Rotoworld programming note: Brian Rosenbaum will host a special fantasy hockey playoff chat on Monday April 9th from 7:30-8:30 pm ET. Playoff pools can be a volatile bunch, so making better decisions is a much bigger deal than nailing your fantasy draft since you (usually or always?) cannot make up for mistakes with savvy add/drops.
Normally, I’d hand out imaginary fantasy trophies in the last column of the regular season. Yet considering the wacky way that the NHL schedule is – box office logic or not – it actually makes more sense to place such an idea in the second-to-last column instead of the final one. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, just note this week’s schedule, which is as imbalanced as ever. There were two games on Monday, 10 on Tuesday, two last night, 14 tonight, one on Friday and 15 to finish off the season on Saturday.
Thursday’s deluge of contests means that there are likely to be more things to note than last night, when two games of only moderate importance took place.
With that in mind, I’ve decided to roll out the first-ever Daily Dose fantasy hockey awards today. Most are based off of real trophies while one will be made up off the top of my head. Feel free to e-mail me or contact me on Twitter with your own favorite choices for awards that exist on the site or just in your heads.
FANTASY HART TROPHY
How can you argue with the kind of season that Evgeni Malkin put together? That’s especially true if he’s center/right-wing eligible like he became in some leagues in 2011-12. Getting the opportunity to mix and match your lineup with the best player in the NHL this season in the less talent-saturated wing spot must have been quite the treat for fantasy owners.
Obviously, the scoring totals are the first thing that jumps out at you when it comes to Malkin. He still has a shot at 50 goals on the season with 48, which is already a career-high, beating his 47 from 2007-08. His career-high of 113 points is safe as he’s “only” at 105, but it could be the second-best total of 106. Either way, the total is far ahead of the pack.
Malkin has also been a great asset from a peripheral standpoint – much like his running mate and excellent mini-steal James Neal. (Which I’m going to guess won’t rival “The Real Deal” as his next nickname.) Malkin fired 335 shots on goal this season - blowing his previous career-high of 290 out of the water. It's always ideal to have him on the ice but Malkin's feisty streak helped him get 68 PIM, which is actually a little off his previous totals, which usually clocked around 80 with one at exactly 100. (Then again, Saturday's game is against the Philadelphia Flyers, so I shouldn't speak too soon.)
His +14 rating isn’t spectacular, but when you have all those peripherals – including nine winners – that represents a solid mark. For at least one season, it’s incredibly difficult to make a reasonable argument that Malkin isn’t the greatest player in the world – and it showed in the numbers.
THE PRE-INFAMY ERA BERTUZZI AWARD/OVERALL VALUE FOR FORWARDS AWARD
Penalty minutes are an incredible source of value in fantasy hockey, but more and more, they’re generated by specialized goons. That makes the dual threats like Milan Lucic so valuable, yet one shaggy-haired Philadelphia Flyers winger stood out among the power forwards.
Scott Hartnell scored 37 goals and generated 67 points, registered a dazzling +21 rating, had 23 power-play points, a nice 224 shots on goal and of course his expected 134 penalty minutes. Honestly, you can argue that he’s just as much a fantasy MVP as Malkin because he was drafted much later and brings those harder-to-come-by PIMs.
NORRIS/VALUE AWARD OVERALL AND FOR DEFENSEMEN
Erik Karlsson’s 2011-12 season is so far beyond what any other defenseman enjoyed that you might as well just compare him to players in history (like Nicklas Lidstrom’s record 80 points for Swedish blueliners). It’s anyone’s guess if his light years-ahead offensive numbers will win him the Norris – hey, it’s not like hockey writers always show a lot of interest in a defenseman’s real job in voting anyway – but he’s the fantasy Norris by a mile.
VEZINA/VALUE AWARD FOR GOALIES
The fantasy Vezina based on impact alone could go to any number of guys – Pekka Rinne for wins, Jonathan Quick for shutouts and Henrik Lundqvist for quality over quantity. Still, with Mike Smith right there with them and considering the fact that he often didn’t even go drafted, I’ll go with him.
Smith has 36 wins, which places him in fourth. His 2.25 GAA and .929 save percentage leave Smith in the thick of things while only Quick’s 10 shutouts and Brian Elliott’s nine beat Smith’s eight. (Henrik Lundqvist has eight, too, but Smith seems more likely to have another chance to bump up his totals.)
Some leagues also include the saves category, where he ranks third with 1,868.
In other words, Smith is in elite company in every area and was likely available on the waiver wire through the early parts of this season. If that doesn't represent the makings of a fake Vezina, I don’t know what is.
OK, I know coaches aren’t often considered in these things, but let me give a special recognition to Peter Laviolette’s attacking system. His aggressive style and beneficial linemate situations made Ville Leino a rich man in Buffalo and make Wayne Simmonds a valuable commodity this season after being mostly an afterthought with Los Angeles. Maybe Laviolette doesn’t deserve all the credit, but when in doubt, pick a player on his team instead of most others.
Maybe he's not as great for goalies, but losing someone like Chris Pronger and all the other injuries to the defense haven't helped.
Brian Elliott saw his shutout streak end at 241 minutes and 33 seconds as the Detroit Red Wings came back from a late 2-0 deficit to beat the St. Louis Blues in a shootout. It’s not often that you see St. Louis give up any lead, let alone two goals … Cory Schneider looks to start tonight for Vancouver – same for Michal Neuvirth and Jose Theodore in the big Florida/Washington match … Drew Doughty admits that the Kings want to bump the Sharks from the playoffs …Need a spot start? Antonin Khudobin looks to start for Boston. Yeah, thrilling … Steven Stamkos was held at 58 goals while Max Pacioretty and Erik Cole improved their few-bright-spot seasons for Montreal with two goals each … Johan Franzen scored two goals in that Detroit comeback, but it was Pavel Datsyuk who looked like, well, Datsyuk again that was the most exhilarating sight last night … Brooks Laich made a fairly mild playoff guarantee. Fun.
The Boston Bruins look to rest Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron and Tim Thomas going forward. Plan as if they’re injured, then … Ryan Reaves might get a little attention from the league after a game misconduct and boarding major hit on Brad Stuart … It’s looking less and less likely that Jonathan Toews will get a regular season warm-up. Maybe the last game of the season but not tonight (it looks like, at least) … Tyler Myers’ foot injury might be trouble. Drop him for sure … Sounds like Dustin Byfuglien might finish the season after all – for whatever reason … Again, Henrik Lundqvist might get some serious rest. Martin Biron could be a nice add … Carey Price is indeed done for the season. I’d probably avoid Peter Budaj, but everyone has a different gamble-o-meter … Dave Bolland might be banged up once more … Pekka Rinne might have an illness brewing, so keep an eye on that Anders Lindback fellow who actually seems quite good in his ultra-rare opportunities … Nathan Horton skated 40 minutes yesterday, which is nice in a “baby steps” kind of way … Jacob Josefson is long gone for weeks with a wrist injury. (Click here for the full injury list.)