Strap yourselves in because with American Thanksgiving today, the NHL wisely loaded up their schedule last night so as not to compete with football and turkey on this holiday.
I don’t know that Carey Price is getting quite enough dap for the way he has played this season. There’s a pretty good argument that he is the second best goalie in the league right now. The wins haven’t been there because the Habs have only been an average scoring team but they are tied for first (with Boston) in goals allowed per game in large part thanks to Price’s netminding.
Among goalies with at least 10 starts on the year Price is tied with Tuukka Rask for the second best save percentage at 0.936 and sits fourth in goals-against average at 2.00. So depending on how you feel about what Josh Harding is doing in Minnesota (my take: remarkable story but largely unsustainable) and Henrik Lundqvist’s painful start to the season (he’s turning it around) you have to figure Price is right behind Rask.
We’ve seen hot starts like this from Price before, most recently last season when he was lights out for the first two months only to fall apart over the second half and into the playoffs. Price has had a very good first third of the season but we need to see him sustain that for a full season, which is what has stalled Price’s ability to rise to superstardom.
Normally I would advise you to sell high but I’m not sure there is a goalie out there I trust more other than Rask (who is probably impossible to get) and Lundqvist (who I would definitely dangle Price for if I could). I would suggest Jonathan Quick and Pekka Rinne in any other season but with both injured as well as the very real questions about Quick’s elite status I wouldn’t move Price for either one. So for anyone but Lundqvist or Rask you are probably better off gambling that Price sustains this elite play.
Let’s give Andrei Markov some credit as well. I’m not sure I will ever trust him on my fantasy squad again because of his endless knee surgeries but the guy is a puck-moving genius when he is on the ice.
Markov dropped three dimes in last night’s game to extend his scoring streak to four games. He is on pace for 55-points this season, which isn’t at all unreasonable if he can actually play 82 games. With the Olympics added on top of that I don’t see how Markov plays all 82 but stranger things have happened.
It seems to me the Habs are making a concerted effort to get something out of their investment in David Desharnais. They have been pushing him out there as the center on their top power play unit with Max Pacioretty and Brendan Gallagher over the past few games. It’s hard to complain with the results – two points last night to give him five points in his last four games – but it has come at the expense of Tomas Plekanec.
Plekanec is mired in a slump with just four points in 12 November games.
Matt Moulson scored the lone goal for the Sabres last night, his first goal in the month of November and first since his first game with the Sabres. I hope no one thought getting dealt to the Sabres wouldn’t hurt Moulson because it clearly has. There are perhaps five or six centermen as prolific as John Tavares and Cody Hodgson is NOT one of them.
Speaking of Hodgson, he has just two points in his last six games but has remained reasonably productive with Moulson around so it remains to be seen if losing Thomas Vanek has been a detriment.
There isn’t much else to talk about in Buffalo but their rebuild. The Hockey Writers gives us Five Ways to Ruin an NHL Prospect a discussion on floundering youngster Mikhail Grigorenko. I was never all that high on Grigorenko to begin with so I don’t know that they are necessarily ruining him but I think we can all agree that they aren’t helping the process.
I just don’t get it. We can all agree that Brodeur has played well but Schneider has played better. That’s incontrovertible. The team in front of him just hasn’t scored. Now that Brodeur has lost three straight it would seem to me there is excuse for Schneider not to get the next start. Let’s all hope he can take the ball and run with it.
Patrick Elias continues to sizzle for the Devils. With two assists last night he now has seven points in his last five games. This is no surprise to me. Elias is a really smart player and history has shown that old guys can still be productive if they have really good IQ. Elias is one of those guys.
Jaromir Jagr is seemingly one of those guys as well. He scored a goal last night, his third in his last five games. I don’t know what’s more impressive, that Jagr has scored 19 points in 25 games or that he’s played all 25 for the Devils so far. I foresee more nights off in the future which will significantly slow his pace.
