Ranking the fantasy goalies…for next season

March 25, 2010

Buffalo Sabres G Ryan Miller is easily the best fantasy goalie heading into next year's fantasy drafts. He is well worthy of a top ten pick.

With fewer than 10 games left in the NHL regular season — aka the fantasy hockey season — it’s still a little early to plan for the 2010-11 campaign.

A lot can change in the offseason.

But for those of us in keeper formats, it’s never too early to start Draft 1 of the goalie cheat sheet:

1. Ryan Miller, Buffalo Sabres (37 wins, 2.20, .929, 5 shutouts). This season, Miller was the class of his position. His track record is also something to bank on. In each of his four seasons as a full-time starter, he has won at least 34 games. His save percentage and GAA have improved in each of the last three seasons. And he does not turn 30 until this summer.

For the record, the only non-goalies I would draft ahead of Miller are (in this order): Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos and Mike Green. And maybe — maybe — Zach Parise.

2. Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils (40 wins, 2.34, .914, 7 shutouts). It’s a boring choice, I recognize, but sometimes Sam Adams Lager is the best beer at the bar. To be fair, some signs point to a statistical slippage. He turns 38 in May; his win totals, GAA and save percentage were better in 2006-07 and 2007-08. But when you compare his numbers to those of the other goalies in contention for No. 2, he remains the wisest choice for your second-round investment.

He is, in other words, the Mariano Rivera of NHL goalies: Slipping, but still one of the top three options — and the single safest option — any way you slice it.

Yes, Brodeur was outperformed this season by Ilya Bryzgalov and Miikka Kiprusoff, and to a lesser extent Tomas Vokoun. But if I’m taking bets for 2010-11, I’ll still take Brodeur. Bryzgalov might be a one-season wonder, while Kiprusoff and Vokoun have tortured fantasy owners for years with their in-season inconsistency.

3. Evgeni Nabokov, San Jose Sharks (38 wins, 2.43, .921, 2 shutouts). Nabokov, who turns 35  in July, is like a younger version of Brodeur. His GAA and save percentage both improved this season, and his win total still has a chance to eclipse last year’s (41). So why have I ranked him below Brodeur? Mainly because Nabokov’s shutouts slipped to a paltry two. That is a handicap, especially in week-to-week leagues.

I also cannot shake the specter of Nabokov’s two career lapses: the 2002-03 and 2005-06 campaigns. Yes, it’s arguable — given how terrific he has been in the last three seasons — that Nabokov’s “down” seasons are over. But Brodeur does not have down seasons. And he always posts his share of shutouts.

Next time: Goalies No. 4 – No. 6.

photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons


With Ovechkin out, who scores? Survey says, Morrison and Fleischmann

December 2, 2009

Caps D Mike Green is money in the fantasy bank...when Ovechkin is on the ice.

Since Capitals LW Alex Ovechkin (knee, behavior) missed six games between Nov. 1-17 with an upper body strain, we actually have a track record of who scores for the Caps in his absence.

Better still: Two of those games came against Florida, a home-and-home Nov. 6 and 7.

Guess who the Caps face Thursday night at 7pm EST?

Before we get to the totals, let’s dispense with preliminaries:

The Caps won both games and did a ton of scoring. They prevailed 4-1 at Florida on Nov. 6 and 7-4 vs. Florida the next day.

D Mike Green missed much of the first game and all of the second game with, yes, an upper body ailment. So if you’re wondering why he does not show up in the totals below, that’s why.

Green’s absence also explains why Caps D Brian Pothier (5 percent owned in Yahoo!, 4 percent in ESPN) posted terrific numbers (one goal, three assists) in these two games. In addition, D Tyler Sloan scored a goal and D Tom Poti and D Shaone Morrisonn each notched an assist.

The best available fantasy beneficiaries of Ovechkin’s absence are Caps C Brendan Morrison (29 percent owned in Yahoo!, 31.3 percent in ESPN) and Caps winger Tomas Fleischmann (23 percent owned in Yahoo!, 15.3 percent in ESPN). Both Morrison and Fleischmann had two goals and one assist in the two games. Caps RW Mike Knuble (two goals, three assists) was more prolific than both, but he will not be available for Thursday night’s game, still nursing a broken finger. Plus, he’s not available in most fantasy formats anyway.

The sneakiest play here is Panthers D Dmitry Kulikov (1 percent owned in Yahoo!, 0.4 percent in ESPN). In the two Ovechkin-free games, he was Florida’s leading scorer (one goal, two assists).

Anyway, here are the Washington totals:

Goals (11)

Morrison – 2

Knuble – 2

LW/RW Tomas Fleischmann – 2

One goal apiece for Pothier, Sloan, C/LW Brooks Laich, C Mathieu Perreault and LW Quintin Laing.

