Jaroslav Halak is looking for more consistency this season and he's a pretty good bet in pools to do so, especially since you won't have to sacrifice an early pick to get him. He's stronger, has trimmed 2.5% body fat and has a deeper and healthier team in front of him. But a hidden key to his success this season might just be that the Blues moved Corey Hirsch from part-time to full-time as goalie coach, which should help keep Halak on top of his mental game.
Bruce Boudreau says Mike Knuble may still be the RW for the Alex Ovechkin line, but the coach is anxious to see what Troy Brouwer can do there. It looks like Marcus Johansson will continue to get looks as the centre there too, which means he goes from a potential in-season addition to a guy you're going to want to consider in the later rounds of the draft. We saw the youngster centre Ovechkin a bit last season and Boudreau has shown in the past he wants alternatives for spreading Ovechkin and Backstrom onto different lines. As long as Johansson is at least the L2 C with Semin on his wing, his value definitely rises this year compared with last. He's developing into a really strong two-way guy and we haven't even come close to seeing his potential.
Also from that article: PP practice included Ovechkin, Backstrom and Brouwer with Wideman and Hamrlik on the points. A second group had Knuble, Johansson and Semin with Green and Orlov on the points. Not that they should break down that way in the regular season (if the Caps need a power play goal Semin has to be on the ice with Ovechkin/ Backstrom and Green must be on the point), but it's still really interesting to see the combos coaches like to employ. The good thing for the Caps now, since acquiring Wideman and now Hamrlik, is that they can run with two defencemen on the blueline for PP1. They have usually gone with four forwards and Green.
Angus chats fantasy sleeper defensemen on the Illegal Curve radio show - check the podcast out here.
I really don’t care about points or most of what goes on in the preseason (aside from guys who may or may not make the team), but the rave reviews continue to pour in for Evgeni Malkin. His return to form could be one of the better stories in the league this year, given last year’s serious injury and how crucial he’ll be for the Penguins in ’11-12. No need to tell you what a beast he can be in fantasy leagues and he seems to be gearing up for a large season.
Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins combined for another goal tonight and as an Oilers fan, I’m practically salivating at the thought of those two setting each other up for the next decade. Whether RNH makes the team or not this season, it’s just a particularly fun time to be a fan. From a fantasy perspective, just keep those '11-12 expectations in check if he does make the big club. Plenty of centres with a lower pedigree but actual NHL mileage on their tread will be more effective for you.
Aaron Palushaj netted a pair of points for the Habs tonight and played his best game of the preseason. Jacques Martin praised his speed and puck pursuit. Owners in most average-sized fantasy leagues have no need to draft the Michigan-born forward since it’s still not even a lock he’ll make the team, but at some point this season he may be worth a free agent addition if an injury or coach’s decision lands him in a top-six role. Palushaj has some PIM potential for standard league owners too.
The St. Louis Blues began the night with Andy McDonald – Patrik Berglund – Chris Stewart. McDonald will invariably be a good deal thanks to his 58 GP this season, which will generally put someone late on a fantasy service’s list. He'll probably end up missing more games, but that's what the IR slot on your roster is for... right? Berglund had a respectable 52 points last season, which doubled his ’09-10 totals, but should be a good candidate to go even further this time. And Stewart... cannot wait to see what he does this season. Consistency will be the key, but he should once again be a really valuable power forward who should also see an upward bump in his +/- this season. Plus, he’s just fun to watch. Love the increased depth of the Blues this year too.
The successful top power play unit for the Isles tonight was Matt Moulson, John Tavares, Frans Nielsen, Mark Streit and Travis Hamonic. The PP went 3/5. The more offensive looks Hamonic can get, the better. He already goes into the season having attracted attention on the back end last year thanks to his PIM with some points, but that was also with he and Andrew MacDonald eating up a lot of key minutes with no Streit.
Speaking of the Swiss defenceman, by the way, he was happy to be back in action after missing all of last season with that shoulder injury. “I was a little nervous in the beginning,” Streit said, “but I’ll tell you one thing, it was great to be out there again.”
A few other quick notes from the Isles/ Devils game too. As we’ve seen some already, Nino Neiderreiter opened with Moulson-Tavares. Michael Grabner, Nielsen and Kyle Okposo were L2.
It was David Clarkson again with Zach Parise and Patrik Elias on the first line for the Devils. Clarkson has seen some top-six time in Jersey in past years, but is more often an L3/L4 option. If the season begins with this sort of look for the rugged winger, it’s clearly a nice boost to his fantasy potential for now.
Ok. One last Isles note. Just because here’s a guy who deserves some good luck. Rick DiPietro has incorporated yoga into his training and aside from anything else, he is healthy. "I feel good," he said. "I think this is the first summer in six years I didn't have to have surgery."
James Wisniewski waived his right to an in-person hearing Monday for the Cal Clutterbuck incident. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how this could help Grant Clitsome’s value out of the gate to start the season, depending on the length of the suspension, but I’m more excited to see another Brendan Shanahan suspension video. Seriously. That’s just a great way to handle league discipline in 2011. Love, love, love it.
Vinny Prospal, incidentally, has had a few games with Rick Nash and Jeff Carter in the preseason. Mixed results so far, but Prospal will still end up being one of the most likely candidates to stick with them early on.
Antti Niemi may or may not be ready for the opener because of this minor cyst surgery, but if not it doesn’t sound like any big deal at all. Thomas Greiss, meanwhile, who will be backing up Niemi thanks to the hip surgery done on Antero Niittymaki, has impressed his coach after a few preseason games.
“He has looked sharp,” McLellan said. “That has to be a confidence builder for him. He has to feel good about the way the team played in front of him.
Quick scheduling note: I'll be doing ramblings each Sunday during the regular season and a Q&A every other week, with Glen Hoos' column running on the Sundays my Q&A does not. Next week, however, just a reminder that there will be no ramblings and no Q&A from me. Prior commitment before I jumped on board here. So the next Q&A will be October 16th. FYI.
And as will likely be the case with each ramblings, I'll probably post at least an additional batch of blurbs Sunday afternoon to share a few new thoughts.