Shots on Goal: Roundup + IR Top-10
By Peter Maingot
This week's edition of SOG will be lean and injury riddled, as in addition to giving you any and all pertinent goalie news from the last seven days we'll also take an in-depth look at what players, currently listed as injured (or on IR), may be both available in your league and of interest to you. Finally, we'll unveil our fantasy IR Top-10 list!
We put you alert last week for a possible move by Ondrej Pavelec and it's happened. Pavelec has usurped Chris Mason as the Thrashers' starting goalie. Pavelec is 2-1 since our last column and he only allowed a total of three goals in those three games, including a 5-0 shutout win against the formerly explosive Washington squad. Mason's 3.90 GAA is nearly two goals more than Pavelec's 1.93 GAA. You don't need a degree from M.I.T. to know which goalie to start these days.
Tuukka Rask finally won a game, with a shutout no less. Rask lost his next start 3-1 to Tampa Bay and Tim Thomas will likely return to the nets Wednesday against Florida. Rask owners have to be happy about him being back on the radar and there will come a time where he will contend again for the top job, so he remains an obvious hold. Owners of either goalie have to be glad that David Krejci has returned to the lineup and that Marc Savard has been cleared for full-contact practices.
Marty Turco was 1-1 in the last week, including a relatively easy 18-save shutout at Edmonton. Backup Corey Crawford is only 3-4 for the season, but has a solid 2.39 GAA and .916 SV % (Turco has a 2.83 GAA and .910 SV %). It's hard to roster handcuffs in fantasy hockey but Crawford may be the exception if you're long on Turco but otherwise lean in net.
Craig Anderson is back in the Avs' lineup, winning immediately in his first start Friday as the Avs prevailed 5-1 over the Rangers. Peter Budaj played the next night and won 4-3 at Dallas. Even though Budaj played admirably in Anderson's place and has won his last three starts, going forward Budaj will revert to his bench role and will see maybe one start every-other-week. Anyone looking for defenseman help should monitor (if not pick up) Kevin Shattenkirk. Drafted 14th overall in 2007 by Colorado, Shattenkirk has had a very impressive debut in his first nine games as an NHL defenseman with five points. Moreover, he's formed an effective duo with John-Michael Liles as the point men on the Avs' first power-play unit.
Columbus is 13-6, which is no mild surprise. Leading the charge has been backup goalie Mathieu Garon. Amazingly, Garon has shutouts in three of his last four starts. Garon's 1.08 GAA and .960 SV % are off the charts. Steve Mason owners can expect to see Garon play as often as Mason until he cools down.
Nikolai Khabibulin is on IR with a pulled groin. Devan Dubnyk has started the past three games, going 1-1-1 with a GAA around 3.30. Unless the matchup is favorable, and few will be with this putrid Oilers team, it is best to simply avoid Edmonton goalies
Brian Elliott and the entire Senators team were negatively affected last week by the tragic passing of Daron Richardson, the late daughter of Sens coach Luke Richardson. Elliott and the Sens were beaten by an aggregate of 17-4 last week in losses to Philadelphia, Carolina, and St. Louis. Pascal Leclaire started in Monday's 3-2 win over Los Angeles and this situation remains in flux. Leclaire will get a chance to go on a run now.
Martin Biron is having an excellent season as the Rangers' backup goalie. Biron has won his past two starts while Henrik Lundqvist has had an uneven season thus far. Short term this could be a platoon of sorts but longer term we expect King Henrik to revert to the form that has made him a top-5 goalie in both fantasy and in real terms. Wednesday's game against Tampa Bay suddenly means a little more than a typical November tilt.
In last week's column we alluded to the fact that Sergei Bobrovsky has played a lot of hockey in a short period of time and that the Flyers ran the risk of burning him out. Well Bob told the team that he was tired last week after 13 consecutive starts and that gave Brian Boucher two consecutive starts for the first time since early October. As first mentioned here last week, Bobrovsky has never played more than 35 games in any pro season. While Michael Leighton is back practicing with the team, he's expected to be loaned to their AHL affiliate on November 27. As the AHL Phantoms play three games next weekend Leighton could see action in multiple games. Leighton is still experiencing some numbness in his leg and welcomes the idea of a rehab stint. If all goes well next weekend, Leighton should be vying for starts by early December.
Marc-Andre Fleury started six games in 10 days, Nov. 12 -22, going 5-0-1 in the process with a GAA hovering around 2.10 and an impressive .922 SV %. Brent Johnson has returned to his former role, that of a backup goalie playing behind a Stanley Cup-winning goalie on a team that boasts the best hockey player on the planet.
