Happy Holidays everyone! It’s hard to believe we’re almost halfway through the fantasy season already, but in standard 22-week seasons that’s coming right after Week 11. All fantasy owners need to remember that because of the Christmas break in the NHL schedule there are no games taking place on Saturday and Sunday of Week 11. This most likely means that any minimum goalie requirements that your team implements won’t be in effect, so beware of that.
So far it seems that the 2011 season has had a main theme, and unfortunately for everyone that theme has been concussions. Despite new rules being put into place to prevent against hits to the head and Brendan Shanahan laying out more fines and suspensions than ever, it almost seems that there have been more head-related injuries than ever before. Some of fantasy hockey’s top names – Sidney Crosby, Claude Giroux, Jeff Skinner, and Chris Pronger just to name a few – are out of action because of concussions and all currently do not have a timetable on their returns (and in the case of Pronger, won’t be coming back this season at all). Not even going into what that means for the NHL, but fantasy owners have had it rather tough with concussed players often not even seeing IR, meaning owners are forced to manage their teams more than ever. With that said, that’s why we’re here at fantasyhockey.com, to help you remain on top of your game.
For those of you that are into keeper and dynasty leagues, and I know I am, there has been a trade in the NHL that might hold some significance to your leagues, probably mostly on prospect teams. The Phoenix Coyotes have traded Kyle Turris to the Ottawa Senators for highly touted rookie/prospect David Rundblad and a 2nd round pick. Turris has been mostly a disappointment in regards to fantasy leagues ever since being drafted 3rd overall in the 2007 draft and coming with a lot of talent and promise. He was never able to really get his legs underneath him in the NHL with only 46 points in 137 games played with the Coyotes, so a change of scenery can only help. He could instantly join Ottawa’s top-six forwards grouping and will be looked at to make an impact right way, especially with the rather hefty toll Ottawa paid for him. Fantasy owners will want to monitor him to see if he can click right away with his new team, as who knows what can happen. Just take a look at Tomas Kaberle, who I talked about last week. He now has eight assists in his past five games with his new team after looking like he was going to be fantasy irrelevant this season, so keep a watch out.
Rundblad is a most own in dynasty and keeper leagues and similarly to Turris should instantly have the opportunity to show what he can bring his new team. The offensive-minded defenseman will now have Keith Yandle to show him the ropes and that should help him develop into a star. He could even be seeing some power play time right way with his new squad. A couple years down the road and he should be a staple on the blue line for the Yotes alongside Yandle. Hopefully this trade means good things for both players and teams involved, and I think it will.
Here is the weekly breakdown for this upcoming week, Dec. 19 – 25:
3 GAMES: CGY, COL, DAL, DET, FLA, LAK, MIN, MON, NAS, NYI, NYR, OTT, PHI, PHX, TOR, VAN, WPG
2 GAMES: ANA, BOS, BUF, CAR, CHI, EDM, NJD, PIT, SJS, STL, TBL, WAS
1 GAME: CBJ
Because of the holiday break, we have an unusual schedule. Columbus is the odd man out this week with only one game while the rest are either playing two or three games, with the majority of the teams playing three. The games played this week will be rather steady, with at least six games every night of play. There are six on Monday, seven on Tuesday, six on Wednesday, eight on Thursday, and then the week is capped off with an eleven game Friday.
ON THE ROAD AGAIN
These teams are playing all of their games on the road so be aware that fatigue may play a factor in their play this week: ANA, BUF, CBJ, DET, MIN, MON, PHI, STL, TBL
These teams are playing all of their games at home this week so they should be rested and practicing: BOS, CAR, COL, DAL, EDM, NJD, SJS, VAN, WPG
STAYING WELL RESTED
Teams that are not scheduled to play in any back-to-back games in Week 10 while also minimizing travel: BOS, CAR, CBJ, COL, DAL, EDM, NJD, PIT, SJS, VAN, WAS
A little bit easier to make these lists this week with the condensed schedule. I think the games-per-week breakdown is a better stat to look at this week since you will want to utilize your players as much as possible during these next five days.
B2B: BACKUPS TO SEE ACTION?
All of these teams are schedule to play in back-to-back games this upcoming week, so there are good chances that these teams’ respective backup goaltenders could see some action: CGY, CHI, DET, FLA, LAK, MIN, MON, NAS, NYI, NYR, OTT, PHX, TOR, WPG
No guarantees, but If you are desperate for some goalie starts, make sure to monitor these teams to try to determine if/when their backups are playing so you can snag them off of the waiver-wire if available. Because of the short week, you may want to pay attention to these team even more, as starters may only get one start this week while backups may get one start this week. A few teams in the goalie hot seat that are especially worth monitoring are Chicago (Ray Emery, Corey Crawford), Dallas (Richard Bachman, Andrew Raycroft), and the New York Islanders (Al Montoya, Evgeni Nabokov, as Kevin Poulin was sent back to the minors).
Teams that have the best win streaks currently in the NHL as of Friday:
BOS – 4 wins (after Saturday)
CHI – 4 wins
NAS – 4 wins
STL – 4 wins
NJD – 3 wins
Boston continues to dominate the Northeast Division while Chicago, St. Louis, Detroit and now Nashville are all battling hard for the Central Division lead while going 8-1-1, 8-1-1, 7-3-0, 6-4-0 over each of their past 10 games respectively.
Teams that have the longest current streaks in the NHL without collecting a point:
EDM – 2 losses
NYR – 2 losses
PIT – 2 losses
CAR – 2-7-1 past 10
The Rangers and Penguins had been streaking but each have hit roadblocks recently, with the Rangers losing two in a row and Pittsburgh going only 1-3-0 with Sidney Crosby back on the shelf. Edmonton was a team that shot through the gates this season getting some big wins early, but they have been stumbling recently going only 3-6-1 over their past 10 games and 5-11-1 over their last 17 games combined. Carolina on the other hand continues to struggle. They cannot seem to find their way this season and instead seem to be on a push for the first overall pick in 2012.
Now let’s take a look at what should be the most favorable matchups of the week:
Minnesota Wild – Opponents: @VAN+@CGY, @EDM – Seeing as they are playing all of their games on the road, you might be wondering how the Wild made it here. There is good reason however and for a team that is at the top of the NHL standings despite what we may have thought before the season began, these guys just won’t go away even when on the road, as shown by their matching 10-4-2 records when both on the road and at home. They also have some good track records with their opponents in Week 11. They are currently 1-0-1 with a 7-4 goal differential against Vancouver, 1-1-0 with five goals against Calgary, and 3-1-0 against the Oilers. Kyle Brodziak (5g-2a-7pts, 19 PIM, 2 PPG in 7 December games) and Jared Spurgeon (0g-5a-5pts, 3 PPP in 7 December games) have been doing especially well as of late and should be readily available in your pool.
…And the least favorable matchups of the week:
Columbus Blue Jackets – Opponents: @NAS – I’ve got to put these guys on here, as they are the only team playing only one game during Week 11. To make things worse, they are going to be facing a Nashville team that is on a roll right now. This will also be the fourth and final time they are meeting each other, and Columbus has yet to earn a win, going 0-2-1 with nine goals scored in the three games thus far. Use your BJ’s only if you must.
That wraps it up. Good luck out there everyone and be safe this holiday season.