Peaks and Valleys- Think Playoffs for Payoffs
In all honesty, the first week of ‘Peaks and Valleys’ was written with a lot of confidence. Then, James Reimer went down with an injury, Vladimir Tarasenko scored, and Mike Richards got on the score sheet all within 36 hours of the column going live. I guess I did not say that Richards and Tarasenko should be dropped, just watched more closely. If you have them and held on instead of selling low, then this week was probably good for you.
The shortened NHL season is now one month old, and thoughts of what may happen with teams and players early on now have more merit. The season is already over a quarter finished, and what is concrete is what will help you win in your league daily, weekly, and down the road. This week, your players to watch and add/drop are on teams that are clearly the top in their respective conference, or players who may need to consider booking tee times.
Peaking With the Playoffs in Mind
Chicago Blackhawks– Hot. Scorching. Legit. What can be said about a team that could very well tie and break the NHL record for consecutive games without a regulation loss, thus earning a point in every game played? Patrick Kane, Jonathon Toews, Marian Hossa and the rest of the Blackhawks have been more than fantasy worthy. To the surprise of many, Corey Crawford has been dynamite in net, and is now owned in over 99% of leagues. At the same time, “Crow” is now on the shelf with an upper-body injury that many sources are reporting to be a concussion. Ray Emery has stood on his head when in net for Crawford. As I stressed last week, goalie depth is huge in fantasy, which means you need to handcuff Crawford with Emery. Johnny Oduya has also been a huge reason for the wins piling up in Chicago. He does not score, but is on the ice an awful lot. Oduya is averaging 22:00 minutes of ice time a game and is a +9 +/-. What is also a great tell of Oduya’s game is that he has been a minus only twice all season. Add him if you are in a roto league with a team hurting for a solid +/-.
San Jose Sharks– Call me crazy, but the recent struggles of the Sharks have made me want to buy low on as many players as I can. Patrick Marleau may be out of reach after his insane start, but players like Brent Burns, Joe Pavelski, and Logan Couture could be had for comparable, unproven talent (Tarasenko, anybody?). Burns should be a waiver wire add as a smart two-way defenseman who will be a positive in all categories as a blue-liner.
Nashville Predators– Get Pekka Rinne at all costs. If you think your best goalie is not worth trading, stop. This may be the most brash I will be in giving out a helping hand, but being from the Midwest, Rinne is a known commodity. Patric Hornqvist is due back no later than this Tuesday, February 19th. On a team that has traditionally worked to get goals and not depend on talent, Hornqvist is the go-to guy. He has no less than 21 goals in his three full seasons in the NHL, and can be expected to add just that to your team if you are in need of lamp lighters.
Down In the Playoff Valley
Columbus Blue Jackets– Another season, and another poor showing in Columbus. It is so tough to recommend keeping any Blue Jacket on your roster. Is it safe to try and trade defenseman Jack Johnson? Sure. Is there any value in a d-man guaranteed to be a double-digit minus on a putrid team? Eh… Brandon Dubinsky, Fedor Tyutin, and company are fantasy casualties that only the best teams in +/- may keep. If you really want to have a Blue Jacket not named Jack, look for Derek Dorsett. The perfect player if you troll for penalty minutes.
Florida Panthers– Tomas Fleischmann, Brian Campbell, and Filip Kuba, all ownable from the start, should be dropped or trade fodder. All have decent point totals, and +/- numbers no better than -8. +/- is an important category skipped for major categories like goals and assists. I can promise you that the best owners can balance all three categories and win with some less-heralded players. The player that I would keep on that team is rookie Justin Huberdeau. He has natural scoring, and can be a Vladimir Tarasenko type if you are an owner who likes to take chances.
Buffalo Sabres– This team is stuck in neutral in large part because only a handful of players are showing up nightly. Ryan Miller is seeing over 30 shots a game on average! No goalie can be expected to win consistently while being peppered every game. Thomas Vanek is playing superior hockey, but can he keep up his point-plus per game play? Take your chance and keep him, or turn him around for another top guy or proven goal scorer. The back line has been pitiful, with Christian Ehroff being the only ownable D-man with a positive plus/minus. Tyler Myers is droppable in all formats. His inconsistent play has now carried over and is too much of a risk to own. I would rather own an available blue-liner like Dmitri Kulikov or Francois Beauchemin if he is somehow still on the waiver wire.
If you have not followed too closely this week, Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators was lost for the season after suffering a laceration of his Achilles. He is droppable in all formats, except dynasty or keeper leagues.
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