Last week we talked about goal scoring in the NHL and how it has increased slightly over last season. There still isn’t any apparent reason for this, so we’ll just have to go with the only thing that is different about this season. The World Cup. Since so many forwards and so few goaltenders played in this tournament, perhaps the scorers are just ahead of the game right now. This should balance out over the next couple of weeks.
Another change we have seen in the NHL over the past couple of seasons is in the way teams treat their starting goaltenders. I’m talking about the top tier goaltenders; G1 for Fantasy purposes. Ten-plus years ago, it wouldn’t be a shock for a goalie like Martin Brodeur or Patrick Roy to play 75-plus games in a season. If the starter was healthy, he started. End of story. That has changed now. Most teams believe in giving the starter more rest, rarely playing them more than five or six games in a row, and almost never using them in both ends of back-to-back games.
What does this mean for Fantasy Hockey? Well, you still want the starter. You still want Ben Bishop, Braden Holtby, Corey Crawford, Petr Mrazek, Roberto Luongo, and Henrik Lundqvist, but none of them are likely to approach 75 starts. They may not even get 65. Washington was the latest team to come out and state that Holtby will not start as often this season. This makes the backup goaltender more valuable. He’s now more than just a handcuff.
You could equate this to Fantasy Football and the way we handle the backup running back. Ten years ago, you picked up the backup just to cover yourself in case of an injury to the starter. In today’s game, that backup has value. He can cover an injury. If he’s going to start once a week, he can help with your ratios, like the way a setup relief pitcher in Fantasy Baseball can lower your ERA and WHIP. The counting stats won’t be there, but a backup goaltender on a good team may help you more than a starter on a bad team. That’s just something for you to chew on.
INJURY NEWS AND NOTES
Sidney Crosby returned from his concussion last night. Of course, this is good news for his Fantasy owners but it also bears watching. Crosby is a must-start player, without question. However, how will his return affect the rest of the lineup? Will Evgeni Malkin be the center for Phil Kessel and Carl Hagelin? I would assume so, with Crosby between Chris Kunitz and Patric Hornqvist. I also wouldn’t be surprised, though, if the Pens eventually put Kessel back with Hagelin and Nick Bonino. However, that would lead to some interesting playing time issues if they also don’t want to pair Malkin with Crosby. Yeah, I know. Every team wishes they had these problems.
Kris Letang is still out with an upper body injury. Not only is he one of the best Fantasy defensemen in the game, he is also one of the keys to the Pen’s offense. Letang leads the team out of the defensive zone and on the attack. Without him, the team loses time of possession and has significantly less time on offense. He is still considered day-to-day for now.
Is Cam Talbot for real? He is 5-1 in the early going this season and won First Star of the Week last week. His GAA is 2.75 and his save percentage is .919. His GAA is inflated by the six goals he gave up against Buffalo on Oct. 16. The Oilers are a young, up and coming team. Sure, they should’ve gotten more from the Devils when they traded Taylor Hall, but their defense still improved with the addition of Adam Larsson. This can only help Talbot since defense was, and still is, the biggest weakness in Edmonton. While Talbot will be the beneficiary of the improved defense, he’s far from a must-start in Fantasy play. He has, however, moved up to low end G2 with some upside.
WAIVER WIRE PICKUPS
Nail Yakupov (LW/RW) St. Louis Blues: This former first-round pick has played well since being traded from Edmonton. A change of scenery may have been all he needed. I would like him even more if he were to play on one of the top two lines.
Dennis Wideman (Defenseman) Calgary Flames: The Flames are off to a rough start this season. Wideman has two power play goals and that’s too valuable to ignore.
Jimmy Howard (Goalie) Detroit Red Wings: Howard’s one of those top backup goaltenders that you should consider picking up. He was the starter until Petr Mrazek pushed him aside. His name will also be mentioned in connection with the Kings to replace the injured Jonathan Quick (groin).
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