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


The fantasy case for Corvo

March 4, 2010

Capitals D Joe Corvo, pictured here in Canes candy, is a must-add fantasy blueliner.

Scan the NHL’s plus/minus rankings.

The top three players — and five of the top nine — are Washington Capitals. Further down — ranked No. 13 with a +23 — is Caps RW Mike Knuble.

Of the six Caps among the league’s best in +/-, two are defensemen: Jeff Schultz (+37) and Mike Green (+29). Then there are Caps D-men Tom Poti (+19) and John Erskine (+16), no slouches either. Even Shaone Morrisonn, the Caps No. 5 D, is a +11.

All of this bodes well for new Caps D Joe Corvo, acquired Wednesday from the Hurricanes at the deadline.

Corvo has always been a terrific +/- player. He is a career +43 despite his -6 this year with the wretched Canes. So statistical evidence strongly suggests he’ll be a boon to fantasy owners in an important category.

Moreover, Corvo has surpassed 12 goals and 20 power play points in three seasons of his seven-year career. He has eclipsed 150 shots on goal in four separate campaigns. These are numbers you don’t often find in defensemen, let alone players surrounded by a cast like Washington’s.

Because Corvo, 30, has not produced this season — 12 points in 34 games — his fantasy ownership has dwindled to 35 percent in Yahoo! formats and 55.1 percent in ESPN leagues.

That will probably change after his debut vs. the Lightning tonight at 7:00 pm EST. So grab him now, before you miss out on a chance to upgrade your fantasy blue line at no cost.

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


Raiding — and ducking — the Capitals

January 16, 2010

Capitals D Jeff Schultz, all six-foot-six of him, leads the NHL in +/- (+27).

If you own one of the fantasy cogs of the Maple Leafs D — Ian White, Tomas Kaberle or Francois Beauchemin — then you felt the wrath of the Capitals on Friday night.

White (-4), Kaberle (-2) and Beauchemin (-2) saw their already awful +/- worsen as the Caps cruised to a 6-1 home win.

It is always wise to bench your goalies against the Caps, whose 3.63 goals per game lead the NHL by a wide margin (the Blackhawks are next at 3.16).

We have reached the point, however, where it’s wise to bench your D against the Caps. If you own any Flyers blueliners, be warned: Philadelphia visits Washington on Sunday at 3:00 pm.

In their last six games, the Caps (5-1) have scored 31 goals: 4, 5, 8, 4, 4 and 6. Of these 31 goals, 23 came at even strength. And that’s why opponents of the Caps have seen their +/- plummet.

On the flip side, investing in the Caps D is a great way to bolster your own +/-. Former first-round pick Jeff Schultz (available in 96 percent of Yahoo! and 96.4 percent of ESPN leagues) leads the entire NHL at +27. He also has four assists in his last five games, making him even more worthy of an immediate add. In the past month, the 23-year-old ranks No. 46 in Yahoo! and No. 33 in ESPN among all defensemen.

Then there’s his teammate, Tom Poti. Though Poti’s +12 isn’t as gaudy as Schultz’s, Poti’s career resume and overall fantasy numbers make him a better across-the-board add. In the last month, Poti has tallied two goals, six assists, +8 and 14 penalty minutes. These numbers have made him the No. 2o D in Yahoo! and No. 19 D in ESPN during this span.

Still, Poti’s ownership levels are staggeringly low: He is rostered in only 4 percent of Yahoo! and 4.9 percent of ESPN leagues. When you consider what Poti, 32, has accomplished in his 12-year career — three  seasons with 10 or more goals, consistent penalty minutes and power play productivity — it is a wonder how the fantasy community has ignored him in 2009-10.

Trading for Caps D Mike Green is next to impossible. But if you pick up his teammates, you’ll reap plenty of fantasy benefits between now and the end of the campaign.

photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons


Time to drop Tavares? Plus thoughts on Tyler Myers

January 9, 2010

Long time, no score: It's seven games and counting without a point for Islanders C John Tavares.

The Islanders scored three goals in Friday night’s 4-3 loss at Dallas. For the seventh straight game, rookie sensation C John Tavares had nothing to do with the scoring.

Since Tavares is a center and a rookie, a drought like this warrants a simple question: Is he still worth a fantasy roster spot, especially with studs like Sabres D Tyler Myers (more on him later) available in many free agent pools?

Here at The Genius, we’ve always used the rookie season of second-year Lightning C Steven Stamkos as a comparison post for Tavares.

It is worth noting that Stamkos, as a rookie, did not hit a wall. Yes, he went through an eight-game scoring drought in November, 2008, and another five-game drought in January, 2009. But beginning with his hat trick Feb. 17, he scored 17 goals and eight assists in his final 26 games.

Whether Tavares is as good as Stamkos is an open question. But the pertinent facts here are (1) Stamkos did not hit a rookie wall; (2) Stamkos managed to produce down the stretch as a rookie pivot on a losing team.

Conclusion: Don’t drop Tavares just yet. In fact, now’s the time to acquire him on the cheap.  The Islanders visit Phoenix Saturday night at 8:00 pm, and this could be the game where Tavares starts to turn it around.

Meanwhile: Sabres D Tyler Myers, 19, had the sort of game Friday night that gets everyone’s fantasy attention: two goals and one assist, all on the power play, plus four shots on goal.

He has now scored in five of his last six. He has 20 assists on the season, leading all rookies. Standing 6-8, weighing a lithe 222, Myers recalls a young Zdeno Chara. So there’s all the more urgency to add him in keeper leagues, where he can be a mainstay of fantasy blue lines for the next 10 seasons.

For all his upside, for all his present-day value, for all his hype as a rookie sensation, Myers is owned in only 28 percent of Yahoo! leagues and 31 percent of ESPN formats. Why is this? Probably because of his 28-game goal-less streak from Nov. 6 to Jan. 3.

The Sabres next host the Avalanche  Saturday night at 7:00 pm EST. One more good game from Myers and you may lose the chance to add him to your roster.

photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons