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Frozen Fantasy: Philly Flap

Janet Eagleson

Janet Eagleson

Janet Eagleson is a four-time winner of the Hockey Writer of the Year award from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.

To say Wednesday’s game between Tampa and Philly was like watching paint dry is actually an insult to drying paint.

Maybe butt-ugly is a better term.

For those of you who didn’t see it, Flyers coach Peter Laviolette decided to “prove” a point on national television. Namely, that the Lightning’s 1-3-1 trap – a.k.a. “system” – is bad for hockey.

Instead, he proved it was his approach that was bad for hockey.

Yes, you read that right.

Don’t get me wrong – the trap sucks. It is bad for hockey. And it seriously depresses the fantasy value of a lot of high-end players. But it’s legal. And it’s probably been around for as long as the game itself. To hold the puck in your own zone for 15, 20, even 30 seconds in an attempt to get a waiting opponent to come get it was just plain stupid.

Not to mention illegal.

Rule 72 states a penalty can be called if a team intentionally refuses or abstains from playing the puck. The team with the puck has to move it up the ice. The opposing team can do exactly what the Bolts did – patiently sit back and wait. Particularly with matching zeros on the scoreboard.

You’re an embarrassment, Mr. Laviolette.

No wonder the NHL has a hard time growing its audience. I don’t think I’d ever watch again if I had tuned in for the first time Wednesday.

Why not save that little hold-the-puck trick for the moment you grab a lead? Opposing players actually have an incentive to attack then. The trap is neutralized and scoring lanes open wide. Seems kind of obvious to me.

Now let’s take a look at who caught my eye this week.

Artem Anisimov, C, NY Rangers (6 percent owned) – Anisimov is a clever stickhandler with sharp vision and strong, two-way skills; skills that are on full display playing left wing on a line with Derek Stepan and Marian Gaborik. They’re one of the hottest trios in the NHL right now with Anisimov showing off his uncanny ability to put pucks on the tapes of top snipers. He’ll hit the ice Friday riding a three-game, six-assist streak, and there could be a lot more coming if his chemistry with Gabby is real. His value will go even higher once he gains eligibility on the left side.

Dan Carcillo, LW, Chicago (4 percent owned) – I’ve been patiently waiting for Carcillo to lose his mind; it finally happened this week when he lined up against the Canucks. His game has been slipping over the last few years but he can still pile up the penalty minutes with some of the best - 21 in one night is a nice way to pump the tires on a single category. The Hawks play the Orcas again Wednesday night so grab him for a single-game boost – I think you’ll be pleased with the outcome.

Michael Del Zotto, D, NY Rangers (11 percent owned) – Del Zotto owned Broadway in his rookie season – a 37-point debut will do that for a 19-year-old. But he was crushed by the weight of a horrible sophomore slump last season and ended up in the AHL. Not this year. His confidence is back and that, coupled with his unbelievable skills and big shot, has earned him two goals and three assists in his last eight games. His plus-minus is also on the positive side of the ledger and he’s headed for a career year. Go get him.

Cody Eakin, C, Washington (0 percent owned) – I love this guy. I went to last year’s Memorial Cup to catch glimpses of Jonathan Huberdeau and Nathan Beaulieu, but it was Eakin who rocked my world. His hustle is unsurpassed. And that intensity escalates his skills from good to well above average. He all but single-handedly (27 points in 19 games) carried the Kootenay Ice to a surprise Western Hockey League title and then added six points in five games at the Mem Cup. So it doesn’t really come as a surprise that he already has a goal and two assists three games into his NHL career. He’s in and Mathieu Perreault is in the press box. Yes, center is deep. But this guy might help if you just use forward designations in your league.

Mark Flood, D, Winnipeg (0 percent owned) – This journeyman defender has made the most of his opportunity in the Peg. The 27-year-old with just six NHL games under his belt before this season has three points in his last four games with the Jets. The folks in Winnipeg love him – he spent last season there with the AHL Moose and drained 11 goals, while adding 29 assists, in 40 games. Tobias Enstrom’s injury opened the floodgate (pardon the pun) of opportunity for him. He won’t keep this up, but he could deliver you cheap and cheerful, short-term fantasy points.

Antero Niittymaki, G, San Jose (3 percent owned) – I’m including Niitty on this list as a pre-emptive strike option – goalies are always hot commodities. Niitty is due back around the middle of next month and the Sharks could really use him. Antti Niemi has had a tough start to the season, and you and I both know Niitty can carry the mail in medium to long stretches. Stash him now or forever hold your peace.

T.J. Oshie, RW/C, St. Louis (26 percent owned) – If you’re a regular reader, you already know I love this guy. He’s a skill guy with a nasty attitude, and he can lay out guys several inches taller and dozens of pounds heavier. He was held off the score sheet on Thursday against the Maple Leafs. But he had five points – three goals and two assists – in the three games heading into that game. He’s currently tied with Kevin Shattenkirk for the team lead in scoring (10 points in 15 games). He’s fearless and great in traffic. And as long as he and new coach Ken Hitchcock hit it off, Oshie will deliver career numbers this year. There’s no way he should be owned in just 1-of-4 leagues.

Stephane Robidas, D, Dallas (14 percent owned) – I wrote off Robidas after a snail-like second half last year. It looked like a great decision through this October, but when the sun dawned on November, Robidas woke up. He has two goals and two assists in three November games heading into action Friday night. His skating is strong and he battles hard. And he could help you in the short term.

Michael Ryder, RW, Dallas (22 percent owned) – OK – his skating is “unorthodox,” his attitude tends to “waver” and his selfishness can really hurt if he’s not harnessed correctly. But right now, Stars’ coach Glen Gulutzan seems to have the perfect tension on the bit and Ryder is responding like a true stallion. He’s riding a three-game, seven-point streak heading into action Friday night and sits fourth on the Stars’ scoring list behind only Jamie Benn, Loui Eriksson and Sheldon Souray. He’s going to deliver some cheap fantasy points if he can stay focused. So far, so good.

Derek Stepan, C, NY Rangers (16 percent owned) – Remember last year? He potted a hat trick on Opening Night and then delivered a remarkably mature season for a rookie, finishing fifth in scoring in a tough freshman class. He got off to a bit of a slow start this year but has exploded for two goals, five helpers and a plus-6 rating in his last three games. He may not be flashy but he’s smart, patient and sneaky talented. And that seems to be the perfect fit with his linemates Marian Gaborik and Artem Anisimov. He’s worth rostering right now.

Back to Laviolette.

His move was not a “stroke of cheekiness” like I’ve heard it described. And it’s not an opportunity to introduce a basketball-like shot clock or ban the trap (like that’s ever going to happen – traps save coaches’ jobs).

The trap may be ugly but it’s legal. So suck it up, buttercup – stop embarrassing yourself and figure out how to break it. And I don’t mean sitting back in your own zone. The Bruins figured out how to break it during last year’s playoff run. And look where it got them.

Until next week.

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