Andy Greene is on a nice little hot streak with points in three straight. He even got bumped up to the top power play unit for his efforts. Not that it did much good as the mediocre Devils power play went o-fer its attempt.
Greene replaced Marek Zidlicky on the top unit. Zidlicky hasn’t scored in three straight and is probably worth dropping for a hotter option in shallow leagues. In deeper leagues, you’ll want to keep Zidlicky because he’s a consistent option who will pick it back up eventually.
This goes back to a strategy I mentioned on this month’s Dobber Nation podcast, which is to leave one or two roster spots open to shuffle guys up from the waiver wire as players get hot and have favourable schedules. I’m not suggesting a full-on cycling strategy where you add new players every day (your league should have rules preventing this) but you should have some wiggle room within your maximum number of moves per week/year to add a player or two each week who can upgrade those final spots on your roster. If you aren’t doing this then you aren’t maximizing the value of every roster slot you have available.
Back to the Devils. Eric Gelinas has been a fixture on the Devils’ power play since getting called up and he continues to roll with nine points in 15 games.
Meanwhile, Adam Henrique continues to struggle. He has now been held off the board in four straight and has just three points in the month of November. I don’t see any way these struggles don’t continue. Henrique is a complimentary player with no one to feed off of. The Devils have little in the way of primary scoring and nothing for secondary scoring.
This has especially been a problem with Damien Brunner’s recent injury struggles and general incompetence. Brunner has ZERO points this month.
Cam Ward has now won two in a row and has looked very competent since his return from injury. This should come as no surprise as Ward is the essence of competence. He will never be an elite fantasy goalie unless the Hurricanes somehow turn into the Bruins or Kings overnight but you could also do much worse than Ward as he is a workhorse who puts up league average stats. In other words, he won’t kill you and I’ve heard that things like that make you stronger. So really, Cam Ward makes you stronger.
How’s that for some faulty logic?
I refuse to give up on the fantasy upside of Justin Faulk. He scored last night and has points in two straight after not scoring for nine straight. The Hurricanes need to commit to giving Faulk minutes with the top power play unit but they seem intent on giving that role to Ryan Murphy. Faulk was there last night and while the power play was unsuccessful they had only one attempt so it’s hard to judge.
Whenever Faulk has gotten extended run on the top power play he has produced so that’s where he needs to be.
I understand the logic for the Hurricanes. They want to get Murphy some burn and giving him low leverage minutes and power play time is the best use of his skills. They have invested a lot in Murphy and really need him to succeed but at the same time “maximizing” all of their players may be coming at the expense of actually succeeding.
Tuomo Ruutu has goals in back to back games and may finally be finding his stride skating on the Hurricanes’ top line. Now might be the time to buy low. There is no doubt that Ruutu has struggled to find his way this season, you can see that in his shot totals (just 28 in 20 games) as well as his scoring (five points on the season) but he is on the trade block and a fresh start on the right team could have him taking off in the second half.
That of course assumes he can shake off the rust because it’s certainly possible that the 30-year-old has just taken too much of a pounding. I like the buy low opportunity though. For fantasy and real life. He could be a really nice fit on the Oilers for instance.
Dwyer, by the way, has shorthanded scores in two of his last three games and goals in three straight. I can only advise picking him up in deep rotisserie leagues. I happen to have him in a cap league and am currently facing DobberHockey’s Gates Imbeau (and losing big time) so having Dwyer picking up a shortie AND the game winner last night was much needed.
If you wanted to buy low on Eric Staal it might be too late. He now has scores in seven straight. I own Staal in virtually all of my fantasy leagues so buying low was never a concern of mine, just avoiding selling low, which I’d never do. Staal is as consistent as they come. Plug and play.
Andrej Sekera is streaking with five points in his last four games to give him 13 on the season, a pace of about 42 points. I’m sceptical though. Sekera is talented but not overly so offensively. He is currently shooting 11.6%, which is more than double his career average so I can’t see his scoring pace continuing. In fact, it wouldn’t shock me if he didn’t score another goal all season.
