Quick update from the Penguins' morning skate, which has shifted the team's first line for the better from yesterday's info from Dan Bylsma. James Neal is skating on Sidney Crosby's line now.
Kunitz-Crosby-Neal; Bennett-Sutter-Dupuis; Cooke-Jeffrey-Kennedy.
PP1: Letang, Martin, Neal, Kunitz, Crosby. PP2: Niskanen, Despres/Jeffrey, Bennett, Kennedy, Sutter.
Alex Ovechkin opened Saturday’s NHL slate with one of his hungriest performances of the season. This was an effective carryover of the effort he put forth Thursday night against this same Devils squad, albeit with Johan Hedberg in net this time.
Ovechkin delivered a strong 3-1-4 showing, including 7 SOG, 5 hits and that eye of the tiger glean in his eyes. Say what you will about his mixed results overall, but the effort has been there. The tide has slowly been turning and owners’ patience in him will be rewarded. He has points in six of his past nine games, including three multi-pointers in that span. He’s had no fewer than three shots in a game this month and that only happened once. He has 53 shots over his 10 February clashes. And actually, over this whole campaign he’s averaging a full shot more per tilt than he did last season.
In Braden Holtby’s last four tries, he has stopped 120 of 129 shots for a sparkling .930 SV%. Michal Neuvirth hasn’t started since February 7th, when the Penguins steamrolled the Caps 5-2.
No. 19 was back for the Flyers and Philadelphia’s top six sure looks a lot stronger now. Scott Hartnell–Claude Giroux–Jakub Voracek; Danny Briere–Brayden Schenn–Wayne Simmonds.
The power play was mostly still just Schenn, Giroux, Simmonds, Voracek and Timonen.
Giroux has been coming on strong over the last week and a bit, pulling his totals to 3-8-11 in his past seven outings and 3-5-8 on this current four-game point streak alone. Hartnell’s return should only bolster Giroux’s production levels, which had been lower than expected in the first portion of the season.
Simmonds has been unreal for this Flyers team since coming over from Los Angeles. He was largely a third line presence with the Kings, but last season boosted his totals across the board when better-utilized by Peter Laviolette. More goals, assists, points, penalty minutes, a few more hits and a lot more shots.
With another 1-2-3 against Jets, Simmonds has ramped up his results to 7-9-16 in 17 GP. He had 49 points in a full season last year. He fights, he hits, he scores and he is rightfully adored by the Flyers faithful. One of my favourite of the less-heralded players around the league. Perfect fit in Philly.
Evander Kane extended his point streak to six games and he also already had a five-game point streak to his name this year. He currently sits at 6-8-14.
Through 17 affairs, he has 50 hits and 62 SOG. Last season, he averaged 2.34 hits/game and 3.88 shots/game. This year he’s up to 2.94 hits/game and the shot/game pace is basically the same at 3.82.
Say what you want about his immaturity (all true), his brashness (which I generally like), his awful haircuts (ugh) or whatever else you want, but when it comes to fantasy hockey this guy is a gamer who has really elevated his standard league worth in leaps and bounds in the last calendar year. You had a window of opportunity to acquire him during the lockout with his piss-poor KHL results. That window has likely long-since closed.
Evgeni Malkin has apparently been experiencing concussion symptoms since his fall into the boards Friday night, including what a Tribune-Review report termed “severe headaches and mild disorientation.”
We’ve all, unfortunately, seen more than enough concussions in recent years to know that there is no way to tell how serious this issue may become or what sort of timetable with which we may be dealing. What we do know is that Dan Bylsma is not going to move James Neal onto Sidney Crosby’s line, at least not initially.
The indication from Saturday’s optional practice was that he’s lining up the normal Chris Kunitz–Crosby– Pascal Dupuis trio, with Beau Bennett–Brandon Sutter–Neal and then Matt Cooke–Dustin Jeffrey–Tyler Kennedy.
Bennett had just found his way onto that second line, replacing Matt Cooke. Cooke had replaced Zach Boychuk, who had replaced Eric Tangradi, who had replaced... yeah. It goes on and on. Anyway, Brandon Sutter will be given a chance to show a little more of his offensive side and in average sized to deeper leagues that should bump up his fantasy worth for now.
Keep in mind this sort of scenario is exactly why the Pens were insistent on getting Sutter back in the Jordan Staal deal. Sutter is an incredibly defensively conscious player who has fit in well on that third line, but with all the time Crosby has missed and with any potential for Malkin to be sidelined, Sutter is a guy who also has offensive upside and can hopefully fill that gap for this franchise. That depth down the middle has been a strength for this team in recent campaigns and it’ll be put to the test here if Malkin is out for any length of time.
Justin Schultz has been fairly quiet offensively in February, picking up just his fourth point of the month against Phoenix. You’ll never know how his keeper league owner is feeling about him until you ask, so it’s worth a conversation.
Again, harkening back to last week and prior Ramblings – it’s about the chance to acquire a valued asset where the chance may not have existed before. Schultz is going to be a fantasy monster on the back end for this Oilers team for years to come.
Nikolai Khabibulin, FWIW, has quietly strung together three really impressive starts and a relief appearance so far. After this shootout win over Phoenix he’s sporting a 2-2-0 mark with a 1.89 GAA and .942 SV%.
The Buffalo News indicates Ville Leino thought he was destined for hip surgery and that he wouldn’t play a single game this season. Luckily, he has been encouraged of late.
Pretty blunt thoughts from the forward following Lindy Ruff’s firing too.
"What I like about it is we’re doing an effort," Leino said. "We’re trying to make it better, doing moves to make the team better. It’s a signal to the players, too, that we want to win and we’re doing everything we can.
"It’s pro hockey and we’ve got to demand more out of coaches, players and out of everybody. One of the things here I’ve noticed just being here over a year is we’ve got to have higher demands, higher priorities on the games and working better, keeping each other accountable here.
"It’s not always a happy family. You’ve got to have some controversy, some guys pushing each other. It’s not all smiles and happy and be nice – because nice guys usually finish last."
On the subject of the Sabres, Ron Rolston’s second game saw a few tweaks to the lineup. The first line opened the same with Thomas Vanek-Cody Hodgson-Jason Pominville. Nathan Gerbe was moved onto the second unit and Mikhail Grigorenko was back in the lineup, leaving the second and third lines as Gerbe-Tyler Ennis-Drew Stafford and Foligno-Grigorenko-Patrick Kaleta.
Same results. Another loss.
Ryan Miller on frustration reaching a peak level for Sabres: "it's about goddamn time."— John Vogl (@BuffNewsVogl) February 24, 2013
The Canes broadcast Saturday noted Alex Semin’s beautiful behind-the-back pass from the other night, with Tripp Tracy pointing out that he approached Semin after the game with a compliment about the sweet dish.
“I don’t care,” Semin replied. “We didn’t win.”
There’s an Alex Semin that too many hockey fans either didn’t see or didn’t allow themselves to see when he was with the Caps. It was really easy to point out his lack of production at times and a seeming lack of effort other times, but this is a guy who does care and who does compete harder than that for which he was ever generally given credit. This season, with the Canes, we’re seeing this guy really flourish. And it’s a treat to watch unfold.
He likely didn’t find it a treat to take a puck to his face in this one though.
Gabriel Landeskog returned to the Avs after missing 11 games thanks to the Brad Stuart hit. Colorado’s young captain played 19:08, had an assist and opened the afternoon with Paul Stastny and David Jones. That left the line of Jamie McGinn-Matt Duchene-P.A. Parenteau together with Cody McLeod-John Mitchell-Milan Hejduk remaining as a trio as well. Aaron Palushaj had most recently been on the Stastny-Jones line and he was scratched from this one.
Really nice to see Landeskog back in action. It’s worth noting that not only did the physical winger have four hits against the Kings, but he threw one on his first shift as a way to get himself back into the flow of his rough style of play.
This is the second three-game goal scoring streak of Jeff Carter’s season after he potted one against the Avs. Trevor Lewis-Mike Richards and Carter comprise the Kings’ second line. Lewis has 2-2-4 in his past three games, making him a good short-term grab in really deep situations. Mike Richards, over his past 12 outings, has picked up 4-7-11.
Jonathan Quick has allowed one goal against in each of his past two starts with a .958 SV% on the strength of 23-save efforts in each. If you know Darryl Sutter’s coaching abilities and if you’ve seen what Quick has done in the past few years, targeting him during the early slump should have been a no-brainer.
Alex Galchenyuk, Lars Eller and Erik Cole were put together against the Rangers and they each had two points. Galchenkyuk has points in four of six; Eller has six points in his last seven tilts; Cole ended an ugly nine-game pointless drought.
Carey Price, who has been stellar, has shutouts in two of his past four starts. He had four all of last season, after having recorded eight the year before that.
Worse than the loss to the Habs, from the Rangers perspective, was losing both Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh. Girardi blocked a slap shot from P.K. Subban with his skate. McDonagh was hit (and was potentially concussed) by Max Pacioretty.
You decide on that one...
Colin Greening was in on all three goals against the Leafs and he has a point in each of his past three outings now. His line with Mika Zibanejad, who had two points and has goals in back-to-back affairs, and Erik Condra – who only had two February points to his name coming in, was all Ottawa needed.
Sans Craig Anderson, Ben Bishop started and moved his February record to 3-1-0 with splits of 1.74/ .945.
Cory Conacher has points in four in a row after that six-game stretch without one. He continues to operate within the top six for the Lightning, generally with Steven Stamkos.
Benoit Pouliot skated alongside Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis and scored, bringing his totals to 3-5-8 in his past six GP. Oh – and he’s plus-8 with 9 hits in that same stretch.
Alex Killorn has points in three of four. He was in the top six for a bit, but is on L3 with Tom Pyatt and Nate Thompson.
Marc-Andre Bergeron has a point in three of his past four from the back end and yes, that includes some good PP looks.
Justin Abdelkader had a long string of zeroes beside his name in the scoring log, but funny how a little time with Pavel Datsyuk can help one get going. Assist against the Preds. Daniel Cleary, who was on the other wing, scored and the line combined for four points. Datsyuk has two-pointers in three of his past four tilts and that was his eighth multi-pointer of the season.
Niklas Kronwall’s production had been a little sparse over the last few weeks, but a 1-2-3 result here helps to ease that pain and you know his stats will be more than fine when all is said and done.
Without Ryane Clowe, who is awaiting his hearing, the Sharks began the Dallas game with Patrick Marleau-Scott Gomez-Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture-Joe Thornton-Martin Havlat.
This was the highlight of the game though, personally...
Alex Goligoski, he of “WTH Happened To His Fantasy Value?” fame, had a pair of assists and has five points in his past seven outings.
Vladimir Tarasenko is, as you know, on the IR for now; so Matt D’Agostini slid into his third line role against the Blue Jackets and also took his second unit power play role. No points here, but in really deep leagues his increased role may be worth a look.
Jaroslav Halak has allowed just one goal against in each of his two starts since returning from the groin injury. Back-to-back 19 of 20 save efforts. Really good to see for both his sake and the Blues.
#CBJ GM Jarmo Kekäläinen wants to build with "character, heart, work ethic and hockey sense." He wants fast minds, not just fast feet ...— Aaron Portzline (@Aportzline) February 23, 2013
Charlie Coyle had been blanked in his first five NHL starts, but he drew back into the lineup against the Flames thanks to Cal Clutterbuck’s injury and took that spot on the third line with Kyle Brodziak and Pierre-Marc Bouchard. Pretty sweet play on Coyle’s goal to get Minnesota on the board too.
Matt Stajan was slotted in as the number one centre between Alex Tanguay and Jarome Iginla and he was rewarded for a good game with a persistent-effort marker midway through the third period. One more for good measure into the empty net. Sven Baertschi returned to action and had Jiri Hudler and Blake Comeau on the line.
Coyle, Mikael Granlund (scratched) and Baertschi all have limited single-season value at the moment, but they’re naturally all guys most of us would agree will become valuable assets in pools. So if you’re a keeper league with a farm system, again, just start having those informal trade talks with their owners just to see what it might take to get them. Maybe one of your players to whom you’re less attached is having a better season in whichever league and will pique the interest of your potential trading partner.
Continually mine these sorts of situations and you’d be surprised how quickly your farm depth can improve and then how that can translate into catapulting you up in the standings.
It’s also worth mentioning that you should be targeting guys like this regardless of what stage of development in which your team finds itself. It’s easy to think rebuild in a keeper league when you’re in last place, but part of being a champion is maintaining a stocked farm too. Not only do you want to have a strong franchise for years to come, but you also should try to possess as many trade assets as possible for those stretch run deals that could win you another championship.
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