Assists (19)

Pothier – 3

Knuble -3

C Nicklas Backstrom – 3

RW Chris Clark – 2

Laich – 2

One assist apiece for Morrison, Morrisonn, Fleischmann, Poti, RW Eric Fehr and RW Matt Bradley.

photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons


It’s Torres Time

November 10, 2009
Raffi_Torres

Blue Jackets LW Raffi Torres is an ideal spot-starter for Wednesday night's games.

The Blue Jackets host the Red Wings on Wednesday night, and I’m recommending a spot-start for Jackets LW Raffi Torres.

Here’s why:

1. He’s hot. He has four goals in his last four games — specifically, he scored twice at Atlanta Nov. 5 and twice at Washington Nov. 1.

2. He’s available. He’s only 2.8 percent owned in ESPN leagues and six percent owned in Yahoo! formats.

3. Other left wings are on the shelf. No one yet knows the availability of Stars LW James Neal or Caps LW Alex Ovechkin. Never mind the injuries to Kovalchuk, Sedin, and Gagne.

4. He has a strong track record against the Red Wings. In five games against Detroit last season, Torres scored two goals and tallied one assist. He also logged eight penalty minutes.

5. Jackets G Steve Mason can handle the Wings. In the regular season, that is. Last year, in five games, Mason went 3-2 with a .930 save percentage and a 2.38 GAA.

So get Torres in your lineup. If he doesn’t score Wednesday night, you can guiltlessly drop him.

photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons


Is Steve Mason worth starting today?

November 1, 2009

Blue Jackets G Steve Mason — ordinarily a “must-start” stud despite execrable stats this season — is skating on thin fantasy ice.

Today at 5pm EST, the Jackets visit the Caps — and given Mason’s .881 save percentage and 3.48 GAA, who can trust him against Ovechkin and company?

Not me. Just as one awful start from a pitcher can cause weeks of damage in fantasy baseball, one awful start from a goalie can submarine you in the standings. Yes, Mason has the talent to pitch a shutout in every start — but to me, the downside of his getting lit up today isn’t worth the small probability of that upside.

Here’s the good news: Last season, Mason posted two 3-0 wins against the Caps. So it is possible today marks the end of his cold streak. Still, my overall view is he’s too risky to play.

PC permitting, we will check back in with an assessment of our assessment later tonight. (The Genius PC is undergoing some long overdue scheduled maintenance this afternoon; so don’t kill us if we don’t revisit the Mason at Washington subject for a day or two.)

 


About last night (Peverley, Mitchell, Penner) and next week (time to bench Datsyuk, Lidstrom, Lecavalier)

October 17, 2009
Canucks D Willie Mitchell is a +/- diva deserving of fantasy attention.

Canucks D Willie Mitchell is a +/- diva deserving of fantasy attention.

Thrashers C Rich Peverley logged two power play goals as Atlanta won 4-2 in New Jersey. It was the second time this season he scored two goals in one game.

Peverley was not ultra-productive last year (15 goals and 29 helpers in 66 contests) though he did register a +13. Also, he plays center, making him a questionable add in rotisserie formats given his paucity of penalty minutes and unremarkable career PP stats. However, if he keeps up the PP work this season, he is someone to consider in weekly leagues when Atlanta plays four times. He is only eight percent owned in Yahoo! and 11.6 percent owned in ESPN.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the continent: This box score explains why we love Canucks D Willie Mitchell: In a game Vancouver lost 5-3 in Calgary, he was the only Nuck to log a +1. All his teammates ended up in the negative.

This is no small feat when you consider Mitchell played 21:00 minutes, trailing only fellow blueliner Alexander Edler (25:05, -1) for ice time.

Mitchell was a +29 last season. While the +/- stat has its detractors, Mitchell is proof that it is useful. He is 15.1 percent owned in ESPN and 15 percent owned in Yahoo! leagues. That means he’s yours for the taking if you need +/- help without sacrificing the scoring or PIMs that your forwards bring.

Also: The mighty Nucks are one of six teams playing four games next week (thank you, Sean Allen). Those of you in head-to-head leagues forced to fix your lineup Monday should consider Canucks. The other five teams playing four times are the Sharks, Kings, Oilers, Stars and Blue Jackets.

Aside from Mitchell, the man to add in weekly leagues is Oilers LW Dustin Penner, who scored twice in the Oilers 5-2 home win vs. the Wild last night. He now has nine points in seven games. Penner is 23 percent owned in Yahoo! and only 4.6 percent owned in ESPN.

On the flip side, the Maple Leafs play only once next week. The Capitals, Lightning, Coyotes, Senators, Devils, Red Wings, Blackhawks, Sabres, Flames and Ducks play only twice. From these teams, the only guys I would play are your key Caps (Ovechkin-Backstrom-Semin and Green), your white Lightning (Stamkos, St. Louis), your bona fide Stars (Richards, Neal), your hot Hawks (Sharp, Kane) and your old reliables (Iginla, Phaneuf, Zetterberg).

In other words: Pavel Datsyuk (upper body), Nicklas Lidstrom (only three effing points so far) and Vincent Lecavalier (-5) do not make the cut.

photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons