We have survived much this fantasy hockey season but now comes the last 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 24 (25 for some of us). This week brings us the end of fantasy playoffs in some leagues actually. Whether it is a dynasty or single season league, it all comes down to this final stretch. If you made it this far, congratulations. Also if you are in rotisserie or points leagues and can sniff the title, we will try our best to steer you in the right direction.
Essentially, who is in or out of lineups is pertinent and crucial to success at this level of fantasy hockey. These last few weeks really do separate the contenders from the pretenders.
Injuries do really play a big part in fantasy hockey now but hey there were some awfully good fantasy performances last week. The fantasy playoffs are now here and it is time to first reveal our Fantasy Player Of The Week. By the way, this was the first week that we almost considered a dual honor but in the end, that was narrowly avoided.
Player Of The Week……
Congratulations to Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins on winning this week’s Fantasy POTW. The Pittsburgh forward not only scored ten points in the last seven days despite his ice time laying right around 21:00 a night. Little of that mattered as Malkin was simply just too good once again. This is his fifth appearance on here this season which leads all players.
Malkin can flat out make an average fantasy squad above average. In his last 55 games, he has 82 points. That is just about 1.5 points per game, which we would consider an MVP level these days, given the lack of 100 point scorers. The strangest thing is Malkin is the most valuable fantasy entity in leagues but not even the most valuable player on his team. Sometimes fantasy does not always mesh with reality.
Either way, think of how much Evgeni Malkin has saved your bacon if you owned him on your fantasy team. Between Malkin and running mate James Neal, if you did have both, think of how lucky you truly are as a fantasy general manager. Congratulations again to the player who wears #71 for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
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……..
The injuries have relaxed somewhat over the last two weeks ladies and gentlemen. Maybe that will change this week and maybe it will not. However, fantasy hockey teams are still 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.
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. Maybe you see Gagne in the real playoffs and maybe you do not.
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 May 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 turned out to pay off as he is on a six game point scoring streak including eight points in his last four contests. The IR is where Horton will roam.
Jimmy Howard (Detroit Red Wings) — This groin injury may not linger very much for Howard which is very good fantasy news for owners out there. Howard and his groin seem to be a recurring issue that has to be very irritating for his owners. He was held out tonight and honestly will be well rested for the playoffs. There is no sense in playing with fire as far as your #1 goalie and reality trumps fantasy in this case. However, it does hurt at least a little for those banking on him.
Rich Peverley (Boston Bruins) — It was nice to see Peverley return this week and while he will be rusty, he is a guy that provides much needed secondary scoring (via the assists department). The best advice is to ease him into your lineup but if you are desperate enough, just jam him in there and hope for the best.
Tuukka Rask (Boston Bruins) — Here are a few from the how the injuries can change hours after press time argument. Sometimes there is no way of knowing but Rask is out at least another week due to that groin strain. Fantasy owners may consider another option because Rask may only get a start or two tops. We are just being realistic at this juncture.
Pavel Datsyuk (Detroit Red Wings) — It is good news that Datsyuk is back but we need to see a little more of a healthy Datsyuk. In four games, since his return he has one goal and just six shots on net. Then there was Monday of course. At press time, Datsyuk had two points and four shots on net against Columbus. Some will say it is Columbus but a springboard is a springboard to good fantasy times ahead.
Nick Lidstrom (Detroit Red Wings) — The defense never rests but thankfully Lidstrom did come back over the weekend. He even has potted a couple points and magically Detroit should start looking like the team they were in the near future. Lidstrom really is the key that makes them go even if his fantasy production is not quite what it used to be.
Mikko Koivu (Minnesota Wild) — Koivu is back and playing out the string with Devin Setoguchi and Danny Heatley. In three games back, he has no points but has nine shots on net. Expect a few points but more importantly increased health in what has been an injury plagued second half for the talented Center.
Niklas Backstrom (Minnesota Wild) — The leg/groin injury has healed enough to make Backstrom questionable for tomorrow night against the New York Rangers. However given how fragile Minnesota has been in the goaltending department, and in general, it may be a pretty good idea to pass on Backstrom for the rest of the regular season.
Columbus Blue Jackets — They have at least a half dozen players out for the season and really have mailed it in. Honestly if you have any options from their team, it may be almost prudent to bench them aside from Rick Nash. Yes ths is how dire it has become in Columbus.
Nicklas Backstrom (Washington) — He is getting closer and closer to returning. Basically he has been cleared and a return could happen in the last week of the regular season barring any setbacks. There is a very slight chance that it could happen sooner. Keep an eye with the beat writers in Washington as to his changing status.
