Rather than killing you the way Kari Lehtonen did my team in my matchup league on Saturday, by writing a preamble as weak as the Eastern Conference is in head-to-head matchups with the West, let's just get to it and briefly touch on all of the games in the NHL on Saturday. How about it? You with me? 

 

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In the matinee game, the Boston Bruins prevailed over the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 in overtime. Though Carolina received a point out of this contest, the Bruins were all over them all game long. Essentially the entire game was spent in Carolina's zone...

 

Also, if you haven't caught David Krejci's absurd patience on his overtime winning goal  you should remedy that right now. Passing on an open net and instead pulling the puck to his forehand before shooting? Just awesome.

 

 

Speaking of the Bruins, I'm currently playing in a 20 team matchup league, and Bruins forward Reilly Smith is still available. I'm not sure why that is, he's been hot lately and is getting major minutes on an above average offensive team in Boston. Smith played more than four minutes on the power-play on Saturday afternoon, scored a goal, and managed four shots and a hit.

 

He now has four points (2+2) in his past five games and 15 in 22 games on the season. Smith's percentages are probably slightly inflated (he's shooting over 12% and Boston is scoring on 8.7% of shots with Smith on at ice at 5-on-5), but he's dominating play and seeing an increased bump in power-pay minutes. In other words, Smith is not a sexy name, I suppose, but he's useful in a deeper matchup league.

 

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Some crazy happenings in Minnesota's net in advance of the other afternoon game between the Wild and the Jets. Wild starter Josh Harding tripped on a puck during warmups and was injured in the freak accident. That meant Niklas Backstrom, who had only been activated off of IR earlier in the day, was forced into action. Backstrom, you may remember last played on November 13th when he was concussed after being run by Maple Leafs forward Nazem Kadri.

 

Anyway, Backstrom was full value in his reutrn and managed to stop 37 of 39 shots in the victory. Good for him. Meanwhile Darcy Kuemper showed up at the MTS Centre after the first period, so the Wild didn't even have to play the full 60 without a backup. Tough situation for that club though.

 

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Wild winger and one time top-10 fantasy pick Dany Heatley nearly played 20 minutes on Saturday night! In a possibly related event, the Wild were outscored by two goals with Heatley on the ice...

 

Meanwhile, Minnesota Wild winger Nino Niederreiter had his minutes cut but still managed a goal and five shots. Maybe that, sort of, third line role is a sensible one for Niederreiter at the moment. Certainly he was played an efficient game against tertiary competition against Winnipeg on Saturday...

 

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Though the Wild prevailed on Saturday, their top-line of Koivu, Parise and whomever (on Saturday a mix of Heatley, Niedereitter and Pominville) had probably their worst game of the season. A lot of credit for that goes to the most under-rated player in hockey: bonafide top-pairing defenseman/2nd line powerforward/elite swingman Dustin Byfuglien.

 

Byufglien shadowed Parise for more than three-quarters of his even-strength ice-time on Saturday, and the Jets controlled over 57% of shot attempts in those minutes. Nice game in a losing effort from the Jets defenseman.

 

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Byfuglien, Shattenkirk, McDonaugh, Suter should be team USA's top-four defense at the Sochi Olympics. I'd also probably bring Yandle, Carlson and Martin, but that top four gives the American team their best chance I reckon.

 

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John Carlson had a nice fantasy night in Toronto. He didn't manage any points and was even on the night but there's value in a defenseman who can give you seven shots and a couple of hits from the blue-line, obviously.

 

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Jamie McGinn scored the overtime winner as the Colorado Avalanche outlasted the Los Angeles Kings in overtime, and more impressively: outshot the Corsi juggernauts 33-to-19. 

 

So are the Avalanche for real? They looked it in what I saw of Saturday night's contest, but it doesn't really show up in the underyling numbers. My opinion of Colorado has lagged well behind their performance this season, partly due to the extent to which they've relied on unsustainably dominant goaltending performances from Semyon Varlamov and J.S. Giguere.

 

Their goaltending has been so good that it might obscure just how decent this Avalanche team is. The Avalanche are among the bottom-10 teams in controlling games at five-on-five, however, in score tied situations they're in the top-10. The problem with that statistic is, they haven't spent much time tied because they've been leading so often. They were tied for the entirety of Saturday night's game against Los Angeles, however, and handled the Kings. That's impressive to say the least.

 

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James Reimer doesn't pass the eye test. His unorthodox, robotic seeming blocking style and flub prone puck handling drives some Leafs fans crazy. But who really cares, the guy just stops pucks at an above average rate. Last I checked that's what matters. Reimer stopped 49 of 50 shots against the Washington Capitals on Saturday, and was the only reason Toronto managed to take two points from that contest.

 

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Alex Ovechkin scored a beautiful goal and added eight hits and six shots for good measure. That's one hell of a fantasy night, but it's sort of what's expected of Ovechkin at this point.

 

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James Neal had a couple of good games this weekend and was simply phenomenal on Saturday night against Montreal, albeit in a losing effort. Neal managed two goals, seven shots and a couple of hits giving him 10 shots and 4 points this weekend. Not too shabby. I guess Neal is making a late Olympic push?

 

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Speaking of Olympic pushes, I'd have to think Pacioretty is back in the mix for Team USA after a stellar week of play. Pacioretty was quiet for much of this season but he's gone off htis week. Pacioretty has five goals in his past three games, and has managed 18 shots (including two goals on Saturday night against Pittsburgh). The USA is deep on the wings, but Pacioretty's inclusion on the roster should be a no-brainer.

 

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Mika Zibanejad played his first game in the top-6 in a while for Ottawa on Saturday and was pretty effective, managing four shots in their victory over the Detroit Red Wings. If he's available on the waiver wire, the 20 year old Swedish center has some nice upside, especially if he can help a struggling team win some games.

 

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Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk may have sustained a concussion and is being held out of Sunday night's game against Buffalo. If Nyquist is still available in your league, you should find a better league, but you should also probably go grab him because he'll presumably be key in filling in for Datsyuk if the perennial Selke winner misses a significant stretch of games with a head injury (which hopefully doesn't occur).

 

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Detroit's Jakub Kindl also may have been injured on Saturday, which further depletes Detroit's blue-line. In the absence of Kindl and DeKeyzer, presumably the likes of Kyle Quincey will see their minutes tick up significantly in the coming week. Quincey played more than 18 minutes on Saturday and had a couple of shots and a couple of hits.

 

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Some of those Flyers you picked a couple of rounds too early have come alive in recent weeks, which was bound to happen. Wayne Simmonds was particularly due to regress and did so somewhat on Saturday with a two point game (he added a hit as well).

 

John Tavares had some kind of fantasy line on Saturday night too with seven shots, three hits, and a goal in a losing effort.

 

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I've been enormously impressed with Stars checker Cody Eakin this season, as he's really taken a quantum leap forward in terms of his two-way game. Eakin has three points over his past three games, has managed 6 shots on goal, and is playing pretty well in a secondary role for the Stars. He's on the cusp of having major fantasy value, I think, but he's not quite there yet.

 

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The St. Louis Blues are just a meat grinder of a hockey team, and that top-line of Oshie, Steen and Backes have been particularly dominant (in real life and in fantasy). Patrik Berglund returned to action on Saturday as well, and managed an assist and a couple of hits.

 

Random Olympic tangent: I wonder if Berglund will center Sweden's third-line at Sochi (presuming he's healthy). It sort of depends, however, on whether or not Sweden uses Zetterberg at center (in which case they'd probably go Zetterberg-Sedin-Backstrom down the middle) or on the wing (a Zetterberg, Backstrom, Landeskog second line sounds pretty neat). I'll be really curious to see how Sweden deploys their players at Sochi...

 

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Goaltender Cam Talbot recorded his second straight shutout in New York's victory over the Predators. Meanwhile Mike Fisher managed four hits and a shot on goal in a losing effort. I covered the Predators victory over the Maple Leafs on Thursday, and Fisher looks like he's bouncing back in a major way after putting together a bit of an off-season during the lockout abbreviated 2012-13 season.

 

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Shane Doan, man, still putting together monster powerforward fantasy lines at his age. Doan played nearly 25 minutes on Saturday against Anaheim, scored a goal, recorded an assist, was +2, took seven shots, and threw four hits. What a beast.

 

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Coyotes center Martin Hanzal was injured on Saturday night, and if he's out of the lineup for any period of time than the likes of Vermette, Ribeiro (he played more than 27 minutes Saturday) and David Moss should see increased ice-time. Moss won't produce much offense for you, but if you need shots and hits, you could do worse.

 

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Dustin Penner scored a couple of goals, bringing his cumulative point totals up to 17 points in 19 games this season. Have to give the Ducks a lot of credit for finding Penner and Winnik in the bargain bin in consecutive offseasons. GMs league wide overpay for useful size like crazy *cough* David Clarkson *cough* but the Ducks managed to add those pieces on the cheap. It's a big reason they're leading the toughest division in hockey...

