It was a pretty good month for the Stanley Cup champion Bruins and their rugged left winger Milan Lucic. With a 6-3 win over Toronto Tuesday night, the Bruins capped an incredible 12-0-1 November. As he has done all season long against the Leafs, Lucic was dominant once again, scoring a pair of goals in the B's latest victory.
Toronto shouldn't feel singled out as Lucic has made life difficult on most of the teams he has faced over the span of November. In 13 games this month, Lucic has scored seven goals, including three on the power play, while also chipping in four assists, 15 PIMS and a plus 4 rating. When Lucic gets on the type of run he is currently on, the 23-year old is fantasy gold as he can contribute to categories across the board. There are few players in the NHL who have the ability to score 30-plus goals a season while racking up well over 100 PIMs as Lucic did last year. If you are in a league that counts hits as a category, Lucic is even more valuable as he has 51 on the season.
When taking into consideration his age, potential to improve, and the skill around him in Boston, Lucic is the kind of force fantasy GMs should be salivating over. Of course Lucic is well regarded in the fantasy world but not probably to the extent he should be. If Lucic is putting the puck in the net on a consistent basis, then his all around game makes him one of the top left wing options in the entire League. Both the B's and Lucic had November's to remember and it looks like nothing but blue skies ahead.
The always dangerous Blackhawks, winners of two in a row heading into Tuesday's contest, couldn't get anything going offensively against Smith until finally breaking through against him until Patrick Sharp scored in the final minute of regulation. Smith improved his record to a stellar 12-4-3 on the season while boasting an impressive .935 save percentage.
Few could have predicted this kind of success for Smith, who the Coyotes signed on July 1 of this year to replace Ilya Bryzgalov after the latter signed with Philadelphia. But to this point, Smith has outplayed Bryzgalov and many of the other more marquee goalies across the League. If you were shrewd enough, or more likely lucky enough to draft Smith or perhaps scoop him up off the waiver wire in shallower leagues, you are certain to be one happy fantasy GM.
The question facing all Smith owners now is, can he keep up his surprisingly hot play? At 29 years old, Smith has never played more than 42 games in a season. But it is possible Smith has found a home in the desert. Smith seems to be a strong fit in Dave Tippett's system and might be finally ready to prove he is capable locking down a No.1 goalie job in the NHL and on your fantasy squad. Even if you are convinced that Smith is the real deal and won't come crashing down to Earth, don't be afraid to sell high on him if the right opportunity should present itself. Goalies can always command a pretty penny on the trade market and Smith's value might never be higher.
Will a coaching change in Washington be the thing to snap Alex Ovechkin out of his scoring slump? Ovi's fantasy owners sure hope so.
On Monday, the Capitals made the decision to dismiss coach Bruce Boudreau and replace him with Dale Hunter. In the past two seasons, Boudreau had his team shift to a more defensive style in the hopes of better equipping Washington for an extended playoff run into June. Unfortunately, while that approach never did yield the postseason results Boudreau had hoped for, it did appear to hold down the club's premiere offensive talents, none more so than the Capital's captain.
Though he has not performed up to expectations this season, a coaching change could be just the spark Alex Ovechkin needs to return to his dominant form. (Photo: Getty Images)
After a 50-goal campaign in 2009-10, Ovechkin scored a career low 32-goals in 2010-11. Though he seemed poised for a bounce-back year this season, the Russian superstar has only lit the lamp eight times in 22 games. Ovechkin had not scored a goal at home until this past Friday, and though he is one of the game's biggest impact players, he has been invisible out on the ice for stretches this season. Meanwhile, Sidney Crosby has two goals and seven points in three games since his return to action, taking a clear edge over Ovechkin as the NHL's premiere fantasy player.
Though times have been tough, there is plenty of hope on the horizon for the Great Eight. A coaching change might be exactly what he needs to get his game going. The relationship between captain and coach appeared to have been strained at times this season, and a new face behind the bench could go a long way in helping Ovechkin regain his focus.
The hiring of Hunter in Washington could have a far greater impact on the team's offensive output than your typical coaching shakeup. It is logical to assume the front office would like to see Hunter open up the offense and allow the Capital's impressive offensive talent to return to wreaking havoc on the rest of the League. Take note, Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin owners.
At just 26-years-old, there is no reason to doubt that the uber-talented Ovechkin could in a moment's notice return to his elite status as one of the top players in fantasy hockey. Could the coaching change be the the spark needed to get one of the NHL's most gifted scorers back on track? Only time will tell, but if you have any hopes of landing Ovechkin in your league now is the time to strike. An Ovi hot streak could be just around the corner so fantasy GMs would be wise to put together a package and see if they could land him for reasonable value. Even with his recent struggles, Ovechkin will surely come with a very high price tag but don't forget what No. 8 has done or more importantly what he is capable of doing still.
