Blackhawk Bonanza, Sliding Penguins, plus more…
Finally… after several long months, there are real games to write about! There were eight games on Thursday, so let’s dive right in.
My goodness… what happened to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday night? Coming off the heels of a 5-4 overtime loss to St. Louis on Wednesday, the defending Stanley Cup champions allowed the Blackhawks to post double-digits. 10-1 to be exact. Granted, this was the second of back-to-backs. But my pick for the Stanley Cup (which had more to do with me being unable to pick anyone else at the moment) are already winless in two games. Fortunately with 80 more games, the Pens aren’t exactly in a big hole.
Hopefully you benched Matt Murray, thinking that he wouldn’t start. But if not, your goalie allowed six goals in just over 50 minutes of action. Do the math and Murray has a 5.89 GAA and .831 SV% over those two games. If you’re in a shortened head-to-head week, that will kill your goaltending stats. Murray was the top goalie picked in many leagues, which is a massive disappointment for owners hoping for a fast start with the Penguins’ two games over the first two days of the season. Again, there are still 80 games left, so no need to panic.
But you shouldn’t need us to tell you not to start Antti Niemi, who was pulled after allowing the Hawks to explode with four goals over the first ten minutes of the game. Spanning back to his last two seasons in Dallas, Niemi hasn’t proven that he is a goalie that can be counted on in fantasy. If you spot start him, maybe you’ll earn a win. But it’s going to cost you in the GAA and SV% categories.
Penguins’ plus-minus for this game:
Kris Letang: -5
Conor Sheary: -5
Olli Maatta: -5
Justin Schultz: -4
Sidney Crosby: -4
Jake Guentzel: -3
Evgeni Malkin: -3
If you own multiple Penguins, that’s got to hurt.
So what about the team that scored ten goals? If you picked Ryan Hartman as a sleeper, you were instantly rewarded. Hartman scored a goal and four assists while playing on a line with Patrick Kane, who scored a goal and added three assists of his own. Both Hartman and Kane were a plus-5 in this game. +5! Nick Schmaltz, the third man on the line, was no slouch either with two goals and an assist and a plus-4. The Hawks won’t score ten goals all night, but so far this line is clicking on all cylinders.
So assuming that this line sticks, we’ll have to consider Hartman and Schmaltz as potential waiver-wire pickups. Hartman is just 9 percent owned in Yahoo leagues, while Schmaltz is 17 percent owned. Both are worth considering if available depending on the size of your league. Hartman is especially useful in leagues with physical categories, as he accumulated 70 penalty minutes and 121 hits last season.
That wasn’t all for the Hawks when it came to standout fantasy contributors. In his Blackhawks’ return, Brandon Saad recorded a hat trick. As expected, Saad was matched up with Jonathan Toews and Richard Panik in what looks like the Hawks’ other scoring line. Saad had only 14:47 of icetime for his hat trick, while fellow Blackhawks’ returnee Patrick Sharp received nearly 20 minutes. But in a blowout like this one, we can’t read too much into the icetime numbers.
Another hat trick for you, this one from a usual suspect. Alex Ovechkin opened the season with three goals, while Evgeny Kuznetsov assisted on all three goals. Owners of the two Russian players are no doubt thrilled about the quick point output from both players, but the real mystery heading into training camp was going to be who the third man on the line would be.
That player is 21-year-old Jakub Vrana, who assisted on two of the Ovechkin goals. The former first-round pick should stick in the Capitals’ lineup for good this season, and at 34 percent ownership in Yahoo leagues his fantasy value is already gaining steam. Vrana and Brett Connolly were thought to be the two main candidates for that spot. But right now that spot belongs to Vrana, who has the higher upside.
Between the shoulder injury that was expected to sideline him for the start of the season and a disappointing 39-point output in his first season in Ottawa, Derick Brassard was an afterthought in most fantasy leagues. But not only did Brassard suit up for the Sens’ first game, but he also scored a goal and added two assists on a productive line with fellow 2016-17 disappointment Bobby Ryan and the more dependable Mark Stone.
