If you recall, a few weeks ago I made a few bets on the Leafs to miss the playoffs including one involving the framing of a certain photo. Let’s just say I am thoroughly enjoying the Leafs’ current freefall, which was kind of the point. The Leafs have now given up at least five goals in three straight games and their thus far otherworldly goaltending is coming back down to Earth.

 

James Reimer and the Leafs got walloped by the shorthanded Hurricanes last night, moving them into a three-way tie for the final playoff spot amid the Eastern Conference Wild Card muck. For Reimer this was his first start of the New Year and this result will not help him gain any headway in the fight for crease time. Depending on your league format it may be time to start looking elsewhere.

 

For instance, Hurricanes backup Anton Khudobin is the latest guy to come out of nowhere and display dominance, although in this case nowhere really means the IR. He is now 6-0 on the season and continues to look like a threat to Cam Ward’s throne (one he has somehow built out of mediocrity). Or this is the single greatest trade marketing campaign I’ve ever seen. In any case, Khudobin clearly has some talent and warrants a pickup if you are hurting in goal.

 

 

Now, the Leafs goaltending is proof that runs like this aren’t sustainable and I can’t say I like Khudobin’s numbers at the lower levels but I won’t snuff my nose at a productive goaltender available for free off the waiver wire.

 

On this topic of goaltending, I received an interesting question from the comments in last week’s ramblings asking if we would see a record number of goalies appear in games this season. Considering the number of goalie injuries that have taken place and the ridiculous number of backups and backups of backups that have stepped up and played well you might think we would be close to the record. Well so far, after all the carnage, 79 goalies have appeared in games this season, which sits 15 behind the record of 94.

 

I only went back to 1997-98 because that’s as far back as NHL.com’s stats go but since that time period encompasses the end of expansion to the league as now constructed it seems likely that the record would have occurred during that time frame. Anyway, the point is that despite all the injuries we have not seen an inordinate number of appearances by different goalies so far. It just happens that many of those various goalies have played exceptionally well.

 

*

 

Elias Lindholm was recalled on Wednesday and made the most of his return scoring one goal and two assists. He was only skating with Zach Boychuk and Brett Sutter but he also skated over five minutes on the top power play unit where two of his three points came. 

 

I assume he goes on a nice little run before fading back to irrelevancy, especially when Eric Staal returns. The Hurricanes have a light schedule over the next week so Lindholm doesn’t really do much for me as a waiver wire grab.

 

I’m more interested in Jordan Staal, who led the team with four points last night and is also up on the top power play unit. This is a bit of cherry picking especially since last night’s outburst has a lot to do with it but Staal has scored 18 of his 24 points this season in the last 23 games, demonstrating that he might not be the only Staal prone to slow starts.

 

John-Michael Liles scored his first goal of the season, exacting a little vengeance on the Leafs. He has been soaking up minutes with the top power play unit, knocking Andrej Sekera down to the second unit and possibly out of fantasy relevance, which is a shame because he’s been a pleasant surprise. I remember hoping the Oilers would pick him up as he is just a talented defenseman. 

 

Don’t give up on Sekera yet (also don’t jump on Liles unless you literally have no other options) as you need to see how this plays out over the next couple of weeks.

 

Oh yeah, and Jeff Skinner – he’s good.

 

*

 

The only silver lining for the Leafs – Joffrey Lupul scored the lone goal and has goals in three straight games, a welcome change from the donut shop he’d been attempting to build in November and December.

 

*

 

If a goal is scored in a Sabres-Panthers game, does anyone give a shit?

The leagues’ two most offensively inept (note the double meaning) teams locked horns last night in a 1-1 draw that I’m certain made nary a ripple in most fantasy leagues.

 

I suppose those desperate for goaltending may be clinging to Tim Thomas’ brand of adequate goaltending. He has posted a save percentage above .900 in all eight of his starts since December began, which means he isn’t destroying you right now.

 

*

 

The biggest news out of Buffalo was the hiring of former Senators assistant GM Tim Murray to the head job. That means the exodus of talent can begin again. I’m looking for new homes for Christian Ehrhoff, Ryan Miller and Matt Moulson. Moulson is the only one who might not see his fantasy stock rise with a trade because of how well he has performed since landing in Buffalo.

 

*

 

Another low scoring game last night – Cory Schneider and the Devils shutout the Stars 1-0. That makes three shutouts for Schneider already this season. He has seen such little offensive support that might just be the only way he can win games. Okay, that’s hyperbole but seriously, half of his wins this year have been shutouts. Talk about having to work for it.

 

Michael Ryder scored the lone Devils goal, giving him goals in each of the past three games. He has also scored nine points in his last 11 games. He is coming on and I am rather optimistic about his prospects in the second half. He has teamed with Ryane Clowe and Adam Henrique on a second line I think has a lot of potential.

 

Clowe, by the way, has three points in seven games since returning from injury but he could start to come on as he rounds into form. It’s easy to forget that Clowe was once in that group with guys like Wayne Simmonds, Chris Stewart, Ryan Callahan and David Backes as prolific multi-category producers with 60-point upside. He has struggled with injuries in the past couple of years and won’t score at a 60-point pace in New Jersey but he can still be productive in deeper formats.

 

*

 

Unless Kari Lehtonen could summon the power to create negative goals he was never going to be able to make up for the stink bomb he dropped on my fantasy team Monday night but at least he didn’t add to the wreckage with a bounce back last night.

 

The Stars experimented with Rich Peverley in place of Valeri Nichushkin on the top line. They abandoned that experiment half way through the game, which is good news for Nichushkin owners.

 

I’m not sure why the Stars would mess with a good thing as Peverley had scored five points in a four-game streak prior to last night.

 

*

 

He didn’t score a goal last night and has just one in his last seven games but I thoroughly enjoyed this breakdown of Alex Ovechkin’s resurgence from SB Nation’s Evan Sporer. If nothing else, it’s an excuse to watch highlights of the greatest goal scorer of this generation.

 

Ovechkin did manage an assist and has points in three straight, if any of you had grown concerned. He has been skating on the second line with Mikhail Grabovski and Eric Fehr recently. You would think that would be a big win for those two but they had actually gone scoreless in the three games prior to last night. They made up for that with a combined three goals including Fehr’s game winner.

Mike Green sighting! He has four points in the last two games.

 

Philipp Grubauer helped cement his position with the win last night. If you recall, he had lost his previous three starts opening the door for Braden Holtby to come back in. Holtby did NOT take advantage.

 

You should definitely check out this piece from Japer’s Rink breaking down how the Capitals have tried to push Holtby deeper into his net, which has resulted in giving up some cheap goals. I don’t know if Holtby adapts in time to save this season or not but at least you know it’s not just that he’s “lost it”.

 

*

 

Speaking of not taking advantage, Anders Lindback just stinks. He has gotten three straight starts for the Lightning since Ben Bishop went down and has stopped just 49 of 59 shots across three games. He is seeing very little rubber and only stopping a marginal proportion of it. Don’t pick this guy up.

 

After scoring just one points in his last 15 games Richard Panik was scratched. There have been plenty of successful youngsters to play for the Lightning this season but Panik has really cooled off. Keep him in mind for next year.

 

Ondrej Palat, on the other hand, that dude is hot. With two points last night he now has 10 points on an eight-game scoring streak. Skating with Martin St. Louis will help with that.

 

*

 

Matt Beleskey is enjoying his time on the Ducks’ top line. He has seven points on a five-game scoring streak.

 

It certainly helps when Ryan Getzlaf is going off as he has been. Getzlaf scored two goals last night leaving him just three shy of his career high. Safe to say he’ll be setting a new personal best this season.

 

Nick Bonino saw his four-game scoring streak come to an end but he remains a great option because he is firmly entrenched on the Ducks’ top power play unit.