Radim Vrbata is known as a streaky scorer, and boy, is he streaking right now. For the fourth time in the last 10 games, Vrbata recorded a two-goal night. as the Coyotes doubled up the Anaheim Ducks 4-2 on Wednesday night. The red-hot Vrbata now has 5 goals in his last three games.
Vrbata is a perplexing fantasy case. Sure, he has 10 goals in his last 11 games, but he also had just one in his first nine. The 30-year-old right-wing has always had the ability to score, but has never reached the 30-goal or 60-point plateau over his nine-year NHL career. Vrbata is also a bit of a one-trick pony when it comes to fantasy, as he only tends to contribute to the goals categories.
Despite his shortcomings, Vrbata has been so hot as of late that he is forcing the fantasy world to take notice. Could this offensive outburst be more than just a hot streak? If your squad could use some help in the scoring department, you might want to give Vrbata a look. Owned in just 40 percent of Yahoo! leagues, Vrbata is still ripe for the pickings.
If you have the roster room, taking a flyer on Vrbata is your typical low-risk, high-reward move. Worst-case scenario, you can ride out the rest of Vrbata's scoring frenzy and part ways once he cools. But there is always the chance that Vrbata is a late bloomer and this could finally be the year he breaks out and becomes an above-average scorer with a respectable plus/minus rating to boot. Now that would be a worthwhile waiver pick up, wouldn't it?
Alexander Semin is expected to be back in the Washington lineup Wednesday as the Capitals host the Winnipeg Jets. Semin was a surprise healthy scratch Monday in the Caps win over the Coyotes. Both Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau and Semin owners will be eager to see how the enormously talented but notoriously inconsistent winger responds to the benching.
After a one game benching, Alexander Semin is expected to return to the Washington lineup Wednesday and both Capitals fans and his fantasy owners are eager to see how he will respond. (Photo: Mitchell Layton/NHLI)
In his latest aggressive coaching tactic, Boudreau decided to sit Semin in an attempt to send a message to his underperforming Russian star. Semin possesses the type of scoring touch about which most NHL players only dream. He has had one 40 and two 30-plus goal seasons in Washington, but his explosive skill is often subdued by frequent injuries and a mercurial scoring touch.
So far, Semin looks in need of a Boudreau wake-up call more than ever. On top of instances of undisciplined play, Semin's production has been middling at best with nearly a quarter of the season gone. In 18 games this year, Semin is averaging only 2.3 shots per game for a total of four goals. He still has not cracked the double-digit mark in points, with only nine so far. That is a far cry from what many fantasy GMs expected from a 27-year-old entering what should be the prime of his career.
Which Semin takes the ice Wednesday against Winnipeg is anybody's guess. He will likely need a few big-effort games to prove to Boudreau that he is deserving of playing the minutes necessary to be a fantasy force. If Semin does put a hot streak together off his benching, it could be a great incentive to try and sell high on him. While it’s probably unrealistic to think that one healthy scratch will be enough to correct years of maddeningly inconsistent play from Semin, if you strike when the iron is hottest you should be able to offload Semin in exchange for good value. By marketing him to your league as the attacking force he can sometimes be, you will be able to discard him well before his next cold spell inevitably arrives.
To this point, the highly-touted Turris -- Phoenix selected him with the third overall pick in the 2007 NHL Draft -- has had a tough time living up to his high billing. Since being drafted, Turris has only appeared in 131 NHL games and totaled just 19 career goals and 46 points. His lengthy holdout will only add to the obstacles he must overcome to reach his potential.
Though Kyle Turris may not warrant much fantasy attention right now, his talent makes him worth keeping an eye on. (Photo: Norm Hall/NHLI)
Though his NHL career has been somewhat rocky to this point, there is no denying Turris posses plenty of talent, specifically the ability to put the puck in the net. The 22 year-old showed significant improvement last season with the Coyotes notching new career highs in games played (65), goals (11), assists (14) and points (25).
Upon his return, Turris does not warrant much if any fantasy attention, at least for the time being. There is little doubt he will be plenty rusty and playing minimal minutes after missing training camp and the first 19 games of the regular season. Also, the fact that Turris is only center eligible, the deepest position in fantasy hockey, does not help his worth either.
Though he may not have much immediate value the undeniable potential Turris posses makes him a player worth keeping an eye on over the next couple of months, however. The Coyotes are not exactly a high-octane offensive unit, so if Turris can quickly shake the cobwebs while continuing to develop his game, Phoenix would likely to be eager to reward him with top six forward minutes as well as time on the power play.
