James O'Brien

Hockey Daily Dose

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Fabulous in February

Wednesday, February 29, 2012


Now that the 2012 trade deadline is over, we can shift back to actual hockey storylines. As it turns out, Tuesday’s night of action actually produced a lot of interesting stuff. With that in mind, let’s hop around to some of the bigger developments from The Day After.

 

COYOTES OWN FEBRUARY

 

It is really easy to overlook the Phoenix Coyotes for a variety of reasons. They’re not exactly the most captivating force in the NHL, so it’s not like people are going out of their way to watch (and therefore analyze) them. The Coyotes aren’t as historically bankrupt as the Columbus Blue Jackets but they haven’t been a smash success in the desert either. Speaking of the subject of not being very successful, there’s also that whole “ownership kerfuffle” to deal with.

 

Yup, there are a lot of reasons to overlook the Coyotes, but they made it awfully difficult to yawn off their accomplishments on Tuesday night. Phoenix was absolutely the best team of the shorter (but thanks to the Leap Year, only slightly less short) month of February. They went an amazing 11-0-1 and avenged the month’s shootout loss to the Vancouver Canucks by beating them in a shootout last night.

 

The Coyotes aren’t just enjoying some sort nondescript, communal feast either; fantasy owners are absolutely benefiting from this run. The two most bountiful sources of fantasy gold have been Mike Smith and Ray Whitney, though.


SMOKING SMITH

 

Smith extended his winning streak to 11 games last night, improving his overall record to 29-14-7 with some very appealing individual stats. Let’s be honest; most of us probably expected Smith to be zeroing in on 30 wins in April, not in March. Considering the strong possibility that he went totally un-drafted in your league (if it’s a smaller one), it’s pretty difficult to deny the notion that Smith is the biggest steal of fantasy this season.

 

If nothing else, he’s the biggest goalie steal. Smith was one of the Daily Dose's first frantic must-buy guys so hopefully you listened to my ravings at the time.


WONDERFUL WIZARD

 

Considering Phoenix’s team success, the Smith details probably shouldn’t be that surprising. Ray Whitney’s red-hot recent play is a bit more startling, however.

 

Whitney now has a six-game points streak and at least a single point in 14 of his last 15 contests. Whitney has five goals and 14 assists in those 15 contests, improving his season totals to 19 goals and 58 points. One other great thing about “The Wizard” is his impressive +25 rating.


KILLER KARLSSON

 

The Coyotes weren’t the only success story that gained some spotlight thanks to a win over a high-profile team, though. The Ottawa Senators continue their torrid run, but no one is standing out more than electric defenseman Erik Karlsson.

 

The sophomore Swede scored the only goal of Ottawa’s 1-0 win to the Boston Bruins, prompting some talk of a division title (which is hasty because Boston has an extra point and four games in hand). Either way, Karlsson’s been patently absurd this season.

 

He now has 15 goals and 66 points in 2011-12 – outstanding numbers for a full season of work, yet the Senators still have 18 games left. Karlsson’s on an eight-game points streak, which would be a source of pride for a top forward, let alone a blueliner. If you want a testament to Karlsson’s great times, chew on this anecdote: I had to do a double-take at his game log when I saw that he had a recent four-game span without a point.

 

Let’s come out and say it: Karlsson might just supplant Mike Green as that fantasy defenseman who will go in the first or second round because of the way his numbers dwarf other players at his position.


INJURED CAPTAINS

 

Two Western Conference teams still fighting for their playoff lives might be without their captains for quite some time.

 

The Chicago Blackhawks reported “no progress” for Jonathan Toews in his journey to recover from (what might be) concussion issues. He absolutely won’t play tonight. In fact, he hasn’t even started skating yet. Ruh oh.

 

From “worrisome development” to “possible death knell,” we have the Minnesota Wild. They lost a 4-0 soul-crusher to the Los Angeles Kings, making their playoff hopes seem that much dimmer. Even worse news is that Mikko Koivu will be out at least another two weeks with whatever’s ailing him. If I remember correctly, Koivu’s late injuries coincided with the final gasps for the Wild’s 2010-11 season, so we might witness history repeat itself there.


QUICK HITS

 

Alex Ovechkin and Troy Brouwer powered a late comeback from a 2-0 deficit to help the Washington Capitals take eighth place in the East – and maybe show that they aren’t just going to roll over and fade away altogether … Want to know how bad things were in the Toronto Maple Leafs game last night? Here’s a hint: there were very loud “Fire Wilson” chants. Oh boy … Rick Nash said he totally wanted to help the Blue Jackets by asking for a trade. If you say so, dude. (He did score a goal last night, at least.) … Robin Lehner – not Ben Bishop – shut out the Bruins for the Senators. Considering the fact that Craig Anderson will be out for a while, this is absolutely a development to watch. It’s not like Lehner is some stiff who failed to make some solid impressions in previous cups of coffee at the NHL level, either.


INJURY SNIPES

 

Kris Versteeg looks like he’ll be out at least a few games with a lower-body injury … Sharks coach Todd McLellan took a stick to the dome a couple days ago and was unable to coach San Jose on Tuesday. That didn’t stop the Sharks from continuing their winning streak against Philly in the Shark Tank, however, as they haven’t lost to their rare opponents in San Jose since Nov. 5, 1999 … Nicklas Lidstrom is dealing with an ankle injury, which kept him out of last night’s find-a-way-to win against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Kyle Quincey is having groin issues too, so the Red Wings are quite banged-up on defense right now … Joni Pitkanen’s concussion issues continue … Tomas Kopecky is day-to-day with an undisclosed issue … Logan Couture missed Tuesday’s game as he suffers from 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 two years. Follow him on Twitter.
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