I recently got asked on Twitter if it was time to give up on Kyle Okposo. My answer is always going to be, “what can you get in return?” because nothing in fantasy is ever black and white. That said, in a vacuum I wouldn’t give up on Okposo so fast. As mentioned before, there are few centermen as prolific as Tavares (who scored two points last night) and Okposo continues to be a linemate so while Okposo is struggling right now (three points in his last 10 games) things will turn around eventually.
The good news is Vanek is back to clicking with Tavares. He has scored in three straight since returning from injury.
Andrew MacDonald picked up a power play marker last night, his second goal of the season. His production has been pretty slow but he continues to see huge minutes, particularly on the top power play unit, with Lubomir Visnovsky out.
Kevin Poulin made his eighth straight start last night and lost his fourth straight. He has not been all that good since taking over as the starter but it’s hard to blame him entirely. The Islanders have just not played very good hockey this season as they have failed to build off of last season’s momentum.
Al Montoya got a rare start for the Jets, winning his third of the season. His number are better than starter Ondrej Pavelec’s but there’s little chance Montoya takes the starting job away. Pavelec is too entrenched.
Rookie defenseman Jacob Trouba has been back for two games now and has been held off the board. He has skated less minutes since returning (about 20 per game) but that makes sense as the Jets are easing him back in. He did see two minutes of power play time last night, albeit on the second unit.
Devin Setoguchi has goals in back-to-back games and has picked up his pace a bit in November with eight points in 13 games as compared with just five in 13 October games.
Rookie centerman Mark Scheifele got an assist on Setoguchi’s goal last night but the two have not been frequent linemates. Scheifele has found himself with limited minutes on the third line with Matt Halischuk and Michael Frolik, which is hardly optimal. It’s little wonder that Scheifele has struggled this season though he does have points in three straight.
How infuriating is it to own Evander Kane in a pool? I’ll never know because I refuse to buy the hype and thus will never be one of those guys who takes him three rounds to early. Kane has so much talent, so much upside and yet his production continues to be mediocre. He looks jet set for another 55-point season, which along with his solid rotisserie numbers are nothing to bark at in a vacuum but all I can think is that you could have easily waited a few more rounds and drafted a guy like Brandon Dubinsky who will give you similar numbers this season.
Earlier this week I called Craig Anderson the Fantasy Hockey arsonist. He was at it again last night letting up four goals for the third straight game. The silver lining is he got bailed out by his teammates for the win.
Colin Greening scored his first goal of the season and first point since October 15th. I know he’s only a third-liner but there was some pre-season hype about him meshing with Jason Spezza and making a run at a 20-goal/40-point season. Obviously that is not in the cards.
You know who has been clicking with Spezza? Mika Zibanejad, who has four points in his last four games.
Washington found themselves on the short end of the stick in a contest of two teams who allow way more shots than they get themselves. They were outshot by Ottawa 40-33 on the night as Braden Holtby was outdueled (barely) by Anderson. Holtby has been very solid on the season though and is probably the number one reason the Capitals haven’t completely bottomed out.
The return of Alex Ovechkin Scoring Machine has certainly helped as well. He only managed three shots on goal last night and did not find the back of the net. Ovechkin did manage an assist though, so not all was lost.
Mike Green has lost his top power play unit privileges since returning from injury. Those minutes have gone to John Carlson who scored a power play marker last night and has fired seven shots in each of the past two games. Carlson has definitely turned things around after a sour start to the season and looks like he may be on his way to a career season. Keep in mind, his career high is 37 points so even 40 would be a step in the right direction.
Maintaining the top power play minutes will be key. So will maintaining his shot rate. Carlson has fired 71 shots on goal this season, nearly three per game. Last season was his best in that department firing two per game. If he can maintain that jump of one per game it could be the difference between being waiver fodder and being rosterable.