With the heart of the winter right around the corner injuries will inevitably begin to pile up and could coincide with the time Turris really begins to hit his stride. Going forward, as the waiver wire continues to increasingly dry up, Turris could be the kind of pick up that helps bolster your roster depth for a playoff push, particularly if your team is in need of scoring.
Carey Price earned the NHL's top star of the week and is proving that he belongs among the League's best fantasy goalies. (Photo: Richard Wolowicz/NHLI)
Price was more then deserving of the top star honor as he stopped an eye popping 72 of the 74 shots he faced over a three game stretch. On top of that, the red-hot Hab is currently enjoying a two-game shutout streak after blanking the Hurricanes and Rangers. Price has put his rough patch behind him and now sports a very respectable 2.16 goals-against average and .917 save percentage.
The fantasy world is also taking notice of Price's hot play as of late. In his latest 'In the Cage' segment, goalie specialist Justin Goldman moved Price up two spots to fifth overall in his weekly rankings of NHL netminders. Price clearly has the ability to maintain that lofty standing. At just 24 years-old, Price has continued to show improvement throughout his brief career. He is surrounded by a solid defensive core and a Canadiens team that is talented enough to help provide him with plenty of wins.
Though the fantasy masses can't expect Price to perform week-in and week-out the way he did to earn top star honors, they can count on him to be an upper echelon No. 1 goalie going forward. Those lucky enough to have Price on their rosters should be able to ride the work horse goalie and only have to worry about rounding out their goaltenders behind him. Unfortunately for many fantasy GMs, that is something that is likely to be easier said than done.
To say the Penguins, their fans and fantasy owners have been eagerly awaiting Crosby's return to action may be the understatement of the hockey season. Sid has been sidelined since Jan. 6 when he was diagnosed with a concussion following a pair hard hits in successive games. Since that time, there has been constant speculation as to when Crosby would be cleared to play. All of that is now in the past, however, with Sunday's big news that Sid is ready to return.
When he was abruptly forced from the lineup last season, Crosby was having an MVP-caliber campaign. In 41 games Crosby had 32 goals and 66 points. He compiled 19 points on the power play, totaled 161 shots and was a plus-20 for good measure.
If Crosby can come close to producing the type of numbers he had prior to getting injured, then fantasy owners who took the risk of drafting or dealing for Sid will be ecstatic. Once Crosby shakes off the rust, there is no reason to believe he can't return to his elite status as one of the best -- if not the best -- players in the League.
The only concern the Pens and Sid owners should have is keeping him healthy and on the ice. In addition to the fear of Crosby suffering another concussion. The 24 year-old superstar has also been dinged up a few times with other various ailments. Injuries have been the only thing capable of slowing Sid down during his short career.
The fantasy impact of Crosby's return goes far beyond his giddy owners jumping for joy. Upon his return, Crosby will be reunited with the linemates he had most of last season, Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis. To date, Kunitz has been a steady fantasy contributor with 7 goals, 11 points, 60 shots on goal and an impressive 42 hits. Dupuis, not known to be as fantasy relevant as Kunitz, has opened some eyes this season with 4 goals, 14 points and 54 shots on goal with a plus-7 rating. But now back with Crosby, both players should see their production experience a big boost that should continue as long as they keep reaping the benefits of skating alongside one of the NHL's most dynamic playmakers.
Between Kunitz and Dupuis, Kunitz is the better play at this point due to his track record as a perennial 20-goal scorer who can be counted on to be a consistent contributor to the shots on goal and PIMs categories. Since arriving in Pittsburgh in 2008-09, Kunitz has shown the ability to elevate his game when paired with Sid. Dupuis might not have quite as a high a ceiling as Kunitz, but the underrated veteran left winger is a reliable fantasy option who, if not spectacular, can contribute to fantasy categories across the board for teams in deeper leagues.
With Crosby sidelined to this point, both Kunitz (owned in 38 percent of Yahoo! Leagues and Dupuis (owned in 19 percent of Yahoo! Leagues) are both undervalued. That won't last for long once Sid returns and inevitably boosts the play of both of these wingers. Go ahead and grab Kunitz off the waiver wire now in leagues where he is available and keep a close eye on Dupuis to see if Crosby's return allows him to keep performing over his head.
Dustin Byfuglien is having a November to remember after experiencing an October to forget.
Byfuglien had another big game Saturday, scoring a goal and adding two assists in Winnipeg's 6-4 win against Philadelphia. That makes three goals and seven assists for Byfuglien in nine games this month. During that span, the 26-year old defenseman has totaled 30 shots on goal while racking up 20 penalty minutes.
