What's up with Carey Price? Fantasy owners and Habs fans alike have noticed the abrupt tone, the glaring stares and the progressively sour mood for weeks.
And the poor play.
Price picked up his first win in February in Thursday's seesaw, 5-4-overtime victory in Arizona. He made just 21 saves and allowed three, second-period goals in a 2:23 span. And heading into Thursday, the all-mighty Price sported a 3-8-1 record over his last 12 starts. And a bloated 3.33 goals-against average. Gulp.
No wait – BIG GULP.
Price is looking more like the fragile guy from 2010 who lost his job to current Bridgeport Sound Tiger, Jaroslav Halak, than the Hart man he's been since.
And it's killing fantasy owners.
The Habs are still in first place in the Atlantic. But the harsh reality is that their 70 points would put them fifth in the powerful Metropolitan division. Fifth! After starting the season 19-6-4, the Habs have barely played .500 hockey (12-11-4). Price has to be getting tired of bailing out his team. Night after night. And it's showing.
I'll cut to the chase – what team in the new NHL has won a Stanley Cup with its goalie as its best player?
Better yet, what fantasy owner has done the same?
Jonathan Quick in 2010 is the closest, I suppose. But that was (and is) Anze Kopitar's team. Pre-salary cap, the Devils won on the back of Martin Brodeur. And so did the Habs, back when Patrick Roy was their best. But that was 1993.
And while goalies are important in fantasy, I argue that solid is better than star, both at draft and in-season. And especially at the deadline.
Just take a look at the Yahoo Friends and Family league. Current top dog, RotoWire's own Peter Maingot, is riding Brady Holtby, but also Ryan Miller, Jonathan Bernier, Philipp Grubauer and Aaron Dell (!). And the second place team is rolling Jake Allen (GAH), Roberto Luongo, Robin Lehner and Michal Neuvirth.
There's no need for them to upgrade their goalies – it would only weaken their positions of strength. And there's a lot to be said for optimizing your strengths rather than trying to boost your weaknesses. A 10 percent improvement on a strength will always net you more than the same improvement on a weakness.
So, resist the urge to pay large to upgrade your blue paint at the trade deadline, unless your goalies are hurt. Don't Price your team like the Habs.
You'll look good, but it probably won't pay off.
Now let's look at who caught my eye this week, by category of production.
Shots on Goal
Kenny Agostino, LW, St. Louis (2 percent Yahoo owned) - Agostino was shredding the AHL when he was called up this week and he didn't skip a beat on NHL ice. He scored a goal in his first game Monday and then added an assist the next day. Agostino is a high-volume shooter (he already has 12 in three outings), so he might help you close the gap in SOG. And get you some cheap points, too – his 60 points in 48 AHL games this season makes this fifth-round pick a man with surprising upside.
Jay Beagle, RW/C, Washington (5 percent) - Beagle was like a dog on a bone this week when it came to firing the puck – he just wouldn't let up. Twelve of his 75 SOG have come in his last four games. Plus he's not awful in his other categories – the Caps' canine has already set career marks in goals (11), assists (11) and game-winning goals (four). This dog deserves a home on your roster, at least for a short while.
Patrik Berglund, C, St. Louis (2 percent) - Hmmmm … Ken Hitchcock got fired on Feb. 1 and Berglund promptly came out of his shell offensively. What's that about? Oh, right – that was rhetorical. Berglund has three goals on 11 shots in his last four games. He came into the league with Mats Sundin comps, so he clearly has talent. Now he gets to use it and you get to use him. Win-win.
Pavel Zacha, New Jersey (2 percent) - Zacha's ownership has only gone up one point since I mentioned him last week. That's great for you – the guy hasn't stopped scoring. All three of Zacha's points this week have come with the man advantage. And the rookie has seven points (four goals, three assists) in his last nine games. Beware the plus-minus, that's all.
Ryan Strome, RW/C, NY Islanders (3 percent) - He's been on this list before, so I won't spend much time on him. Other than to say his five-game, seven-point streak (five assists) heading into Saturday would look good on any Yahoo roster. Too bad only three percent of us were lucky enough to take advantage of that streak. Use him.
Jason Pominville, RW, Minnesota (16 percent) - Pominville is a three-alarm fire right now – the dude is white hot and he's been on fire for a month. Who knew? Well, a few Yahoo owners noticed, but not until Friday. That's when Pominville's ownership jumped 10 percent. The lead-footed, yet intelligent playmaker has racked up 19 points, including 14 assists, in his last 17 games. And he's riding a four-game, seven-point streak (two goals, five assists) heading into action his weekend. I got lucky – Pominville is now on my roster. See if you get lucky, too.
PIM and Hits
Ryan Reaves, RW, St. Louis (1 percent) - The Blues' resident enforcer picked up a whopping 26 minutes in penalties this week. And 22 of them came in one game. He also laid 18 hits in limited ice in just four games. The days of the dough head have disappeared, but Yahoo leagues still count PIM. This guy may be able to move you up the category with one blown circuit.
Mark Borowiecki, D, Ottawa (0 percent) - You only need to look at Borowiecki's Yahoo profile pic to know his role. Those teeth. Wow. He has 19 PIM in the last week and a league-leading 221 hits in 44 games this season. Borowiecki is the perfect kind of player to plug into your last roster spot if you need meathead points.
Brandon Montour, D, Anaheim (0 percent) - This kid is the flavor of the week right now – he's so hot that even sports talk radio in Toronto is talking him up. I'm not kidding. Montour finished second in defensemen scoring in the AHL last season. And he scored 12 goals in 34 AHL games prior to his recent call up. He promptly scored in his first game post call up and has two points in three games. Montour's name has been linked to deals involving Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog, James van Riemsdyk, Evander Kane … you get the point. Montour's greatest fantasy value lies in the future, but his ability to effectively push the puck up to quick-skating forwards is absolutely sublime. Montour is going to be very, very good, very, very soon, and that may or may not be in Anaheim.
Back to Price and the Habs.
Watch for Marc Bergevin to go on the offensive and try to make some huge deals at the deadline. Price is only under contract for one more season. Alex Galchenyuk won't be a number one center for a few more years. And the Shea Weber trade was a win-now move.
Adding Martin Hanzal would be "lovely." Yah, those "quotes" were deliberate. And the team doesn't have the pieces to get Matt Duchene, even if they move Mikhail Sergachev. It's not enough.
The Habs would be smart to look at moving Price in the offseason (sacre bleu!). It won't happen. But it's the only way to find their way to a Cup.
And moving a goalie might be the only way you do the same.
Until next week.