Ice Chips: Category Boosters
While the NHL trade deadline is just under a month away, fantasy leagues all over are getting to the point where rosters have to be frozen. If you find you’re lacking in a specific category, we’re here to help — and not in a Christian Bale career-advice kind of way.
- Are you hurting when it comes to +/-? Boston Bruins players are the leaders in that category, and considering the B’s overall record, it’s not too surprising. However, the New Jersey Devils are a pretty good honorable mention, and some of their players might be available on the waiver wire. While Travis Zajac (43 points, +26) and Zach Parise (59 points, +21) are probably happily owned by fantasy GMs, Jamie Langenbrunner (42 points, +19), Mike Mottau (10 points, +18), and Colin White (11 points, +17) may be more under the radar.
- And if you need someone who’s essentially a bonus player at this point, Brendan Shanahan’s off to a good start with his new/old team.
- Power play points are always a tricky thing to look at because they come and go in waves depending on whether or not a team is hot or cold. While most key power play performers are notable players who are generally unavailable, a few guys are putting up special teams numbers despite mediocre regular seasons. Minnesota’s Marek Zidlicky hasn’t equaled his output from Nashville, but he’s still one of the top power play goalscoring defensemen in the league. Up front, seven of teammate Owen Nolan’s 12 goals are power play markers, and eight of Kyle Wellwood’s 14 goals have come on the man advantage.
- The league’s leaders in shorthanded points are mostly familiar names (Simon Gagne, Patrick Marleau, Mike Richards). However, a few surprises stand out, like Chicago rookie Kris Versteeg . You’ll notice that a bunch of players are tied around the 2-3 shorthanded point mark…the common denominator with a lot of those players? Obviously, they get a lot of PK time, but it’s also important to note that they’re all pretty fast skaters. After all, if you’re busting past the defense on a shorthanded scoring chance, you usually need good wheels to do it. While it’s hard to say that someone like Richard Park will outdo Shane Doan in this category, it’s important to look at traits like speed and PK ice time when trying to get some fantasy shorthanded points.
- I always like it when fantasy leagues count shots on goal as it’s pretty easy points and allows the wealth to be spread around outside of the usual suspects. We all know that Alexander Ovechkin and Vincent Lecavalier just love shooting the puck, but there are a few other players that put a lot of pucks on net (unfortunately, they have low shooting percentages). Check out players like Dustin Brown, Jason Blake, and Bill Guerin – players having OK seasons on mediocre teams, but who shoot the puck a lot.
- Finally, a quick injury report: Tomas Holmstrom’s groin is being repaired through the miracle of sports hernia surgery. The cost? Three-to-five weeks. Eric Staal left Carolina’s Thursday night victory against San Jose early with a lower body injury that has left him day-to-day while teammate Rod Brind’Amour is out at least a week to rest his ailing back. Paul Stastny should return to the Colorado lineup in about two weeks, and our favourite future Hall-of-Famer, Martin Brodeur, will be ready to steal the crease back from Scott Clemmenson in about 2-to-3 weeks. Do I hear a goalie controversy coming up?
The Week Ahead
- Just about every game matters now when it comes to Western Conference jockeying. Key four-point games include Edmonton at Minnesota (Sunday), Colorado at Columbus, and Phoenix at Dallas (Wednesday).
- In the Eastern Conference, fewer teams are in the playoff race. In the matchup that everyone can avoid, don’t tune in to Atlanta at Tampa Bay (Tuesday) unless you’ve got fantasy points involved.
- Saturday, the Kings, desperately trying to claw their way back into the playoff picture, head to the Swamplands to take on a scorching Devils squad. We’re talking about a poor road team that’s among the lowest scoring teams in the league going up against the hottest teams in the NHL, and one of the best defensive squads. But wait, the Kings have found their goal-scoring groove. After managing just four goals in four games, they’ve suddenly lit the lamp 25 times in past six games. Good sign No. 2 for the Kings: Anze Kopitar, who’s been a big disappointment this season, ripped two goals and an assist Thursday for his first three-point game since December 11. If he heats up, he’ll again be a must-own player, and will go a long way towards helping LA gain some ground in the tough Western Conference.
- Your main event for the week: No. 1 Western seed San Jose at No. 1 Eastern seed Boston, Tuesday night.