Martin Erat, he of the recent trade request, was a healthy scratch. Not hard to put two and two together on that one.
According to a league source with knowledge of the situation, Orlov’s contract contains a clause that would allow him to leave for Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League on Jan. 1, 2014 if he has not been on the active NHL roster for a total of 30 days this season.
Elliotte Friedman has more on the situation in his recent 30 Thoughts column:
I had a chance to chat with Capitals GM George McPhee. One of the topics was defenceman Dmitri Orlov. "He's very similar to [Slava] Voynov from L.A. ... three full years in the minors and now a really good NHL player," McPhee said. "He is ready for the NHL and it is time to find a full-time spot for him." Orlov is yo-yoing between AHL Hershey and "The Beltway," although he's yet to play an NHL game this season. On Tuesday, The Washington Post's Katie Carrera reported why. Orlov can leave to the KHL on Jan. 1 if not on the roster for 30 days this season. When I asked McPhee about such worries, he replied: "He wants to be an NHL player. He stayed here in the summer and is a really top-notch kid who wants to play here."
Remember, Orlov is only 22 so patience is required for keeper league owners. You may simply have to wait until the team finally moves on from Green – his contract is up at the end of next season.
There was no offense to speak of for the Blue Jackets last night as they managed just 19 shots, including just one on two power play attempts. The team is obviously missing the injured Brandon Dubinsky and Marian Gaborik. In fact, with Nathan Horton still out as well this team is potentially without its entire top line right now. They could have a whole new look in the New Year when Horton gets up to speed.
This was Marek Mazanec’s second shutout this season and fifth win. He has now put together six straight solid starts. I don’t know if he can sustain this level of play over a longer period of time but it is clear that he is another product of the goalie conveyor belt. Just remember, Anders Lindback (and several others) once looked good in this system but now he’s off butchering games for the Tampa Bay Lightning, though in fairness he did win last night.
After being a dog for the month of October Viktor Stalberg is starting to show signs of life. He is playing more minutes, shooting more frequently and is starting to get on the score sheet. He has four points in his last six, which is pretty much as good as it gets for him.
Is this a hot streak for Matt Cullen? He has nine points in his last six games but I have zero confidence advocating for a pick up.
Cullen has been skating alongside Craig Smith – who has been scoring at a decent rate (14 points in 25 games) and has shot the puck a ton (68 shots on goal this season) – and Gabriel Bourque – who has happily rode shotgun with seven points in his last seven games. It’s possible that this line is just starting to click but I’ll bet as soon as we go out and act it’ll be the David Legwand line that picks things back up again.
Legwand, by the way, scored his first goal since November 2nd but has sustained a reasonable level of production via assists.
Roman Josi notched an assist last night but has just four points (in 15 games) on the season, all power play markers. It’s a damn good thing that he has recently taken back his spot on the top power play unit from Seth Jones then. I’m looking to buy low in deeper leagues and watching him for a hot streak in shallower leagues where he’s probably just sitting on the waiver wire.
“One line… ONE LINE? I don’t think so!” said the Detroit Red Wings in beating up the Bruins 6-1 last night. That was in reference to Dobber’s comment in yesterday’s ramblings about the Red Wings being a one-line team with Pavel Datsyuk out with a concussion.
But I say that only in jest. The reality is that one line did do much of the damage for Detroit as Henrik Zetterberg, Gustav Nyquist and Johan Franzen combined for seven points last night. It just happens that for the first time, seemingly all year, the Red Wings actually got some secondary scoring and in a high profile matchup to boot.
By the way, Zetterberg’s two points last night quietly brought him into a tie for second in league scoring. Doesn’t anyone notice this? I feel like I’m taking crazy pills.
