Contributed by Garrett Rees
Wow, what a first week! We were witness to plenty of surprises, impressive rookies, a lewd gesture, and even a little public intoxication, but at the end of the day injuries ruled the news. Let’s hop right into it and take a look at some of the more pressing matters.
To start it off, the defending Stanley Cup champions have not had the championship caliber start to the season they were hoping for, instead dropping three of their first four games. That isn’t stopping Marian Hossa from racking up the points (4g-4a-8pts, +6, 16 SOG in five games).
On the other hand, last season’s worst-ranked team was off to a bit of a hot start, winning their first two games of the season thanks to stellar play from Nikolai Khabibulin (2W, 2.02 GAA, .930 SV%, 1 SO in 3 games), a revived looking Shawn Horcoff (2g-1a-3pts, +3), and the sweet hands of Jordan Eberle (1g-1a-2pts, +3, 1 SHG)
Speaking of Eberle, there have already been some solid rookie standouts to definitely be keeping your eyes on after the first week of play. Along with Eberle, Washington’s defenseman John Carlson (1g-4a-5pts, 16 PIMs in four games), Buffalo’s Tyler Ennis (four points in five games) and the Rangers’ Derek Stepan (hat trick in first NHL game) have all been showing why their teams have been touting them so highly, and why they deserve consideration on your fantasy roster.
Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan had a combined zero points and a -7 while each of them racked up a whopping 23 PIMs in their first three games. Ryan Getzlaf didn’t fare any better, with no points and a -5, while the entire Ducks roster could only muster two goals total during that stretch. Worried? Don’t be. The Ducks top trio decided to finally wake. In two solid offensive performances since, those three have combined for five goals (three on the power play), seven assists, and a +6, with Getzlaf being the biggest benefactor with 2g-4a-6pts and 4 PPP.
Last week we talked about how Brian Boucher was in line to get plenty of starts early on due to Michael Leighton’s back injury. Well, Flyers’ coach Peter Laviolette threw a curve ball, deciding instead to go with the pre-season standout rookie Sergei Bobrovsky in the season-opening game. After two starts each, Bobrovsky has definitely being the better netminder so far (2W, 2 GAA, .930 SV%) compared to Boucher’s line (0W, 2.49 GAA, .900 SV%). With Leighton now out six to eight weeks instead of four as was mentioned last week, this could be an interesting battle going forward.
Semyon Varlamov came off of the IR and could create quite the logjam in goal for Washington, as Michal Neuvirth (3W, 2.22 GAA, .924 SV% in four games) has played very well so far this season in Varly’s absence. Hopefully you are fortunate enough to own both Caps goalies, because we may be seeing quite the time-share if Varlamov plays well in his first game. Keep your eyes peeled on this situation.
Mike Green will miss Saturday’s game with a shoulder injury that he sustained while trying to make a check, but may not miss any more time than that. However, shoulder injuries are never a good thing for hockey players, so hopefully it’s not worse than the Caps are letting on. As of now he is considered day-to-day.
Vinny Prospal, who has yet to play a game this season, required surgery on his knee and could be out for the remainder of the season. This is bad news for the Rangers and the poolies that drafted him.
Fantasy ironman Jason Pominville ends his streak of 336 games played because of a concussion he received in a game versus the Hawks after a nasty Nicklas Hjalmarsson hit. Pominville’s timetable to return is still uncertain, while the outcome so far isn’t looking very positive. Derek Roy and Drew Stafford (each with 1g-1a-2pts, +2 during that game) will be counted on more to help fill the void, and Buffalo rookie Nathan Gerbe will get a chance to prove his worth, joining the fourth line and second PP-unit. “The Hammer” received a 2-game suspension.
John Tavares also received a concussion in the Islanders season opener against the Dallas Stars. Good news for the Islanders, though, as Tavares may be able to return to the ice as soon as Saturday when they play Colorado. Josh Bailey (2g-3a-5pts, 3 PPP in four games) and Blake Comeau (3g-3a-6pts) have surprisingly taken advantage of the injury situation. Rookie Nino Niederreiter, mentioned last week, got his first goal on Wednesday and has looked decent out there so far. And hey, It’s been a whole four games and Rick DiPietro is not injured yet, so they’ve got that going for them.
In what was a scary scene, Ondrej Pavelec also suffered a concussion last week. He awkwardly collapsed to the ice due to a fainting spell during the first two minutes of Atlanta’s first game which caused his head to hit the ice. A timetable for his return is still unknown. Expect Chris Mason to get the majority of the starts while Pavelec is out.
