Friday's blowout in Dallas for top spot in the Central Division made me swallow hard -- are my Hawks really the team to beat out west? Or for the Cup?
Yes. Well, maybe.
I've talked about Central division domination before. Nothing has changed. That division is tight. But Artem Anisimov's arm injury -- and the Stars' blowout of the Hawks on Friday -- has made me pause and wonder about the postseason.
After Friday's game, the playoff matches would look like this. My predicted round winners are in bold:
1. Washington vs. 8. Detroit
2. Boston vs. 7. Pittsburgh
3. N.Y. Rangers vs. 6. N.Y. Islanders
4. Florida vs. Tampa Bay
1. Dallas vs. 8. Colorado
2. Los Angeles vs. 7. Nashville
3. St. Louis vs. 6. San Jose
4. Chicago vs. Anaheim
Dallas' path to the Western Conference final will go through Colorado and San Jose. Chicago's is a whole lot harder -- Anaheim and L.A ... if they can even pull that off. I won't even bother with the Blues -- they always lose.
The East is fascinating -- the New York series will be a blast and then the Alex Ovechkin-Sidney Crosby matchup will be epic. So will Ovie and Steven Stamkos.
Who do you take in a Dallas-Washington final? Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin? Or Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom.
Wow, that's tough. Almost as tough as a postseason with none of the seven Canadian teams on the ice.
Now let's take a look at who caught my eye.
Sven Andrighetto, RW, Montreal (1 percent Yahoo! owned) - Andrighetto's size wouldn't be an issue if he didn't look so many teammates in the eye. Montreal has a lot of small guys in overstock, so what makes him any different? Andrighetto's edge work is off the charts and so are his acceleration and his top speed. And his wrister is pretty sweet, too. The poor-man's Brendan Gallagher is filling the injured winger's boots on the top line and he has three assists, five shots and seven hits in his last two games (heading into Saturday). He'll stick there if he can keep that up.
Tomas Fleischmann, LW, Chicago (1 percent) - Fleishmann has found almost instant chemistry with Dale Weise and Teuvo Teravainen since his arrival in the Windy City. And now the Hawks' third line has legitimate punch - Flash has three points, including two goals, in his last four games, Teravainen is heating up (see below) and Weise notched his first point as a Hawk on Friday night. Squad goals, baybee. Squad goals. Go get him.
Dan Hamhuis, D, Vancouver (1 percent) - He's back, he's healthy and he should be on your roster. Hamhuis didn't move by the deadline and it seems like that settled his soul. Since that day, he has delivered four points (two goals, two assists) in five games. Hamhuis isn't a traditional scorer, but he will help you in a few categories (shots, hits and blocked shots). He's probably more valuable than the deadest of wood on your blue line - he was on mine.
Adam Larsson, D, New Jersey (6 percent) - Maybe I'm too hard on Larsson, but I can't help but think he was overrated back on his draft day. Sure, he has talent, but he hasn't taken the jump we all expected. Now, Larsson is just 23, but still -- his most obvious comparators (Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Victor Hedman) had already taken bigger steps at the same points in their careers. Larsson has added a bit of snarl to his game -- is that the first step in the growth of an all-round game? I dunno, but he has delivered a plus-7 rating, 18 hits, 11 PIM and 13 blocked shots in his last eight outings. There's a bit of value in there. Somewhere.
Andrej Sekera, D, Edmonton (33 percent) - I don't trust the Oilers' recent surge, but I'm still taking a chance on Sekera - he does have a 44-point season in his past. The mobile fireplug has four assists, 14 shots and a plus-5 rating in the Oil's recent 5-2 run. He's owned in one-third of Yahoo! leagues, so I was surprised to find him on the wire in one of my leagues. I snapped him up.
Zack Smith, C, Ottawa (15 percent) - Twenty goals - I would have taken the under on that preseason bet had ANYONE mentioned Smith's name with that total. Hell, I would have taken it on February 1. But the 27-year-old hit 20 goals in Thursday's loss to the Sabres and he's riding a seven-game point streak - including a four-game goal run -- heading into play Saturday. And his play in the last 11 has been flat out savage -- try eight goals and 12 points. Ride him.
Alex Tanguay, LW/RW, Arizona (7 percent) - Tangs is old. He'd use Grecian for Men if he had any hair. But age is only a number when the right situation comes along. And it has. Tanguay has five points (two goals, three assists) in four games since his arrival in the desert -- his chemistry with Anthony Duclair and Antoine Vermette was almost instantaneous. He's coming off 55 points in 80 games last season, so it's clear he can still play. I'm not stanning him by any means, but I do know value when I see it.
Teuvo Teravainen, LW, Chicago (11 percent) - Thirty points in 65 games don't exactly spell fantasy value for most NHL players. But they do for this talented forward. Teravainen has been rolling at a gentle boil for almost a month, delivering eight points, including six helpers, in his last 10 games (including Friday's loss). The skinny Finn has Matt Duchene's speed and Nicklas Backstrom's vision. And he's finally back at his natural position (center) on the team's third line. I'll use him now and target him for future years -- he's a rising star.
Back to beast mode.
Alexander the Gr8 could prevail. Should prevail. Will prevail. But the Cup -- if it is to come -- will be at the hand of Braden Holtby, who'll outplay whomever has the Stars' net that day.
Come here. Go away. I'm talking to you, Antti Niemi.
Hey -- maybe there's still time for me to slip on my Jonathan Toews jersey and effect some real change in those matchups. You think?
Who goes #beastmode in your bracket?
Until next week.