In other notes, keep an eye on Matt Duchene, who seems to have a magnet sadly with that foot and ankle area. Also, with less than two weeks to go, start expecting some injuries to not necessarily be named. After all, teams tend to play it more close to the vest this time of year.
Fourteen NHL teams have five or more injuries at the current moment. Players are coming and going so it is important to check out Twitter for the absolute latest.
Here are the ladders…….that torch the Spring….
These are for the players who have seen their values shoot up for Week 22. 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.
Alexander Ovechkin (Washington Capitals) — Ovechkin is on fire with nine goals in his last seven games. Simply #8 is doing what he is supposed to do. He is just shooting the puck from everywhere. Last week all the winger did was score seven times and added an assist for extra good measure. Washington is battling for their playoff lives and this week there is a huge tilt against Buffalo to start things off. This team will ride on the back of Ovechkin at least until Nicklas Backstrom comes back and even then, at least “Alex The Great” is playing like it now when it counts the most.
Sidney Crosby and James Neal (Pittsburgh Penguins) — Crosby and Neal had eight points each in the last seven days. Neal had three goals and Crosby scored his first two goals of his second comeback. When Pittsbugh goes four forwards and Kris Letang on the power play, it is almost criminal. The Penguins seem poised to catch the New York Rangers and they would have a more profitable first round opponent. Simply this Pittsburgh offense is dynamite and looks poised to spearhead a run very deep into the playoffs. For fantasy owners, the outlook is very bright.
Brian Rolston (Boston Bruins) — No one knows when the party will end but eight points in his last four games at least makes Rolston a somewhat viable fantasy candidate to be picked up now. Overall, Rolston does have a six game scoring streak while playing a hair less than 15 minutes a night on average. This third line with Benoit Pouillot and Chris Kelly has been amazing in the last week or two. Can it continue? One has to think that it will just lessen a good bit yet the line itself will be serviceable fantasy wise.
Honorable Mention: Andrew Shaw (CHI), Eric Staal (CAR), Ryan Miller (BUF)
Let’s slide down a few chutes……that make you wonder if Winter is still going on elsewhere……
On Ottawa, Columbus, and Tampa Bay — That is their goaltending or lack thereof naturally. Ottawa had been shelled even in victory twice this week as Craig Anderson and Ben Bishop have taken turns in achieving futility in your goaltending categories. When teams can light you up in a playoff chase and the offense bails you out, that is a good sign. However, Ottawa is streaky so if the offense dries up, not even the W’s will come. Then there is Columbus who cannot defend anything which results in five, six, and seven goals against far too often this season. Last night, they gave up seven to Detroit as Steve Mason gave up six goals on 28 shots. When Curtis Sanford went down, there was little or no hope as far as the rest of the year so the answer is obvious. Run far away from Columbus. Finally there is Tampa Bay. Yes Dwayne Roloson won one tonight but even then, he did give up three goals with several way too close calls. Look out for the other shoe to drop there once again. It may not take long either.
Marek Zidlicky (New Jersey Devils) — Normally Zidlicky has been very reliable but his two points could not hide the number of defensive miscues he made last week and particularly Sunday against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Zidlicky may be checking to see where Sidney Crosby wound up still. It just seems if the Devils continue to shuffle lines and pairings that their defensive duos will continue to suffer in the fantasy realm. They have pretty much most of the season anyway.
Henrik Lundqvist (New York Rangers) —Lundqvist has given up three or more goals in four of his last five starts and just is not seeing the puck well at all. The excuse may just be impending fatherhood. Elite goalies react to things differently and I guess this has baffled Lundqvist some. Hopefully for fantasy fans, he gets it together and soon as the Rangers have to maintain the #1 seed first and foremost while getting #30 on a roll heading into what may be his most important postseason yet. Right now your most important bottom line is Lundqvist snapping out of his malaise. The consensus dictates he will.
Dishonorable Mentions: Shane Doan (Phoenix), Duncan Keith (Chicago), P.A. Parenteau (NY Islanders), Corey Perry (Anaheim)
Well that wraps it up for this week. Good luck and hopefully it is a solid Week 24 for everyone out there. There is always the unexpected in fantasy hockey and we hope to always spotlight the expected also. Next week is the final week BUT that does not mean the column is over. Do not forget to follow us @TheProgramBTR for all your fantasy hockey questions and more. Thanks again for reading.