Week 8 sure has been a busy one with plenty of highlights, injury news, and even our first fantasy relevant trades of the season. Let’s go ahead and get right into how to prepare your fantasy squad for Week 9.
Since we are officially over two months into the season, I thought it would be fun to take a quick look at the two teams that surprised the league while starting off the season with 4-0-0 records: the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Dallas Stars. So how have these two teams done since? Unfortunately for the Leafs, it probably couldn’t have gone any worse as they have only doubled their win total in the 20 games (4-12-4) since that first streak, the last loss being a 5-0 beating at the hands of the Edmonton Oilers. Injuries to some key players (Dion Phaneuf, JS Giguere, Colby Armstrong) probably didn’t help at all. With a busy week ahead against some very tough opponents, I suspect things aren’t going to be getting better anytime soon, at least not during Week 9.
The Dallas Stars, on the other hand, have somewhat surprisingly been able to hold on to that early season magic. Led by a high scoring first line of Brad Richards, Loui Eriksson, and James Neal and some timely goaltending from Kari Lehtonen and Andrew Raycroft, the Stars are now second in the Western Conference with 31 points, going 11-8-1 since their initial streak. With only four points separating second from twelfth, including only a three-point separation in the Pacific Division, the Stars have a lot of work ahead of them to remain in that top spot. Winning five in a row is a great start.
Speaking of winning streaks, the Pittsburgh Penguins have been flying high recently led by the inimitable Sidney Crosby. Not only has he helped the Pens surge to a eight-game win streak, he has also successfully put Steven Stamkos in the backseat for now, surpassing him as the NHL points leader with 44 points while also tying his league-leading 21 goals. Crosby is now on a 14-game point streak that has seen him accumulate an insane 15g-14a-29pts in that span, despite linemates Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis not providing the type of production you would expect to see. He even just got his first natural hat trick. Everything is going right for this guy right now.
Week 8 saw the first two mid-season transactions that bear fantasy impact, and both of them involve the Colorado Avalanche. Perhaps most important to the fantasy community is the trading of defenseman Scott Hannan to Washington in return for winger Tomas Fleischmann. With this trade the Avs acquired a top-six forward that will be able to help fill the shoes of Peter Mueller, who is still having complications with post-concussion symptoms and is looking to be out for a long time still. Fleischmann could be an immediate grab in most fantasy leagues.
The first trade of the week involved the Bruins sending defenseman Matt Hunwick to the Avs in exchange for prospective defenseman Colby Cohen. Hunwick is a young, fast skater that showed promise in his rookie year, but this move was most definitely made by the Bruins so that they could clear up some salary cap space. “For what reason?” you may ask…
Marc Savard is finally returning to the B’s lineup, that’s why. After sitting out all season so far due to post-concussion symptoms, Savard is finally healthy and back on the ice. He was pointless in his first game, but his presence was definitely felt in an 8-1 lashing of the Tampa Bay Lightning. For the early going, Savard will be seeing time on a line with Michael Ryder and Tyler Seguin. Definitely get him back into your lineups, as he is a point-per-game player when healthy.
Simon Gagne also recently returned to the lineup and did so in fashion. He collected two points in his first game since October 21, the latter of which came as the game-winning goal in overtime. Shockingly however, these were also Gagne’s first two points in a Lightning’s uniform. When healthy he has shown to have some gifted hands so get him into the lineup.
It has been 425 days, but Pierre-Marc Bouchard has finally returned to the Wild’s lineup. Following the trending topic, I bet you could guess what also kept Bouchard out. He is instantly being moved to a line with Martin Havlat, whom he had chemistry with before his injuries. He could prove to be worth a pickup in deeper leagues, and is at least worth keeping an eye on.
The Flyers may soon have a goalie controversy on their hands, as Michael Leighton seems close to returning from the back injury that has kept him out all season. Brian Boucher was supposed to take the reins, but rookie standout Sergei Bobrovsky has really stepped up and played tremendously well. I’m glad I’m not the Philly GM, because this is going to be a tough decision.
In a huge blow for Colorado Avalanche, Chris Stewart will miss between 4 to 6 weeks due to a broken hand he incurred during a fight on November 27. David Jones has stepped into his spot and has responded with a goal in each game since, while newcomer Tomas Fleischmann, talked about above, will also try to help fill the gap left by the loss of the Avalanche’s best sniper.
Marian Hossa will be out 2 to 3 weeks with what is only being called a lower body injury he sustained in practice. Tomas Kopecky responded with a four-point night, but if you remember, Kopecky fell off the face of the earth the last time Hossa was hurt, so be weary.
