James O'Brien

Hockey Daily Dose

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Clinching it

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


As much as I’d like a theme to sprout up organically every night, the bottom line is that every Daily Dose cannot have some overarching theme. (Perhaps that would be more plausible if the dosages resembled allergy shots, instead.)

 

There was a lot going on Tuesday, but the storylines seemed to splinter off in many directions like the branches of a tree. If there was a dominating factor, it was teams clinching/failing to clinch playoff spots.

 

So without one person to pick or exalt, I thought I’d instead jump from game-to-game and discuss what happened.

 

Buffalo 4, Pittsburgh 2

 

The biggest story of the Penguins-Sabres game isn't that the Penguins lost and it isn't that Ryan Miller made 40 saves for the win. It's that Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang finally returned to action for Pittsburgh.

 

Unfortunately, their returns might dampen the suggestion to pick up streaking winger Brenden Morrow, although one tough night (where he registered a -2 rating and zero points in 14:46 of ice time) doesn't necessarily delete all of his value. Especially when you consider the fact that the aging winger might be prone to inferior play on the wrong end of back-to-back nights.

 

Negatives aside, the numbers indicate that Geno and Letang jumped back into the lineup in a seamless way. Malkin had a -1, yes, but he collected an assist, went 11-7 in the faceoff circle and played for 21:18. Letang might have been even more promising, logging a stunning 28:16 TOI while firing five SOG (and blocking six).

 

While Morrow's fate is questionable again - though I'd be hesitant to condemn him for one quiet night - Jarome Iginla looks like he could finish the season strong. He scored the power-play goal that earned Malkin and Letang those apples.

 

Washington 5, Winnipeg 3

 

The Capitals' resurgence has been keyed by Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin (both with two-point games) surging back into the "NHL's best duo" combo, but it's nice to see lesser players contribute, too. I honestly wouldn't delve too deep into the lineup with guys like Mathieu Perreault and Jason Chimera, although they might get some nice reps now that Washington's locked in at No. 3. On the other hand, Evander Kane continues to be fantastic and while the Jets hopes mirror the Dallas Stars' out West (i.e. those hopes are fleeting), they're so deep in this that it's silly to expect any tanking action. Likely good news for Ondrej Pavelec owners.

 

San Jose 3, Dallas 2

 

Speaking of the Stars, Tuesday's loss was a soul-crusher as Kari Lehtonen nearly dragged them to the finish line only to allow two goals in 30 seconds and see the game slip away.

 

The Sharks clinched a playoff spot, but they still have positioning to play for. Still, I can't help but wonder if they might be wise to rest Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau's increasingly aging bones. Logic dictates that Antti Niemi deserves a breather after playing 24(!) games in a row, so at least beware of late surprises.

 

Philadelphia 5, Boston 2

 

I have to admit that I laughed out loud when I learned this fact: as of this writing, only eight percent of Yahoo league owners have Steve Mason on their rosters.

 

That's probably fair, but the Philadelphia Flyers seem like they're very much on the Mason train, because ... well, they're the Flyers. At least it could have promising impacts fantasy-wise in the short-term.

 

He stopped 39 out of 41 in that win, perhaps making an argument that he deserves to close out Philly's season. Still, this is the Flyers, so it's natural to expect an eyebrow-raising goalie decision or two before this is done.

 

Minnesota 2, Los Angeles 1

 

Obviously, this win is huge for Minnesota's playoff hopes. The biggest moment for fantasy owners came when Dustin Brown elbowed Jason Pominville, though.

 

I can't help but wonder if the Kings' clinched postseason berth and Brown's back-to-back controversial hit games (Antoine Roussel on Sunday, Pominville on Tuesday) spells doom for Brown's regular season. I don't know if that's true, but it would be an easy appeasing move for a league that seems awfully "strategic" when it comes to how it punishes difference-making players.

 

It's unclear how banged up Pominville is, but it wouldn't be shocking if he needs to miss some time, too. Lovely.

 

Carolina 4, NY Islanders 3 (SO)

 

Wow, are the Islanders ever on fire. It would be quite the treat if the 3/6 matchup ends up being Hottest East Team 1A (Washington) vs. Hottest East Team 1B (Isles).

 

That game indicated that the Hurricanes' best offensive players are probably still going to be useful in the stretch run, but the losing team has one barely-owned player worth looking at: Kyle Okposo.

 

It's not shocking that the frustrating power forward is owned at a Steve Mason rate* because he generally hasn't delivered. He's red-hot now, however, with a four-game assist streak totaling six apples. While I'd love a better goal-assist ratio (four to 20) - especially for a power forward in the making - bargain bin beggars can't be choosers. The Isles offense is undeniably potent, so at least think him over.

 

Florida 3, NY Rangers 2

 

Surprised by the score? You must not follow the day-to-day miseries of the Rangers, who only provide their fans with the rare morphine drip of bliss. I'd wager heavily that they'll still make the playoffs, but did you really expect it to be that easy?

 

Let's shift to two players worth pondering: Jacob Markstrom (21 percent owned) and Derick Brassard (19 percent).

 

If you follow the Dose, you know I'm a fairly strong proponent of Markstrom. I'll admit that he's been inconsistent-at-best and his team won't send many wins your way, but he's likely to start every game and quantity-covering goalies aren't growing on trees.

 

Brassard's pretty interesting, though. After putting up marginal numbers in Columbus (18 points in 34 games) he's been a near-point-per-game guy with the Blueshirts (10 in 11).

 

While a high shooting percentage of 19 makes me think that he'll cool down over a full season, his first line pedigree, solid surrounding talent and fabulous production make him a useful cog in the waning days of 2013. He might even replace some of what Jason Pominville was giving you.

 

Jump for the remaining three games and injury bits.

 

* OK, when I put it that way ...

 


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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.
Email :James O'Brien



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