Here is the latest Pick Six, a goaltending-rich version that covers games for both Wednesday and Thursday. And by mentioning goaltending, it’s important to remember not to read too much into the early-season struggles of certain goalies. Remember when Marc-Andre Fleury went 1-6 to start last season and Penguins fans wondered if Brent Johnson should be the starter? Having said that, there are a few early-season goaltending waiver-wire opportunities, along with some big names that you should keep an eye on, just in case.
Wednesday October 26
Brian Elliott, G, STL – add/start
After a forgettable 3.00+ GAA split between two struggling teams last season, Elliott was an afterthought in fantasy drafts this season. However, the struggles of Jaroslav Halak and Elliott’s own surprising play mean that Elliott is the Blues’ starting goalie – at least for now. Elliott should start on Wednesday against Vancouver, although the Blues have not confirmed that yet. Playing at Rogers Arena in Vancouver won’t be an easy test, but Elliott is red hot (3-0-0, 2.06 GAA, .935 SV%) and the Canucks will be playing their second game in back-to-back nights.
Matt Duchene, C, COL – start
Duchene was demoted to the Avalanche’s fourth line on Saturday and played only 11 minutes against Chicago. On Wednesday Duchene will be promoted… to the third line alongside Chuck Kobasew and Joakim Lindstrom. Duchene is normally a slow starter, although it could be worse than his four points in eight games. However, taking only 11 shots over that span won’t get the job done, meaning that it’s no surprise that he has only one goal. On a light Wednesday night, leave him in and just hope he gets the job done.
Thursday October 27
Jacob Markstrom, G, FLA – add/start
A onetime World Junior Championship standout for Sweden, Markstrom has thrived in his opportunity resulting from a Scott Clemmensen injury. The tall Swede stopped 40 of 41 shots to defeat the struggling Habs on Monday, improving his numbers to 2-1-0 with a 1.29 GAA and .967 SV% this season. Next on the menu is the Ottawa Senators, not exactly a tough test for the rookie. The Panthers haven’t confirmed that Markstrom will start over Jose Theodore, but you can easily read between the lines here.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, C, EDM – start
I know I’ve mentioned the Nuge in a recent Pick Six. However, Oilers coach Tom Renney recently hinted that the Oilers would consider playing a game without RNH to find out what things would be like if they were to send him back to junior. It seems strange that the Oilers would even consider the possibility, since RNH already has five goals and eight points in his eight games. The Nuge has nothing left to prove in the WHL, and the Oilers would be making a dumb move in sending him back. Assume that they will make the right choice here and allow him to compete for the Calder Trophy (although he would look nice in Team Canada colours at the World Junior Championships).
Nikolai Khabibulin, G, EDM – bench
Fresh off a disastrous injury-prone season and a stay at Tent City, the Bulin Wall has been one of the early-season surprises this season (3-0-2, 0.97 GAA, .963 SV%). So what gives? The Oilers’ improved defense with some larger bodies blocking shots would be one reason. As much as I believe that the kids like the Nuge and Taylor Hall have a bright future, I don’t believe there’s any reason that the defense will continue to be the team’s strong point. The young Oils could be in for a dose of reality on Thursday, when the undefeated Washington Capitals pay a visit.
Carey Price, G, MON – bench
Could the Habs be a lottery team this season? Only if you believe that one win in eight games is a sign of things to come. Habs fans that aren’t too bleu to boo might point the finger at Price, who has stumbled out of the gate with a plus-3.00 GAA and sub-.900 SV%. On Thursday Price faces the Bruins at TD Garden, a place that had given Price similar nightmares to Roberto Luongo last season (8 GA on February 9, along with a fight with a smirking Tim Thomas). A visit to a place like Columbus or Winnipeg might be worth the trick right now, but this might be a good place to bench Price. That is, if the Habs don’t start Alex Auld (Montreal plays Philadelphia on Wednesday and Boston on Thursday). No word on whether Price will don his pink breast cancer awareness pads that he has an 0-6 record while using.