We have survived much this fantasy hockey season but now comes the first March edition of “Chutes And Ladders”. Riding the fortunes of a fantasy hockey team can be a lot like the original Milton Bradley game. There are enough twists and turns to drive any normal person crazy. So imagine what it is like for the average hockey fan who takes on a fantasy hockey league.
Week 21 (22 for some of us) is like a minefield. Why? It seemed right after the trade deadline, the calendar turned to March and then all hell broke loose. On March 1st alone, there were 19 injuries forcing twelve players out for the rest of the game. This time last year on March 1st, there had been 140 injuries but this year only 109. It goes to show you that sometimes the law of averages can play catchup very quickly. By the way, as of March 5th, there are now 131 injuries and 25 head injuries in the NHL.
Injuries are a big part in fantasy hockey this time of year but hey there were some awfully good fantasy performances last week. As the fantasy playoffs get closer, it is time to first reveal our Fantasy Player Of The Week.
Player Of The Week……
Congratulations to Teddy Purcell of the Tampa Bay Lightning on winning this week’s Fantasy POTW. The Tampa forward not only scored ten points in the last seven days but saw his ice time spike to elite first line level status. As Brandon Landry of The Hockey Writers touched on about ten days ago, Purcell had the table set for him and credit the former Los Angeles Kings prospect, he has taken full advantage. Purcell overall has 16 points in his last nine games. Suddenly Steven Stamkos is on pace to end up very close to 60 goals (has 47 right now) and even Martin St. Louis is playing at the level we are accustomed to seeing fantasy wise.
Tampa finds itself suddenly in a dogfight for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs. The question always is can a player like Purcell ride this wave all the way until April or will he fall off to his normal point producing levels. Even if he regresses back to around a point a game, it will be seen by Purcell owners as a major boon especially when he has seen a nearly five minute jump in his ATOI over the last two weeks (14:59 before, nearly 20:00 since).
The Lightning will ride this line into the playoffs or the ground, whichever comes first. Either way, Purcell is a must start for this week and beyond.
Now it is time to take a look at a few new injuries that seem to be popping up in fantasy circles……
Beware the injuries……..
There was nearly a 20% spike in injuries over the last two weeks ladies and gentlemen. It is a sign that playoff like intense hockey is here. Fantasy hockey teams are feeling the pinch in ways like they did last year. Chances are your team has been impacted in some way or another. At any rate, here are quite a few key injuries for this week with updates.
Tuomo Ruutu (Carolina Hurricanes) — Ruutu appears poised to return to the Carolina lineup as soon as this week after recovering from his upper body injury. It would be best to keep him out of your weekly lineups and probably even daily lineups until you see how he plays. It does seem players are succumbing to secondary injuries after being rushed back a bit much this year.
Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh Penguins) — Mr. Crosby is still out with the soft tissue/concussion injury that has been plaguing him since early December. Though there is still no timetable on the return, please note that he is now stating before, during, and after practice. The key point is this. Once he is cleared for contact, it would likely be another 10-14 days before Crosby would see game action. The best bet is to stay at your current holding pattern.
Nikolai Khabibulin (Edmonton Oilers) — Khabibulin is back in the lineup as he just returned but results again have been very mixed. He was not traded and honestly he is not really a fantasy option you should consider anyway which means next week you will not see him here anymore. I suppose if you were hurting badly enough he is a fourth goaltending option maybe a third at best.
Andrei Markov (Montreal Canadiens) — The coldest way to describe the Markov injury is just look somewhere else. Even if Andrei Markov returns, do you even know what your getting in him? Can he even stay healthy? Until he returns, do not even bother but he is skating with the team and may resume contact very soon which means about a couple weeks until a return. Then again, we have heard this before so be very careful before activating or adding him.
