In fantasy hockey, 30 games mean little. A team that’s last can still win the league, while the team leading could fall to the basement. All it takes is several players getting hot and others getting cold over the second half.
Often these players are on the same NHL team and their hot streak is the result of the team picking it up. Or did the team pick things up as a result of the players getting hot?
Regardless of the chicken vs. the egg stance, these things do happen and pools are sometimes won and lost as a result.
I’ll put on my psychic’s hat, or headdress, or whatever it is that psychics wear, and bring you my six teams that will either turn it around or dial it down.
On The Rise
This is my favorite team to stock up on in the second half, particularly because Eric Staal is money in the bank for a second-half surge. I once traded a red-hot young player with upside (I won’t get into names, but it rhymes with Brerrick Dassard) as the key part of the package for a stumbling Staal in early December and pretty much won the league thanks to that move. Twice I’ve acquired Staal in December and both times it paid off.
Staal’s surge in 2011-12 was 45 in the second half after just 25 in the first. The domino effect saw Jiri Tlusty also come on strong. Interestingly enough, Jordan Staal also had a hot second half while with the Penguins that year, tallying 29 points in the last 29 games. The Hurricanes are doing OK in terms of wins and losses this season, but they’re not scoring goals. My theory is that though the wins may not improve any, the offense should.
Defenseman Andrej Sekera, who has eight points in his past seven games, is another player to target.
Five games this Sunday evening and here’s five things to get you set for the action.
Reminder of the meltdown
Toronto fans will get an up-close look at the team who broke their hearts in last year’s playoffs for the first time this season as the Bruins visit the Air Canada Centre. The Leafs clawed back in their first round series against the B’s to force an unlikely Game 7. They held a 4-1 lead in the third period, minutes away from closing out the series, before crumbling historically and falling in OT. HBO will be there to document the action in Toronto’s first Sunday home game since 2003. Last night, the Bruins pulled off another dramatic comeback when they tied with the goalie pulled and beat Pittsburgh with 13 seconds left in regulation. These teams last met Nov. 9 in Boston, the Bruins prevailing 3-1.
When the Hawks and Cats square off Sunday night, it will be Dale Tallon’s current team, not his former team, looking to extend a win streak. The Panthers have won two straight after beating their former Southeast Division mates in Winnipeg and following that with a road victory over Detroit. Trending the opposite direction, the Hawks are 0-2-1 in their past three games.
Staal stalled yet again
The Rangers have rounded into form after a rocky start, and they’ve done so with a healthy Marc Staal, who missed more than half of last season with a concussion. Unfortunately, the C-word may be an issue once again for Staal, who took a hit from New Jersey’s Reid Boucher and left the game last night. The prognosis for Staal should become clear by Sunday evening, but he likely won’t play Sunday against the Capitals. Bad news for the Blueshirts, potentially bad news for Team Canada.
Sruggling Sharks shuffle the deck
If they lose today, that’ll make three straight defeats for the Sharks, who lost 5-1 to Pittsburgh and 5-3 to Carolina this week. Allowing 10 goals in two games is a nasty blip in a season that has gone exceedingly well for San Jose. Coach Todd McLellan is shuffling his lines for this one, moving Joe Pavelski up to the second line with Logan Couture and Patrick Marleau. His first line of Hertl-Thornton-Burns remains intact.
The battle for second place
The Rangers and Caps are separated by just a point in the Metropolitan Division and New York can leapfrog Washington into second with a regulation win this evening. This is the second of a nine-game homestand for the Rangers, who have the opportunity to capture some crucial points if they rebound from yesterday’s OT loss and capitalize on home ice advantage. These clubs are bitter rivals after matching up in the playoffs in recent years and they tend to produce tight, low-scoring games.
Today’s Rumor Roundup reports the San Jose Sharks are looking into starting contract negotiations with pending UFA Patrick Marleau.
That’s a wise thing not just because Marleau is a productive producer who will be in demand by a lot of teams come July, but also because it’s a smart public relations move for the Sharks.
The second overall pick in the 1997 NHL draft has a ton of attributes that are worth pointing out.
Several NHL teams with unrestricted free agent stars are looking forward to next week’s NHL Board of Governors meeting, when they’ll get what ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun called a “clearer projection for where the salary cap might stand for next season”.
It’s predicted the cap will rise to $67 to $70 million for 2014-15. The higher it rises, the more cap space for clubs with multiple stars to re-sign.
The San Jose Sharks are among those teams. LeBrun claimed they’ve had “ongoing discussions” with center Joe Thornton, winger Patrick Marleau and defenseman Dan Boyle, all slated to become unrestricted free agents in July. The trio want to re-sign and the Sharks hope to keep them, but cap space will be a crucial factor in those negotiations.
About a third of the way through 2013-14 and we’re starting to get a fix on what we have when it comes to this year’s rookie crop. Poolies around the world draft unproven youngsters late in hopes they scoop a nice sleeper, to varying degrees of success. In keeper leagues things are easier, as you can often afford to wait several years on a rookie, but one-year leagues need the help here and now.
Let’s take a look at the 15 best from a fantasy perspective (sorry, Morgan Rielly and Seth Jones fans) so far.
1. Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado
Although in a three-way tie for second in scoring among rookies, MacKinnon will be tops in the end if he stays healthy. He’s getting his points regardless of linemates and other than a five-game slump in late October he has been steady. His ice time has been great and he should pick up the pace to finish in the 60s for points.
2. Torey Krug, Boston
Tied with MacKinnon among rookie scorers, Krug has been a savior for fantasy owners. Defensemen are so hard to acquire once the season starts, so drafting Krug late or even getting him off the wire is a fantasy coup. He’s on pace for 48 points and frankly I don’t see him deviating from that, making it one of the best seasons for a rookie defenseman in years.
Boxing is my favorite sport. Yeah, I said it. That makes hockey No. 2. So what? If you think that doesn’t make me a hockey fan, re-think again. All it shows is how much I love boxing, because I’m as hardcore as it gets about hockey.
I admit, though, I cringe every time I see the sweet science turned into a high school biology class. After all, hockey fighters throw nothing but haymakers, technique be damned, with all the grace of a deer in a yogurt shop.
But hey, I gots to get me my boxing fix somehow, and I’m paid to cover hockey, so as long as the NHL allows fighting, I may as well have a little fun with it.
With that in mind, then, I’ve put together my top 10 pound-for-pound ranking of the best fighters in the NHL, regardless of size.
If you see enough NHL game day morning skates, you’ll see teams simply going through the motions of what they think a hockey practice ought to look like; lots of thousand-yard-stares and pantomimed effort, if you know what I mean and I think you do.
That wasn’t the case Tuesday morning with the San Jose Sharks at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre: the visitors were active, energetic, engaged. They looked like they wanted to be there and they had every reason to: they’ve won five straight games and trail the Blackhawks by only three points (with two games in hand on Chicago) for the league’s best record. And like the Blackhawks, San Jose’s strength comes from its balance: the rink rat veterans (who just happen to be their best players) and younger talents push each other to raise their games in practice and when it really counts.
“When you’ve got Joe Thornton, and Patty (Marleau) and Danny Boyle, veterans who just love to play the game, and then you’ve the energy of guys like Logan (Couture) and (Joe) Pav(elski) and (Brent) ‘Burnsie’ (Burns), it’s a group that I think really enjoys each other and enjoys the opportunity to compete,” Sharks GM Doug Wilson said after practice. “The younger players have such great respect for the veteran guys, and the veteran guys really provide the younger guys with such good support on and off the ice for what they need to be successful.”
If you like plenty on shots, at least going one way, tonight’s Sharks-Maple Leafs matchup will be right up your alley.
No team in the league puts more rubber on net than San Jose and no squad gives up more opportunities than Toronto.
But it’s more than the season-long numbers that dictate why this one will be a shooting gallery for Leafs starter James Reimer. As THN Associate Senior Writer Ryan Kennedy detailed earlier this year, the go-go Sharks shoot first and don’t bother to ask questions since they’re too busy buzzing to get the puck back and reload.
This will be the first of two meetings between the two teams this season, but if you’re looking for a comparable, just go back to the Nov. 5 game between the Sharks and Sabres (the second-worst shots-against team in the NHL), in which Buffalo gave up 51 in a winning shootout effort (helped by the fact the Sharks played about 10 minutes of good hockey and the usually reliable Antti Niemi played arguably his worst game of the year).
Don’t expect a similar outcome tonight. Read more