Kevin Brown

In The Crease

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Buy Low on Ryan and Neal!

Monday, January 10, 2011


Here is another instalment observations and opinions.

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I probably should have mentioned him in my last column, but I'm pushing all my chips to the middle of the table in support of James van Riemsdyk. Why, you ask? The kid has the right pedigree (2nd overall pick in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft), plays on a talented team and is now getting the opportunity to play a lot after having his ice time limited earlier this year. JVR has recorded four points in his last five outings, but a closer look at his stats reveal he has fired three or more shots on goal in eight of his last 10 games, which makes me believe he could score 15-20 goals between now and the end of the season. My advice is to contact the person in your league who owns him and play up the fact that his overall numbers don't look great in the hopes of acquiring him for a reasonable price. You'll be laughing all the way to the proverbial bank.

If you take a step back and look at the situation logically, it's easy to see the demotion of Michael Leighton was the right move for the Flyers. Even though he was fantastic for a short stint last season, Leighton sports a career 2.95 GAA and a .902 save percentage, so there's every reason to think that last year's heroic performance was largely due to the stingy Flyers defense. In my opinion, the fact that both Sergei Bobrovsky and Brian Boucher have posted a matching .920 save percentage this season only reinforces the notion that playing behind this Philadelphia team will make any netminder look that much more attractive.

Thanks to an ugly stretch wherein he scored just three goals in 18 games, the price tag associated with acquiring Bobby Ryan reached bargain basement levels recently. Unfortunately, that window is closing fast, thanks to the pair of goals he scored against the Blue Jackets in his last game. If you're planning to target him in a trade, I suggest you act quickly.

Another player I would endorse trying to buy low is James Neal. He has been mired in quite the slump of late and has even found himself bumped off the Stars' top line, but I think he's too talented for this to last much longer. He'll eventually retake his place alongside Brad Richards and Loui Eriksson and regain the scoring touched he showed over the season's first two months.

Next time you're considering a trade offer, don't forget to have a look at the NHL standings page first. Entering Sunday's action, the Islanders had played a league-low 39 games and a number of other teams had played just 40, however both the Thrashers and Ducks had already played 44 times. This large disparity could potentially be exploited to give your fantasy team an edge, but I don't recommend using this tactic as the sole reason for making a deal.

Five games is enough for me to be convinced that James Wisniewski will be one of the five most valuable fantasy defensemen for the rest of the season. Anyone who saw the Canadiens' power play in overtime against Boston on Saturday night would certainly agree, as the Montreal strategy with the man advantage appears to allow Wisniewski to unload one-timers at will. Anyone who owns Wisniewski in a keeper league should be hoping he signs a contract to stay in Montreal long-term before he hits unrestricted free agency this summer.

File this one under the category 'Bold Predictions' (and feel free to mock me when it doesn't come true): I think Tuukka Rask will be the starter in the Bruins' first playoff game this spring. In the interest of full disclosure, I should point out I own Rask in a keeper league so I have a vested interest in seeing him succeed, but I stand by my opinion, nonetheless. Some may call me an apologist for the Finnish goalkeeper, but I think he is slowly working his way back into a battle for playing time with Tim Thomas after falling behind at the start of the season. Nobody can deny Thomas is the leading candidate for the Vezina Trophy at the mid-way point of the season, but if we evaluate the two goaltenders' recent performances, we see Rask holds a .929 to .919 advantage in save percentage over their past five appaearances. It would not be surprising to me to see Rask continue to close the gap between the two until he finally overtakes the veteran toward the end of the regular season.

In a stunning turn of events, Sergei Kostitsyn finds himself tied for the Predators' team lead in scoring, despite starting the season with a ghastly three points over his first 19 games. He has since rattled off an impressive 20 points in 18 contests and is one of the league's hottest players. After watching the enigmatic forward during his days in Montreal, I didn't think he would mesh well within the Predators' system, but it should come as no surprise that Nashville coach Barry Trotz has managed to extract more out of the young Belarussian than what was expected. If given the choice between Sergei and older brother Andrei from this point forward, I would choose the younger Kostitsyn without hesitation.

Put me in the category of people who think Jamie Langenbrunner will experience an uptick in his production after being traded to the Stars. The veteran forward showed last season he still has some gas left in the tank and I attribute his struggles this year to the fact that he was caught up in the undertow of the Devils' tsunami, which has spared nobody on its destrcutive path. Look for Langenbrunner to see action on the Dallas power play and appear rejuvenated now that he's on a contender.

To nobody's surprise, Islanders' goalkeeper Rick DiPietro suffered a lower-body injury soon after Dwayne Roloson was traded to the Lightning and he'll likely be out for an undetermined amount of time. In his absence, the Islanders will turn to the inexperienced duo of Nathan Lawson and Kevin Poulin and my advice is to treat these goaltenders the same way you would that $20 bill that's folded up in the back of your wallet: use only in the event of an emergency. I'll admit the Isles have been playing much better lately, but they still can't be considered a good team and neither of these netminders has done anything to earn your trust. If you're desperate for goaltending and need to get starts wherever you can find them, I won't try to dissuade you. Otherwise stay away. If I had to pick a horse in this race, I would back Poulin due to his young age and more impressive pedigree.










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