Contributed by Tim Arnold
Another exciting week of fantasy puck has passed us by, and everyone out there should now have a pretty good idea of where they stand headed into the stretch drive. With the season now more than half over, you now know whether or not you’re in a hold em’ mode, a fold em’ mode, or in a middle-of-the-pack mode. Are you a buyer? Are you a seller? Are you standing pat? So many crucial decisions to be made and a very small window of time to make them before it may be too late.
If you are in a standard 12-team league and right now you’re sitting in, say, eighth place, when the top six make your playoffs, you are the owners I am targeting the most right now. It is you who has to decide whether or not you are going to attempt making a splash in your league by pulling off a blockbuster or maybe flat out dropping some of your underachievers in exchange for some guys who you think will have second big halves. Now don’t go too crazy with who you drop, but if you are still owners of someone like Brad Boyes, you really need to consider what to do with him. He has not helped you much all season long, yet based on name alone you may be able to still attract a buyer in your league to give you something decent in return for him (Patric Hornqvist, for example). If he has been scooped up off your waiver wire, which he should have been by now in competitive leagues, consider making that move right now if you’re able to sell Boyes like a slightly used car. Do not let ownership numbers trick you. Sure, Boyes is owned in nearly 100 percent of leagues out there, but he has let down 100 percent of his owners, too. Hornqvist is owned in only about 50 percent of leagues, yet in my view has held more value all season and has a better outlook for a strong second half. It’s moves like this one that will define your season and will be the difference maker in another couple of months when you are either in or out of your league’s playoffs.
The Rangers were shut out twice this week by two different players both named Brodeur. Mike Brodeur of the Ottawa Senators is now 3-0 in his young career after picking up big wins this week over the Rangers and Canadiens. Brodeur is possibly worth a look in deeper leagues, or if you’re desperate for short-term help. Pascal Leclaire reportedly has a concussion, and Brian Elliott has been brutal in the past month. The return of captain Daniel Alfredsson is a huge boost to a banged-up Sens team. Alfie responded strongly by posting a three-point night in his first game back last night vs. the Habs.
My picks from last week have worked out decently for me. I picked the Pens to have a bit of an off week during their four games and they did just that, going 2-2. Marc-Andre Fleury is battling a fractured ring finger on his catching hand and missed Saturday night’s game against Vancouver. By the end of the night, the Pens had Alexander Pechurski in nets, a 19 year-old member of the Tri-City Americans of the WHL who signed a one-game contract earlier in the day. The kid played well, only giving up one goal on 13 shots. The injury to Fleury is said not to be serious, and he should be able to play again this week.
My favorites pick was the Washington Capitals. The Caps responded HUGE for me this week by posting 15 goals in their first three games, winning two of those with ease. After dropping a 7-4 decision to the Lightning early in the week, Alexander Ovechkin and Co. turned around and beat Florida in a shootout before completely dismantling the Toronto Maple Leafs on Friday night, led by Ovie’s five-point performance. However, we’re still waiting on Semyon Varlmov to return. Luckily for the Caps, they score enough goals to fend off opponents most nights, but they will need a healthy Varly if they hope to have any shot at a successful playoff run this spring.
Let’s take a look ahead at this week’s schedule.
4 games: Atlanta, Boston, Buffalo, Carolina, Columbus, Dallas, Florida, New Jersey, NY Islanders, Ottawa, Philadelphia, San Jose, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Toronto
3 games: Anaheim, Chicago, Colorado, Detroit, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Minnesota, Montreal, Nashville, NY Rangers, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Vancouver, Washington
2 games: Calgary
The NHL continues its insane schedule load pre-Olympics with more than half of the league playing in four games this week. That equals big numbers in fantasy leagues this week. The only note really to make regarding the schedule this week is one for the Calgary Flames. Being the only team in the league with two games, it may be a good time to sit down Jarome Iginla and Mikka Kiprusoff in weekly leagues. Kiprusoff you will be able to get away with keeping in, but Iginla has not scored a point in half a dozen games while continuing to be one of the streakiest players in hockey. The Flames’ lack of secondary scoring will continue to haunt them until it is addressed, and the pressure on Iginla’s shoulders will continue to be heavy.
Olli Jokinen has been one of my bigger fantasy letdowns of the year. Headed into the season, I expected huge things from the Finn while playing with Iginla. While his season has not been a total write-off, his 30 points in 48 games played, including just 9 goals, has been a real downer. A perennial scorer throughout his career, Jokinen has found his way to the waiver wire in more than one of my leagues.
New Jersey Devils
Martin Brodeur owners out there can be excited about the week ahead for the Devils and their likely goaltending stats by week’s end. King Marty and the Devs have it pretty good this week with two games against the Islanders, one vs. Florida, and one vs. Montreal. I expect to see Brodeur in three of the four games. The only back to back they have is next Saturday and Sunday. Sunday’s game is their second against the Islanders, and that’s the game where you should expect to see Marty get a night off. If somehow the Devils luck out and face Rick DiPietro twice this week, we could be looking at the Devils scoring 15 to 20 goals in the four games. This means Jamie Langenbrunner, Travis Zajac, and Zach Parise are all must starts. Langenbrunner is likely not available in your league, but if he is, snatch him up now. He is a classic better second half performer over his career, and with his recent naming as Team USA’s captain for the 2010 Olympics, his confidence is at an all-time high. Bench Patrik Elias this week, as he’ll miss time after being carried off the ice on a stretcher during Saturday’s game against Colorado.
Another team I like but don’t quite love this week is the Boston Bruins. The Bruins are still without Marc Savard and Patrice Bergeron, but they do have a good outlook for the next seven days. The B’s face the Senators twice and the Hurricanes and Blue Jackets once, with the latter two teams among the league’s worst.
New York Islanders
This one is too easy. With two games this week vs. the powerhouse Devils, it didn’t really matter who the Isles’ other two opponents are (Pittsburgh, Florida), since I was picking them to struggle. Rick DiPietro picked up his first win of the season vs. the high-flying Sabres on Saturday, but it’s certainly not something I see forming into a pattern. I see the Isles throwing the towel in a little bit early here because they know they have to test RD going forward to try and get some of their money’s worth out of that ridiculous contract he possesses.
John Tavares found the net during the win over the Sabres for the first time in ten games. A welcome sight for Isles fans as the chances of this team even winning a few games here and there is slim to none without him on his game. Forget about the playoffs, it’s just not going to happen. Have you dropped Matt Moulson yet? It’s past his time. Cut him loose.
A few names to keep an eye on this week include one Jimmy Howard of the Detroit Red Wings. The Wings are getting closer to being healthy, and the rookie has appeared in the last 11 games for the Cup finalists. Chris Osgood got shelled against the lowly Islanders on Tuesday in what may have been the last time we see Osgood for quite some time. The Wings have lost all confidence in their former number one, so don’t be surprised if they are looking for help in net at the deadline.
Tyler Bozak of the Toronto Maple Leafs had a nice start to his call up this week by posting points in back-to-back games playing on a line with the struggling Phil Kessel and Nikolai Kulemin. If Bozak stays with the big club and avoids being sent back to the AHL, look for his spot on that number one line to stick for a while. The Leafs have lost confidence in Matt Stajan and his ability to play with Kessel long term. Stajan is one of many Leafs who could have new homes at the trade deadline.
Are Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, and Alex Burrows ever going to slow down? Burrows and teammate Ryan Kesler are two of the most underrated fantasy stars in the game right now. Both have had career years so far, and their value is through the roof. Both of them were likely on your waiver wire at some point this season, but they won’t been seen again there for a long, long time.
Stephen Weiss of the Florida Panthers was one of the best pick ups in fantasy hockey in the last two months, but along with the rest of the team, Weiss has slowed down substantially over the last few weeks. You might think it is time to start looking for more consistent scoring at center. Don’t do it unless there is someone available who is a serious upgrade. Weiss will still score points, but in bunches.
Guillaume Latendresse and the Minnesota Wild are no longer the laughing stock of the NHL like they were for the first three months of the season. Since being traded from Montreal for Benoit Pouliot (who’s also playing very well), Latendresse has been a force in Minnesota. Nine goals in his last 12 games were capped off by a hat trick against Phoenix on Saturday night. If he’s out there, he’s nearing must-own territory. Fans in Montreal are begging this doesn’t turn into a John LeClair situation. Latendresse, like Leclair, was underutilized in a Habs jersey and never really found a role with the team. Then after being traded away, he became a perennial all-star.
Good luck this week!