And finally, Mike Modano may have unfortunately played his last NHL game, whether he likes it or not. Finally starting to click with his new teammates, the skate blade of R.J. Umberger accidentally slashed Modano’s wrist, severely severing a tendon. Hopefully for him he will be able to return before or around the beginning of playoffs because no one wants to see his career end on that kind of a note.
Here is the weekly breakdown for this upcoming week, December 6 – December 12:
4 GAMES: Anaheim, Dallas, Detroit, San Jose, Toronto, Washington
3 GAMES: Atlanta, Boston, Buffalo, Calgary, Colorado, Columbus, Edmonton, Florida, Minnesota, Montreal, Nashville, New Jersey, New York Rangers, Ottawa, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Vancouver
2 GAMES: Carolina, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York Islanders, Phoenix, St. Louis
This week’s schedule is very similar to last week’s in that that the games being played each day are pretty even across the board, except on the ever-busy Saturday with 13 games scheduled. Monday through Wednesday each have five games scheduled, while Thursday and Friday have eight games and six games scheduled respectively. Sunday is the slowest day of Week 9 with only three games scheduled (MIN @ ANA, EDM @ VAN, and WAS @ NYR).
Now let’s take a look at what should be the most favorable matchups of the week:
Anaheim – These guys have been playing better recently, winning three in a row, and next week their schedule is the best of the bunch. They play four games next week with no games on either of the busy nights while finishing up the week on Sunday. Not bad at all. First up is a well traveled back-to-back starting in Edmonton on Tuesday and finishing in Vancouver on Wednesday. They then finish up the week at home versus Calgary on Friday and Minnesota on Sunday.
Edmonton – The Oilers are starting to look up, having won three in a row and four of their last six, so playing on three slower nights might be beneficial for owners of Edmonton players. First they play Anaheim on Tuesday and then play Tampa Bay on Friday while finishing off the week versus Vancouver on Sunday. Still a word of warning for this team, as these three opponents are not the easiest out there, but with a schedule like this it may be worth the shot, especially in weekly leagues.
Pittsburgh – The Pens have a very nice chance of continuing their winning streak throughout Week 9. First they play New Jersey on Monday, then Toronto on Wednesday, and then travel to Buffalo on Saturday. Roll these guys out there with confidence.
…And the least favorable matchups of the week:
Los Angeles, New York Islanders, Phoenix, St. Louis – All four of these teams are cursed with the same lousy schedules this week. Each play only two games, with both of them taking place on the two busiest nights of the week. I definitely would not play any Islanders (@BOS, ATL) this week, especially in weekly leagues, while players belonging to LA (CGY, MIN), Phoenix (MIN, DAL), and St. Louis (CLB, CAR) are all candidates to bench during Week 9 in weekly leagues.
Toronto – As mentioned above, the Leafs are playing four games next week, but all four games are against the four best teams in the East. First off, the Leafs visit the Caps on Monday followed by visiting the Pens on Wednesday. They then play their next two games on the two busiest nights of the week, versus Philadelphia on Thursday and Montreal on Saturday. I would stay away during Week 9 unless you absolutely have no better substitutes, especially in regards to the Leafs’ goalies and those in weekly leagues.
Players that may be flying under the radar that should deserve a roster spot at this time:
Martin Havlat, MIN – Owned in just over half of Yahoo! Leagues, Havlat has definitely been worth being owned in more leagues than that. He has 4g-10a-14pts in his last 10 games while failing to find the score sheet only twice. With Bouchard back, Havlat may be able to keep this up even longer.
Ryan Malone, TB – Malone is on one of his scoring binges. After going a stretch of 33 games spanning to last season that saw him collect only one goal, Malone now has 4g-4a-8pts in his last eight games, with all four goals coming on the power play. Playing with Stamkos doesn’t hurt either. Get this guy out there while he is hot.
Sam Gagner, EDM – Gagner has been a big reason for the Oilers recent win streak, as he now has points in four straight, collecting 3g-3a-6pts, +4, 3 PPP and a short-handed goal. Gagner has been streaky so far this season, so make sure to get him in your lineups when he is playing like this.
Cam Fowler, ANA – Fowler has been playing very well lately, especially for a (soon to be) 19 year old. He just ended a four-game point streak that saw him collect 1g-4a-5pts, 3 PPP, and a GWG. At the moment he is worth owning in most leagues and is a must have in keeper leagues.
That about does it. As always post any comments or questions below. Good luck next week, everyone!
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