 

*

 

So much for Mike Fisher’s hot streak. He has now failed to score in the last two games. That’s not necessarily indicative that he is done scoring but this is nothing new for the Predators. One week Fisher gets hot next week it’s someone else. Right now it looks like it is Craig Smith and Matt Cullen’s turn. Each had two points last night. But next week it’ll probably be David Legwand and Patrick Hornqvist so I wouldn’t waste time chasing Smith or Cullen.

 

That’s why I was glad to bail out on Predators prospect Filip Forsberg earlier this week. There just isn’t much upside in being a Predators forward. Forsberg, by the way, was called up yesterday but did not get into the lineup.

 

*

 

Jaroslav Halak, welcome back!!!!

 

He’s my best goaltender and I’ve missed him dearly. His 33 save shutout will go a long way to make up for the hell Lehtonen put me through on Monday night. More importantly, we can all shake the stench of Brian Smelliott from our nostrils. Seriously, fantasy hockey stops being fun when Smelliott is playing like an All-Star. I don’t make the rules. It just does.

 

Vladimir Sobotka, “Ziggy” to any fan of The Wire, is on fire right now. Ken Hitchcock reward Sobotka and his linemates Patrick Berglund and Vladimir Tarasenko with over five minutes of power play time last night. They did not disappoint.

 

Sobotka scored two points giving him seven in his last four games.

 

Tarasenko got two points as well and now has 12 points in his last eight games.

 

Berglund didn’t score but hell that should come as no surprise.

 

Alex Pietrangelo is hot as well having scored seven points in his last four games. Incredibly the Blues still have three defensemen on pace for over 50 points, although it’s starting to look like they might even get two over 60 – Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk.

 

*

 

Karri Ramo got the start for the Flames and was on the hook for all five goals. Probably not relevant to most of you but if any of you out there are still giving Ramo run on your fantasy team you deserve every bit of last night’s performance.

 

Now that the Sabres have hired their GM it’s only up to the Flames to make a decision. Those two are going to be the big sellers this year and every day that goes by without a Flames GM shrinks their window of opportunity to sell potentially valuable fantasy assets like Mike Cammalleri or Lee Stempniak.

 

Granted, Stempniak is only marginally valuable but he shoots a ton and would have real value if his plus/minus wasn’t trapped in the Flames’ vortex of garbage. Get him on a good team and suddenly he’s not a burden. Look at Versteeg in Chicago. I could see that sort of rejuvenation for Stempniak. And you can only imagine how great it would be to see Cammalleri on a contender.

 

*

 

No Parise? No Koivu? No Harding? NO PROBLEM.

 

The Wild went on the road to Phoenix and rocked the Coyotes in a key matchup creating a two-point cushion for the final playoff spot in the West. Granted, the Coyotes also have three games in hand but it’s still an important win.

 

For Wild netminder Niklas Backstrom that makes three straight wins. Oh sure, he’s still rocking a goals-against average above 3.00 but at least his save percentage is above .900 now!

 

Check out the Wild’s lines with Koivu and Parise out:

 

23.63%

EV

64 GRANLUND,MIKAEL - 22 NIEDERREITER,NINO - 29 POMINVILLE,JASON

22.36%

EV

3 COYLE,CHARLIE - 15 HEATLEY,DANY - 16 ZUCKER,JASON

16.46%

EV

21 BRODZIAK,KYLE - 24 COOKE,MATT - 14 FONTAINE,JUSTIN

9.28%

EV

56 HAULA,ERIK - 17 MITCHELL,TORREY - 19 VEILLEUX,STEPHANE

I am officially naming that second line the “Horror Film” with Dany Heatley’s corpse trying to chase around youngsters Charlie Coyle and Jason Zucker.

 

Lost in the fun was Justin Fontaine who led the way with a hat trick. I’m trying not to read too much into that though. He skated only 13:23 on the third line with second unit power play time and one of his goals was an empty-netter. I think he has some upside but not this season.

