One bit of news that is probably not getting enough coverage is that the NHL has announced that goaltenders must wear new pants by Feb. 4. Think about this for a minute. Goalies are already creatures of habit and now you’re telling them they must adjust to this new piece of equipment in midseason. I’m surprised the NHL didn’t just table the new pads until the 2017-18 season, but this lets you know what their first-priority is; to raise goal scoring.
In the Fantasy world, we have one steadfast rule, never change a rule midseason. This would seem to be just as unfair in the NHL. Not all teams will have played the same amount of games on Feb. 4. So some goaltenders will have to wear the new equipment more often, some less. Some might call this a competitive advantage one way or the other.
Will this change increase goal scoring? Probably, as the pants are more streamlined and thus smaller, which should open up more space for shooters. The problem is, it won’t be much more space, just a little bit. So sure, goal scoring might go up, but it will be by tenths of a point not full goals. This change is just the first, though, as next season the safety standards could be in place to shorten the waffles, trappers, body armor, and leg pads. Some might say the easier solution would’ve been to just increase the size of the nets, but that would be like making a football field 110 yards or the base paths 95 feet; just not going to happen.
The pads haven’t been decreased yet but we have still seen a couple of wild games this week. The Penguins defeated the Capitals 8-7 in overtime Monday, and the Stars took out the Rangers 7-6 on Tuesday. You just don’t see these kinds of high scoring games in the NHL all that much. We can attribute the Caps/Pens game to just one of those nights. I’m not worried about Braden Holtby or Matt Murray all that much. As for the Stars/Rangers – well, we know that Antti Niemi and Kari Lehtonen are average NHL net minders at best, but what is wrong with Henrik Lundqvist?
Lundqvist had the worst GAA of his career last season, 2.48, and a .920 save percentage. That’s a noticeable dip in his play but nothing compared to what we have seen so far this season, 2.89 and .902 respectively. What is wrong here? There doesn’t seem to be an injury in play here and most assume it’s just a mechanical/positional issue. The problem is with the injury to Antti Raanta (lower body) that will keep him out of action for the next 7-10 days (likely until after the All-Star break). The Rangers have no choice but to keep throwing Lundqvist back in net. Lundqvist also has confidence issues, which can be a huge detriment to a goaltender. You can’t start him in Fantasy Hockey right now unless you just don’t have any other solid alternatives.
Lundqvist isn’t the only starting backstop who is having issues. Jake Allen has been a sieve in net for over a month now, and it has led to coach Ken Hitchcock giving him a “rest”. What that means is anyone’s guess, as Carter Hutton has started the last three games. Perhaps this will come as a much- needed mental break for Allen, as this is the first season in which he a starting goaltender. Hutton is a solid backup but the Blues don’t have Brian Elliott to rely on anymore. Hutton played poorly Tuesday, allowing five goals on just 23 shots to the Senators, so Allen could get his next shot in net as soon as Thursday at home versus Washington. If you’re an Allen owner, this could be a good news-bad news scenario. Sure Allen could get back in net, but facing Alexander Ovechkin and the high scoring Capitals may not be the best team to try and get your starting job back against.
The New York Islanders fired coach Jack Capuano on Tuesday. What does this mean for Fantasy owners? Probably not much in the short term. It’s not like they are going to make any huge additions during the second half of the season. The biggest change is whom Doug Weight decides to play with John Tavares. Capuano was often criticized for changing lines more often than most of us change channels on the TV. He rarely gave any combination time to gather the necessary chemistry to perform well. Still, there isn’t anyone you should be dying to claim here. However, if the Islanders were to call up Matthew Barzal or Michael Dal Colle (unlikely), that could change.
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