Two Canadiens to watch Tuesday night (Pouliot, Kostitsyn)

February 28, 2010

Canadiens LW Andrei Kostitsyn (knee) is slated to return to the lineup for Tuesday night's tilt at Boston. Get him in your fantasy lineup, too.

A tip of the fantasy cap to ESPN.com’s Sean Allen, whose latest Forecaster column contains a note about two Montreal Canadiens who’ve been favorites of the Genius all season: LW Andre Kostitsyn (knee) and RW Benoit Pouliot (shoulder).

Both players are scheduled to return to the lineup for Tuesday night’s 7:00 pm game at the Boston Bruins.

Both players were on fire before injuries derailed their prolific campaigns. True, their scoring touch might not return in their first few games back, as Allen points out. But as faithful readers of the Genius know, we never hesitate to dump our No. 4 defenseman for a speculative add at forward.

In case you’ve forgotten your NHL box scores during the Olympic fortnight, let us remind you:

Pouliot (3.3 percent owned in ESPN, 13 percent in Yahoo!) had tallied five goals and two assists in the eight games prior to his Feb. 5 injury.

Kostitsyn (64.3 percent owned in ESPN, 15 percent in Yahoo!) had logged eight goals and three assists in the 11 games prior to his Jan. 3 injury.

Forced to pick one of the two returning Habs, I’d go with AK-46 (above), who has the pedigree (10th overall pick in 2003) and simply looks like the more lethal scorer to the naked eye.

The only thing in Pouliot’s favor is his positional scarcity as a RW. Still, both Habs are worth keeping tabs on. And both are likely available in your league, especially if your fellow owners have gone to sleep during the Olympics.

photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons


Bye bye Boyes?

February 13, 2010

Stars C Mike Ribeiro, a point-per-game machine, is owned in only 57 percent of Yahoo! leagues.

The Blues crushed the Leafs 4-0 on Friday night, but for Blues RW Brad Boyes it was the seventh straight game without a point.

To make matters worse for his fantasy owners, Boyes logged only 13:41 of ice time, despite not spending one second in the penalty box.

Significantly, Boyes’ ice time — he averages 17:02 — has dropped in each of his last five games:

2/4 vs. San Jose — 18:49

2/6 vs. Chicago — 16:59

2/8 @ Colorado — 15:46

2/9 vs. Detroit — 14:34

2/12 vs. Toronto — 13:41

It will be interesting to see how much ice time Boyes logs in Saturday night’s tilt vs. Washington.

Thus far owners have held on to Boyes, despite his recent slump. He remains owned in 86.4 percent of ESPN leagues and 59 percent of Yahoo! formats.

Tempting as it might be to drop Boyes — especially if you can pick up red hot Stars C Mike Ribeiro (pictured above, 80.4 percent owned in ESPN but only 57 percent owned in Yahoo!) — we urge you to keep the faith, based on Boyes’ stellar track record as a scorer in March and April.

To wit: Last season, Boyes scored 21 points (eight goals, 13 assists) in 20 games in March and April. In 2007-08, Boyes registered 18 points (11 goals, seven assists) in 18 games in March and April.

Granted: The upcoming Olympic break could throw a wrench into Boyes’ pattern of second-half performance. Also, the diminution of his ice time is a disturbing trend, one all of his owners should continue to monitor.

Nevertheless, Boyes’ track record suggests that he’ll provide value to rosters in the final two months of the season.

So unless there’s a Ribeiro waiting in your free agent pool, don’t say bye bye to Boyes just yet.

photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons


Bruins at Lightning: For fantasy owners, it’s Tuukka time (and Downie’s day)

February 11, 2010

Why is Bruins G Tuukka Rask (2.01 GAA, .931 save percentage) owned in fewer than 50 percent of ESPN and Yahoo! leagues?

Half the fantasy hockey world is asleep at the wheel.

How else to explain that Bruins G Tuukka Rask (2.01 GAA, .931 save percentage) is owned in only 47 percent of Yahoo! formats and 42.2 percent of ESPN leagues?

In case you missed it — and it certainly seems as if half the fantasy world has missed it — Bruins G Tim Thomas is no longer the everyday netminder. Rask has started four straight, allowing only six goals. He and the Bruins have won the last two of those starts entering Thursday night’s tilt at Tampa Bay.

Rask isn’t the only streaking player fantasy owners need to watch in Thursday night’s Bruins at Lightning clash. Tampa RW Steve Downie (29.2 percent owned in ESPN, 41 percent in Yahoo!) has tallied five assists, +5 and eight shots on goal in his last four matches.

Heretofore, Downie’s primary fantasy contribution has been penalty minutes. With 153 PIMs this season, Downie, 22, has not disappointed. But his four-game point streak has the potential to catapult his value into the must-own stratosphere.

A first-round pick in 2005 (29th overall), Downie has the pedigree to post numbers in non-pugilistic categories too. Furthermore, he is skating on a line with all-world studs C Steven Stamkos (33 goals, 30 assists) and LW Martin St. Louis (20 goals, 46 assists).

In short: Like Rask, Downie deserves a higher level of ownership. Watch him tonight vs. Boston and see for yourself.

photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons


Holy Schenn

February 7, 2010

Blue Jackets G Steve Mason wasn't the only second-year star who shined on Saturday.

Saturday was a superb day for fans of the NHL box score.

There were four shutouts. Marty Turco, Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Steve Mason and Craig Anderson, take a bow.

There were nine two-goal scorers. Michal Handzus, Henrik Zetterberg, Brian Gionta, Jamie Benn, Phil Kessel, Luke Schenn, J.P. Dumont, Dany Heatley and Radek Dvorak, take a bow.

Of all these players, the one who most caught my eye is Schenn. A second-year defenseman, the fifth overall pick in 2008, Schenn has played more than 21:00 in every game (all three of them) since Ian White left town in the Dion Phaneuf deal.

In addition to his two goals in Giguere’s 5-0 home shutout of the Senators on Saturday, Schenn notched an assist, two penalty minutes, four shots on goal, and a team-high +4.

Should you drop everything and pick him up? Unless there’s a player you’re dying to drop, not yet. After all, Saturday was the first time Schenn had cracked the scoring sheet since Jan. 18.

But as of yesterday’s performance, Schenn belongs on all watch lists. Especially if you missed out on the Mark Giordano sweepstakes.

photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons


With Cammalleri out, who scores?

February 5, 2010

With Habs LW Michael Cammalleri (pictured here in the garb of his former team) out for six weeks, who will score for the Canadiens?

Habs LW Michael Cammalleri (right MCL) is out for at least six weeks.

The Canadiens have now played twice in his absence, winning 3-2 vs. Vancouver on Tuesday and 3-2 (shootout) at Boston on Thursday.

The injury leaves C Tomas Plekanec without his formerly formidable pair of wings — Cammalleri (26 goals, 22 assists, +10, 15 PPP, 191 shots in 56 games) and RW Andrei Kostitsyn (lower body), who has been out of action since New Year’s Eve with no timetable for returning.

Plekanec is now skating between LW Sergei Kostitsyn and RW Benoit Pouliot. It was this line that picked up the scoring slack in the 3-2 win vs. Vancouver. Kostitsyn staked the Habs to a 1-0 lead on a pass from Pouliot. Plekanec scored the eventual game winner in the third period, assisted by Pouliot and Kostitsyn.

The other Montreal goal came from the third line in the first period, with C Maxim Lapierre capitalizing on a feed from RW Mathieu Darche. All three Habs goals came at even strength.

On its surface, the box score of this game was yet another signal for fantasy owners to grab Pouliot. Still only owned in 19 percent of Yahoo! and 11.7 percent of ESPN leagues, Pouliot was on fire long before the Cammalleri injury. He has tallied 10 goals and three assists in his last 16 games.

As for Kostitsyn, it was a good game, but it seemed like a fluke since he’d gone scoreless in his previous seven contests. Plekanec was not really part of the fantasy conversation, since he is an assists machine who was already a nearly universally owned player (74 percent Yahoo!, 84.7 ESPN).

Then came Thursday’s 3-2 shootout win in Boston. Down 2-0 in the second, the Habs halved the lead on a power play goal from ex-Bruin Glen Metropolit. C Scott Gomez and D Andre Markov recorded the assists. Less than one minute later, the Habs tied it when D Roman Hamrlik scored, assisted by Gomez and Kostitsyn.

In fantasy terms, this game hardly clarified anything. Markov was already a universally owned defenseman. Hamrlik and Gomez have been borderline roster-worthy for several seasons. Metropolit is a classic “good in real life, not so much in fantasy” grinder. But then there was that point from Kostitsyn, making us wonder: Is this 22-year-old with the gifted brother worthy of our attention, now that he’s skating with Plekanec?

Our answer: Yes, but the better fantasy play is Pouliot, who is still out there in the vast majority of free agent pools.

The Canadiens next play Saturday afternoon (2pm) at Pittsburgh, and we’ll be watching to determine if the Kostitsyn-Plekanic-Pouliot line continues to produce.

photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons


Two goalies to watch Tuesday night (Giggy, and the other Chad Johnson)

February 2, 2010

Leafs G Jean-Sebastien Giguere is slated to debut tonight vs. the Devils.

Goalie: Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Leafs

Game: Devils at Leafs, 7pm EST.

Breakdown: By now, you know the deal: This is Giggy’s first chance to shine for the Leafs. If he holds down the Devils, fantasy owners will rush to grab him. As Puck Daddy points out, Giguere, 32, is reunited in Toronto with goaltending coach Francois Allaire and, for that matter, Leafs GM Brian Burke — men under whose tutelage he produced stellar campaigns in 2002-03 and 2007-08.

Advice: No starting goalie — especially one with Giguere’s track record and upside — belongs in the free agent pool. Grab him while you can. He has more value than any No. 4 defenseman on your roster. (And yet, as of Tuesday afternoon, he was owned in only 31 percent of Yahoo! formats and 11.6 percent of ESPN leagues.)

Goalie: Chad Johnson, Rangers

Game: Rangers at Kings, 10:30pm EST.

Breakdown: Rangers starter Henrik Lundqvist (flu) missed games Saturday and Sunday. In Saturday’s 3-2 loss at Phoenix, Johnson, 23, started out slowly — he allowed three first-period goals — before settling in and shutting out the Coyotes the rest of the way. He continued his stellar play in Sunday’s 3-1 win at Colorado, blanking the Avalanche until a third-period goal from Colorado LW Cody McLeod. All told, Johnson, a rookie, stopped 34 of 35 shots.

Advice: If you own Lundqvist, grab Johnson. Prior to missing in action last weekend, Lundqvist had lost four straight. Worse, he had allowed three or more goals in his last three games. The high-payroll Rangers are battling to make the playoffs. They are in win-now mode. The hot goalie is going to play, even if it’s a rookie. Head coach John Tortorella does not strike me as the type who’d provide groundless loyalty to a foundering veteran. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not counting out a resurgence from a star like Lundqvist. But if your fantasy season is riding on Lundqvist, you’d be wise to secure his backup — at least for the next few weeks.

photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons