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

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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


Bruins at Lightning: For fantasy owners, it’s Tuukka time (and Downie’s day)

February 11, 2010

Why is Bruins G Tuukka Rask (2.01 GAA, .931 save percentage) owned in fewer than 50 percent of ESPN and Yahoo! leagues?

Half the fantasy hockey world is asleep at the wheel.

How else to explain that Bruins G Tuukka Rask (2.01 GAA, .931 save percentage) is owned in only 47 percent of Yahoo! formats and 42.2 percent of ESPN leagues?

In case you missed it — and it certainly seems as if half the fantasy world has missed it — Bruins G Tim Thomas is no longer the everyday netminder. Rask has started four straight, allowing only six goals. He and the Bruins have won the last two of those starts entering Thursday night’s tilt at Tampa Bay.

Rask isn’t the only streaking player fantasy owners need to watch in Thursday night’s Bruins at Lightning clash. Tampa RW Steve Downie (29.2 percent owned in ESPN, 41 percent in Yahoo!) has tallied five assists, +5 and eight shots on goal in his last four matches.

Heretofore, Downie’s primary fantasy contribution has been penalty minutes. With 153 PIMs this season, Downie, 22, has not disappointed. But his four-game point streak has the potential to catapult his value into the must-own stratosphere.

A first-round pick in 2005 (29th overall), Downie has the pedigree to post numbers in non-pugilistic categories too. Furthermore, he is skating on a line with all-world studs C Steven Stamkos (33 goals, 30 assists) and LW Martin St. Louis (20 goals, 46 assists).

In short: Like Rask, Downie deserves a higher level of ownership. Watch him tonight vs. Boston and see for yourself.

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


Bruins sans Savard, Penguins sans Gonchar, anybody seen Hartnell?

October 24, 2009
Bruins C Dennis Wideman is back, and teammate Derek Morris has reaped the fantasy benefits.

Bruins D Dennis Wideman is back, and teammate Derek Morris has reaped the fantasy benefits.

Quick: Which Bruin has scored the most in C Marc Savard’s (foot) absence? LW Steve Begin, who tallied the game-winner Wednesday in Boston’s 3-2 win vs. Nashville and scored the game-tying goal in Thursday’s 4-3 shootout loss at Philadelphia. Perhaps this isn’t too surprising. Begin seldom skated with Savard anyway; he doesn’t have to adjust to the loss of a gifted pivot.

The other Bruin scoring in Savard’s absence is D Derek Morris, who notched an assist Wednesday and one goal and one helper Thursday. But the Morris streak probably has more to do with the return of D Dennis Wideman (shoulder). Though Wideman did not score in these last two games, he was +1 in each contest and he consumed around 20:00 minutes of ice time. Don’t be surprised if Wideman finally cracks the scoring log when the Bruins visit Ottawa tonight at 7 pm EST.

Last night was the Penguins first game without D Sergei Gonchar (wrist), who like Savard is out four-to-six weeks. The box score didn’t look too different (two goals for Crosby, two assists for Malkin, one helper for Goligoski), except Goligoski played a whopping 26:22 — well above his 21:39 average. Interestingly, it was Crosby who also got a bump in minutes, logging 25:50 (he averages 21:08). We shall see if these playing-time patterns continue tonight with the Penguins hosting the Devils at 7:30 pm EST. Though the Penguins prevailed 3-2 last night against the Panthers, they did fall behind 2-0 in the first and did not score until Crosby’s power play goal in the third.

Some links and quickies before we go:

  • Has anyone seen Flyers LW Scott Hartnell? In his last three games he has not scored, he has no penalty minutes, only four shots on goal, and a -2. The former first-round pick, lest we forget, was a stallion last season, scoring 30 goals and amassing 210 shots on goal and 143 PIMs. In other words: This is a guy you want to trade for.
  • Very quietly, Yahoo! granted Blackhawks C/RW Patrick Sharp the RW eligibility he so richly deserves. What’s funny is that in ESPN formats, Sharp is only eligible at LW.
  • Speaking of Yahoo!, there are some great nuggets in Scott Pianowski’s Red-Light District column from yesterday. My favorite tidbit: His advice to take a shot with Devils RW Nicklas Bergfors (former first-round pick, 20 shots on goal in his last five games including an eight-shot effort Oct. 17).
  • Another Saturday, another great day to consume Sean Allen’s Forecaster. The following teams are playing only twice next week: Kings, Flyers, Flames, Thrashers, and Lightning.
  • The tough questions: Given they are only playing twice, do you bench your mighty Flyers (Carter, Richards, Pronger, Carle), your white-hot Lightning (Malone, Stamkos, St. Louis), your five Kings (Brown, Doughty, Smyth, Kopitar, Williams), your lone Thrasher (Kovalchuk), your solitary Flame (Iginla)?
  • My tough answers: In head-to-head leagues where you are forced to set your lineup Monday, bench all of the above except Kovalchuk, Kopitar, Smyth, Stamkos, Carter, and…amazingly…Malone. The only forwards worth playing in two-game weeks are the ones with hat-trick potential. Otherwise, you are better off rolling with someone like Islanders LW Matt Moulson, who plays four times next week. Moulson is nowhere near (say) Iginla as a player, but he is likely to outproduce him next week since he’s playing four times and Iginla is playing twice.

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