 

Nino Niederreiter is rocking a four-game scoring streak, by the way.

 

*

 

On the flip side, Mike Smith just can’t catch a break.

 

 

Smith hasn’t won since December 21st and has mostly been mediocre this season. While his goals-against average has fallen below 3.00 his save percentage has been slipping. I expected big things from Smith en route to a Team Canada Olympic selection. Apparently mediocrity was all he needed. Did you know Smith still hasn’t recorded a shutout this season? That’s a far cry from the 13 he posted over his first 101 games with the Coyotes.

 

The Coyotes did get Oliver Ekman-Larsson back in the lineup but with much to show for it. OEL did lead the team in ice time but he picked up where he left off pre-injury, on a cold streak.

 

OEL’s loss is Michael Stone’s gain, perhaps. Stone has five points in the last five games and only one was a goal. Pretty impressive considering he’s rocking a goal:assist ratio greater than 1.0.

 

Apparently Rocky Mountain Fever can slow Shane Doan down but it can’t stop him. Since returning to the lineup Doan has three points in three games. The renaissance season continues!

 

That’s good news for linemate Mikkel Boedker who is enjoying a breakout campaign. Boedker has goals in three straight games.

 

*

 

There are beginning to be rumblings of collapse regarding Boston’s Tuukka Rask. It has been said many times on this site that Rask has never started more than 39 games in a season at the NHL level. That makes this season (especially with the Olympics where he will likely carry the load for Finland) something of uncharted territory for Rask.

 

I have little concern about Rask. I’m not sure fatigue issues will really rear their head until the worst time for Boston (playoff time). He still strikes me as the best goalie in fantasy hockey right now but performances like last night in Los Angeles do not help.

 

Rask was pulled after three goals on 18 shots.

 

*

 

Future Canadian Olympian Jeff Carter scored the opener for the Kings and fired 10 shots on goal. He has been skating with Anze Kopitar on the top line for a while now but so far the results have been mixed. Depending on what narrative you want to create you could note that Kopitar has scored just three in his last six but seven in his last nine or seven in his last 12 or 12 in his last 16.

 

That’s just an example of how cherry-picked stats aren’t always reliable. That being said, none of those samples shows a stretch where Kopitar has scored above a point per game, which is where he really ought to be.

 

Another struggling King, Mike Richards, notched just his second point in the past 13 games. He hasn’t scored a goal since November 25th. It’s little wonder he didn’t make Team Canada this go around.

 

*

 

Detroit’s season from hell continues. They are currently a playoff team but they are also firmly among the Eastern Conference Wild Card muck. Excluding Pittsburgh, Boston, Tampa Bay and Montreal only one other Eastern team has a positive goal differential; the Washington Capitals at plus-one. The Red Wings are right down with the rest of the flotsam at minus-seven.

 

Jimmy Howard made another forgettable start getting yanked after allowing four goals on 23 shots. There is a reason I have left Howard on my IR even though he’s been back healthy for almost two weeks. It’s not that I don’t want to be able to make waiver wire moves. It’s that I fear my waiver move will be dumping Howard, who I picked in the second round.

 

Not that draft position should have any impact on my decision but I can’t help that it does.

 

It shouldn’t be all that surprising that the Red Wings have struggled though. They are very thin on talent as it is and Pavel Datsyuk has sat out the past couple of games including last night so that doesn’t help matters.

 

*

 

Tommy Wingels and Tyler Kennedy returned to the lineup for the Sharks. Kennedy found himself on the third line while Wingels was up on the second line. Unfortunately for Wingels he will have to wait a bit for his chance to be productive as the second line just isn’t the same without Logan Couture, although he does still have Patrick Marleau for a linemate.

 

Wingels really missed the boat on the top line opening though. Wingels had previously filled in on the top line earlier this season but Joe Pavelski now has that role and is taking full advantage. Pavelski scored two goals last night and now has 12 goals in his last 14 games.

