So far in 2011-12, the New Jersey Devils are living up to their names for fantasy hockey owners. High draft picks like Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise have either been unhealthy, inconsistent or both. Martin Brodeur went from a former roto star to an interesting dark horse all the way to seeming like an old dog in need of new tricks. Sure, there have been nice stories in their place – Patrik Elias and Adam Henrique come to mind – but most people spent big picks on large disappointments.
While it’s never safe to put too much stock in a single game, last night’s win against the Buffalo Sabres was pretty blissful for owners hoping that the Devils could turn it around. Kovalchuk scored a beauty of a goal when he went from what was normally a static position on the power-play point to where he should be taking most of his shots: right around the faceoff circle. Zach Parise scored a shorthanded tally of his own.
But as promising as those two players’ games were, Brodeur might be the most interesting. He wasn’t the best goalie in fantasy last night by any stretch, but he looked impressive in stopping 29 out of 32 shots. (He even earned an assist, which probably won’t ever matter in fantasy terms.)
Johan Hedberg has out-played Brodeur during much of his two seasons in New Jersey, but deep down the Devils want their future Hall of Famer to take the reins. A game like Wednesday night’s makes me think he might have a chance of doing just that.
The NHL hit Chris Stewart fairly hard for his check on Niklas Kronwall. He’ll sit out three games, which is a pretty big blow for a forward whose fantasy value hasn’t exactly been skyrocketing in the first place.
So what to do? My advice is to: 1) drop Stewart, 2) take out a flyer on a guy who’s on a hot streak and 3) decide if you want to keep that player or bring back Stewart once his suspension is over. It’s unlikely that you’ll face much opposition to reacquire Stewart once that suspension is over, unless you’re in a league with Doug Armstrong.
KING OF THE HILLER
Speaking of goalies regaining their old forms, Jonas Hiller looked an awful lot like pre-vertigo Jonas Hiller last night. Sure, he took a defeat in a shootout, but the Ducks had no business being in that game against the Los Angeles Kings, who only managed to get one out of 37 shots past Hiller before the skills competition.
Overall, I think Hiller is in the “Cam Ward Zone.” He’s a goalie who patches up a lot of mistakes for the team in front of him, but unfortunately for fantasy owners, that doesn’t always translate very well as far as stats are concerned. Maybe the Ducks will start giving him some more defensive and offensive support during the rest of the season, but the sad thing is that Hiller will need to carry them more often than a goalie should.
He definitely did that on Nov. 16, though.
P.K. BREAKS THROUGH
P.K. Subban’s goalless streak was getting outright ridiculous, but the talented sophomore and the rest of the Montreal Canadiens took advantage of a flat Carolina Hurricanes team last night. Subban scored one goal and added an assist while Carey Price only needed to make 25 saves for a shutout. They won’t come much easier than this, but Montreal can try to build on results like these once tougher matches roll around.
Speaking of the Hurricanes, it’s tough to imagine their head coach Paul Maurice sticking around much longer.
The truth is that it isn’t all Maurice’s fault, but the bottom line is that fantasy owners are likely rooting for a change. Fair or not, teams often respond to coaching changes over the short-term based on simple human nature: if the head coach is fallible, but then most players will realize that they could be gone in a heartbeat.
Even “untouchable” players like Eric Staal and Cam Ward should turn things around a bit, despite the fact that job security won’t be the same kind of concern for them.
GET THE LEDDY OUT
Pop quiz: who’s the leading scorer among Chicago Blackhawks defensemen? It’s not Duncan Keith or Brent Seabrook. Instead, it’s Nick Leddy, a guy who’s morphing from an afterthought in a cap-clearing trade into a surprisingly useful performer. Leddy has 13 points and his averaging more than 21 minutes per night, so if you need some help on the blueline, he’s well worth a look – even if his success ends up short-lived.
TOUGH NIGHT FOR ENROTH
It had to happen sooner or later, right? Jhonas Enroth lost his first game in almost a full year (his last defeat came on Nov. 24, 2010) and didn’t even make it through the full contest against the Devils on Wednesday. The good news for Enroth owners is that a) it’s just one game and b) he doesn’t face stiff competition from a backup.
The bad news is that the Sabres defense is leaky enough that Enroth might feel Ward and Hiller’s pain, plus there’s the fact that Enroth isn’t exactly an experienced starter in the NHL.
All of those negatives and worries aside, Enroth still has the potential to be a valuable goalie while Ryan Miller heals up.
Sidney Crosby won’t play tonight, but might play sometime during the Penguins trip to Florida. Apply the typical grain of salt and stick with Rotoworld to know when he’s ready for sure … Tyler Myers caught Dainius Zubrus with a hard (and maybe suspension-worthy?) check, but Zubrus seems OK … Marek Zidlicky could be dealing with a concussion … Cam Barker is dealing with an ankle injury now. (Click here for the full injury list.)
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