For Brassard, it may only be a matter of getting used to his new surroundings. At just 10 percent ownership in Yahoo leagues, a player who averaged 59 points over his last two seasons with the Rangers was largely ignored in fantasy drafts. Now that we know he’s healthy, Brassard also deserves some waiver-wire consideration, even though he plays at the deep center position.
Don’t forget to update your email notifications at Goalie Post. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, you can pick the teams that your goalies play for, and you will receive email updates on the goalies for that team. Not only who is starting, but also injury updates and anything else that is relevant to your team. I say this because I just received a Florida goalie notification (Roberto Luongo starts Friday), yet I didn’t draft a Florida goalie this season! So I just changed my teams now.
The kids were alright for Boston on Thursday. Charlie McAvoy and Jake DeBrusk each scored their first NHL goals and each added an assist, while Anders Bjork recorded an assist in the Bruins’ 4-3 win over Nashville.
With Torey Krug out of the lineup with a broken jaw, McAvoy (playing his first regular-season game) led all Bruins’ defenders with just over 4 minutes of power-play time, and his 22 minutes of overall icetime was second on the Bruins in this game. Even when Krug returns, McAvoy still appears to have a spot locked up on the B’s power play.
Bjork had spent preseason time with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, but he lined up with DeBrusk and David Krejci on what became a highly successful unit with David Krejci. The veteran Krejci, who was drafted in just 28 percent of leagues, recorded three assists in this game. Bjork was starting to receive some attention in fantasy leagues heading into the season. We might also have to keep an eye on DeBrusk as well.
We awaited a Matt Duchene all summer and into the preseason, but it never happened. So we’re going to have to assume that Duchene will remain a member of the Avalanche, whether we like it or not. But at least Duchene made the most of the situation, scoring a goal and adding an assist with a plus-3 as the Avalanche won (!) their first game of the season.
Interesting line combination for Duchene: he centered a line with reclamation project Nail Yakupov and NCAA free agent signing Alexander Kerfoot, each of whom recorded an assist with a plus-2 in this game. If either can exceed expectations and stick around on a scoring line, then the Avs may end up with better scoring than you think.
Once upon a time, Mike Green was the one defenseman that you wanted to own in fantasy. Inserted on the power play by then coach Bruce Boudreau, Green recorded back-to-back 70-plus point seasons on a young Capitals’ team led by rising superstar Ovechkin.
Green gave us a glimpse of that fantasy goodness on Thursday, assisting on all four goals in the Wings’ 4-2 win over Minnesota. Most fantasy owners don’t want a part of Green anymore (just 19 percent Yahoo ownership), yet Green is still a top power-play blueline option for an NHL team. That should count for something, right?
The problem is, many are picking the Red Wings to finish last in the Eastern Conference. Already with a minus-20 last season while taking 100 fewer shots per season than he did in his heyday with the Capitals, Green hardly has the same kind of appeal anymore. A 40-point season wouldn’t be far-fetched, but the declining returns plus a history of injuries leaves Green on the waiver wire in many fantasy leagues.
No Ryan Getzlaf for the Ducks? No problem in the scoring department. The Ducks formed a new scoring line with Rickard Rakell centering Corey Perry and Andrew Cogliano. All three totaled three points to go with a plus-3, with Perry hitting the twine twice.
It wasn’t a Duck that led this game in shots on goal, however. One of top-level rookie Clayton Keller’s six shots on goal hit the net for his first NHL goal. This is a promising start for Keller, who I added as a sleeper in a deep league of mine. Keller was a popular pick for the Calder Trophy among many of the Dobber staff (see our preseason picks here). You still might be able to obtain him as well, as he is still unowned in two-thirds of Yahoo leagues.
In the other Pacific time zone game, Jonathan Quick stopped all 35 shots he faced in blanking the Flyers 2-0.
Tyler Toffoli scored one of the Kings’ two goals and also led all players with seven shots on goal. This is a good sign for Toffoli, who was snakebitten last season by both the injury bug and a reduced shooting percentage (9.7 percent). If I had thought through my season predictions a little more thoroughly, I may have added Toffoli to my list of rebound candidates. Fortunately, a few of my Dobber colleagues remembered. But I was at least wise enough to draft Toffoli on the cheap expecting an improved season with the Kings’ stronger commitment to offense.
For more fantasy hockey information, follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.
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