh Danny Boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling. From glen to glen, and down the mountainside, the summer’s gone, and all the flowers dying, tis you, tis you must go into retirement.
Ryan O’Reilly, C (1 G, 4 SOG, +1) – What happened to the yoga, boy-o? It worked last year, get back into that shiz. Downward dog your way to better numbers because damnit, your lack of production is making everyone equal parts mad and sad. Two goals in his last three games and three points total over that span helps, but hopefully it’s just the start. The rest of your team is heating up, join the freakin’ club. All the cool kids are doing it!
Mike Smith, G (W, 25 SV, 2 GA, .926%) – Well stop the presses (do we do that anymore?) and run to the rooftops to let the world know, Mike Smith won a game. After seven straight losses dating back to November 8th he finally beat… the Oilers. Well, that hardly counts.
Viktor Fasth, G (L, 19 SV, 5 GA, .792%) – Fasth knows no such breaking of losing streaks as he tries his best to tend net for the Oil. A brutal, dirty job I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Hey, I know, they should trade for Craig Anderson! Oh man, what a perfect storm of awful that would be.
Mikkel Boedker, LW (1 G, 1 A, 2 SOG) – I still think Boedacious is going to finish the year with solid numbers, 25 goals, 55 points and a bleh plus/minus. His upside is limited by the fact that the Coyotes seem to be completely lost on offense most nights, but he keeps plodding along towards the totals I predicted in the pre-season. I know it can be tough to own him, especially in H2H leagues due to his streakiness, but those in deeper roto leagues would do well to hold on and let the goals pile up. Honestly, are you going to find another 25-goal scorer on the wire?
Oliver Ekman-Larsson, D (1 G, 4 SOG, +2) – OEL has been abysmal so far this season, but the beastly Swedish rearguard will get it going sooner than later. This goal helps. I don’t really own any Coyotes and this is why. Even the best players kind of go there to die a little inside. Hockey in the desert, puh, who the hell thought that would be a good idea? (We’re looking at you, Bettman.)
Martin Erat, LW (1 G, 1 SOG, 2 PIM) – Hey look! The guy the Caps traded Filip Forsberg for. Nice.
Jordan Eberle, RW (1 G, 2 SOG, -2) – When I predicted that Eberle would be a 70-point player this year I did not expect the Oilers to be so completely terrible. After last night’s tally he’s on pace for just 54 points and I have to think he’s going to pick it up, but the plus/minus is going to be awful like it will be for any Oiler.
Frederik Andersen, G (W, 32 SV, 2 GA, .941%) – Yesterday I said that Freddy needed to get back on track fast to make sure John Gibson didn’t get healthy and snatch his job away, and this is exactly the kind of game I was hoping for. It’s easy to forget that Freddy is only in his second year in the NHL and first full season as a starter, so there are going to be ups and downs. His team is solid from top to bottom and he should be fine moving forward. If anything, Gibson’s return from injury should motivate him to play better.
Tuukka Rask, G (L, 25 SV, 3 GA, .893%) – Though Rage Monster seems to basically be back on track, he isn’t posting the microscopic peripherals that you blew your first round pick trying to get. No, those belong to guys like Pekka Rinne and Corey Crawford who were drafted three or four rounds after Rask. Like I said before, Rask won’t live up to his ADP this season. Don’t draft goalies in the first round.
Matt Beleskey, LW (1 G, 1 SOG) – He isn’t going to do much but score goals, but man alive this guy is scoring goals like whoa! Like I said yesterday, stream him while he’s hot and playing on the top line. That’s right now.
Sami Vatanen, D (1 G, 2 SOG, +1) – I wasn’t a huge fan of Sami to start the season but I’ve quickly been converted. I doubt very seriously that he’ll hit the 60-plus points he’s on pace for, but 40-50 seems more than likely at this point barring injury.
Devante Smith-Pelly, RW (1 G, 2 SOG, +1) – DSP isn’t worth owning in most leagues, but if hits is a category and your league is deep, he’s worth a look.
Jakob Silfverberg, RW (1 A, 5 SOG, +1) – I can think of fewer prospects that have let me down more than Silver. He’s shooting the puck, which is good, but he’s rarely finding the back of the net. He should have better success with his skills and the team that he’s on, but his inability to crack the top-six and stay there severely limits his value, which is basically zero at the moment.