And finally, I almost forgot about the exploits of Clarke MacArthur. The player the Thrashers decided to ignore after arbitration has had a hot stick to start the season, just like his Leafs team. MacArthur Park has five goals in four games, including game-winners. In addition, he has scored goals in all four games the Leafs have played, which are all wins.
Here is the breakdown for this upcoming week, October 18 – October 24:
4 GAMES: Calgary, Chicago, Nashville, New York Rangers, San Jose, Tampa Bay
3 GAMES: Anaheim, Atlanta, Boston, Buffalo, Carolina, Colorado, Columbus, Dallas, Los Angeles, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York Islanders, Ottawa, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Toronto, Vancouver, Washington
2 GAMES: Detroit, Edmonton, Florida, Montreal, Philadelphia, Phoenix
Obviously owners in weekly leagues will most likely want to start their players that are on the six teams that are playing four games while paying close attention teams only playing two. Be especially wary of Detroit, Edmonton, Florida, and Montreal. All four of these teams have the infamous Thursday/Saturday-only schedule, which are the busiest fantasy days of the week. There are 9 and 11 other games on these days respectively so I’m sure weekly league owners can do well with all of the other options presented.
Now let’s take a look at the most likely favorable matchups of the week:
Tampa Bay: As expected this offseason, the Lightning offense has come out of the gate flying this season, as they have 12 goals in their first three games and five wins in a row dating back to the pre-season. The phenom Steven Stamkos started right where he left off last season, collecting 4g-2a-6pts, 2 PPP, and 16 SOG all in only three games so far, with five other players all having at least a point-per-game or better. With that in mind, the Lightning play four games next week, with three of them against susceptible defenses in Dallas, New York Islanders, and Atlanta. Expect the Tampa offense to keep soaring this week. They get the added bonus of playing in one of the three games on Sunday, as well as one of the five games on Monday. Get these guys out there.
San Jose: It looks like the Sharks are going to try to make up for last weeks’ three games in 11 nights as they have four games this week. Unfortunately for Sharks’ owners though, the NHL is going to try to make it tough as they only have one game at home this week. After a laid back couple of games at home after their European journey, the boys in teal head right back out on the road for matches against Colorado, Edmonton, and Calgary. This travel-heavy Western team should be able to handle the load, though, and Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley, and Patrick Marleau should be able to provide some much needed points for their owners to make up for last week. Plus, the Sharks are also playing in one of the 3 matches on Sunday, so definitely get them in your lineups on that day.
…And the least favorable matchups of the week:
Anaheim: Wow, did this team look terrible for the first three games of the season. Playing on the road for all three games, the Quacks were pounded by Detroit, Nashville, and St. Louis to the tune of 13-2. Playing at home seemed to be what they needed to get their offense (aka Perry, Bobby Ryan, and Getzlaf) back on track. Unfortunately for the Ducks, they are playing all three games this week on the road versus stingy defensive teams, starting with back-to-back games against the Jackets on Wednesday and the Flyers on Thursday, then heading back to Detroit for a rematch against the Red Wings on Saturday. With games on busy schedule days, weekly leaguers may want to be looking for replacements this week, especially for Jonas Hiller (1W, 4.06 GAA, .900 SV% in five games).
Detroit, Edmonton, Florida, Montreal: As mentioned above, these four teams all only have two games next week, with both games coming on the busiest nights of the fantasy week. Weekly leaguers beware.
Players that may be flying under the radar that should deserve a roster spot at this time.
Steve Sullivan – The 13-year veteran is playing like his younger self again, posting 4g-1a-5pts, 2 PPG, and 14 SOG in his first three games, collecting at least a goal in each game.
John-Michael Liles – He spent most of last season in coach Joe Sacco’s doghouse, but has found his game again so far this year, collecting six assists and a +5 during a four-game point streak.
Tomas Kopecky – Life is good while on a line with Hossa, as Kopecky has collected 1g-5a-6pts and a +5 in his first five games while playing alongside Marian Hossa and his five-game point streak.
Todd Bertuzzi – Big Bert has actually been the most consistent Detroit player so far, obtaining 1g-5a, +3, and 10 SOG while riding a four-game point streak to start the season.
Doug Weight – Like Josh Bailey and Blake Comeau, the Islanders’ captain has also been playing well in the first 4 games with 1g-4a-5pts and 3 PPP.
Good luck next week, everyone!
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