Simon Gagne (Los Angeles Kings) — Gagne is currently on the IR with concussion like symptoms and with his previous concussion history, it may be awhile before he comes back. The problem lies in the fact that Gagne has started skating but as Darryl Sutter proclaimed Gagne is “Further than closer!”. Simply it will be awhile so adjust accordingly. Now the latest we heard was Simon Gagne is skating but there is still no timetable and the drills are very light and compulsory in nature.
Nathan Horton (Boston Bruins) — This is just another sad story in what has become unfairly in some ways “the year of the concussion”. Horton has had another fairly substantial setback which means honestly you may not see the power forward until sometime in March at the very earliest. The potential exists that he will not even be ready for the rest of your fantasy season which proves the adage that there is no such thing as a mild concussion. The move for Brian Rolston suggests more than just a problem, it just reeks of regular season ending for Horton sadly.
Jimmy Howard (Detroit Red Wings) — So Mr. Howard came back from one injury and then was injured on Sunday against Chicago with a lower body injury. Right now he is being listed as day to day but please keep an eye on this as the injury “tightened” as the first period went on which leads one to believe groin or muscle related. He is currently questionable for Tuesday’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers and likely should be held out.
Rich Peverley (Boston Bruins) — Here is another one that hurts Boston as Peverly will miss another 4-6 weeks with a sprained left MCL. There has even been some talk this could linger into April. The latest is that Peverley is progressing nice and could actually be back by late March which is great news for a Boston teams that seems to be taking it on the chin lately. So in a couple weeks fantasy owners may get Peverley back at least.
Tuukka Rask (Boston Bruins) — Now Rask was struggling a little bit of late but this lower body injury he suffered last week will keep him out at least tomorrow against the Toronto Maple Leafs and maybe longer. The “LBI” is not believed to be as serious as first feared though, so that is some good news for a team that sorely needs it. Adjust your rosters accordingly and pray Tim Thomas snaps out of the funk he is in for Boston’s sake.
Steve Downie (Colorado) — It was unfortunately what happened to Downie and could not have been at at worse time. The line of Gabriel Landeskog, Ryan O’Reilly, and Downie were tearing it up for fantasy owners. Initial diagnosis was a shoulder separation for the former Tampa Bay Lightning player. It would seem the minimum injury time is at least 2-4 weeks and could be more which is a bad break for an Avs team desperate to make the playoffs.
Pavel Datsyuk (Detroit Red Wings) — There is fortunate news for Datsyuk and he could be back as soon as this week or the weekend after the knee scope done two weeks ago. He seems to be progressing nicely and that is good news for those in head to head playoffs that start very soon. If you own him in weekly leagues, wait till next week just to be safe however.
Nick Lidstrom (Detroit Red Wings) — The uncertainty in this bone bruise for Lidstrom is that he is at that age where injuries just take longer to heal. Originally this was a day to day injury that turned into at least a week which looks like maybe two or more. You get the idea. No one seems to really know what really is happening but then again Detroit does not seem that concerned yet. Hopefully the ankle responds well with treatment and that is all that can really be asked at this point. Keep an eye on it.
Taylor Hall (Edmonton Oilers) — This one is not that serious but do keep watch on a shoulder injury suffered by Hall over the weekend. It may not be all that bad and seemed like a tweak. Hopefully he can play on Monday and if not it looks like only a day to day injury.
Mikko Koivu (Minnesota Wild) — Koivu’s shoulder injury which was scheduled to keep him out for about a month will now be re-evaluated in two weeks time to determine whether he can even play again this season. Honestly Minnesota will be out of the playoff race at that rate or almost out. Talk seems to center around the fact that Koivu will likely be shut down to get ready for next season. If you have him on your roster, keep him on the IR where he is.
Niklas Backstrom (Minnesota Wild) — A leg/groin injury will keep Backstrom out 2-4 weeks and again this may be on the higher side rather than the low so Josh Harding and Matt Hackett will split the duties. Given how Harding and Backstrom have been both kind of fragile, Hackett may see several starts this month and in April.
Also do note that Zach Parise (hand), Ryan Callahan (foot), and Michael Grabner (flu) are questionable to return this week. Add in the fact that it just seems injuries are multiplying and you get the idea that this is very important.
There were a lot of important injuries and these are ones that impact fantasy rosters the most at the moment. Players are coming and going so it is important to check out Twitter for the absolute latest.
Here are the ladders…….that roar in like a lion.
These are for the players who have seen their values shoot up for Week 21. Some are waiver wire pickups but most are not. March is when the intensity ratchets up and the fantasy cream is separated from the muck. Let’s get down to business.
Steven Stamkos (Tampa Bay Lightning) — That whole first line has been on fire for Tampa plus the four goals and three assists are not a surprise. People forget the run that Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise, and Adam Henrique had for about a month. This one appears to be similar and could be about the same duration. Stamkos is up to 47 goals and 80 points on the season and could eclipse the 100 point mark very possibly. Stamkos will see 21-24 minutes of ice time from here on out and just has to be started even if not 100%.
Martin St. Louis (Tampa Bay Lightning) — Hey this is like riding the coattails which is a bit unusual for St. Louis but that is what works. A seven point week has St. Louis owners clamoring for more because it has been a bit of an uneven season for the ageless forward. Three goals with four assists and an increased power play presence have to make St. Louis owners feel good about the next several weeks. A reinvigorated Tampa Bay team is very dangerous and if they get any kind of goaltending, the offense will surely come from this top line because they are tough to stop right now.
Eric Staal (Carolina Hurricanes) — The amazing turnaround continues for Eric Staal. The +12 rating over the last month, the over point per game pace, and increased pace of play have to do with Jiri Tlusty in particular who has provided that Erik Cole like presence for Staal. Tlusty was a talent in Toronto but his off ice issues cast a cloud on him and the organization. Now a little more humbled, he has helped turn Staal around along with the coaching staff to be honest. Some will say it was the return of his brother, Marc, from a nasty concussion but that is pure speculation. The bottom line is Staal is finally a go go go for the rest of the season.
Honorable Mention: David Desharnais (MTL), Loui Eriksson (DAL)
Let’s slide down a few chutes……that welcome March in more like a very timid lamb.
Ilya Kovalchuk (New Jersey) — Yes this may seem a bit cold but honestly Kovalchuk has not scored a goal since February 14th and with a sniper like him that is not good. Three weeks without a goal while getting you a few assists is not going to make an owner happy even while playing 25:00 a night. This was the type of dry spell one saw in Kovalchuk in the early portions of last year and not so much this season. Is it a blip or has Kovalchuk hit a more permanent wall? We may find out more this week which side the verdict will be.
The Not So “Wild” Offense — It was inevitable that the Minnesota Wild would regress to the mean so to speak but they had blown right by it on the express elevator downward. The Mikko Koivu injury combined with the inconsistency of Devin Setoguchi and Dany Heatley have driven fantasy owners batty. Now add in their precarious goaltending situation and even if they get very good goaltending, they score about as often as the Los Angeles Kings were about two or three weeks ago. Their players are a must no touch at this time and it may be awhile before any could be considered worth a good mention.
Cam Ward (Carolina Hurricanes) — We were very close to putting Ryan Miller in our top 3 this week but we figured this was the time to mention a guy who is normally second half clutch who just has not been due to injuries and outright inconsistency. Ward’s numbers just are not all that good and the 2.84 GAA and .909 save percentage is just average for a guy who usually tops a .920 or .925 save percentage career over the second half (.903 this year). It makes you wonder how he will play out the string. Honestly there are just better fantasy options right now than Ward. Please adjust accordingly.
Dishonorable Mentions: Adam Henrique (NJ), Joffrey Lupul (TOR), Ron Wilson (Fired)
Well that wraps it up for this week. Good luck and hopefully it is a solid Week 21 for everyone out there. There is always the unexpected in fantasy hockey and we hope to always spotlight the expected also. Do not forget to follow us @TheProgramBTR for all your fantasy hockey questions and more. Thanks again for reading.