James O'Brien

Hockey Daily Dose

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Capital re-gains?

Thursday, December 29, 2011

How much stock can you put in one game? Fantasy owners should shout “None” or “Very little!” in unison, but the truth is that we all get our hopes up every now and then. I like to think of myself as a cold and calculated purveyor of rotisserie talent, but I’ll admit to reading into things every now and then.


The Washington Capitals are one of the gravest offenders when it comes to teams who have a knack for reeling pundits, fans and everyone in between.


Most years, the Caps were content to tease postseason prognosticators, as they’d rampage through the regular season before disappointing in the playoffs.


Don’t get me wrong, the team has had its share of high-end players who torment fantasy owners. Alexander Semin seems to get injured for about 10-15 games per year but still produces a bunch of goals and points, making many wonder “What if?” (This season, his harshest critics would complete the phrase with “What if … he cared?”) And yes, it’s not exactly as if injury problems are a new thing for Mike Green. The attacking defenseman’s habit of holding onto the puck until his opponents make a move helps him create havoc and goals, but it often comes at a physical price. Green takes too many hits – and rumor has it that maybe he could “up” his fitness level – so he often finds himself on the injured list.


Still, this season has been especially troubling, and not just for Green and Semin. It seems that a malaise has spread across the higher ranks of the team. Alex Ovechkin has been in a profound funk. Neither Tomas Vokoun nor Michal Neuvirth can put enough games together to truly snare the No. 1 job. Semin currently ranks behind Jason Chimera, Troy Brouwer and Marcus Johansson in total points.


Amid all these bad times, it’s games like Washington’s 4-1 victory against the East-leading New York Rangers that give reason to believe. Vokoun stopped 31 out of 32 shots for win 13. Ovechkin collected two assists for his first multiple point game since Nov. 4. (Nov.4!) Semin collected two goals and looked like the dangerous player whose point producing skills made fantasy owners shrug off all the talk of his real-life defensive deficiencies.


Sure, it was an off night for the Rangers. Yes, the Capitals did it against Martin Biron, not Henrik Lundqvist. But Ovechkin, Semin and Vokoun owners surely would love to believe that this one game might be the beginning of a dramatic turnaround.



The Dallas Stars made an injured reserve trade-off that will probably make a much larger portion of the fantasy hockey community happy. It looks like Kari Lehtonen is either primed to get back into action tonight (most likely) or ease back into the fray by watching a game behind Richard Bachman before assuming the starting role again (less likely). The Stars did a solid job of treading water without the goalie who they’ve depended on heavily the last two seasons, but there should be little doubt that they’re elated to have him back.


On the sad news side, Stephane Robidas essentially took Lehtonen’s spot on the IR. The versatile defenseman could miss as much as two weeks. While he isn’t a high-end blueliner, he tends to make his mark in multiple stat categories, which makes him a sleeper in leagues that go behind the usual goals and assists stats.



Word is that Sidney Crosby hasn’t made a whole lot of progress even doing the standard light workouts. I’ve heard some say that it’s “not as bad as it sounds,” but that badness is a relative thing. Does that mean he might not miss all of this season? Does it mean his career isn’t ruined? Or could he be back in a month or two?


There’s no telling what it all means, really, but it surely has to be frustrating for Crosby owners. I hate to say it, but this is why injuries are rarely worth high-risk gambles. If you were bold enough to pick him in the first three rounds, let’s hope that you did good things with that open slot you received from all of his time on the IR.


It’s good news for Evgeni Malkin owners, though … I guess.



I hope you’re sitting down, because this one’s a shocker: Shea Weber probably won’t play on Friday. That’s bad news for fantasy owners, but good news for just about anyone who figured that he was taking a big risk by coming back so soon. Now the tentative target seems like Sunday, which honestly still sounds a little hasty, but maybe the elite blueliner is leery about missing opportunities to make himself more money in his contract year.



Petr Sykora scored two goals last night to push his 2011-12 total to 21 points. Not bad for a guy who had to tryout to make the team, but he might be a stride or two short of being fantasy-relevant. Then again, he’s lining up with Patrik Elias, who’s playing some great hockey, so Sykora might be worthy of being on your radar. (No, this isn’t a re-print from the late-90’s) … After his 38-save shutout of the explosive Blackhawks, it might be time to anoint Jonathan Quick as a true star … Roberto Luongo looks like he has things back in control after that tough start. This shows the importance of keeping a cool head when stars struggle – not to mention the perks of trying to fleece frustrated owners with well-timed trades.



Ales Hemsky  could be back as soon as tonight, which would then start the depressing countdown for his next inevitable injury … It sounds like Curtis Sanford isn’t healthy, which means that the few, the far-from-proud Steve Mason owners can get another dispiriting start or two … Bruce Boudreau said that Saku Koivu’s return is “in his hands.” … The Kings placed Simon Gagne on the IR, which shows that his concussion is bad news. Bummer … Kris Russell won’t be able to help the Blues PP for a while as he’s fighting off a hip injury … Dustin Byfuglien is day-to-day with a lower-body injury. (Click here for the full injury list.)

James O'Brien is the Hockey Daily Dose's author and has been a contributor to NBC's Pro Hockey Talk for more than four years. Follow him on Twitter.
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