Only two more days of NHL hockey before the Olympics. Make sure you get your fantasy hockey fix by signing up for our free Olympic hockey pool. It’s free to enter with prizes for the top three finishers. Did I mention that it’s free to enter? I think I mentioned that.
Dobber here with an update: Val Filppula is out for approximately six weeks with a broken ankle, possibly longer. Tough break (sorry, pun wasn't intended) for Filppula, the Lightning and Team Finland. This will ensure that Tyler Johnson continues with his strong rookie season even after Steven Stamkos comes back (which I'm guessing would be early March).
More bad news per the Pittsburgh Penguins - Kris Letang suffered a stroke last week. He has a small hole in his heart and is on blood thinners. He is out for at least six weeks, but I think you can safely count him out until the playoffs at best. Right now he's obviously just focusing on living. Hockey is second. Steve Laidlaw will take a closer look at this and analyze the situation later today, so watch for that.
The Chicago Blackhawks sure are making use of the ability to retain salary, or rather, the ability of other teams to retain salary. They went out and picked up Peter Regin and Pierre-Marc Bouchard from the Islanders in exchange for a fourth round pick, which is essentially nothing. They also got the Islanders to retain half the salary of Regin and Bouchard, although what that amounts to with over half the season already complete is beyond me.
Regardless, this is some intriguing depth for the Blackhawks. Bouchard is reporting straight to the Blackhawks’ farm team but may receive a late call-up. I don’t see him having much of an impact without some serious injuries though. He couldn’t even crack the Islanders’ bleak lineup so that tells you how much he still has left to offer.
In a battle of two struggling teams the Montreal Canadiens took it to the Vancouver Canucks.
The Olympic break can’t come soon enough for the Canucks. They’ve now dropped five straight and are just 4-11-3 in their last 18. If they even squeeze out some .500 play over those games they’d be sitting pretty in third place in the Pacific. Instead they are clinging to the last wild card slot with three teams nipping at their heels. I think the Canucks still make it in but it won’t be pretty.
The good news is, the team probably gets healthy over the break. Henrik Sedin will be sitting out and his return will be huge for the Canucks and fantasy owners alike. Of course, a good portion of their core is still going to the Olympics so there is some risk of further injury, particularly for someone who plays as recklessly as Ryan Kesler.
Remember Kesler at the Vancouver Olympics? He was more pinball than hockey player. I’d put it at even odds he gets hurt.
Still, I like the Canucks’ odds over the final third/quarter of the season, which is why I’d use the Olympics as an opportunity to buy low on Roberto Luongo. His numbers have naturally taken a hit because of the Canucks’ struggles but they still sit at impressive levels. His owner in your league might be panicked though and could be even more so if Luongo (heaven forbid) were to lay an egg or two for Canada. Food for thought.
Does it count as revenge if you score a point against your former team but your new team loses the game? No, right? I guess, Raphael Diaz’s power play assist won’t go down as revenge but it counts all the same for poolies.
Diaz could also be the nail in the coffin for Jason Garrison who has received a number of tryouts on the top power play unit with wavering success. Garrison’s booming shot is seductive but he’s not all that good at distributing, which severely limits his effectiveness. More importantly, a shot like that is better served as a focal point of a second unit considering you’d much rather have guys like Kesler and the Sedins looking for shots.
Dale Weise’s assist against the Canucks counts as revenge because the Habs won though, right? Or are we just calling it even?
It was Max Pacioretty who lowered the boom on the Canucks last night, registering a hat trick. And he did so after getting stopped on two penalty shots. Oh what could have been!
It’s a real shame Pacioretty missed so many games early on because he’d be on pace for 40 goals were he able to get in 80 games. He’s also reaching that age where goal-scoring starts to taper off so he may have missed his window, despite this being just his second true full season in the league.
That’s not to say you should be down on Pacioretty, just maybe don’t go expecting a 40-goal season even though he’s got the potential.
David Desharnais and Brendan Gallagher enjoyed the outburst from Pacioretty with each notching a pair of assists. Desharnais, if you haven’t realized, has been absolutely crushing it. He took the first month and a half of the season off but since then he’s scored 29 points in 36 games. That’ll play in any fantasy league. And yeah, he’s cooled off a bit, but see no reason he’d slow down after the Olympics.
Are we all in agreement that Carey Price should be the starter in Sochi? He outdueled Luongo last night stopping 42 of 44 shots with the only goals coming while down a man. Price had a rough go of it in January but he’s righted the ship just in time for the Olympics. Ride the hot hand!