Jonas Gustavsson has been stealing some starts from Jimmy Howard lately and has played fairly well in doing so. Gustavsson is now 6-0-1 on the year but I’m not ready to consider him a real threat to Howard’s job just yet.
It’s not often Tuukka Rask gets beat up for six goals. Oddly enough, the Bruins left him in there for every single one, which left a truly rare pock mark on his owner’s stats. If ever there was a week to be facing the Rask owner in your pool, this was definitely it. This was just the fourth game that Rask boasted a save percentage below .900 this season.
The Lightning jumped out to 3-0 lead before nearly collapsing in the final two minutes of the game as the Flyers scored a couple of goals 40 seconds apart. Tyler Johnson ultimately iced the game with an empty-netter but Lightning fans cannot have been confident with Lindback in goal. As mentioned earlier, he has not been very good for the Lightning.
Johnson, by the way, has six points in his last seven games. He’s a third-line player who sees second unit power play time but has some modest upside for the short term. If 40 points could be useful in your league then Johnson bears consideration.
Victor Hedman was a big part of Tampa Bay gaining the lead as he scored two goals and notched an assist. He is shooting the puck more than ever but is also shooting 13.6%, more than double his career average so there is some regression due but if he can keep firing the puck on net there’s no saying those shots won’t generate rebounds that lead to assists. Considering Hedman is already more than halfway to his career high for points I’d say he’s a lock for a new career mark.
Matt Carle is not enjoying this no-Stamkos thing. He has not scored in six straight and has just two in his last 13.
Alex Killorn is starting to suffer as well with just one point in his last five games.
Dobber mentioned Kucherov yesterday so I’ll follow up by mentioning that while he was held scoreless last night he did manage to lead the Lightning with six shots on goal.
Mark Streit finally got himself some points with a goal and an assist last night. He’s shooting just 2.8% on the season, just a third of his career 7.1% rate so if there’s anyone due for some positive regression it’s him.
My Kimmo Timonen experiment may be coming to an end. He picked up a big three-point effort the day I picked him up and fired five shots in a scoreless effort in his next outing but he has now been held off the board in four straight with just two shots in the last three games. He did lead the Flyers in power play ice time last night but back to the waiver wire for Timonen all the same.
Claude Giroux picked up an assist and has points in six straight. He’s been a point-per-game scorer since being held off the board in his first five games.
As I mentioned earlier, Lundqvist is really starting to turn his game around, although it helps when you get to play teams like the Panthers. That said, the Panthers did outshoot the Rangers 33-22 but with Tim Thomas in net behind that group of defensemen, it doesn’t take many shots to develop a lead.
Rick Nash and Brad Richards both scored unassisted markers, which is undoubtedly frustrating for fantasy owners. I mean, we appreciate the goals but if I’m a Ryan Callahan owner, I’m feeling pretty short-changed as he’s the only fantasy-worthy forward who didn’t get in on the action.
Part of that is because Callahan wasn’t even skating on a line with Nash and Richards. That spot went to Carl Hagelin who chipped in the empty-netter. Callahan found himself on the third line with Derick Brassard and Benoit Pouliot, which is like fantasy purgatory.
Brassard did manage to score the opening goal, the result of some burn on the second power play unit with Derek Stepan, Mats Zuccarelo and Chris Kreider. That group has been a bit dormant lately but may be picking things up. Zuccarelo has four points in his last three games.
After skating a few scoreless games Michael Del Zotto was once again a healthy scratch. This guy is getting traded soon. Ryan McDonagh stands to reap the rewards if Del Zotto is permanently removed. McDonagh has been taking Del Zotto’s top power play minutes anyway so moving Del Zotto would just seal the deal.
McDonagh has 13 points in 25 games but has cooled off a bit of late. He did manage an assist last night but considering he is shooting 12.2%, nearly twice his career average he seems like he’ll regress a bit even as he heads towards a career high in scoring.
I struggled to find guys who would actually benefit from Kris Versteeg being dealt off the Panthers. It would seem Brad Boyes has been one. He has six points in his last eight games and has seen a significant boost in ice time.
Nick Bjugstad looks like another one. He has eight points over his last 11 games and has also seen a big jump in ice time. Since November 9th, Bjugstad has skated over 15 minutes in every game something he didn’t do once before that time.
That was certainly a wild game between the Penguins and Leafs last night. The Leafs jumped out to the early lead chasing Marc-Andre Fleury 13 seconds into the second period. They added one more on Jeff Zatkoff 29 seconds later before the Penguins started their comeback. With the score 4-3 Tyler Bozak chipped in a goal to give the Leafs a solid 5-3 lead heading into the third period. They wouldn’t get another shot on goal.
The Penguins outshot the Leafs 19-0 across the third period and overtime as they came back to tie the game and eventually won the skills competition. They definitely deserved to win the game so I’m glad they came out with the extra point but I definitely didn’t stick around to watch the shootout. I just could not care less about it.
For the Penguins it was good to see Evgeni Malkin pot a couple of goals. He is now tied for second in league scoring. Hopefully you bought low while the window was open.
Kris Letang, another buy low candidate, chipped in three points of his own. He has still scored more goals than assists but last night went a long way to correcting that issue. A big reason for his scoring was that he got back on the top power play unit after Paul Martin broke his leg. All three of his points last night came on the power play. Letang is a special-teams zealot so far.
James Neal, who is scorching hot with five straight multi-point efforts, fired 10 shots last night, which is an impressive amount of rubber.
For the Leafs Bozak’s two points were his first two since returning from injury. He is right back out there on the Leafs’ top line so you can expect him to get back to scoring at that 45-point pace.
Dion Phaneuf notched his first point in four games as his slow start continues. As an owner I remain very concerned about his low shot totals, although I am appreciative of his friendly plus/minus. After going plus-two he is now up to plus-13 on the season.
Cody Franson got his first point in five games and is also suffering from a bit of a power-outage. Although he does have 13 points so far they have all been assists.
James van Riemsdyk ended a mini-slump in a big way with two goals and an assist last night. His scoring has been a bit patchy this season but he’s been near a point-per-game player when not stuck at center ice so you can bet Bozak’s return to the lineup is a big help
Mike Smith got the night off for the Phoenix Coyotes last night and Thomas Greiss filled in with a gem stopping 28 of 29 shots. Greiss hasn’t made many appearances this season but when he has gotten the starts he’s played well. Smith has the big contract so he’s way too entrenched to lose starts despite his goals-against average being above three because the reality is he has played well, the team is just giving up way too many shots.
Without Zach Parise the Minnesota Wild were without their number one threat so that made them an easier out.
They even went as far as to bump Dany Heatley’s corpse up off the fourth line for the third straight game. He scored a goal while firing four shots for the first time since October 8th. Maybe he’s worth a short-term pickup? Naaaaah.
Tim Kennedy has scored three points in four games since being called up by the Coyotes. He’s been skating on the top line with Martin Hanzal (so hot right now) and Radim Vrbata so you could do a lot worse if you are looking for a short-term pickup (see above).
Vrbata, by the way, scored his first two goals in nearly three weeks but does have points in three straight.
After having his points-streak snapped earlier this week Shane Doan got right back at it with an assist last night.
Statement game for the St. Louis Blues beating Colorado 4-1 in Denver last night. That was their second dominant victory over the Avalanche so far this season and it’s pretty clear to me that the Blues are a cut above the overachieving Avs.
Derek Roy is picking up steam with five points in his last five games.
Roy’s linemate Chris Stewart is coming along for the ride with four points in that same stretch, although I’m less confident in his ability to sustain production.
With only two games going tonight I’ll save last night’s late contests for tomorrow’s ramblings. I’m sure I’ve offered enough content for this morning anyhow.
Mr. Average with a great save:
You can follow me on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.