Caps head coach Barry Trotz recently broke up long time duo Nicklas Backstrom (3 SOG, -2) and Alex Ovechkin (7 SOG, -2) sending Backs down to the second line while promoting rookie Andre Burakovsky (1 A, 2 SOG, 2 PIM) to the top unit in hopes it would spark Ovi back to life. The situation might sound desperate if the Caps are moving a rookie to the top line to replace a guy like Backs just to get Ovi going, but it’s really not as bad as it seems. It might be news to some that Ovi isn’t rolling like he normally does to start the season, but his owners are acutely aware of the drought. Through nine games Ovi has just six points, but five of those are goals so the biscuit is still finding its way to the basket at a decent rate and that’s key to Ovi’s value. While that’s not what you hope for from a top five pick to start the season when guys like John Tavares (12 points in 9 GP) and Tyler Seguin (15 points in 9 GP) are lighting it up, you must remain patient. From what I’ve seen it has basically been bad luck that’s keeping him down lately. A post here, a crossbar there, a funky bounce that doesn’t bounce favorably, those are the sorts of happenings that have gotten in Ovi’s way so far; in other words he’s fine, don’t panic. Despite the lack of points there are indicators that he’s doing just fine, so take solace in the fact that he’s still hitting (38) and shooting (38) on par with his career rates. What’s wrong with Alex Ovechkin? In a word, nothing. The goals and points should follow sooner than later. If anything this just shows how incredibly consistent Ovi has been in his career. I mean think about it, he’s been around for how long and this is the first time in his career that he has gone just five freakin’ games without a point. Baller. The points will come, the points will flow and all will be well in Ovi land, worry not. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey last night:
Jimmy Howard (W, 25 SV, 2 GA, .926%) – Howie’s great year continues with another solid start pushing away 25 of 27 shots in a 4-2 victory over the Caps. I hate to root against a guy, but damnit, why is it you only perform well when I don’t own you, Howie? You’re killin’ me, man.
Braden Holtby (L, 18 SV, 4 GA, .818%) – The score and line look at lot worse for Holtby than how he played. That said, giving up three goals in the third is pretty rough. He should be fine in his next start though.
Justin Abdelkader (2 G, 1 A, 3 SOG) – Abs continues to impress scoring two goals in the third period to tie and then give the Wings the lead late in the game. There was a lot of talk about how he’d be good eventually, but many lost faith as he failed to live up to expectations over the last few seasons, but now that he’s slotted in on a line with Pavel Datsyuk (1 G, 1 A, 4 SOG) and Henrik Zetterberg (2 A, 2 SOG, +3) and getting first unit power play time, he’s posted eight points in nine games powered by five goals so far. At this point he’s a must own everywhere. He’s playing top six minutes with world-class talent in most situations, there isn’t much to dislike here.
Gustav Nyquist (1 G, 2 SOG, +1) – I think Nyquist’s breakout last season was really what he’s capable of over the course of a full season. By that, I mean I expect him to net around 55 points and 25 goals this year, but that’s the ceiling.
Evgeny Kuznetsov (1 G, 2 SOG) – After nine games the rookie has just four points and this was his first goal of the season. For all the talk about how baller this kid was going to be headed into this season it’s been fellow rookie Andre Burakovsky () that’s doing the real damage. Kuznetsov is still a blue chip prospect, but his prospects for performing up to expectations this season are quickly slipping away. If he goes on a streak try to sell high while some managers still expect him to blow up.
Pekka Rinne (W, 26 SV, 1 GA, .963%) – I drafted Rinne in a deep league and I was seriously shook about it. As I’ve noted in the past I’m not big on goalies with hip problems, but clearly those problems are a thing of the past for Rinne who after eight games sports a season line of 6-1-1/1.71/.936 so far. That’s elite; he’s elite. I should have never doubted him.
Ben Scrivens (L, 31 SV, 4 GA, .886%) – Come on, did you really expect that four game streak to be the start of something for the Oilers? Have you seen this team out there? They have a ton of talent, no one who knows much about hockey denies that, but they really need to get their act together as a team and that takes time. Scribbles is a better tender than his numbers show so far (4-4-0/3.01/.896) but on the Oil with incredibly suspect defense I wouldn’t own him with your team.
Taylor Hall (1 G, 3 SOG, -1) – Regardless of how good or bad the Oilers look, Hall always looks fantastic and last night was no different. Over his last seven games he has eight points and they should continue to flow from one of the most underrated elite forwards in the game today. If this guy was in Philly, New York, San Jose or Detroit he’d be widely considered one of the most valuable fantasy forwards on earth, but sadly he’s an Oiler, and that limits his value. Consider that for a moment. A guy who keeps a point-per-game pace with relative ease would get a sizeable bump in value if only he played elsewhere. Dude’s a beast.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (1 A, 2 SOG, -1) – The Nuge is looking more bulked up this year and he should still be counted on for 60 or so points. The plus/minus might be a bit rough, though.
Jordan Eberle (1 A, 3 SOG, -1) – Ah yes, the oft-forgotten third member of Edmonton’s top line is actually doing fairly well with seven points in nine games so far. I still think he can score 70ish, but it’s starting to seem like it’ll be Hall with 90+ and Nuge and Eberle in the 60s.
Shea Weber (1 G, 2 SOG, +1) – This tally gives Webs four goals on the season and five points in nine games overall, which is slightly below the pace his owners would hope for, but not unsurprising. You can’t bet against Weber yet, but last year there were a few small signs of decline. First, he took fewer than 230 shots (195) for the first time since 2007 excluding the lockout shortened season where he fired 124 on net in 48 games. Prorate that mark over a full season and he would have finished right around where you’d expect. Second issue, he took fewer shots but scored the most goals he’s scored since 2008 matching his career best mark of 23. Why is that an issue? His shooting percentage, which generally finishes in single digits, ended up at 11.2%, about 3 points higher than his career average. Don’t get me wrong, Weber is still a top 10, elite defenseman that will net you 50 points, but he isn’t going to be forever and we may be seeing the initial signs of his slow decline this year.
Craig Smith (2 G, 5 SOG, +1) – Last season Smith did pretty well to finish with 52 points in 79 games with a plus-16 rating, so it gave many high hopes for another step forward this season. I don’t really think you can expect that, but you could reasonably hope for a repeat of last season for sure. He plays on the Preds’ third line with Matt Cullen (1 A, 1 SOG, +1) and Derek Roy (1 A, 3 SOG, +1) and doesn’t see much time on the power play, so the ceiling is pretty much exactly what he did last year.
Roman Josi (2 A, 5 SOG, +2) – A lot of Josi owners are getting frustrated with a lack of production early on, but y’all just need to relax, because he’s going to get his 40+ points this year. Despite just three points in his first nine games Josi still slots in next to Shea Weber on the Preds’ top pairing, and that was a key to his success last season and will continue to be this year. If he gets bumped off that pairing, then you have reason to worry. Until then, hold tight and wait for more games like this, they should keep coming.