The Jets are one of the teams chasing the Canucks. They’ve been on fire of late but I don’t take them all that seriously. Their goaltending is putrid. I know Ondrej Pavelec has picked it up of late but I’m sorry, a head coach doesn’t alter what a goalie is doing.
This was just a nice run of effectiveness that coincided with a great stretch of play by the team in front of him. There’s just way too much history of miserable play from Pavelec to convince me that he’s suddenly a viable starter.
If the Jets were serious about making a run they’d be out their hunting down one of the goalies available on the market. There’s at least a half-dozen of them. I know they’ve made a serious commitment to Pavelec but that’s what the amnesty buyout is for.
The Jets lost to the Caps last night and Pavelec gave up four goals on 30 shots. He’s allowed three or more in four of his last five games. A tiger don’t change its stripes.
I don’t know if you rotisserie-leaguers have noticed but Dustin Byfuglien’s move to forward has brought a significant increase in the number of hits he is landing. After landing another six tonight, Byfuglien has 46 hits in the last seven games. Yowza!
Of course, the move has also brought a serious decline in the number of blocked shots Byfuglien is recording. He has not recorded one in any of the last five games.
Depending on your league this move could be a real game breaker.
Olli Jokinen recorded his first point in 10 contests last night. So much for that second-half jump.
Alex Ovechkin scored his 40th goal of the season last night to break a tie game in the third. It wasn’t that long ago we were all worried his star was fizzling out. Now he’s got a 10-goal buffer with the final quarter of the season remaining. How many goals do you guys think he finishes with? I’d set the over/under at 55.5 but he’s on pace for 58 and 60 is entirely possible.
I’m also curious to see where his plus/minus winds up. Ovechkin sits at minus-19 for the season. If he continues at this rate he has a chance to become the fifth member of the illustrious 50-goal/minus-20 club. I’d like to see him create the 60-goal/minus-30 club though. That’s a record that’s never getting touched.
Scott Cullen had a nice piece defending Ovechkin, as if that was truly necessary.
Taking away Ovechkin's 18 goals on 170 shots, leaves the other Capitals to score eight goals on 242 shots (3.3%) with Ovechkin on the ice. Marcus Johansson, his most common left winger, has one goal on 51 shots. This undeniably effects plus-minus, right? Of course it does. Give Ovechkin an average on-ice shooting percentage (say, 8%) and that is a difference of about seven goals.
Braden Holtby got the start and secured a solid win for the Caps. I wonder if they’ll be able to use the break to really pump up his confidence.
Let’s head over to Rumourville, otherwise known as the Oilers-Rangers game.
In a perfect world (for an Oilers fan like myself) the Oilers swap Gagner and his reasonable deal with two years left after this one for Ryan Callahan, presuming they could first negotiate a contract extention. Give him $7 million a year, I don’t care. He’s exactly the kind of talent the team needs and it means that the Oilers get a top-six talent in return for one of their own.
Sure it leaves a hole up the middle but how exactly is that pipsqueak Gagner filling a hole up the middle anyhow? He gets abused against the big centermen in the West. I think Gagner could find a whole new level in the East where life is much easier for an undersized man.
And for the Rangers, it gives them a centerman for after they amnesty Brad Richards and one signed to a contract more palatable to their tastes considering their unwillingness to give Callahan the big bucks.
That’s more fantasy land horseshit on my part but if you ain’t got dreams, what the **** you got?
If the Oilers are serious about getting their act together then they need to get Ben Scrivens re-signed pronto. I know I was sceptical that he was the answer when they made the move but I’m on board now. This dude is the truth. Definitely one to buy in a keeper league on the off chance the Oilers actually put a competitive product in front of him in the near future.
The Oilers were then able to play spoiler on a late rip by Nail Yakupov. He skated over 17 minutes for the first time since November and paid it off with six shots and the game winner.
Interesting note: this was the first time all season the Oilers didn’t take a single penalty.
In an effort to rest up Henrik Lundqvist a bit prior to the Olympics the Rangers gave Cam Talbot the start. He was solid and I’m not sure Lundqvist does any better considering the nature of the two Oiler goals but it still sucks to blow one at home to such a weak opponent.
Derick Brassard got the lone Rangers goal. He’s riding a five-game scoring streak.
Three straight wins for Steve Mason! Is he rounding back into his early season form? Is this just a blip on the radar? I don’t know for certain but I do know that history points towards Mason being closer to mediocre than stud so I’m betting against him.