With 10 points in nine November games, Dustin Byfuglien appears to have put his slow start to the season behind him. (Photo: Getty Images)
Byfuglien's impressive month is quite the turnaround from his lackluster October in which he posted a meager seven points and was a minus-5 in 11 games. Concerns by the Jets and fantasy owners about Byfuglien in the season's opening month were only compounded by a disappointing finish to the 2010-11 season and growing concerns about his weight. However, Big Buff's strong November performance seems to indicate that he has put all his issues behind him and is ready to return to his elite status among fantasy blue liners.
In his latest On the 'D'-Fence segment, Brian Metzer moved Byfuglien up two spots to No. 12 in his weekly rankings. If Byfuglien can continue to produce up to his potential, then the offensively-gifted defenseman could easily crack the top 10 and even has the ability to soar into the top 5.
Unfortunately, fantasy GMs looking to buy low on Byfuglien may have missed their opportunity. However, if you are still looking to target Byfuglien in a trade, then you should feel confident Byfuglien is back on track and poised for his typical all-around stellar production at the always-thin defenseman position.
With his recent hot play, Giguere seems destined to wrestle plenty of playing time away from starting goalie Semyon Varlamov. The Avs paid a steep price to acquire Varlamov in the offseason and are committed to making the twenty-three year old their franchise goalie for the long term. All seemed to be going according to plan as Varlamov came out of the gates looking incredibly sharp while leading his young team to a surprisingly fast start. Things quickly cooled for Colorado and Varlamov however. Varlamov has not posted a win since October 30th and has lost his last six starts, erasing any remembrance of his hot start. Varlamov now has an ugly 3.30 GAA and .890 save percentage for the season.
Meanwhile, Giguere has taken advantage of his latest opportunity to play while the struggling Varlamov sits. In his start prior to shuting out the Stars, Gigure stopped 17 of the 18 shots he faced in a tough 1-0 loss to Minnesota. Make no mistake, Varlamov is clearly the goalie of the future in Colorodo. However, the youthful Avs have played above expectations to this point and as long as they stay in contention in the Western Conference, coach Joe Sacco is likely to stick with the goalie that gives his team the best chance to win. At least for the time being, it seems like that guy is Giguere.
Giguere is currently owned in just 10 percent of Yahoo! leagues. If you are a Varlamov owner or are in need of some help in goal, you might want to consider taking a flyer on Giguere as it appears the savvy veteran still has something left in the tank.
Rick DiPietro appears to be in line for an increased work load in net for the Isles with Evgeni Nabokov sidelined indefinitely. (Photo: Mike Stobe/NHLI)
DiPietro stepped in admirably for the injured Nabokov on Thursday night, stopping 24 of 27 shots against the Montreal Canadiens for his second win of the season. With Nabokov expected to miss a stretch of games, DiPietro should have the opportunity to seize the No.1 job on the Island.
Nabokov owners, or any fantasy GM in need of help in goal, should scoop up DiPietro, who is owned in just six percent of Yahoo! leagues. DiPietro posseses plenty of talent, but an injury plagued career has prohibited him from reaching his potential. However, DiPietro is still just 30-years old and should be as motivated as ever to live up to lofty expectations and his hefty contract.
Don't forget about Al Montoya, too, as there is always the potential DiPietro will falter or once again get bitten by the injury bug. But for now, DiPietro appears to be the goalie in line to benefit the most from Nabokov's absence. As previously noted, no Islander goalie can be considered a very strong fantasy option at this point. However, the goalie pool is always shallow, and though DiPietro is a risky play, he could give fantasy owners some solid production, at least for the short term.
It had appeared that Nabokov had established himself as the primary starter in what has been a crowded Islander net all season long. Nabokov, DiPietro and Al Montoya are all currently up with the club. Despite his starting status, Nabokov's numbers have not been very impressive. Thanks in part to a weak Isles offense, Nabokov had only recorded one win in his seven starts leading into Thursday night's tilt. In those starts Nabokov has posted a mediocre 2.89 GAA and .910 save percentage
Groin injuries can be tricky, especially for goalies. If Nabokov is forced to miss an extended amount of action, DiPietro and Montoya would see increased time in net. As of late, DiPietro has primarily filled the role of Nabokov's backup so logic would dictate he would get the first opportunity to claim the starting gig for however long Nabokov is sidelined. Obviously, DiPietro has had his own difficulties staying on the ice while battling a variety of injuries throughout his career, making him anything but a reliable replacement.