Backup Antti Niemi is 1-1-1 in November with a 3.33 GAA. Niemi's latest effort was a five-goal loss at Dallas. To be fair to Niemi, who has but two wins on the season, the Sharks have been allowing more shots on goal of late. The reason for this defensive lapse is injuries to D-men Douglas Murray and Niclas Wallin. No. 1 goalie Anterro Niittymaki is 3-2-2 in November with a 2.28 GAA. The injuries on defense have affected Niittymaki's GAA of late, as he's allowed nine goals in his last three starts. The Sharks host the suddenly hot Blackhawks on Wednesday. It will be interesting to see whether the team starts Chicago's Stanley Cup-winning goalie from last year or if they play their No. 1 goalie Niittymaki.
Mike Smith will be starting his third straight game Wednesday, as the Bolts play the Rangers. Tampa is playing well of late and the team could be getting Simon Gagne back in their lineups as soon as Wednesday. This goalie situation remains volatile and we don't see a clear-cut favorite emerging whereby they would suddenly receive 70 or 80 percent of the starts in net. Realistically, neither Smith nor Ellis should be considered as anything more than a No. 3 or No. 4 roto goalie.
Jean-Sebastien Giguere (groin) should be out for another week. Meanwhile, Jonas Gustavsson went 2-1 this past week in allowing just four goals in the process. His 1.33 GAA is almost as impressive as his .956 SV %. We were perhaps a little too hard on Toronto in last week's column but we'll need more than a three-game sample size to see if anything has really changed. They are now up to six games that they've scored three or more goals in their last 17 games played after a 2-for-3 week.
Each time Roberto Luongo has a bad game (or two) pundits start to mention a goalie controversy between he and Corey Schneider. Maybe short term but that's about it. Luongo is a Cup contender and a gold-medal winner who is always blamed anytime the Canucks play a stinker. Ignore the noise and play Louie.
Michael Neuvirth has had a tougher time of late. Though has five wins in seven starts in November, in only one of those starts did he allow less than three goals and he allowed four goals in three of those starts. Bottom line: Neuvirth is winning but his other stats are becoming less fantasy friendly. Neuvirth went from likely starter to emergency backup to a scratch in just a few hours Monday, and it caused some confusion about the Capitals' goaltending situation. Coach Bruce Boudreau confirmed after Monday's 5-0 loss at New Jersey that Neuvirth suffered a minor lower body injury during the morning skate so he couldn't play. Braden Holtby got the start instead, but the team deemed Neuvirth's injury serious enough that they weren't comfortable with him even as the backup. They recalled Semyon Varlamov from Hershey but had no intention of playing him despite the blowout loss. Varly's skates arrived late so Neuvirth had to sit on the bench for the first period. The team expects Neuvirth to be able to play on Wednesday but Varlamov practiced with the team Tuesday and will stay with the team long enough for them to make a determination on Neuvirth on Wednesday morning. Update: Varlamov will start for the Capitals on Wednesday at Carolina. This is his chance to claw back into the picture and wrest a portion of the goalie starts from Neuvirth going forward.
Slightly off topic but we agree with coach Boudreau and find it distasteful for players to joke around with the opposition after their team has just been beaten 5-0. Ovechkin is starting to revert to the Russian stereotype of player: extremely gifted but not always fully engaged. Back to the Caps' defense… the Caps really miss top-4 defenseman Tom Poti and his loss is having a negative effect on the team defense and the goals against. The Caps need another quality defenseman and Caps fans should demand a veteran top-4 defenseman (Kevin Bieksa, Sheldon Souray, or other). As it stands now, the Caps do not possess a good enough defense to win the Stanley Cup this year.
IR Time: Opportunity for the Patient
Before we delve into the IR analysis, please keep in mind that we will not address players that are basically out until the last month or so of the season. This means that neither Mark Streit nor Guillaume Latendresse will be mentioned, as we don't see any point in rostering a player, even on IR, that may not even return before April.
Marc Savard, C, BOS:
When healthy Savard is a fantasy superstar who delivers 80+ points, 70+ PIMs and tons of assists, shots, and power-play points. Sadly for B's fans Savard has not been healthy much over the past 18 months, as he's missed 60 of the Bruins last 101 regular season games. Now cleared for full-contact practices, Savard should be owned in all formats. Just be sure to have an extra center on your roster, or at least monitor the decent centers in your league's free-agent pool, in case the worst happens and he's knocked out again.