That said, the Flyers really ought to be a playoff team, which leaves Mason in a good spot. If he can be just average over the final 15-20 starts he sees then he’ll win 60% of those. Think nine to 12 wins the rest of the way.
Mark Streit is really heating up with 10 points in the last 13 games. He’s been marginalized with Kimmo Timonen skating on the top power play unit more often than not but it’s Streit having the better fantasy season. He’s now on pace to clear 40 points. I bet he’d be looking at 50 were he on the top unit more often. Not that the Flyers are exactly struggling to score with the man advantage so it wouldn’t make sense to break up the chemistry Timonen has built with the guys on that top unit over the years.
What’s really interesting is that of Timonen’s 19 points this season 13 have come on the power play. Where would he be without that propping him up?
Of course, Timonen’s been battling injuries this season. Seems he’s always battling injuries but he’s a gamer and almost always plays through it. That’s why you know, for better or worse, he’s finding a way to skate for Finland at the Olympics.
I don’t know about you guys, but I have been waiting all year for Patrick Bordeleau to go off. One hit from behind and a game misconduct and I’m a happy camper. Sorry, I shouldn’t root for dirty plays but when you play in a deep rotisserie leagues all of the goons have value. So Bordeleau’s roster spot finally had value.
I’m still a little befuddled why the Avalanche carry two enforcers when they’ve already got Patrick Roy behind the bench. I kid, but I am serious about wondering why they carry two enforcers.
Neither skates more than eight minutes in most games so I guess there’s not much harm done but you’d think a team looking to shake thing up with their forward group might consider one less goon. As far as fantasy goes all I know is Cody McLeod is eating into Bordeleau’s potential fights, which hurts my team.
I also appreciated the eight shots Erik Johnson fired on net last night. He’s scoreless in three straight, which is hardly a ripple in the pond for a defenseman but considering he is just coming off a nine-game drought it’s a little frustrating to see another one forming.
Nathan MacKinnon is up to seven straight games with a point. Calder.
Hey look, more productivity out of the Tyler Ennis-Drew Stafford combo. Stafford’s got nine points in the last seven games. I really struggle to suggest picking him up because I know how streaky and mediocre he can be but this is a nice run with a real talent in Ennis.
Ennis, by the way, stretched his run to 14 points in the last 16 games. He also fired a whopping nine shots on goal last night.
Apparently Linus Omark didn’t make a strong enough impression on Wednesday so he found his way into the press box. Ville Leino made his way onto the Stafford-Ennis line. Imagine those two with an actual NHLer to round out their line?
It had been rumoured that Ryan Miller might start both games in this back-to-back but Jonas Enroth wound up with the start last night. Solid performance in the loss stopping 31 of 34 shots and keeping things close before a late goal ended things.
I’m not sure why the Sabres would bother starting Miller in a back-to-back. They have nothing to play for and no team in the market for him needs to see him play. You know what you are getting from Miller at this point and if you don’t you shouldn’t have a job in hockey. So if I’m the Sabres I’m sitting him whenever possible.
That assumes that Miller isn’t re-signing and thus should be dealt before the trade deadline. The best case scenario for Buffalo is that Quick falters and Miller steals the show at the Olympics once again. If I’m their GM I’m not heartbroken if he doesn’t see much action though. Worst thing that could happen is an injury because then you could lose him for nothing.
Milan Michalek played hero for the Sens scoring the winner with just 23 seconds remaining. He also had a goal earlier in the game. Those tallies were his ninth and 10th of the season. Remember when he scored 35 goals in one season? What a distant memory.
You’d think that the now second line with Michalek and Jason Spezza would still be quite productive but that just hasn’t been the case. The only thing keeping Spezza afloat is the 15 power play points that he’s notched.
The addition of Mika Zibanejad has helped matters but he has come and gone from that line at times and simply isn’t ready to drive a line offensively at this point in his career and perhaps never will be. Really solid two-way player though.
When Ben Bishop went down (again) last night the Lightning were still very much in the game down just 1-0. Then the rails came off because Bishop is awesome and there’s just no replacing him in Tampa Bay. Bishop owners need to pray this doesn’t become more habitual.
Valtteri Filppula also left the game early with a lower-body injury. He’s been battling some injuries as well lately so I’m not entirely surprised. He was always due for a serious second half decline, especially when Stamkos returns. These injuries have just accelerated the process.
Ondrej Palat scored the lone goal for Tampa Bay on a wicked rush. It was too little too late but impressive all the same.
So the Leafs lose to Florida 4-1 on Tuesday but then win in Tampa 4-1 last night? That’s a noodle scratcher.