 

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Canucks defenseman Jason Garrison had a power-play point on Saturday, but man, what a fantasy dud he's been. He's just not getting the power-play ice-time to be useful and is struggling massively at even-strength. I think he's reached the "waivable" stage, but if you're dropping him, make sure to keep an eye on his PP ice-time. If that spikes his goal totals could too.

 

Thomas Drance is a news editor at theScore.


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Comments (9)add comment

number54 said:

number54
No Love for MoJo? I think there's a decent chance Marcus Johansson gets a spot on Sweden's team. He's looked really good this year for the Caps, and if Sweden's brass thinks they can get some chemistry out of him and Backstrom, I think it'll make their decision easier. Since they don't have enough righties on the back end, I'd also make sure to leave the leftie on the right as my offensive defenseman, and offset that on the left side with a defensive-minded partner. That way, even with the disadvantage of being on their off-hands, they'lll at least get serious puck support from their partners. That way, at least when the boards get pinched off, there's an opportunity for a rush with puck support behind it.

My team looks like:

Sedin Sedin Eriksson
Landeskog Zetterberg Franzen
Steen Backstrom Johansson
Berglund Zibanejad Silfverberg
( Alffie Hornqvist )

Kronwall Karlsson
Hedman OEL
Brodin Enstrom
( Lindholm Edler )

Lundqvist
Lehner
Gustavsson
November 24, 2013
Votes: -2

Jouko-Pouko said:

Jouko-Pouko
Team Sweden part 2 messierforlife: Silfverberg is a good young player as well but Johansson and Zibanejad can play C which is important. You can never have too many centers (unless you're building Team Canada). Kruger is the perfect 4th line C because he's happy with limited minutes and he's excellent in the PK. The same with Hagelin. Guys like Sifverberg and Nyquist need ice-time and they're not going to get that with stud veterans filling in the top-6.

Just in case everyone is left wondering what the rest of my Team Sweden looks like, here it is:
OEL-Karlsson
Kronwall-Edler
Hedman-Brodin
Oduya-Hjalmarsson

Lundqvist
Lehner
Enroth

Once again, not the best individuals but the best players for the roles which are available. Btw, Team Sweden doesn't have a lot of right-handed shots available. There's Karlsson and... Well, luckily they have Karlsson. The same with their forwards.
November 24, 2013
Votes: +1

messierforlife said:

messierforlife
Jouko-Pouko If you'd like to take a youngster as your 12th or 13th forward, wouldn't you want to take Silfverberg (assuming he's healthy by then--he should be). In fact he makes my top 9. Also, I'd definitely take Nyquist over Kruger, Johansson and the like.
November 24, 2013
Votes: +1

Jouko-Pouko said:

Jouko-Pouko
Team Sweden In a short tournament like the Olympics, it's often about familiarity and chemistry more than "who is the best player?" because there's not much time to build chemistry. For Sweden, there are some obvious forward pairs they could use. The Sedins, Backstrom-Johansson, Zetterberg-Franzen and Steen-Berglund come to mind. Of course keeping them all together is probably not smart but it's something to think about. My lineup right now would be:
D.Sedin-H.Sedin-Eriksson
Zetterberg-Backstrom-Franzen
Steen-Berglund-Landeskog
Hagelin-Kruger-Alfredsson

Not the best 12 forwards they could put out there but IMHO the best team they can make. I would probably take a young guy as my 13th forward, Johansson and Zibanejad are both good choices because they can play multiple positions if needed. My two cents.
November 24, 2013
Votes: +0

jjmckenn said:

jjmckenn
Reimer Although Reimer has been great, Washington did put a ton of long distance shots on net and didn't have that many good scoring chances. On the other hand, Toronto probably could have won by a couple of goals if not for a couple of posts and missed empty nets. As with most Leaf games, the shot count is deceiving. What is concerning is the Leafs habit of falling into a defensive shell when only up by a goal.
November 24, 2013
Votes: +1

NikW71 said:

NikW71
... Discard that ... Read that paragraph wrong
November 24, 2013
Votes: +0

NikW71 said:

NikW71
... I think you forgot a Sedin in Sweden's top 2 lines ... Other than that, excellent Ramblings!
November 24, 2013
Votes: +0

Hawkster58 said:

Hawkster58
... Great ramblings Thomas, very much appreciated!
November 24, 2013
Votes: +0

Billy_the_Phil said:

Billy_the_Phil
Letang Alert I was at the Mtl vs Pit game yesterday and Letang was not on the 1rst PP unit even when down 3-1. It was P.Martin and Malkin playing D.
Also his passing was often ...well aweful.

So is it time to shop him or not ???
Do we (Letang owners) start to hit the panik button ???
November 24, 2013
Votes: +0
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