 

Another hot Shark, Jason Demers, is rocking a four-game scoring streak while pairing with Dan Boyle on the Sharks’ top power play unit. The Sharks normally roll with four forwards on their top unit but with Couture out that has created an opening for a second defenseman.

 

Antti Niemi was very solid in the victory but that’s not all that surprising he has been a home/away Jekyll and Hyde monster. Seriously, check out his splits. Most every goalie has some degree of home advantage but Niemi is basically unconscious at home, while it’s a coin flip whether or not you will get a good performance on the road.

 

*

 

After skating in the Alumni Game on New Year’s Day Brian Rafalski has decided to get back into the game. He has signed on to play with the Florida Everblades of the ECHL. I sincerely doubt this comeback ever makes it all the way to the NHL but it’s a nice story all the same.

 

This news came on the same day that Wade Redden announced his retirement.

 

*

 

The NHL has rescheduled the Hurricanes-Sabres game from earlier this week to Tuesday February 25th. That will give a head start in Week 19 to anyone with Sabres or Hurricanes on their roster. That leaves the Hurricanes with four games that week and the Sabres with three.

 

I wouldn’t recommend owning any Sabres anyhow so there’s no advantage to be gained but there could be some added benefit to grabbing a Hurricane or two once the Olympic break begins.

 

*

 

Rob Vollman uses Goals Versus Threshold to breakdown which country has the best chance to win in Sochi. Canada is number one!

 

*

 

Plans to build a 20,000 seat arena in Las Vegas have been approved. I don’t know if there is an ownership group ready to buy but the NHL needs to get a team there on the sole principle that this arena is being privately funded. You know what I can’t abide? Billionaire owners crying poor and holding cities hostage to get tax-payer money to build them new facilities that they and they alone profit off of.

 

I totally get it from the owner’s perspective. If you get a publicly funded arena owning a sports franchise suddenly becomes a very profitable venture. Having to build that arena probably neutralizes whatever profits you’d make. But what about the all the other benefits that come from being a team owner? Don’t buy a team to make money. Buy a team because you are competitive and passionate about sports.

 

*

 

If you believe that have your team’s players compete at the Olympics is a negative then fans of the Blues, Red Wings and Blackhawks should probably be concerned. All three will send 10 players to the Olympics this year.

 

*

 

Interesting theory from Sportsnet’s Sam Cosentino suggesting that CHL bias kept Canada from considering NCAA players who could have helped at the most recent World Juniors.

 

*

 

PK Subban is apparently seeking mega millions on his next deal. I don’t know if he is necessarily worth that much but it can’t be far off. Either way, I would give him all of the dollars (using Katz’s money, of course) to get him to play for the Oilers.

 

*

 

If Olympic teams were allowed to make trades Grantland’s Sean McIndoe has a few ideas.

 

*

 

McIndoe also has all the answers to questions you have for the second half of the season.

 

*

 

You can follow me on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.


Write comment
Comments (12)add comment

toddmackay said:

toddmackay
Thank You! Steve, many thanks for considering my question and taking the time to research whether or not we had reached an unprecedented level of 'tenders in one season! Seeing as we're only at the halfway mark, I still think we'll come close to the record.

Cheers,
January 10, 2014
Votes: +0

rjfisher83 said:

rjfisher83
... For those of you who use the Same Night Tool, there is an updated attachment in this thread to reflect the Carolina/Buffalo schedule change: http://forums.dobbersports.com...tool/page2.
January 10, 2014
Votes: +0

Spec7ral said:

Spec7ral
... If the moron coach Carlyle would start using Kadri's strengths instead of constantly focusing on his weakness, they would be a better team. Get mad at the coach, not the media.
January 10, 2014
Votes: +0

rataylor22 said:

rataylor22
... Yea......I don't care. I'm gonna keep piling on. As often as possible.
January 10, 2014
Votes: +0

Kofax said:

Kofax
... I completely disagree with that statement. The media has entirely turned against the Leafs and rarely is anything good ever reported, even during the playoff run last year, so to me that statement is way off base. It is doom and gloom everywhere I look, even if they are making strides in the right direction. You can jump on the regular rhetoric that they haven't given anything positive to report about in the last 10 years as most Leaf haters do, but that is bs as well. They haven't been good, but you can always push out good with the bad. With the Leafs and the media, the bad sells, and it is mostly what we ever hear and see. I'm personally sick of it and would like a break. But that comes with being a Leaf fan. There are as many haters as there are fans.
January 10, 2014
Votes: +0

rataylor22 said:

rataylor22
... Agree with Hawkdog, Leafs deserve to get hacked on at every turn when things are going bad, because you know at any semblance of them doing well that a log cabin with only snowshoe access and a complete technological cutoff in the middle of the mountains isn't safe from the media pushing it in everyone's face
January 10, 2014
Votes: +0

Potatoeman said:

Potatoeman
Public funded arenas "You know what I can’t abide? Billionaire owners crying poor and holding cities hostage to get tax-payer money to build them new facilities that they and they alone profit off of."

Amen to that!!! Living in Quebec, it pisses me off that my tax dollars are funding an arena that may or may not get an NHL franchise one day while that money could be better spent elsewhere (plus, I really really disliked the Quebec/Montreal rivalry back in the days (I have no problems with the Montreal/Boston or Montreal/Toronto rivalries though, it's just that I feel that the Montreal/Quebec one was very unhealthy), so guess how I feel about paying to maybe bring it back...)

A comedian joked about this, saying that if the tax-payers funded a certain percentage of the cost to build an arena in order to attract an NHL team, does that mean that they'd get that same percentage of the profits when the owners'll get bored/"broke" and sell the team off?
January 10, 2014
Votes: +1

hawkdog said:

hawkdog
Leafs Leafs deserved to hacked on, they are at the center of the Canadian Universe, get every HNIC early game and get the most media attention.

Love the link to Raycroft (Rask reference).

The following off-season, on June 24, 2006, Raycroft was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs for the rights to Finnish goaltending prospect Tuukka Rask.[1] It was later revealed that the Bruins intended to release him, which would have made him available to Toronto without any compensation at all.[2] He began playing for the Maple Leafs in the 2006–07 season and earned his first shutout and win as a Leaf in a 6-0 victory against the Ottawa Senators on October 5, 2006.[1] On April 3, 2007, Raycroft tied the Leafs' franchise record for most wins by a goaltender in the regular season (37), previously held by Ed Belfour in 2002–03 (Raycroft played more games than Belfour and earned three shootout wins, which did not exist prior to the 2005–06 season).[3] Despite this record, he finished 49th in GAA and 56th in save percentage as the Leafs failed to qualify for the playoffs.
January 10, 2014
Votes: -1

Kofax said:

Kofax
... I should probably back down a bit from my last post. Looking back, you don't bring it up every time. Probably just a lot of frustration coming through on my end having seen this story unfold before; every time I think a corner is turned. So an apology for calling it out every time. I still hate hearing about that stupid bet...
January 10, 2014
Votes: +1

Kofax said:

Kofax
... Are we honestly going to be reminded of your bet for the Leafs not to make the playoffs every ramblings you write? As a Leafs fan it's hard enough to see this free fall, and then to have it rubbed in my face by almsot every media outlet available is excrutiating. I mean, I (or anyone else) don't pop in here in the comments and talk about Edmonton's never ending rebuild day in day out do we?

I get it. You want some credit for making the call about where things were headed and you deserve it. But every ramblings this is brought up....
January 10, 2014
Votes: +0

oprime said:

oprime
... Who is Sobotka!?!??!
January 10, 2014
Votes: +0

Red John said:

Red John
Flames Why on earth would the GM search keep Cammalleri and other rentals from being dealt?

Brian Burke won't hire anyone until offseason. He'll handle trade deadline and dealing pending UFAs like Stempniak and knowing Burke he'll get top value for them.
January 10, 2014
Votes: +1
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