It was a solid bounce-back game for Jonathan Bernier who saw much less rubber in Tampa than he did in Florida. For as great as Bernier has been this season did you know his last shutout was October 10th? You’d figure that with the number of games he’s stolen for the Leafs this season he’d have more than one for the season but nope, it’s just the one, and it feels like ages ago.
David Clarkson returned to the lineup and notched an assist. His return bumped Nikolai Kulemin back to the third line but he too notched an assist on Mason Raymond’s speedy goal. Raymond himself was once on that second line before getting bumped back. As you’d expect, his productivity has taken a real hit since then. Ahh, the joys of lineup musical chairs.
Holy nut muffins, Jimmy Howard is “back to .500”. With the win last night, Howard brought his record up to 12-12-9. He’s another one I’d be sniffing around for the stretch run. I just don’t see how the Red Wings don’t make a push for the playoffs. They have to extend their streak somehow. It’s the longest active streak in professional sports and that means something.
If they can somehow get healthy over the break – unlikely considering all of their vets are Olympians – then they’ll be a shoe-in. Barring great health the Red Wings will need to ride Howard to the finish line. Could be productive to invest now.
The good news is that the Red Wings are finally getting that secondary scoring from youngster Gustav Nyquist. He has 14 points over the last 10 games and earned himself an Olympic bid of his own after teammate Johan Franzen went down with a concussion, or concussion-like symptoms, they are never really clear on this stuff.
Florida’s top four scorers:
Brad Boyes – 26 points
Scottie Upshall – 26 points
Brian Campbell – 25 points
Tom Gilbert – 25 points
In a preview of the next Stanley Cup final the Blues jumped out early on the Bruins with goals from Alexander Steen and Jaden Schwartz before the Bruins mounted a late comeback to push the game to overtime. A great individual effort from TJ Oshie ended the game.
Schwartz had cooled off a bit in January but he’s getting it going once again with five points in his last three games. He’s definitely one to target if for no other reason that the sheer number of games the Blues have remaining.
Steen’s another one who has cooled off but that’s been injuries and simple regression. I’d count on the cooling effect to remain.
With Vladimir Tarasenko and Vladimir Sobotka out Dmitri Jaskin drew into the lineup and notched an assist. I really like his upside but with the depth on this team it’s going to be years before he hits it.
Jay Bouwmeester has really slowed down as well but he managed an assist last night and is going to clear 40 points for the first time in five years, which is a great revival of fantasy value.
The Bruins no doubt missed their captain Zdeno Chara who left early to be the Slovakian flag bearer. These Olympics sure are taking their toll for NHL teams and fantasy owners alike.
Dougie Hamilton got a taste of the future with Chara out seeing a bump in minutes to over 22. Hamilton isn’t yet ready to take that kind of load on a nightly basis but he’ll be a great one in the future assuming he doesn’t go all Tyler Myers on us.
Darcy Kuemper is a must own at this point. He’s not going to blow you out of the water by any means but he can provide league-average goaltending on a team that suffocates shots against. The Wild will definitely be a playoff team and with Josh Harding’s situation up in the air Kuemper makes a solid investment.
The apocalypse is upon us. Dany Heatley’s corpse has points in four straight games.
Craig Smith come on down! You’re the next contestant on Hottest Predator. Smith has six points in the last five games so naturally he’ll go scoreless for the next week after the Olympics. This team is reliably unreliable for fantasy.
For those wondering why Devan Dubnyk has been riding the pine in favour of the underwhelming Carter Hutton – Dubnyk is just as underwhelming an option. He could have a future with Nashville as a backup and he could be a good one too but coaching goaltenders takes time. It’s not like he lands in Nashville and magical pixie dust gets sprinkled on him. Nashville develops their goaltenders through coaching, which is hard work that takes time. If Dubnyk sticks in Nashville then you consider him as a backup who could pop up and make a difference. If not then we’ll have to see where he lands but for the remainder of this season I’m not counting on some Nashville effect making Dubnyk a great goalie.
It sure didn’t take long for Michael Del Zotto to find his way to the bottom of the Predators’ depth chart. Okay, not technically the bottom. He skated more than Ryan Ellis but Del Zotto was down to 16:17, the fewest since his first game in Nashville and received no power play time. But he’s another one who will need time in the system for results to show.
Understandably, Patrick Kane will miss tonight’s game to attend his grandfather’s funeral.
Sean McIndoe gives us the 10 best NHL players to compete at the Olympics.
You can follow me on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.