Joffrey Lupul, LW, ANA:
Lupul has been out a year now after having back surgery last November that developed a stubborn infection. Not only is Lupul not guaranteed a top-six role upon his return, he may not get that opportunity for the rest of the season. The Ducks have been trying to be a three-line team offensively for some time now and Lupul will likely be counted on to be the anchor of any possible third scoring line. Rookies Kyle Palmieiri and Nick Bonino as well as young Duck wingers Matt Beleskey and Dan Sexton will be the other candidates for this new third line. While they all have solid futures, there are four other forwards we can think of that Lupul (and his owners) would rather he roll with: Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu. This situation bears a close watchful eye, as Lupul is a streaky goal scorer and a top-six role could still be had despite the forewarnings of third-line duty.
Kristian Huselius, LW, CLM:
Huselius began the season strong, bagging a few goals in his native country as the Blue Jackets began their season in Stockholm, Sweden. A high-ankle sprain has kept him out of the lineup since October 23rd. Even with the worst-case scenario, an eight-week recovery, Huselius could make for a nice seasonal gift to those in need of left-wing help.
Vinny Prospal, LW, NYR:
Prospal had major knee surgery Sept. 23 (check date) and should be back by early 2011. The enticing thing about Vinny is that he played well with Marian Gaborik last season, and often as Gaborik's center. A line of Frolov-Prospal-Gaborik could be quite lethal.
Peter Mueller, LW/C, COL:
Mueller's concussion could wipe out his entire season, though there has been one piece of positive news since he went out of the lineup in early October. That was a mention by the Denver Post's Adrian Dater that Mueller was starting to come around the arena lately and that there was a strong sense within the organization that he would return to the lineup at some point this season. Of all the players mentioned in this column we are the least certain about Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Mueller. Mueller is, at best, a long-term stash if you have an IR spot and anticipate needing some later-season help at left wing or center. Mueller's upside, he scored 15 points in 11 games last season after his trade from Phoenix and formed a very effective second line with Matt Duchene and Milan Hejduk, is high enough that he merits consideration despite all of the uncertainty.
Michael Leighton, G, PHI:
Leighton's back surgery has left him a little numb at times in his legs and the team has to hope that the numbness will go away as he begins to practice in earnest with the team and then go spend next weekend with the Flyers' AHL team. Assuming no setbacks, Leighton should be competing for starts with rookie Sergei Bobrovsky by early December. Even if Leighton cannot surpass Bobrovsky as the consensus No. 1, he should still see at least 20-to-25 starts between now and mid-April (a.k.a. the end of the season) thus making him roto-worthy as a No. 3 or No. 4 fantasy goalie with a high No. 2 upside.
T.J. Oshie, C, STL:
Oshie was the Blues' best forward this season before he suffered the broken ankle that will keep him out of the lineup until mid-to-late January. While Oshie has been hurt, his linemate David Backes has begun to click with Andy McDonald and Brad Boyes, making it less likely that Oshie will see top-line duty upon his return to the lineup. A second-line gig with Patrik Berglund wouldn't be a huge drop off but Oshie's power-play time will be the determining factor for most interested managers once he returns to active status.
Alexei Ponikarovsky, LW, LA:
Pony was suffering, statistically, as the third line left wing in Los Angeles this season. While he should be back in the Kings' lineup by mid-December, he cannot be counted on unless you're in a very deep league. The days of Pony potting 20+ goals and nearing 50 points appear to be a thing of the past, as his role in Southern California is vastly different than what it was in Toronto.
Kyle Quincey, D, COL:
Quincey may still be on IR in your league as he's been a healthy scratch the last three games since he came back from injury. Last season Quincey delivered 32 points and 72 PIMs, effective numbers in most 12-team leagues for a No. 4 or 5 fantasy D-man. This season Quincey has been snake-bit with zero points in 13 games despite power-play time. The power-play time may not be as ample now that Colorado's 2007 first-round pick - Kevin Shattenkirk - has emerged during Quincey's absence. Shattenkirk played over four minutes on the power play during the Avs' last game and delivered two PP assists. Moreover, the rookie was second on the team in ice time among D-men with over 24:00.
Pierre-Marc Bouchard, LW, MIN:
Bouchard missed last season due to concussion issues. There was much optimism that he would be back this season. The stark reality is that Bouchard had a setback just as he was nearing a return to the Wild lineup. The pressure in his head that he's felt lately after practicing has led to Bouchard being in holding pattern. It's brutal news for a real talent and is a quality human being. Bouchard has been an NHL regular since he was 18 and he's a real boon to the power play with his slick play-making abilities. Bouchard may not merit an IR spot due to all the uncertainty but he merits a good thought from hockey fans everywhere.
When factoring in both their prospective return dates and possible roles upon their return I've come up with a Top-10 list: