Shots on Goal: Foppa Fever
By Peter Maingot
Peter Forsberg is back this weekend. Count me among the minority, the glass is half full here. Cynics like to make light of his return, but that shows a lack of class and appreciation for what he's accomplished. If you don't know who Forsberg is, "google" him. This guy was part Mario Lemieux and part Mark Messier. And he was Swedish! Still is, in fact.
Other news includes Evgeni Malkin (ACL/MCL) and Marc Savard (too many concussions) both done for the year. Brutal news for hockey fans everywhere (except those in Philly). The teams selling assets by the Feb. 28 deadline should get better returns now, for the demand just got higher.
If you need a D-man pick up one of these: Sami Salo, Marc-Andre Bergeron, Marek Zidlicky, Grant Clitsome. If you need a left-winger see if these guys are available: Max Pacioretty, Vinny Prospal, Andy McDonald, Kristian Huselius. If you need a right winger, why not try Micheal Grabner? Also, never be afraid to stash someone on IR. If there's a Zidlicky, Latendresse, Benn, McCabe, or Salo sitting in your league's free-agent pool pick him up and IR him, he may just come in handy later on.
Jonas Hiller's IR stint for exhaustion (?) is supposed to be a short one. The All-Star could be back as early as Friday vs. Calgary. In his absence the Ducks have received some fine goaltending by Curtis McElhinney. C-Mac has won two road starts in Hiller's place, posting victories at Colorado - a shutout no less -- and at Vancouver. With play like that, McElhinney has stopped 77 of the last 81 shots faced, it makes one wonder if the Ducks really need Ray Emery and his sideshow? In case you missed it, Anaheim signed Emery to a two-way deal and he's now playing for their minor league affiliate in Syracuse with the understanding that he'll join the big club once he gets his legs back. The Ducks also bolstered their depth and size on defense by bringing back former Duck Francois Beauchemin. They may have over-paid but they also managed to unload winger Joffrey Lupul's ridiculous contract ($4.25 million per year for an inconsistent/streaky one-dimensional player).
The Thrashers have to be very excited about getting top-pairing D-man Tobias Enstrom back in their lineup in the next week, as the team has really struggled without him. Ondrej Pavelec is 2-7-4 in his last 11 appearances. Since Pavelec's 36-save shutout win over Washington Jan. 26 Pavelec has gone 0-4 with a 4.00 GAA and .872 save percentage in four starts.
The Flames are now 8-0-1 since being crushed 6-0 by Minnesota Jan. 19. Miikka Kiprusoff started eight of those nine games, going 7-0-1 with a 1.87 GAA. Henrik Karlsson hasn't played since winning Jan. 21 vs. Dallas, despite allowing four goals and posting a .810 SV %. While the Flames have a two-point lead on the Wild for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, Minny has three games in hand. As such, expect to see Kipper start virtually every game. The Flames have four sets of back-to-back games left and that's when we'll likely see Karlsson get a spot start.
Corey Crawford's 4-1 win Wednesday at Edmonton ended a personal three-game losing streak where he posted a 3.35 GAA and .890 SV %. Crawford had been 4-0-1 with two shutouts in the five starts leading up to his three-game drought. The Hawks will need stellar play from Crawford, who should see the majority of starts if the Hawks want to make the playoffs. Marty Turco, who probably won't be back next year if Chicago can bring the recently acquired Alexander Salak over from the Swedish Elite league, has gone 0-2 in February with a 4.06 GAA and .877 SV %. Turco hasn't allowed less than three goals in a start since Dec. 26. If Michal Frolik can help jump-start the offense and the hawks can pick up another defenseman before Feb. 28, they could be a difficult first round opponent should they make the postseason.
Congrats to backup Peter Budaj, who's streak of allowing at least three goals per completed start ended Feb. 5 in the Avs' 3-0 loss to Anaheim. Budaj was pulled for an extra attacker and only allowed two goals in 58 minutes played. The streak ran from Nov. 13 to Feb. 4. Meanwhile Craig Anderson has lost six games in a row and is 3-11-1 in his last 15 starts. Moreover, he's been pulled from four games already this season. Last season Anderson was outstanding but was it realistic to expect the same dominant performance when one considers all the shots he faces nightly? Anderson has faced 942 shots in roughly 30 full games played. That's 31 shots per game on average that Anderson has faced this season. Add the injuries on defense (Kyle Quincey, Kyle Cumiskey) and it's been a tough task for Anderson to keep Colorado's playoff hopes afloat. It will likely require more than the addition of Peter Forsberg to put the Avs into the postseason.
Steve Mason has started virtually every game for several weeks now and the results are certainly improving over time. Mason has a 3-1 record, a 1.76 GAA and .944 save percentage over his last four games. The pressure is on for Mason and the Blue Jackets, as they now sit six points out of a playoff spot with two games in hand.
Jimmy Howard stinks this year. Put him on a mediocre team and he'd be riding the pine by now with a woeful won-loss record. But Howard plays for a league powerhouse and posts a 26-10-3 record despite brutal peripherals - 2.89 GAA and .904 SV %. Howard has allowed four goals or more in three of his last six starts. Joey MacDonald is becoming a player of interest for those needing goalie depth. MacDonald may be the lamb meeting the slaughter, however, as the Wings play the Bruins in a home-and-home next.
Nikolai Khabibulin, 8-24-2 this season, has now lost 13 starts in a row. His last win was Dec. 16 against Columbus. Backup Devan Dubnyk has an even record, 6-6-6 with a 2.76 GAA and .920 SV %, on a young team in rebuild mode. Dubnyk should take over the reigns, but the team continues to alternate them. Khabby has 10 starts in 2011 and he's allowed less than three goals in just one of those contests. Dubnyk has eight starts in 2011 and he's 4-3-1 while allowing less than three goals in four of seven starts.
With the Panthers' future No. 1 goalie Jacob Markstrom (drafted 31st overall in the 08') possibly headed for surgery, there has been some scuttlebutt that Tomas Vokoun will no longer be traded. It is too early to say and it will likely come down to what is offered for the impending unrestricted free agent. Backup Scott Clemmensen is fully capable to ride out the season as the No. 1 should Vokoun be dealt. Clemmensen started 39 games for New Jersey two seasons ago and performed admirably, albeit on a much stronger team.
Count this writer as one of many people confused by GM Dale Tallon's trade with Chicago. The Panthers picked up two first-round busts - Jack Skille and Hugh Jessiman - while giving up a 22-year-old with top-six skills. This is during a season in which they waived Michael Grabner before Game 1 and would witness him joining the Islanders and potting 17 goals (16 at even strength) in 49 games so far.
The Kings are 4-0-1 in their last five games and now sit just three points out of a playoff spot with three games in hand on 8th place Calgary. Jonathan Quick is 5-0 in his last five starts with a 1.78 GAA. The Kings have put themselves within striking distance and should be buyers over the next 2 ½ weeks.
The Devils are 8-1-1 in their past 10 games thereby proving to be spoilers to be wary of. With Martin Brodeur out (day-to-day) with a knee injury, Johan Hedberg makes for a compelling pick up in most leagues. Hedberg is 2-1 in his last three starts with a 2.31 GAA. We can expect to see GM Lou Lamoriello unload a few veterans between now and Feb. 28 with Jason Arnott the most likely to be moved. The contracts of Brian Rolston (one more year at $5 million) and Dainius Zubrus (two more years at $3.4 million per annum) are hefty and it will make it extremely difficult for them to be moved, though they have both played better of late (they each have 4 points in last 5 games).
The Islanders are 12-11-2 since Dec. 16 with a 2.91 GAA. That's awfully impressive for a team that lost 20 of 21 earlier in the season. However, with Rick DiPietro (facial beating) out 4-6 weeks, thanks to his foolish decision to drop the gloves with Pittsburgh's Brent Johnson, and 20-year-old rookie Kevin Poulin (dislocated knee cap) done for the season things are looking quite bleak again on Long Island. The Isles traded for Al Montoya but he's done nothing in the NHL. They will roll with Mikko Koskinen, a 6-5 rookie Finn drafted 31st overall in 2009, until Montoya gets called up. Koskinen's AHL numbers are brutal - a 3.64 GAA and .884 SV %. Stay away from all Islanders goalies based on their current crop of healthy puck stoppers.
There is no team in the NHL currently that has less exciting prospects for the remainder of the season than Ottawa. Their best goalie Pascal Leclaire (lower-body injury) has missed the past 20 games and there's no end in sight. Their captain and best right wing, Daniel Alfredsson, is out for at least 2-3 weeks with a recurring back problem that has plagued him throughout the season. Their No. 2 center, Mike Fisher, has been traded to Nashville (much to the happiness of his wife, country singer Carrie Underwood). Their No. 2 right wing Alex Kovalev, who will turn 38 in two weeks, has but four goals and five assists since Nov. 28, a span of 23 games. Stay away from here people.
Sergei “Bob” Bobrovsky is 7-1 in 2011 with his only hiccup being a Feb. 1 game at Tampa Bay when he was pulled after one period after giving up three goals on six shots. Bob proceeded to win his next game, a 3-2 victory over Nashville. Bob has allowed less than three goals in seven of eight starts in this calendar year. Backup Brian Boucher is 5-2 in 2011 and he's allowed three goals or more just once in the seven starts. The Flyers may still make a move in nets before the deadline so Bobrovsky owners need to remain alert for any possible Flyers goalie acquisition.
Antti Niemi has won nine of his last 10 starts, as the Sharks make a surge for a postseason birth. While Niemi is playing his best hockey of the season fellow Finn Antero Niittymaki keeps re-injuring himself. Niity has yet to dress for a game since he tweaked his groin during the morning skate on Jan. 20 in Vancouver. These are truly trying times for Niittymaki owners.
Dwayne Roloson has hit a rough patch, allowing 11 goals (52 saves on 63 shots) over his past two starts. This comes after an outstanding five-game stretch where he went 5-0 with a 0.98 GAA. This has opened the door for Dan Ellis to see some action, though playing the 41-year-old Roloson every night is foolhardy to begin with. They need Rollie healthy and still relatively fresh for the playoffs. Eliis has won his last two starts, allowing just four goals in 130 minutes while stopping 58 of 62 shots.
James Reimer is an intriguing pick up because the Leafs always play better after they've essentially been eliminated from the playoffs. Plus the Buds have added another possible top-six forward in Joffrey Lupul. Lupul has missed more than a full season's worth of hockey (Nov. 09' to Dec. 10') due to back surgery and complications thereafter from it but he's just 27 and should be close to 100% after 23 games played this season. If Loops can form an effective second line with MacArthur and Bozak the Leafs will be a bigger obstacle for opponents and Reimer owners could be getting some W's from their third (or fourth) roto goalie. Reimer is 6-4 in 10 starts with Toronto this season posting a 2.44 GAA and .927 SV%. Jean-Sebastien Giguere will continue to see starts as they continue to try and trade him. Giguere is 3-2-1 in six starts in 2011 with a 2.82 GAA.
Michal Neuvirth is back in play after a long injury induced hiatus. Neuvirth posted a shutout over Pittsburgh on Feb. 6. It was his first game since Jan. 16. Neuvy stopped 34 of 36 shots two nights later vs. San Jose but took the loss as Washington was shutout 2-0. It looks like we're back to fairly even platoon between Neuvirth and Semyon Varlamov. Varlamov has allowed more than two goals just twice over his last 12 starts but didn't as many wins as he should have for the Caps really struggled to score goals while Alexander Semin was injured. Everyone is healthy now but the time-share will limit the contributions of either goalie to anyone's fantasy team.