Fantasy Hockey: Opening Night Rapid Reactions

No fantasy hockey leagues are won on draft night. Many hopeful GM’s give their roster a once-over and immediately decide that this is the squad that will bring home the hardware. Unfortunately, you never really know how a player will perform until he’s stepped onto the ice. As Howard Cosell famously said “that’s why they play the game.” No matter who fashioned the Top 200 list you inevitable used to craft your team, there will be some busts and sleepers that not even the great Barry Melrose saw coming. With 6 full games in the books, it is now time to assess what you’ve seen. Deciphering a fluke from a trend is what takes a fantasy owner to the winners circle. With that, here are some rapid reactions after only 360 minutes of the 2013-14 NHL season.

Mikhail Grabovski is a Power Play Option

Do not construe this message as an expectation of a 240 goal, hat trick per game season. However, do believe that Mikhail Grabovski is a major threat to put up serious numbers on the power play this year.

In a lockout shortened season, Alex Ovechkin notched 16 goals on the man-advantage. That number was good for half of his season total. If Grabovski can continue to find him prowling along the left wing half boards, Ovechkin will become the 30th player to ever net 25 power play goals in a season.

The Capitals scored at will on the power play last year, at a clip of 26.8% which was tops in the league. Michael Ribiero’s move to Phoenix seemed like it may cause growing pains as Adam Oates looked for a replacement down-low wing player. Fear not Caps Nation. Take a look at the video of Grabovski’s first point in a Washington uniform.

NBCSN has two great over-head camera angles, including one with dotted passing lanes, that show why the Capitals’ PP is a success. Mike Green’s point presence does just enough to get Backstrom room along the wall. After two touch passes, the puck is in the back of the net. Expect a lot of similar looks from Oates’ power play this year, and expect Grabovski to continue to produce.

Colorado Young Guns are Primed for Production

I’m talking about a place where the rookie talent instinctively flocks like the salmon to the Capistrano. I’m talking about a little place called Aspen Denver. Please excuse my excitement for the upcoming re-installment of Dumb and Dumber. And while you’re at it, excuse Coach Roy. I think he was just a little excited about the movie too?

(Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports)
(Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports)

Either way, you can’t blame Roy for bursting with emotion after his group of youngsters put on a show last night for the home crowd. Ryan O’Reilly picked Beauchemin’s pocket for a breakaway goal, MacKinnon had the primary assist on back-to-back Jamie McGinn tallies and slick handed Matt Duchene picked up where he left off last season with a goal. The Av’s didn’t need any help from their 20 year old captain last night.

From a fantasy perspective, it seems now is the time to buy stock in these Avalanche. Last year they struggled to score, coming in 25th overall at 2.38 goals per game. Expect that number to soar with a fresh crop of young talent and another year of experience for those wily 22 year old veterans.

The team itself is still likely a year or two away from being a legitimate contender out West, but that won’t stop their young players from making a fantasy impact.

Don’t Fall for the Reimer/Bernier Pair

There is a lot of buzz around Toronto’s beloved Maple Leafs to begin the season. A hot 2-0 start featuring both goaltenders has left many fans tweeting “82-0.”

In fairness, this tweet is clearly farcical. Nonetheless, there are high expectations in Toronto. When ranking fantasy goaltenders, don’t allow these beliefs to cloud your vision. Few members of goalie tandems ever make a fantasy impact in a true split-time scenario.

Things to consider: most fantasy leagues only have 4 goal-tending categories (GAA, Save%, SHO, W). Two of these statistical categories heavily favor net-minders who are getting the nod on a night in, night out basis. Even with Bernier or Reimer posting near-Vezina numbers in the other two categories, they are only as valuable as your average lunch pail goalie that starts every night.

Regardless of which goalie gets the majority of the starts down the stretch, neither will be putting up the desired wins or shutouts based mostly on lack of opportunity. Either of these ‘tendies may be a suitable back up on slow weeks, but neither of them should be given the reins on your fantasy team.

Self-control is the key to beginning every fantasy season. Not every “rapid reaction” warrants an immediate waiver wire acquisition. Be sure to catch a glimpse of the 6 games on the docket for Thursday and Friday, and make some rapid reactions of your own.