Contributed by Tim Arnold
As we wind down the pre-Olympic NHL schedule, I am left to wonder what kind of content I am going to provide for the two-week layoff since the whole Week Ahead bit will not be required! I have a few ideas in mind, but if you have any of your own, feel free to fire them my way here on this page or on my Twitter page.
Let’s get the ball, or in this case, the puck rolling on another edition of The Week Ahead while it still has some relevancy.
Another big week for the Washington Capitals as they have now extended their season high win streak to nine games. The last win may have come at a price, as they lost star D man Mike Green for three games following a suspension for his hit on the Panthers Michael Frolik. Green also left the same game in the third period after receiving a knee-on-knee hit, but coach Bruce Boudreau claims it is just a charley horse. Rest easy fantasy owners. The fantasy MVP for defensemen won’t miss any more than his three-game suspension.
Speaking of fantasy MVPs on the blueline, it has been great to see the Red Wings Nicklas Lidstrom finally turn his season around in the past month. Lidstrom was off to an incredibly slow start by his own standards. I own him in two leagues this year and knew it was only a matter of time before he began to produce once again. Lidstrom now has six points in his last four games and is up to 32 points (6g-26a) and a stellar +20 rating on the season. If not for Mike Green’s incredible offensive upside, we may still be thinking of Lidstrom as a fantasy D MVP. Hopefully you didn’t dump him when he got off to the slow start.
Let’s take a look at this week’s schedule.
4 games: Boston, Buffalo, Calgary, Carolina, Edmonton, Montreal, Washington
3 games: Anaheim, Atlanta, Chicago, Colorado, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit, Florida, LA Kings, Minnesota, Nashville, New Jersey, NY Rangers, Ottawa, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, San Jose, Tampa Bay, Toronto, Vancouver
2 games: NY Islanders
Mr. Obvious note of the week: Don’t start any Islander players this week. In fact, unless you’re in a keeper league, there really is not one Islander on the roster who should even be owned in fantasy hockey this year. Maybe John Tavares, but even the super rookie has taken a nosedive in the past six weeks of action, along with his team.
This time around I am going to go with a pair of teams who have not had the luxury of many easy weeks for the entire season. The Carolina Hurricanes and Tampa Bay Lightning. Let’s start with Carolina.
The Canes have been brutal all year; we all know that. They have been the butt of many jokes and have had Canes fans dreaming of a Taylor Hall/Eric Staal combo for the future. Well Canes fans, all 14 of you, it’s not going to happen. The Hurricanes have been playing some inspired hockey of late and are becoming a tough team to play night in and night out. It’s unfortunate for the few fans that are out there because at the trade deadline following the Olympics on March 3, we could see this team blown apart.
Ray Whitney is the one name that just will not go away, and despite holding a no-trade clause in his deal, he will almost certainly agree to waive it and be moved to a contender looking for solid secondary scoring. Other than Ilya Kovalchuk, Whitney is rumored to be one of the deadline’s hottest commodities. Look for whoever loses out in the Kovalchuk sweepstakes to be hot on the trail of Whitney, whether it be Calgary, Chicago, or some other team looking to stock up for a run. This week the Canes have games against the struggling Oilers and Flames out west, followed by two games against Eastern Conference weaklings the Islanders and Thrashers. I’ve got Carolina to win at least two of their four games.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Now we move onto the not so lightning like Bolts. Tampa Bay has three players in the top 25 of NHL scoring. Martin St. Louis, Steve Stamkos, and Vincent Lecavalier are all entrenched in that top 25, yet this team is out of a playoff spot (albeit barely in the tight Eastern Conference). What is wrong in Tampa? Blaming the ownership group can only go so far. When you have three guys in the top 25 of league scoring and you’re not in a playoff spot, there are some major problems. How about starting with some D? When Kurtis Foster is your main power-play threat, you need some help.
This coming week the Lightning face off against Calgary, Atlanta, and the Islanders. Look for Stamkos to keep pushing towards his 40-goal season and for Lecavalier to keep producing like he has been in the past month. The Kovalchuk deal will be the granddaddy of them all come deadline day, but I am hearing many whispers from very valuable sources saying Lecavalier could be on his way out of the state of Florida, too. Only time will tell. I have the Bolts taking two of their three games this week riding the hot play of their stars. Don’t forget about goalie Antero Niittymaki, who posted a shutout on Wednesday and has won three of his last four starts.
St. Louis Blues
The Blues have, without a doubt, been my biggest bust of the year so far. I had envisioned the Blues to be the new Blackhawks. Loaded with young talent, a nice mix of veteran presence, and acceptable goaltending, the Blues looked ready to take the next step. Man, was I wrong.
This week the Blues will be singing the blues when they hit the ice vs. those Chicago Blackhawks twice and once against powerhouse San Jose. It’s going to be a very, very long week for David Perron and company. Perron is a guy I expected to break out this year and easily hit the 30-goal plateau, but no dice. While still putting up respectable numbers, he is far short of where many of us pictured him being at this point of the 2009-10 season.
Toronto Maple Leafs
I won’t go into great detail because, well, I don’t need to when it comes to my beloved Maple Leafs. They lost to the Devils Friday night after mounting a great comeback in the third period, and then were embarrassed on home ice Saturday night against the Canucks after holding a 3-0 lead after 20 minutes. The goaltending has been their major downfall. Despite saying Jonas Gustavsson will see the majority of starts for the rest of the season, we still have not seen Ron Wilson stick to his word. This week the Leafs have New Jersey twice and the scorching Senators once. It will be a long week for those of us who bleed blue.
The Leafs will be deadline movers and shakers come March 3, if not much sooner according to TSN. Look for Matt Stajan, Alexei Ponikarovsky, Jamal Mayers, and Garnet Exelby all to be shipped out of town.
Ron Wilson’s days as coach are numbered. Brian Burke cannot fire him now because he is Burke’s coach for the USA Olympic team, and he may not fire him right after the Olympics. Rest assured I highly doubt we will see Ron Wilson behind the bench of the Toronto Maple Leafs next season.
Funny stat of the week: The three worst teams in NHL standings right now are Edmonton, Carolina, and Toronto. Both the Canes and Oilers are coached by the Leafs’ previous two coaches. Ugly.
I have a name or two to throw at you before I turn you loose into another week of fantasy action. One is Troy Brouwer. The Blackhawks winger has been seeing first line ice-time along with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, and he has sure responded. Brouwer is one of the hottest players in the NHL over the past month, potting eight goals in that time.
Another name to keep in mind is Brian Elliott. While he may have been scooped up this past week with the Senators’ hot play of late, if he is on your wire and you own a goalie like Carey Price, make the move. I’d be very surprised to see much, if any, of Pascal Leclaire for the imminent future. Nine straight wins for the Sens is a franchise best. Elliott isn’t going anywhere for awhile.
Are Daniel and Henrik Sedin and Alex Burrows EVER going to slow down? Incredible.
Good luck, and we’ll see you next week!
For fantasyhockey.com I’m Tim Arnold, the fantasypuckdude