Defense Pluses and Minuses, Finding Value in Lower-Tier Goalies, plus more…

In the Canadiens’ 5-2 win over Anaheim, Jeff Petry scored twice on five shots on goal while blocking five other shots in over 27 minutes of icetime. Nearly 13 of those minutes were on special teams alone, which tells you how much he’s being leaned on while Shea Weber is still out. Petry has 13 points in the 19 games since Weber’s injury, with 10 of those points coming in his last 11 games. Weber is expected to be out at least another week or two, so Petry (17% ownership in Yahoo leagues) might be a decent short-term pickup.

Whether or not you add Petry might depend on whether your league counts plus-minus, though. At minus-24, Petry’s stats haven’t been immune to the Habs’ struggles. Most of that was before Weber’s injury, though, as Petry has “only” been a minus-2 since January 1.

Jonathan Drouin was taken to the hospital on Saturday after taking a Karl Alzner slapshot to his back. The good news is that he didn’t suffer any broken bones, although his status for Sunday’s game is up in the air. It’s an early one, and sometimes injuries hurt more the day after, so I’d place his availability on the doubtful side.

Speaking of which, if you’re wondering if there are any NHL games on Super Bowl Sunday, there are three. But you’ll need to have your lineup set very early, as the first game (Vegas @ Washington) starts at 12:30 p.m. ET (9:30 a.m. PT) and the other two games (Ottawa @ Montreal, San Jose @ Carolina) start at 1 p.m. ET (10 a.m. PT).

Confirmed starting goalies for Sunday:

Philipp Grubauer, WAS

Mike Condon, OTT

Carey Price, MON

For the latest updates, check out Goalie Post.


Nick Leddy has pushed the boundaries of red hot and ice cold as far as they can go. Remember his fast start? On Saturday he scored his first goal since November 24 – a span of 30 games without a goal. Leddy also snapped a four-game pointless drought and entering Saturday had just one assist over an 11-game stretch.

Leddy has been an anchor in the plus-minus department as well with a minus-27 this season, which is pushed by a minus-28 over December and January alone. Only Oliver Ekman-Larsson has a worse plus-minus this season. Hopefully you don’t own both OEL and Leddy in a league that counts this stat. But hey, this is a year in which both Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson are sitting at a chilly minus-24. Have you had enough of plus/minus yet?


As horrible as Petry and Leddy have been in plus/minus, Zdeno Chara continues to pile up the pluses even at age 40. With a plus-2 on Saturday, Chara’s plus-27 is tied for the league lead with William Karlsson. Chara has not been a minus player since the 2006-07 season, his first with the Bruins. With his hits and blocked shots totals, Chara still has some value left in multicategory leagues. But with just 14 points in 50 games, he’s no longer worth owning in pure points leagues.

With his goal on Saturday, Patrice Bergeron now has 12 goals in his last 14 games and 22 goals on the season. Linemate David Pastrnak also scored a goal and is currently riding an eight-game point streak. The two Bruins’ snipers haven’t skipped a beat with Brad Marchand still suspended. New temporary linemate Danton Heinen has fit in well, adding two assists on Saturday. Marchand still has one game left on his suspension and will finally be back on Wednesday.  


With his three assists on Saturday, Travis Konecny now has 16 points (7g-9a) in his last 16 games. Playing on the top line with Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier continues to provide a major uptick to Konecny’s value. He’s still unowned in over 60 percent of leagues, so if he’s still available there’s a good chance that he could be a better option than at least one of your forwards (at least at the moment). He and the Flyers play four times next week, so the sooner you can add him, the better.


There are signs of life from Cam Atkinson. With a goal on Saturday, Atkinson has points in each of his four games since returning from a foot injury. Even more encouraging is the fact that Atkinson fired eight shots on goal on Saturday, giving him 20 shots on goal over those four games. Given his lackluster production before the injury (13 points in 32 games), Atkinson should be viewed as a great buy-low target.


