Shots on Goal: Deja Vu?
In last week's column we examined the concept of streaming backups and mentioned that both Martin Biron and Chris Mason would have been useful to pick up for a Saturday spot start, of which they both won. Guess what happened the following Saturday night? They each got another spot start and won. Unfortunately I failed to take advantage, as I don't have the extra roster spot to spare currently in either of my expert leagues. Normally I like to keep one spot open so I can take advantage of short-term opportunities based on matchups etc. For example, in the expert's league that I'm currently leading I have 52 transactions already. You'd think I was completely rolling over my roster yet I still have 13 players (out of 20) that I originally drafted. By keeping one spot free you can use the league's free-agent pool as an extended bench. Just be prepared to see some of those players get picked up on waivers after you drop them. This style, which some consider a bit reckless, will always cost you at least one player you'll regret dropping but that's the nature of the beast.
This week's issue we'll look at fluid goalie situations around the league and spot some opportunities outside of the crease as well...
Ryan Miller's implosion on Saturday, where he was pulled twice in a 8-3 blowout vs. Pittsburgh, came out of nowhere. However, all it proves is that he's human. Don't expect Jhonas Enroth to suddenly start 5 games in a row. The Sabres have had quite the run of injuries but at least 2009 NHL Rookie of the Year Tyler Ennis should be back by the New Year, if not sooner. Veteran top-six forward Brad Boyes is also getting close and, while he's seen a reduction in use and line assignment this season, things could change quickly. Put Boyes on your watch list, as he could be on the first power play unit and possibly even line up with Derek Roy upon his return.
Ray Emery has been a thorn of late for Corey Crawford owners, as he's started five straight games and won them all. In last week's column I advised to pick him up if he beat San Jose, which he did. He has subsequently won in the last week at Minnesota and then home against both Anaheim and Calgary. For the season Emery sports a 9-1-2 record with a 2.50 GAA and .909 SV %. With Chicago playing back-to-back Tuesday (Pittsburgh) and Wednesday (Montreal), look for Crawford to see his first start since getting pulled after 21 minutes on December 5 against Phoenix.
Jean-Sebastien Giguere, 5-4 this season with a tiny 1.86 GAA and scintillating .927 SV %, will put his stats to the test Monday night when he starts against a Philadelphia team that lost its last game 6-0 to Boston. No. 1 goalie Semyon Varlamov has allowed three goals or more in each of his last four starts and he's given up four goals or more in three of his last four starts. With Varly giving up that many goals and the Avs struggling to score (Matt Duchene has 22 points in 33 games, Paul Stastny has 18 in 30). The Avs have scored just 20 goals in their last eight games, with eight of the goals coming in just two games. Overall they've scored two goals or less in 16 of their 33 games.
Richard Bachman continues to draw the starts over Andrew Raycroft, though his window of opportunity is closing fast as the Stars' best player this season - Kari Lehtonen - is expected back in the lineup sometime between Christmas and the New Year. Lehtonen has been skating and taking shots with goaltending coach Mike Valley. He will slowly amp up his workouts and barring a setback Bachman will be back in the minors in another five or six games. Lehtonen has already missed eight contests and the Stars have six games left in the calendar year.
Neither Nikolai Khabibulin nor Devan Dubnyk won a game last week. They each lost their only start. Expect the timeshare to continue and don't expect an abundance of wins. The Oilers have lost three straight and five of their last six. It doesn't get any easier with Detroit coming to town on Monday. At least Taylor Hall is back in the lineup. The Oilers' early season success seems to have dissipated.
Josh Harding should draw back into the lineup this week when the Wild face a back-to-back games Monday in Vancouver then Tuesday in Calgary. While Niklas Backstrom is only 0-1-2 in his last three starts he has a 1.99 GAA over that time frame. The Wild are struggling to score with so many top-six forwards banged up – Mikko Koivu (lower-body injury could be back Tuesday), Guillaume Latendresse (concussion, out indefinitely), Devin Setoguchi (lower-body injury, at least another week), Pierre-Marc Bouchard (recovering from a broken nose, could be back Tuesday).
Johan Hedberg seems to be good for a start per week these days. His stellar play last season when Martin Brodeur was hurt has carried into this season when he's been called upon. Over a span of 112 games as a Devil Hedberg has amassed a record of 25-17-3 with a 2.40 GAA, .912 SV % and five shutouts.
Less than two weeks ago management made a trade to help address their power play woes in acquiring defenseman Kurtis Foster from Anaheim to unleash his heavy shot on the first power play unit. The move has already paid dividends and Foster makes for a solid add if you're in need of a No. 3 or No. 4 fantasy D-man.
The return of Travis Zajac bolsters their top-six depth but it also creates a quandary for coach Pete Deboer, as Adam Henrique has played very well centering Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise. While Coach Pete DeBoer said he has no current plan to reunite center Travis Zajac with Zach Parise, Zajac's long-time left wing, things could change in a week or two. Once Zajac gets a few games in and gets acclimated back after missing the first 10 weeks of the season the coach will have to decide whether to reunite Zajac and Parise. They could go three lines deep if they pair up Parise-Zajac, Kovalchuk-Henrique, and Elias-Sykora with Dainius Zurbrus, David Clarkson and one of Mattias Tedenby/Nick Palmieri filling out the top three lines.
Al Montoya has enjoyed a nice run of late with five straight starts. He's 2-2-1 with a 2.99 GAA during the last five starts. As such he makes for a decent No. 3 fantasy goalie. However, there will come a time soon when Evgeni Nabokov (currently out with a groin injury) will be showcased for a possible trade so Montoya owners should be prepared for a disruption in his run of starts once Nabokov heals up.
Ilya Bryzgalov was having a great month until Saturday, when he allowed five goals in 27 minutes against Boston. Up to that point he had won five straight with a 2.87 GAA. Saturday's demolition puts Bryzgalov's season stats at 14-6-2 with 2.92 GAA and .896 SV %. With Chris Pronger out for the season (and playoffs) and top scorer Claude Giroux out indefinitely with concussion symptoms, Bryzgalov will need to play extremely well if the Flyers want to keep their place atop the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference.
Brian Elliott keeps piling up impressive wins. Thursday's defeat of the Rangers is his latest. Jaroslav Halak got weekend double dip, starting both Saturday at Nashville ( a 2-1 loss in overtime) and Sunday at home to Columbus (a 6-4 win). Even with Elliott's excellent performance this season the fact remains that Halak is going to get at least half of the starts for the foreseeable future, thereby making hard to count on either goalie as anything more as a No. 3 roto goalie.
Mathieu Garon is 2-0 in his last two starts with a 2.98 GAA. The Lightning are hurting with top liner Martin St. Louis (facial fractures) out in addition two D-men - Mattias Ohlund (knees) and Matt Gilroy (lower body). Dwayne Roloson last started a game Dec. 12 against New Jersey where he was pulled after allowing three goals on 12 shots in 21 minutes of play. Rollie hasn't won a game since Nov. 17 and he's 0-4 in his last five starts (Garon took the loss in the other game).
Backup Michal Neuvirth has had a shutout at Winnipeg and a 2-1 loss at Colorado in the past week. If he can continue that level of play he may get a bigger share of the goalie pie going forward. For the season Neuvirth has 10 starts to Tomas Vokoun's 21. Amazingly, Alexander Ovechkin has but 22 points in 31 games and he's 10 points behind team leading scorer Nicklas Backstrom. Meanwhile Alexander Semin has six goals and 12 points in 28 games while earning $6.7 million. Semin has three power-play points. Mike Green remains out indefinitely his strained right groin. We tend to forget that he scored 149 points in 143 games over the two seasons prior to last.