Kevin Brown

In The Crease

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Fantasy Nuggets

Friday, February 07, 2014


We’re only a couple of days away from the league-wide hiatus brought upon by the Winter Olympics in Sochi, but don’t fret. Keep checking in throughout the Games, as Rotoworld will continue to serve as your trusted source for fantasy hockey news and information, relating to the goings-on in Russia well as in North America.

 

Follow me on Twitter @kbrownroto

 

The announcement that Martin St. Louis will replace Steve Stamkos on Team Canada’s roster made a lot of Canucks (not just Vancouver ones) happy and the acclaim is certainly well-deserved. However - and this may be one of the only times I agree with Ed Snyder - I have to believe Claude Giroux’s chances of making the squad were unfairly derailed mainly by how he played in October and November. This leads into a larger point I would like to make in this week’s piece about the long-term damage inflicted on a player’s perception if his full-season statistics are affected by a slow start resulting from ineffectiveness or injury. As research for the piece, I have culled the NHL leaders in a number of categories using only statistics generated from December 1st onward. In other words, let’s pretend the first two months of the year never happened. I feel this still leaves us with a sufficient sample size (nearly 40 percent of a season) to eliminate players buoyed only by one or two exceptional weeks. Let’s have a look.

 

(Note: These statistics were generated prior to Thursday’s games)

 

Goals

Joe Pavelski 20

Jeff Skinner 19

Alex Ovechkin 18

Patrick Sharp 18

Kyle Okposo 18

 

Skinner’s 23 tallies on the season have him sitting 15th in the league, but he has only suited up for 44 games, which has masked his excellent campaign…Okposo has been red hot of late, evidenced by the fact he had only scored six times before the start of December and still stands 12th in the NHL in goals.

 

Assists

Sidney Crosby 26

Claude Giroux 23

Nicklas Backstrom 23

Taylor Hall 23

Matt Duchene 23

Jonathan Toews 23

Joe Thornton 23

 

Only Sid the Kid, who’s not of this planet, has tallied more assists than Giroux since the end of November…It’s interesting to see a player like Hall, better known for his goal-scoring, on this list. It’s also wild to think Hall’s terrific season has transpired without much fanfare.

 

Points

Sidney Crosby 41

Claude Giroux 37

Phil Kessel 37

Taylor Hall 35

Kyle Okposo 35

Patrick Sharp 35

 

We’ll remove Crosby from the discussion again since I’ve yet to hear a compelling argument proving he’s not a cyborg…Giroux stands atop the scoring list of non-Crosbys – what does a guy have to do to get an invite to the Olympics?...My colleague Michael Finewax did a good job of pointing out the quiet consistency with which Kessel has gone about his business earlier in the week.

 

Shots on Goal

Alex Ovechkin 151

Rick Nash 130

Patrick Sharp 123

Jeff Skinner 123

Jeff Carter 119

 

Ovechkin is typically the runaway leader in this category so it’s no surprise to see him atop this list, but the fact that Nash and Skinner both figure prominently here proves their recent goal-scoring binges have not been fueled by abnormally high shooting percentages.  Since the announcement came down that he would represent Canada at the Olympics, Nash has averaged a whopping 4.5 shots per game.

 

Points - Defense

Erik Karlsson 27

Shea Weber 26

Duncan Keith 24

Matt Niskanen 22

Victor Hedman 21

Roman Josi 21

Alex Pietrangelo 21

Jacob Trouba 20

 

The presence of both Josi and Trouba on this list serves as excellent support for my argument. The fact that each of them missed the better part of October due to head and neck injuries, respectively, disguises how well they have played…P.K. Subban is notably absent from this list, as his play has cooled considerably in the past couple of months.

 

Plus/Minus

Ondrej Palat plus-18

Matt Bartkowski plus-16

Johnny Boychuk plus-16

Patrice Bergeron plus-15

Brad Marchand plus-15

Matt Niskanen plus-15

Jacob Trouba plus-15

 

I’ll be the first to admit that plus/minus is more a team statistic than anything else and usually isn't indicative of future performance, but some of the names on this list are interesting nonetheless. For example, there’s no denying the Bruins’ duo of Bergeron and Marchand is one the best even-strength tandems the league since they are always among the best in this category…Here comes Trouba again. Now I’m worried I’ve let the cat out of the bag with him.

 

Penalty Minutes

Tom Sestito 95

Brandon Prust 77

Antoine Roussel 75

Kevin Bieksa 67

Brian McGrattan 64

 

Considering Sestito amassed 64 PIM during a four-game stretch in January, I’m certainly not shocked to see his name here…Players who offer a combination of scoring and toughness are always in short supply, making Bieksa extremely valuable…Other dual threats who just missed the cut were Dion Phaneuf (55 PIM) and Chris Kreider (50).

 

Wins

Marc-Andre Fleury 17

Jonas Hiller 15

Semyon Varlamov 15

Five tied with 13

 

The Penguins and Ducks are tied for the league lead in wins with 40 apiece so Fleury are Hiller were expected….I’ll admit I chalked up much of Varlamov’s success to Colorado’s early season hot streak so I’m surprised to see that he has maintained his pace in recent months.

 

Save Percentage (minimum 15 games from December 1, 2013 – February 5, 2014)

Ben Bishop .935

Roberto Luongo .931

Ryan Miller .928

Eddie Lack .927

Anton Khudobin .927

 

The fact that both Luongo and Lack appear on this list prove without a doubt that Vancouver’s recent struggles are solely the result of an anemic offense…There has been nothing fluky about Khudobin’s play for the Hurricanes as his performance in place of an injured Cam Ward is the only reason the team is closer to a playoff spot than also-rans like the Islanders and Panthers. He has performed well with every team he has played for, which should make him an interesting free agent this summer.

 

GAA (minimum 15 games)

Ben Bishop 1.89

Brian Elliott 2.00

Cory Schneider 2.04

Jonas Hiller 2.07

Jonathan Quick 2.09

 

Bishop’s presence atop both of these lists means he should definitely be in the running, if not the favorite for, the Vezina Trophy – assuming he can stay healthy…I’ve mentioned before that Schneider’s poor record is downright comical, especially when we consider how badly he has outplayed Martin Brodeur.  Consider that Brodeur has posted a 2.91 GAA and an .886 save percentage during this span.

 

Bargain Bin Finds

As always, these players are owned in fewer than 20 percent of Yahoo leagues. In fact, this week’s “lucky” trio of undervalued commodities are all owned in 13 percent of leagues.

 

Paul Martin (13 percent) – His offensive numbers this year might not be living up to the expectations he set last season, but the sample size is small and with the news that Kris Letang will be out indefinitely with a "mystery illness", it stands to reason that Martin will be relied up on more heavily by the Penguins going forward.

 

Justin Abdelkader (13 percent) – Abdelkader has built a long reputation as a solid checking line forward, but injuries to many of Detroit’s offensive stars have vaulted the winger into the forefront and he has capitalized on the extra ice time with six points and (perhaps more importantly) 35 shots on goal in his last 10 games. He has also seen a significant jump in the amount of time he spends on the ice with the man advantage.

 

Nick Foligno (13 percent) – Because his offensive statistics don’t jump off the page, Foligno goes unnoticed in a lot of leagues, but he should definitely be rostered in formats that reward penalty minutes. With 31 points and 81 PIM so far, he is one of only three players in the league to surpass the 30-80 thresholds on the season. The others are Wayne Simmonds (41 pts-85 PIM) and Brandon Dubinsky (36-84).




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