On one of my fantasy teams, Jake Muzzin was a late-round pick that I thought would be a casualty of my normal waiver-wire usage. Not only is he the lowest pick still on my roster, but he is one of fantasy hockey’s hottest blueliners since the calendar turned to 2018. Interrupted by a brief stint on IR, Muzzin was riding an eight-game point streak that was finally snapped on Thursday. But with his goal and two assists on Saturday, Muzzin now has 11 points over his last 10 games. It’s also worth mentioning that Muzzin has already surpassed last season’s point total (just 28 points last season) and is on pace to reach 40 points for the third time in his career.


Cory Conacher – remember him? With a penalty shot goal on Saturday, he now has six goals in 20 games, including three goals over his last two games. Perhaps he is a true “Quad-A” player (to borrow a baseball analogy), as he has scored at close to a point-per-game pace over his AHL career, including this season. I wouldn’t get too excited about him at the moment, as he plays on the Bolts’ fourth line with only limited power-play duty. But if an injury or a line shuffle places him in a better spot on this powerful Lightning squad, he could be a sneaky waiver-wire pickup down the stretch.  


Saturday’s “that helps no one” player was Travis Zajac, who scored two goals and added an assist. Zajac had gone nine games without a point. At the center position, you simply can’t afford to wait that long for a player to come around.

The Devils might be a better team, but they’re a one-man army when it comes to scoring. Despite missing five games, Taylor Hall is ahead of the team’s two second-leading scorers (Jesper Bratt and Nico Hischier) by a full 20 points.


Now, onto the goalies.


Hmmm… let’s see how well my reply aged. (Looks up scores) Darn, no shutouts in the group. Your shutouts came from your more established names, like Connor Hellebuyck, Carter Hutton (if you’re talking since mid-December), and Darcy Kuemper (who even as a backup was too strong to make Clifford’s list, I suppose).

We know how hot Hutton is and how he has swiped the starting goalie job away (at least for the time being) from the struggling Jake Allen. But does Kuemper have any chance of at least forcing Jonathan Quick into a timeshare? Probably not, but you can’t deny how hot Kuemper has been. Kuemper has posted shutouts in each of his last two starts to improve his record to 8-1-3 with a 1.76 GAA and .943 SV%. Prior to last season’s injury-shortened campaign, Quick had averaged 70 starts over his previous two seasons. But with Kuemper unexpectedly proving to be one of the league’s top backups, Quick might have trouble reaching 60 games in 2017-18. For what it’s worth, Quick has allowed five goals in each of his last two starts.

Another goaltending battle to watch is in Colorado. Semyon Varlamov started for the first time since being placed on IR, stopping 29 of 31 shots he faced in a 3-0 loss to the Jets. Don’t assume Jonathan Bernier’s hot run automatically made him the starter, as a higher-priced starter generally doesn’t lose his job because of an injury. But we’re going to see a lot more of Bernier than we expected. This is one where you’re going to have to check Goalie Post every time.


If you’re the owner of both Tuukka Rask and Pekka Rinne in a head-to-head league, you’ve been dominating your goaltending categories for the past few weeks. With wins tonight, both goalies have racked up seven consecutive wins. In fact, Rask has not been tagged with a regulation time loss dating back to November 26 (21 games), which is money if your league deducts points for goalie losses (mine only dings for regulation losses). With these recent runs of success, Rask and Rinne have both pushed themselves into the conversation as fantasy hockey’s top goalie.


Give Jaroslav Halak a medal. He stopped 46 of 49 shots he faced in earning a win. The Islanders might fancy themselves to be a playoff team with their high-powered offense, but no team gives up more shots per game (35.4). That alone makes Halak a risky play. He’s only best used if you’re chasing wins, as his ratios (3.15 GAA, .910 SV%) clearly earn him a spot in Clifford’s goalie group.


For more fantasy hockey information, follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.