Around the Rink
Only seven NHL teams have positive goal differentials yet 21 teams have winning records. What’s wrong with this picture? I say keep things simple. Award two points to the winning squad, zero to the loser – regardless of when the game is decided; whether that occurs in regulation, overtime or in the shootout. This isn’t little league baseball where everybody gets a trophy.
Canada, the United States, Russia, Sweden and Finland have all won World Junior championships in the last six years. Hockey is healthier than ever.
Tuesday morning is a day Canadians have circled on calendars, when Team Canada will be selected for the Sochi Olympics. Is it wishful thinking for the selection process to go more smoothly than it did in the U.S.? Apparently, neither Chris Kunitz nor James Neal is set to make the squad. I expect to see fireworks from Pittsburgh to Kingston, Ontario, or wherever Don Cherry might be.
Kris Letang & Evgeni Malkin: Letang tallied an assist Sunday afternoon while Malkin scored two goals and added an assist. Just what opposing defenses need. As if it’s not hard enough defending Sidney Crosby and James Neal, but now Letang and Malkin are back. Pittsburgh travels across the continent with games in Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary in Week 15. There should be more points in those sticks.
Anton Khudobin: The former Bruin has three wins in four days. Cam Ward has four wins in 12 starts since Week 3. Justin Peters has three wins in his last 11 appearances since Nov. 15. Will the reign of Khudobin last? Who knows, but the Hurricanes will continue tapping him on the pads until he loses.
Sergei Gonchar: Gonchar is due back Monday after sitting out with a concussion. He had six assists in his last four games before getting his bell rung. Gonchar could be a decent waiver-wire bet depending on league size.
Andrew MacDonald: The Islanders’ defender has eight assists in his last eight games. MacDonald already has more points (20) in 43 games than he did in 2011-12, when he totaled 19 points in 75 contests. MacDonald presents a plus-minus risk, but fantasy owners can count on his blocked shots. MacDonald leads the league with 146 blocks, 29 more than Montreal’s Josh Gorges, who has 117.
Aleksander Barkov: Over Florida’s last 10 games, the Russian Fin has been named a No. 1 star three times and a No. 2 star on another occasion. Barkov has compiled 11 points, including three goals and eight assists, in his last 11 games. He had 10 points in his first 31 games. As with most rookies, look for Barkov to continue searching for consistency throughout the remaining three months of his freshman campaign.
Daniel Briere: The 16th year veteran netted two goals and added an assist Saturday, pointing on all three Montreal goals in a 4-3 OT loss to Ottawa. Briere isn’t as good as he once was, but he’s as good once as he ever was. Actually, perusing his game logs shows that he clusters his points in two-or-three game runs. For that reason, he’s worth a Week 15 look.
Dan Girardi: He has four of his season’s 12 points in his last five games. Girardi is likely to finish with somewhere around 30 points if history holds, putting him on a pace for 15-20 points in the second half. Girardi had an assist in the Rangers’ 7-1 win Saturday, one more point than the team’s leading scorer, Mats Zuccarello. Zuccarello fantasy owners had to cringe seeing the Blueshirts score seven times with nary a point from Mats.
Andre Benoit: The defenseman has two power-play assists in his last three games after a long dry spell.
Nathan MacKinnon: He has five goals and an assist in his last six games, including three power-play scores. With Colorado’s juicy Week 15 schedule – home games against Calgary, Ottawa and the Islanders – and a road tilt in Minnesota, Avs players are an easy recommendation.
Dan Boyle: The Sharks compiled 31 goals in their last nine games, but Dan Boyle has had his hand in just two of them with two assists. He’s still a decent fantasy defender, but he tailed off as the season progressed in 2012-13 and at 37 years of age, there’s a good likelihood that happens again this season. Kris Letang on the San Jose blue line would be fun to watch.
Ben Bishop: Bishop has been anything but cold in 2013-14, but he’s on the list because he left Sunday night’s game with an injury. Anders Lindback replaced him in goal. Lindback has some dreadful numbers – 3-7-1, 3.10 GAA, .886 save percentage – but the sample size of 12 games is small. Check back for Bishop injury updates.
Roberto Luongo: Luongo stopped 46 of 48 shots Saturday but was run over by the Kings’ Dustin Brown and sustained a foot injury. If the injury is more than one of the day-to-day variety, Eddie Lack once again takes over.
Curtis McElhinney: Sergei Bobrovsky is expected to start Monday after missing more than a month with a lower-body injury. For his part, McElhinney surrendered six goals Saturday and 16 in his last four starts.
Calgary Flames: The entire team has one goal in its last four games. The Flames are four games into a stretch of 15 games in 29 days – they better figure things out fast. Picking on any Calgary player is too much like shooting fish in a barrel, but we’ll go with Michael Cammalleri because he makes the most money ($6 million) and will likely be traded by the deadline.
Brian Gibbons: Gibbons played on the Pens’ second line Friday and moved to Sidney Crosby’s wing Sunday. He has good speed and has looked good in a 10-game sample size. Gibbons is a speculative pick, but there are worse gigs than as a top-six forward in Pittsburgh. For those looking for a safe selection, go with your favorite Colorado Avalanche player in Week 15 – the Avs have a favorable schedule.