As we approach the final third of the season, here are a few nuggets that may help you to a top-three finish:
You might recall I sung the praises of Craig Anderson
in my last column. Well, it seems I may have jinxed the Senators’ netminder in the process. Since coming off a stretch that saw him win six of seven starts, Anderson has now gone six straight games without earning a victory. What’s worse is the fact that he has allowed fewer than three goals only twice during that dreadful span. If you’re asking for my opinion, I actually think it’s a good time to buy low. Anderson leads the NHL in games played and stands fourth in wins, despite barely winning 50-percent of his starts. Opportunity is often as important as talent, folks.
With the trade deadline only a few weeks away, we’ll soon begin to hear a lot about pending unrestricted free agents and the possibility of them being traded, but one such player who is unlikely to change teams is Zach Parise
, as the Devils are in the thick of the playoff chase. If you’re looking to make a run at first place in your fantasy league, Parise is an excellent target. Because of his less-than-stellar start to the season, his statistics aren’t exactly eye-catching, but if you look a little more closely you’ll see he has been on a tear since the start of December. In 29 games since December 1st
, Parise has been the player fantasy owners expected, as he has recorded 14 goals and 19 assists for 33 points. Use his current 70-point pace as an argument to pry him away from his current owner and get yourself an 80-point guy at a discounted price.
While perusing the league leaders in shots on goal I notice many of the usual suspects - Evgeni Malkin
, Ilya Kovalchuk
, Phil Kessel
– but Max Pacioretty
stands out as something of a surprise. You may remember I’ve touted the former first round draft pick in this column before and with 38 points and 40 penalty minutes in 50 contests, I feel validated. He’s one of the few Canadiens who hasn’t been a disappointment this year and he should be a legitimate 30-goal threat for years to come.
Prior to the season it was chic to call Ian White
a promising sleeper, but I resisted despite the fact he was joining the powerful Red Wings. The signs were all there, but I doubted White possessed enough natural skill to truly excel. I was partially right, as he hasn’t been a mainstay on the team’s top power-play unit, but he has delivered a lot more production than I anticipated. With 25 points and a plus-31 rating, he offers a steady presence from the blue line and I would endorse him for anyone who can handle his lack of penalty minutes.
He has done it in very quiet fashion this season, but Mark Streit
remains one of the most underrated defensemen in the fantasy game. In leagues that count plus/minus, he has caused some damage with his minus-20 rating, but he’s still on pace for nearly 50 points, despite suffering some bad luck with his shooting percentage. With John Tavares
’ recent hot streak and excellent contributions from P.A. Parenteau and Matt Moulson
, the Islanders’ power play is red hot, which can only work to Streit’s advantage.
Speaking of quiet production, the unheralded Martin Erat
continues to go about his business in Nashville with very little fanfare, but he’s been on quite the tear of late. With 16 points in his past 13 games, he now leads the Predators in scoring. He is extremely consistent, in part, due to the fair share of ice time he receives on the power play. He may not be nearly as big a name as Dany Heatley
, Tomas Plekanec
or Derek Roy
, but he has been more productive than each of them this season.
I don’t derive any particular enjoyment from the struggles of others, but I feel the need to point out that Bobby Ryan
has gone pointless in four games since I predicted his hot streak was more mirage than reality two weeks ago. I have never argued against his talent and I actually think he’s a great buy-low candidate in keeper leagues, but I stand by my position that he’s an overrated asset for the current season.
With Jeff Carter
and Mike Richards
leaving town over the summer, all signs pointed to James van Riemsdyk
having a breakout season, especially after the terrific playoffs he enjoyed last year. It might be unfair to judge a player who has only played in 37 games this season due to concussion issues, but JVR was a disappointment when he was in the lineup. I’m not suggesting you should give up on a 21-year-old with his pedigree, but it may be time to lower expectations a little. Well, I say this now, but you can expect to see him on my list of favorite sleepers next fall.
As there is an imbalance in the number of games each NHL has played to date, you have an opportunity to gain ground on your competition. In the event you can trade away players on the Senators, Jets, Avalanche or Hurricanes to get your hands on a few Sharks or Rangers, you might find gain as many as five extra games in the process. That’s certainly not the sole reason to make a deal, but it’s a sweetener you should consider if you’re trying to gain a slight edge on your opponents.
He’s likely not worthy of consideration in shallow leagues, but Mikael Samuelsson
could be a useful addition in deeper formats. Since being acquired by the Panthers, Samuelsson has scored 12 points in 18 games and with four of those coming on the power play, he could continue to excel in the Sunshine State. Don’t let your expectations run wild, but 20 points over the final third of the season certainly isn’t an unreasonable target.