I know hockey is a fringe Fantasy sport, it’s not like I’m living in a dream world out here, but sometimes I don’t understand why. The game is full of fast-paced action and like baseball, playing in a Fantasy league gives you a great excuse to watch a late night game. How good a Fantasy day I’m having will have a lot to do with what time I go to sleep. If I’m having a good night I tend to stay up later, while a bad night makes me want to go to sleep so that the next day arrives quicker. Then, perhaps my team will rebound.
I love playing Fantasy baseball, football and hockey. Football is by far the easiest to play but it’s also the one sport I would love just as much with or without Fantasy. I was watching football all day on Sunday even before Fantasy came about. Baseball and hockey, however, are definitely helped by Fantasy. Let’s face it; those two sports play long seasons, so adding a little spice to mid-season games certainly helps.
One thing I get asked quite often is which I root for first, my Fantasy team or the team I root for? Usually the answer is the team I root for unless a decent amount of money is involved. Hey, I may love the Yankees, Cowboys and Islanders, but they aren’t helping me pay my bills. Being an Islanders fan, though, and seeing how terribly they are playing, does tend to make me root for my Fantasy players that are going up against them. Perhaps that will change if and when they start to play better. Now let’s take a look at some Fantasy news around the NHL.
1. If you’re looking for a goaltender to pick up, see if Flyers goaltender Steven Mason (pictured) is still available on your waiver wire. Mason won the starting job over Ray Emery in training camp, but with the Flyers getting off to such a slow start he could still be floating around. The Flyers have turned around their season over the past couple of weeks and Mason has a 2.10 GAA and .933 save percentage. Those are really good numbers and if the wins are coming along with them, then he becomes a must start. As for Emery, it’s starting to look like the gamble he took (signing a cheap one-year deal in order to build up his free agent value) is going to come up snake eyes.
Right now, Emery finds himself in the same situation as last season, a backup. My only worry about Mason, however, is that his leash as a starter may be shorter than most. A couple of subpar games could open the door for Emery once again.
2. Leafs forward Joffrey Lupul was placed on IR Thursday after injuring his groin. Lupul is a dangerous scorer, but you can’t put the biscuit in the basket if you can’t stay on the ice. One good thing for Toronto, however, is that they are loaded at wing. Currently, David Clarkson and Mason Raymond are playing on the third line. Clarkson scored 30 goals two seasons ago and was on pace for close to that last season. Raymond scored his ninth goal of the season Saturday and looks like he could have a career year. Raymond has also been moved up to the second line to replace Lupul. This will certainly help his chances at scoring even-strength goals, but he was already playing with the number one power play unit, so his value doesn’t skyrocket because of this promotion.
3. Duncan Keith is quietly having a really good season for the Blackhawks. Sure, he has only one goal but 23 assists is more than making up for it. Keith has been looked at as a D2 the past couple of seasons, but if he can pot a few more goals he will go back to being a top tier d-man, especially when you know his plus/minus will be somewhere in the 30 range on that team.
4. One thing you have to love about hockey players is how quickly they return to action after being injured. When Zach Parise took a puck off the foot it was originally announced that he would miss two or three weeks of action. Well, he missed only one game. Fantasy owners had to be pleasantly surprised to say the least. You may have sat him this week, but he is safe to get back into your lineups now.
5. When Pekka Rinne went down it was thought that might be lights out for the Predators. They don’t have much of an offense, but they did have one of the best goaltenders in the world. Well, they are surviving without Rinne and that is thanks to the play of Marek Mazanec. Originally, Carter Hutton was supposed to take over the starting role but Mazanec has been pretty close to unbeatable in net. Just like Ben Scrivens in Los Angeles, though, no matter how good he plays, Rinne is going to get his starting job back when healthy. But just like Scrivens, he may have earned himself more playing time than just a traditional backup when Rinne does return.
6. Could Henrik Lundqvist lose playing time? The king has been adequate this season with a 2.51 GAA and .917 save percentage, but coming into Saturday, Cam Talbot‘s GAA was 1.41 and his save percentage was .944. Those are out of this world numbers. In New York, we are starting to hear the rumblings that Talbot should start in net more often, at least until Lundqvist returns to his old form. I’m still starting Henrik if I own him, but this situation may have me biting my nails a little more than normal.
7. Now it’s time for your weekly Minnesota Wild goaltender update. Josh Harding stepped on a puck in pregame warm-ups last Saturday, which lead to Niklas Backstrom getting three starts in a row. He played well in those starts, allowing only two goals in each game, but Josh Harding then started back-to-back games Friday and Saturday. Good luck trying to figure out who starts between the pipes this week.
8. I’m still trying to figure out how the Senators Jared Cowan wasn’t suspended for an elbow to the head of Pavel Datsyuk. This is the kind of flagrant action the NHL is trying to get rid of. Datsyuk is a Top 10 player in the NHL, and he has now been out of action for over a week. The news out of Detroit is cloudy at best, but it looks like he won’t play until mid-week at the earliest. However, as we all know with concussions that is nothing but an educated guess.
Feel free to follow me and ask any Fantasy related questions you like on twitter, @georgekurtz.