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


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


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


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


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