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


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


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


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


The best trade in fantasy hockey history

January 21, 2010

With Canadiens LW Andrei Kostitsyn, above, out until Mar. 2, teammate Benoit Pouliot (owned in fewer than 7 percent of Yahoo! and ESPN leagues) has picked up the slack.

Sure, the game of the night is Washington’s visit to Pittsburgh. A clash of Eastern Conference heavyweights and all that.

But in fantasy land, the teams we’re watching are Montreal (tied for ninth in the conference as of Thursday) and Minnesota (tied for 12th in the Western Conference).

On Jan. 23, we’ll have reached the two-month anniversary of a landmark trade between these teams.

Incredibly, the two players swapped for each other — Minnesota RW/LW Guillaume Latendresse (14 percent owned in ESPN, 31 percent in Yahoo!) and Montreal LW Benoit Pouliot (1.1 percent ESPN, 6 percent Yahoo!) — remain radically underowned.

Why this is, I cannot fathom.

In his 25 games with the Wild, Latendresse, 22, has totaled 13 goals and six assists with a +6, not to mention 63 shots on goal. He next plays tonight vs. Detroit.

In his 13 games with the Canadiens, Pouliot, 23, has totaled eight goals and one assist with a +2, not to mention 15 penalty minutes and 37 shots on goal. He next plays Friday night at New Jersey. And he has more than picked up the scoring slack for wounded teammate LW Andrei Kostitsyn (knee).

Which of the two youngsters is more valuable? It depends on your needs. Pouliot, the fourth overall pick in 2005, stands 6-foot-4 and brings penalty minutes to the table. Latendresse, a second-round pick in 2005, is not a banger, but he is eligible at RW.

Bottom line: both players should be more highly owned, especially when you consider their last eight games. For Latendresse, the totals are seven goals and five assists. For Pouliot, the totals are six goals and one assist — and those 15 PIMs.

Here at The Genius, we ask this question all the time but we must ask again: Would you rather retain your No. 4 defenseman, or take a stab at greatness?

Grab Latendresse and/or Pouliot now, before the rest of your league awakens.

photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons