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Frozen Fantasy: Predictable Patterns

Janet Eagleson

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

Roberto Luongo is many things right now. Terrible. Miserable. Hated...and absolutely predictable.

Some things never change.

Every year, Bobby Lou's game in October smells like your car did when your buddy put that empty salmon can under the seat, closed the windows and left it to rot in the summer heat.

Not that I've done that...or exactly that.

Vancouver fans are apoplectic right now. Luongo's Stanley Cup "collapse" coupled with that albatross contract has made him a target for every potential rioter on Canada's left coast.

I'd say 'chillax' but that's so 2003. And besides, it'd just evoke that silly stereotype of the Vancouver lifestyle...

It's gotta be 4:20 somewhere, though.

His fans and owners really do need to take a deep breath. Seriously this kind of start is as predictable as a rise in the price of gasoline.

Two seasons ago, he went 3-4 in his first seven games with a 4.06 GAA and .870 save percentage. He finished with 40 wins, four shutouts, a 2.57 GAA and .913 save percentage.

Last year, he was 2-3-2 with a 2.93 GAA and .907 save percentage in his first seven. In the end, he finished the regular season with 38 wins, a 2.11 GAA and .928 save percentage, and came within a game of winning the Stanley Cup.

One game.

So this year's numbers two wins in his first six, a 3.46 GAA and .868 save percentage are right in line with expectations. As are another 35-40 win season and exceptional ratios.

Stay the course. Don't give in to temptation to trade him right now. He has nowhere to go but up and he'll get his starts he makes too much money to be picking splinters out of his arse. But if you don't have him, you should start planting seeds of doubt into his owner's mind.

Vezina nominees don't just forget how to play.

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

Nik Antropov, C, Winnipeg (7 percent owned) Yes, he's still in the NHL. I know it doesn't feel like it, what with his largely forgettable 2010-11 and almost invisible start to this season. But he was impressive Thursday night in that football game that broke out in Philly and heads into action Saturday on a three-game, six-point streak. He's got nine points in as many games this season and could actually return to his team-MVP form of 2009-10. That is, if he can stay healthy. He is right now you might as well take advantage.

Pascal Dupuis, LW, Pittsburgh (18 percent owned) I've always loved Dupuis' kamikaze approach and his tenacity. But his hands? Not so much until now, that is. All of a sudden, he's going all carpe diem on us with nine points in his first 12 games. He does have a big shot and he's great on the PK. He can't possibly continue at this pace but I do smell the possibility of his best season since his 47 points in 2002-03.

Brian Elliot, G, St. Louis (26 percent owned) Where-oh-where has Jaroslav Halak gone? Oh, where-oh-where could he be? Try looking waaaaay down the bench and you'll find him, stapled to the pine with Elliot kicking butt first and taking names later. Elliot is 4-0 heading into weekend play and clearly has his coach's confidence. He has the package size, reflexes and composure to perform and may go as far as his rebound control (or historical lack thereof) will take him. Ride him now.

Colin Greening, LW/C, Ottawa (2 percent owned) Remember Greening from last season? He stepped right into the skates of the injured Daniel Alfredsson and really didn't look out of place on the top line, tallying 13 points in just 24 games. Well, the brainiac from Cornell has picked up right where he left off he snagged his third goal Thursday night and has four points in his last four games (and six in his 10 overall). He doesn't mind playing in traffic and has the body (6-foot-3, 210 pounds) to handle it. He's running at close to a 50-point pace and is getting opportunities on the power play. Your format will obviously dictate his value but at that pace, he's becoming relevant in even medium-sized leagues.

Martin Hanzal, C (7 percent owned) and Ray Whitney, LW, Phoenix (21 percent owned) Someone in the desert has to score and these two are doing just that. The two combined for three goals and two assists in Thursday's win over the Devils, leaving Whitney tied with Shane Doan (85 percent owned) for the team lead in points with 10 in nine games. The long and lanky Hanzal isn't far behind with seven in the same span. There's fantasy value on even the ugliest of rosters and these two come relatively cheap...for now.

Jacob Markstrom, G, Florida (14 percent owned) Markstrom's time may have finally come. Developmentally, he's a step behind the likes of Jonathan Bernier, Tuukka Rask and Cory Schneider. But his skills are similar and his talents are immense. And with Jose Theodore having some "core issues", Markstrom has played in three straight, earning two wins and allowing a measly five goals in those games. The Floridian felines aren't going to be much this season but Markstrom might. Check your wire.

Richard Park, RW, Pittsburgh (2 percent owned) What exactly has gotten into Park? He had finally carved out a career as a PK specialist and third-line regular when he bolted for the Swiss league last year. There, he became Richie on the spot, potting 15 goals and 34 points in 47 games. Now he's sitting on an impressive six points (including a shortie) in 10 games and he's key to the success of the league's best PK unit. He must have found a place in Pittsburgh where he can get Raclette, rosti and Swiss chocolate for his pregame meal. He's a whole new man this year. And he could really help deep-league squads, at least in the short term.

Corey Potter, D, Edmonton (4 percent owned) This muggle-born Potter failed to realize his magical powers in either the Rangers' or Penguins' systems. But a little sip of Alberta's infamous Big Rock Warthog Ale has clearly helped him tap into his talents. He's been long considered a defensive defender but with an offensive upside. He has decent wheels and has improved both his discipline and his decision-making. Now he's getting an opportunity to log heavy ice time in the Oil Patch and he's delivering. He's on a three-game point streak coming out of Thursday night and has six points in seven games. And with Ryan Whitney out with a bum knee, Potter is on the power play with Edmonton's young guns. Go get him if you can afford the inevitable swings in plus-minus.

Slava Voynov, D, Los Angeles (1 percent owned) One word wow! I knew Voynov was good but Thursday's performance was truly impressive. Two goals and a helper earned him the game's first star and perhaps a permanent stall with the team. He's gritty and offensive-minded, a combination that should make every fantasy owner drool with Pavlovian delight. It's going to be hard for Kings' brass to return keep him in the AHL for long even after the return of Drew Doughty. Given the chance, this guy will deliver on the power play.

Danius Zubrus, C, New Jersey (1 percent owned) Zubrus has never delivered more than 40 points in the swamp and at 33, his game isn't going to miraculously improve. Unless he's bumped up the lineup. It happened Tuesday night against the Kings and the results were, in a word, sharp. He got regular ice with Petr Sykora and Patrik Elias, and saw increased power-play time because of Jacob Josefson's injury. The result? An impressive two-goal performance. He has the benefit of opportunity right now and those of you in very deep leagues might just benefit.

Back to Bobby Lou.

Yes, he's a bit of a head case. And yes, he looks rattled. But you don't go from being one of the best goalies in the league for several years running to junk almost overnight.

He'll still have his occasional stinker that's just how he is. But he'll also deliver more than a handful of real gems.

And right now, someone out there is really worried about the hole he's creating in his or her lineup. Luongo can be had and for less than his real value.

After all, you're buying him for what he will do for you and not what he's already done (or not done).

It's a risk I'd be willing to take.

Until next week.