The (fantasy) silver lining of Savard’s loss

March 16, 2010

Bruins C Patrice Bergeron has been one of the top centers in fantasy since his teammate Marc Savard (concussion) got hurt March 7.

The Bruins are 1-2-1 in the four games since C Marc Savard (concussion) went down March 7.

Obviously, the Spoked B’s aren’t as potent without their top playmaker.

Still, we couldn’t help but notice that three Bruins forwards have found fantasy relevance in Savard’s absence.

C Patrice Bergeron (27.2 percent owned in ESPN, 26 percent in Yahoo!). In his last four games: three goals, three assists, +5. He ranks No. 29 in ESPN and No. 25 in Yahoo! among all players in the last seven days. Interestingly, Bergeron’s minutes have not increased in the four games sans Savard. But his scoring has. Still, you should be wary of one thing: Bergeron’s hot streak does not include a single power play point.

RW Blake Wheeler (84 percent owned in ESPN, 34 percent in Yahoo!). In his last four games: three goals, two assists, +4, good for a No. 44 rank in ESPN and No. 41 in Yahoo! over the last seven days. Whereas Bergeron’s minutes have not changed in Savard’s absence, Wheeler’s have spiked: He has logged more than 19:00 in each of his last two games. Up till now, he’s been lucky to crack 17:00 in a given contest. However, Wheeler does share one trait with Bergeron: no productivity on the power play in Savard’s absence.

LW Marco Sturm (82.9 percent owned in ESPN, 15 percent in Yahoo!). In his last four games: two goals, two assists, +4, and yes, a power play goal. He ranks No. 12 in Yahoo! and No. 19 in ESPN over the last seven days. However, like Bergeron, he has not seen an increase in ice time in Savard’s absence.

Like most teams, the Bruins face a packed upcoming schedule, a cramming designed to offset the regular season’s two-week Olympic hiatus. Specifically, the Bruins visit Carolina Tuesday night, host the Penguins Thursday night, and then host the Rangers Sunday afternoon.

So, which of these three Bruins — a center, a left wing, and a right wing — should you pick up for the stretch run? None, if your biggest need is power play points. But if your biggest need is simply points in general — i.e. goals and assists — then let positional scarcity be your guide.

photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

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Friday night fantasy feast: Tampa Bay at Washington

March 10, 2010

Don't overlook the fantasy potency of Lightning C Steven Stamkos and his teammates at Washington on Friday night.

The Capitals need no introduction to the fantasy hockey world. They average 3.82 goals per game, tops in the NHL.

On Friday they host the Lightning, who yield 2.93 goals per game (ranking 22nd). The Lightning also rank second in the NHL in penalty minutes, with 1,099 on the season. More on that later.

The last time these two teams faced off in Washington on March 4, the Caps prevailed 5-4.

Right wings Mike Knuble and Scott Walker each scored twice for the Caps, and RW Eric Fehr registered the other Washington goal.

It would seem like an obvious time to snag any Caps right wings from your free agent pool. While that is true, we’re here to tell you: Don’t overlook the Lightning side of the fantasy equation.

Yes, they have lost three of their last four contests. But Tampa Bay has also scored a whopping 13 goals in those four games (including the 5-4 loss at Washington).

In the March 4 game, Lightning RW Steve Downie scored once, C Vincent Lecavalier scored twice and C Steven Stamkos also scored.

Among this trio, perhaps only Downie is available in your league. That brings us back to the penalty minutes. The Lightning find the penalty box against everybody, and Downie (186 PIM) is a big reason why.

Against Washington on March 4, Downie did not log a single penalty minute. But four of his teammates did: Stamkos, RW Mark Parrish, D Kurtis Foster and D Victor Hedman all logged two-minute minors.

On the Washington side, D-men Mike Green, Tom Poti and Jeff Schultz all sat for two-minute minors, as did Knuble, C Nicklas Backstrom and LW Brooks Laich.

All told: This game featured nine goals and 10 penalties (on 10 different players).

In other words, it was a fantasy feast. And the record shows, it wasn’t just the big-name hockey stars dining at the table.

So grab as many Caps and Lightning as you can for Friday night’s match-up.  Then sit tight and watch the numbers roll in.

photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons


So fresh, so Steen

March 8, 2010

Blues C Alex Steen could help your squad this week if you need an injury replacement for Bruins C Marc Savard (above).

How long will the Bruins be without the stellar services of C Marc Savard (concussion)? Carried off the ice on a stretcher in Sunday’s 2-1 loss at Pittsburgh, Savard was moving his limbs — that’s the good news.

The bad news: Even if he is bodily ready, a head injury is something the Bruins will not take chances with. (It is safe to say the organization recalls how long it took C Patrice Bergeron to return to playing condition.)

Scan your league’s free agent pool for Savard replacements, and there’s one pivot who stands out: Blues C Alex Steen, owned in only2.8 percent of ESPN leagues and 8 percent of Yahoo! formats. How shall we make the case for Steen? Four ways:

1. On fire. In the three games the Blues have played since the Olympic fortnight, Steen has three goals and three assists. In the last seven days, he ranks No. 8 in ESPN and No. 9 in Yahoo! leagues.

2. This is when the Blues get hot. Last season at this time, Blues G Chris Mason went on a hot streak of fantasy-title winning proportions. From March 10 to April 12 of last year, Mason (and the Blues) went 12-3-2.  Those who rode the Blues in March and April were fantasy money down the stretch.

3. The Blues have an easy upcoming schedule. They do not play again until Thursday, March 11, but on that night they visit the Islanders. The next two stops — at Columbus March 13 and at Minnesota March 14 — hardly strike fear in the hearts of owners.

4. Steen has pedigree on his side. The 24th overall pick in 2002, Steen just turned 26 and tied his career high in goals (18), which he set as a rookie with Toronto in 2005-06.

Now, no one is saying Steen is going to morph into a draft-worthy fantasy center in the season’s final few weeks. But he has the talent — and supporting cast — to give your team a lift for the next few weeks. And if you own Savard, your team might need one.

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


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


With Horton out, who scores?

January 29, 2010

Panthers RW Nathan Horton is out for five more weeks. Who will pick up the scoring slack?

Panthers RW Nathan Horton (fractured left tibia) is expected to miss five more weeks. Florida has now played twice in his absence.

Interestingly, the Panthers have won both games. Still, there are signs of a scoring slump.

For the season, Florida averages 2.61 goals per game, placing them in the middle of the NHL pack (16th). However, in each of these wins — 2-0 vs. Toronto Jan. 23 and 2-1 vs. Montreal Jan. 26 — the Panthers scored only twice.

Throughout the season, the line of Horton (17 goals, 29 assists), C Stephen Weiss (19 goals, 25 assists) and LW Michael Frolik (13 goals, 17 assists) has carried the Panthers attack. (Though Frolik is listed as a C/RW in both ESPN and Yahoo! fantasy formats, the box-score reality is that he has skated and scored all year with Horton and Weiss.)

In the 2-0 win vs. Toronto, both Frolik and Weiss tallied assists. On Florida’s first goal, Weiss and D Dennis Seidenberg helped LW Cory Stillman on a power play. On Florida’s second goal, Frolik and C Gregory Campbell set up LW Kenndal McArdle.

So, after one game sans Horton, the short list of Wally Pipp candidates was Seidenberg, Stillman, Campbell and McArdle. Alas, none of this mighty quartet cracked the score sheet in Florida’s 2-1 win vs. Montreal. It was C Shawn Matthias who scored both Panthers goals, the first of which came on a third-period penalty shot (and thus was unassisted). On his second goal, the assists went to RW Michael Repik and C/LW Dominic Moore.

In other words, it was a march of fantasy no-names.

And so, after two games sans Horton, here’s what we know:

1. While nine different Panthers registered a point, not a single Panther scored in both of the games.

2. The Panthers visit Washington Friday night, so there’s no reason any of them should be in your lineup anyway. You can safely return Frolik, Weiss and G Tomas Vokoun to your lineup Sunday, when Florida hosts the Islanders.

3. If there’s a fantasy commodity on the Panthers to monitor, it’s LW Rostislav Olesz. Dobber called him out on Yahoo! last week, writing:

“His bigger-than-deserved contract alone is reason enough to keep an eye on him. If the team thinks so highly of Olesz, then it goes without saying that he’ll get his chances. He has six points, six PIM and is a plus-4 in his last six contests, making him one of the better wingers to own in the past two weeks. He has the talent to keep up a similar pace, albeit slightly slower.”

Granted: Olesz (13 goals, 13 assists) is no star and he has not scored in his last four contests. But he has continued to put shots on net — 130 this season and at least two in each of those last four games. And he gets ice time: at least 15:00 per match. He has pedigree — seventh overall pick in 2004 — and he is only 24 years old.

More pertinent to fantasy players, he is only 0.6 percent owned in ESPN and three percent owned in Yahoo! formats. No need to pick him up yet, but keep an eye on him to post numbers while Horton’s gone.

photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons