For most of the season the New York Islanders rotated what seemed like every one of their young forwards through the open slot on their top line alongside Kyle Okposo and NHL scoring leader John Tavares, C (1 G, 1 A, 3 SOG), but no one stuck. Then out of nowhere Okie’s eyeball broke off and he needed emergency surgery to fix the problem because, hey, everyone needs working eyes and if they didn’t put him under the knife then there was no chance he’d return this season. Well, the news out of Long Island today is good! Okie is traveling to Florida to skate with the team tomorrow morning ahead of their Saturday tilt with the Cats and that means he’s very close to returning to game action. That’s great news for Okie and JT owners, but in Okie’s absence Anders Lee, C (1 G, 3 SOG, +1) and Josh Bailey, RW (1 A, 2 SOG, +2) have played well, but one of them is going to get demoted when Okie returns and I highly doubt it will be Lee.
Why would Lee get demoted? Have you seen him over the last month? Since Okie went down during the All-Star Break Lee has stepped up in a big way and put up 17 points (9 G, 8 A) in 17 games while contributing across the board with hits, penalty minutes and shots on goal a plenty. What’s more, he potted another goal last night, his second in as many games. With four points (3 G, 1 A) over his last five games and the recent addition of that oh-so-valuable time on the power play it’s clear that Isles Head Coach Jack Capuano has nothing but faith in his young stud and you should too. His size, speed and grit are needed on that top line and there’s little reason to think he’ll find himself anywhere but alongside Okie and JT in a few weeks.
My confidence in the potential direction of this shift comes with Josh Bailey’s lack of production, at least compared to Lee. He hasn’t exactly done a poor job with his first line role posting 11 points (5 G, 6 A) in his last 17 games, so he is putting up points at a decent rate, but he doesn’t bring the peripheral goodness that Lee does and that’s the difference maker. That being said, I can’t deny that the difference in point production is a big factor as well. Lee is putting up a point-per-game and the return of Okie doesn’t exactly hurt his chances to continue at that pace moving forward. It looks like Bailey belongs on the second or third line and I’d suspect that’s where he’s headed. If you have the opportunity to package Bailey in a trade before your league’s deadline, I’d do it now. His value will never be higher and it seems like a foregone conclusion that his value will plummet once he’s moved away from the cozy confines of JT’s wing.
The long and short of it is, bet on Lee and bail on Bailey. As for Okie, if he’s on the wire in your league, grab him now. There’s no telling how his eye will affect him when he’s back on the ice, but given there are no mechanical issues like a broken hand or what-have-you, if his vision is 20/20 he should jump right back in and produce. Don’t miss out. Anyway, here’s what else I saw on the world o’ fantasy hockey recently:
Nathan MacKinnon is done for the season and will be out for 6-to-8 weeks with a fractured foot. That ends a pretty mediocre campaign that I’m sure Mac, the Avs and his owners would love to forget. I still think he’s going to rebound next year and this is only going to lower his value further. As a result you’ll find him available in more leagues come next season as he gets dropped to the wire in disgust. Leading up to this injury he had five goals in his last five games, however, and looked to be regaining his rookie season form in a big way. Don’t sleep on him in 2015, y’all!
Dustin Byfuglien is out for 2-to-4 weeks with an upper-body injury that the Jets aren’t giving many details on. Tyler Myers will likely take a bigger role on offense and could see a promotion from the second power play unit up to the first, so if you own Buff and Myers is still out there, make the move and hope Buff is back in two weeks, not four.
Brandon Dubinsky is set to return to the lineup for the Jackets tonight, so get him back in yours to sop up those delicious peripheral stats he loves to provide.
Alex Ovechkin missed last night’s game with a lower-body injury and is currently listed as day-to-day. Ovie is a tank, so expect him back sooner than later.
Karri Ramo, G (W, 34 SV, 3 GA, .919%) – Rambo acquitted himself well once againlast night and held off the Bs for a 4-3 win in the shootout. He pushed away 34 of 37 shots to get there and it seems like he has a slight lead over Jonas Hiller for the 1A slot in their crease for now, but it could change any time.
Tuukka Rask, G (L, 29 SV, 3 GA, .906%) – If you look at Tuukka’s month-to-month stats he flip flops from good to bad each month; October – 2.82/.899, November – 1.90/.935, December – 2.98/.896, January – 1.61/.949, February – 2.45/.916. If that holds true he’s in for a bad month in February, but given how well he’s been playing since January I doubt he’ll totally bomb this month.
Johnny Gaudreau, LW (1 G, 3 SOG) – Johnny Hockey is slowing down in the second half, but that’s what all rookies do. He’s still on pace for a 20-goal, 60 point season and that’s absolutely baller. That’s Nathan MacKinnon baller, though to be fair Gaudreau is 21 and Mac did that shiz at 18. Still, the diminutive winger has a bright future in the NHL and he should be at the top of your keeper lists.
Sean Monahan, C (1 G, 1 SOG, -1) – Here’s another reason why Gaudreau has a bright future in the NHL, and more specifically, with the Calgary Flames. Money potted his second goal in as many games last night and that pushes his total to 23 on the year. His march towards 30 continues, but like I said recently I don’t think he’ll get there, but it’s possible. Don’t let either of these guys fall off your radar, they’re only going to get better.
Jiri Hudler, LW (1 G, 1 A, 5 SOG) – Stop scoring! You’re making me look bad. You’re supposed to fall apart in the second half! Get with the program guy!
Milan Lucic, LW (1 G, 1 SOG, +1) – I know it has been a frustrating year to own Cheech, but you can’t give up on him now. With goals in back-to-back games and three points over that span he’s finding ways to score while continuing to provide solid peripheral stats. If your league doesn’t count hits he becomes much easier to part with, but I still think he’ll have a solid March as the Bs fight for a playoff spot.
Steve Mason, G (W, 28 SV, 1 GA, .966%) – Mase stands tall for the fading Flyers once again pushing away 28 of 29 shots to help down the high octane Blues 3-1 last night. I recently mentioned Mase and said I may have underestimated him and this game does little to change that attitude. That being said, 38 starts is small sample size and I’ll be interested to see if he can a) actually stay healthy enough to start 60-plus games in a season and b) perform this well while starting that many games. Last year he hit 60 starts and his 2.50 goals-against average and .917 save percentage were solidly meh. The only other season he was able to stay healthy for 60 starts was his electric rookie year back in 2008, but it’s kind of been down hill since then. Time will tell.
Brian Elliott, G (L, 28 SV, 2 GA, .933%) – Elliott may have taken the loss in this one but it wasn’t his fault as he pushed away 28 of 30 shots after a bizarre episode this past Sunday that saw him come in to relieve Jake Allen only to get yanked. That’s some solid coaching there, St. Louis! I’m sure that won’t eff with your goalies minds or anything.
Michael Del Zotto, D (1 G, 3 SOG, +3) – MDZ potted his second goal in his last five games and has three points (2 G, 1 A) over that span. He has 12 points (6 G, 6 A) in 17 games since the All-Star break and those numbers have him pretty high up the rankings for fantasy defenseman in the second half. It’s not elite, but it’s damn solid for the back end of your blue line, especially considering he was likely waiting on the wire for a forever home, or still is. If he is and you need supplementary scoring on the cheap he’s absolutely worth picking up.
Wayne Simmonds, RW (1 G, 1 SOG, +1) – Simmonds has already set a new career high in hits (151) and is just one off his career best in blocks (34) but his penalty minutes (50) are way down from last season and his helper total (18) is abysmal. It’s a give and take with the big fella, but if you drafted him for 30 goals and lots of hits, he’s definitely delivering. If you didn’t draft him for goals and hits, maybe consider fantasy baseball? Because baby, you missed the point of owning Simmonds.
Devan Dubnyk, G (W, 24 SV, 1 GA, .960%) – What else is there to say at this point? Doobie is a wall.
Braden Holtby, G (L, 28 SV, 2 GA, .933%) – You can’t fault Holtby for this loss, he came up against Dubnyk and as we’ve all come to know, Doobie don’t lose.
Ben Bishop, G (W, 25 SV, 2 GA, .926%) – Since Bolts Head Coach Jon Cooper talked about getting backup Andrei Vasilevskiy consistent starts on a weekly basis to keep Bish healthy for the playoffs, Bish’s numbers have improved and his bleh games are fewer and further between. Good call, Coop!
David Booth, LW (1 G, 3 SOG) – I don’t know why, but David Booth seems like a perfect fit for the Leafs. That’s not a compliment.
Nikita Kucherov, RW (1 G, 4 SOG, +1) – Dude is rocking a plus-33 rating to go with a season line of 24/31/55 in 66 games. He’s going to get better next year, too. Yeah, you read that right. I’m all about Kooch in 2015.
Jhonas Enroth, G (W, 10 SV, 1.000%, 10 SA) –Enroth stopped all 10 shots he faced but not before Kari Lehtonen, G (11 SV, 3 GA, .786%) coughed up three goals on just 14 shots before getting yanked about halfway through the game. Ugh. The Stars’ goaltending is so awful I think they gave me cancer.
Dan Ellis, G (L, 29 SV, 3 GA, .906%) – In his first of what Florida fans pray is a two game absence for starter Roberto Luongo, Ellis did about as much as you can expect from him and pushed away 29 of 32 shots for the loss. His stint as the Florida starter should be mercifully brief.
Jonathan Huberdeau, C (1 G, 1 SOG, -1) – In the three games since Jaromir Jagr, RW (4 SOG, -1) joined the Cats and, more specifically, Hoob’s line, he’s put up five points (1 G, 4 A). That’s no coincidence and if either guy is on the wire in your league they’re both worth picking up. As the Cats fight for a playoff spot this line is going to get featured heavily and there has been a spark of instant chemistry since the move. Don’t sleep, these are the guys who help you win late in the season.
Jaroslav Halak, G (W, 28 SV, 3 GA, .903%) – Another fairly solid yet wholly unspectacular start for the Halakness Monster as his season line remains settled at a mediocre 34-13-1/2.48/.911 in 48 starts so far this season. The record is beautiful, but that’s a team statistic, his peripherals leave me wanting. Say, you know how puts up seriously sexy peripherals but couldn’t buy a win? Michal Neuvirth! If Neuvi gets a chance between the pipes and shines he could make a run on Halak.
Pekka Rinne, G (L, 22 SV, 4 GA, .846%) – Rinne has been demoted from the God of Goalies to the Court Jester lately and he put up another laughable effort last night coughing up four goals on 26 shots in a 4-3 loss to the Isles. To be fair the Isles seem to have his number this season, but this is after the Rangers beat him for 3 goals in a 4-1 loss and the Wings potted 4 goals on 21 shots in the start before that. The Preds have lost five in a row and Rinne is sliding with them, but he’ll get back on track; he’s too good not to. Expect to see a lot more Carter Hutton down the stretch, too. If the Preds are going to make a cup run they need a healthy and sharp Rinne to anchor the team and he’s been anything but sharp lately.
Mike Smith, G (W, 32 SV, 2 GA, .941%) – Lets all gather round and I’ll tell you about the story of the game that Mike Smith actually won. Oh, it’s a grand tale, one that wil regale you, awe you, and inspire you! But don’t doubt it, oh no! I know it’s hard to believe, but yes, Mike Smith actually did win a game.
Eddie Lack, G (L, 33 SV, 2 GA, .943%) – Lack lost to Mike Smith. The shame will haunt him for the rest of his days. For shame, Eddie Lack. For shame.
Radim Vrbata, RW (1 G, 6 SOG, +1) – If only Vrbata was able to stay on the Sedin line, he’d probably flirt with 35 goals this season. Alas, he didn’t. Also alas, he won’t score that many goals. Despite that he remains a viable secondary scoring option with four points (1 G, 3 A) over his last three games despite skating on Vancouver’s third line. He’s getting time on the top power play, but considering it’s just 19th overall with a 17.8% conversion rate, that’s not really a huge plus. If he goes on a hot streak and gets promoted he could hit 30 goals by the end of the season. Hell, he could get there anyway, but as the games go by it seems less and less likely.
Dustin Tokarski, G (L, 26 SV, 3 GA, .897%) – The new God of Goalies needed a breather, so Toker did his best but fell short coughing up three goals on 29 shots in a 4-3 loss to the Kings last night. Carey Price has been so good this season that Toker has started just 14 games, but considering how close the Habs are to clenching a playoff spot you can expect to see more of him down the stretch. Like every other playoff contender it’s critical that they keep their starter healthy and fresh for the playoffs and that means leaning a bit more on their backups. He could be a viable source of wins, but his peripherals will remain somewhat painful to absorb. That should be expected though. He’s young and he’ll get better as he gets more playing time.
Marian Gaborik, RW (2 G, 4 SOG) – I hope you sold high on this bum back when I told you to.
Jeff Carter, C (1 G, 3 SOG) – Carter extended his goal streak to three games and has four goals over that span. He won’t score 30 goals this year, but he’ll end up with around 65 points and has been the Kings’ most consistent player all season long and I’d buy that for a dollar!
Dmitry Kulikov, D (1 G, 1 A, 1 SOG, +1, 7 PIM) – That’s a killer game, but I still hate you for the Seguin clip, you bastard. No forgiveness. I hold a grudge, what can I say?