Meanwhile, Montoya is a journeyman who did a nice job for the Islanders last season after coming over from Phoenix in a February trade. In fact, Montoya served as the Islanders opening night goalie this season and stated the first three games of the year for the Isles. If given the opportunity, Montoya has proved that in spurts he can be a serviceable goalie.
It is still way too soon to know the extent of Nabokov's injury so his owners should keep a close eye on any news coming out of the Islanders camp on Friday. In deeper leagues with limited goalie options, it might be wise to be proactive and go out and grab DiPietro for insurance, especially if you have the roster flexibility to do so.
Be sure to keep Montoya in the back of your mind as well since there is potential for him to see time in net as the situation develops. Unfortunately, no matter which goalie emerges as the No. 1, it is unlikely that they will be able to offer fantasy GMs the production they are looking for. Any of the three Islanders goalies should be used with caution going forward.
The Dallas Stars have activated center Steve Ott from injured reserve. Ott was put on IR on November 10 (retroactive to October 29) and has missed the last six games due to a lower-body injury, but he will be back in the Stars' lineup Friday night when Dallas visits Colorado.
Steve Ott's high PIMS and hits totals make him a viable fantasy option.(Photo: Jamie Sabau/NHLI)
Ott's return should provide a big boost for his owners who could use some help in the PIMS and hits departments. The rugged center led the Stars last season with 183 PIMS and 252 hits, and in just 11 games this season, Ott has already compiled 25 PIMs to go along with a whopping 42 hits. Ott's game is more than just grit, however. Last season he reached double digits in goals with 12, and had scored twice this year before getting hurt.
Despite his well-rounded game, Ott is currently owned in just 29 percent of Yahoo! leagues. If your league counts PIMS and hits as categories Ott is a must own. In fact, Ott warrants consideration in all formats, considering he is slated for top six minutes centering a line between the rising Jame Benn and offensively-skilled Michael Ryder. Now back from injury, Ott is a safe bet to keep contributing to categories across the board going forward.
In addition to activating Ott, the Stars announced they have placed right wing Adam Burish on IR with a broken hand. He is expected to miss at least four weeks with the injury. Burish had scored three goals in 16 games while adding an impressive 32 PIMS, however, his loss will not affect most fantasy teams as Burish is owned in just two percent of Yahoo! leagues.
Pick a star … any star. If you are a fantasy owner of one of the Blackhawks' big guns, chances are you had a big fantasy night.
Marian Hossa led the way by assisting on three of Chicago's five goals in its victory against Vancouver. Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp all scored for the Hawks. Kane and Toews -- both of whom fantasy guru Matt Cubeta tabbed in the top 10 of his most recent Center Stage rankings -- also added assists for good measure. Kane's goal, which was assisted by Hossa, came on the man advantage serving as an extra bonus to leagues that reward power-play points.
It looks like good times are ahead for the Blackhawks, who own the League's best record. And, after easily dispensing the talented Canucks on Wednesday night, the Hawks appear to be firing on all cylinders. If you are fortunate enough to own any of the Blackhawks' big four, sit back and enjoy the ride.
After missing five-games with a groin injury, Ilya Kovalchuk returned to the Devils lineup Wednesday night looking no worse for wear. Kovalchuk scored a highlight reel first period goal in New Jersey's 5-3 win over Buffalo.
Prior to getting hurt, Kovalchuk was not producing his usual high level of scoring. Heading into Wednesday’s contest, Kovalchuk had recorded just two goals in 11 games while posting a mediocre minus-4. There are no glaring reasons that would point to Kovalchuk getting off to a slow start. If anything, Kovalchuk may just be adjusting to playing for his third coach in two seasons with the Devils.
Kovalchuk owners should enjoy having their star forward back in the lineup and don’t need to worry about him getting back to his typical high standards sooner than later.
Eric Staal saw his modest two-game point streak come to an end in Carolina's 4-0 loss to Montreal on Wednesday. As reported earlier by NHL.com's Arpon Basu, this was the third game Carolina coach Paul Maurice shifted Staal from his traditional spot at center to left wing. Maurice made the move with the hope it would help jolt his star player out of a season long-funk.
At this point, Staal owners are sure to be open to any move that could spark the perennial All-Star back to his prior form. Staal has suffered through a miserable start, scoring just four goals while posting a League worst minus-18. Should Maurice decide to stick with the Staal experiment at left wing, he would be in line for increased position eligibility, giving fantasy owners if nothing else additional roster flexibility.
Staal's shift to left wing opened up a vacancy at center on Carolina's top line, which Maurice has filled with the talented Brandon Sutter. Basu points out that to this point, Sutter has been more of a defensive specialist during his brief NHL career. However, Maurice sees offensive potential in his young center and says he is committed to giving Sutter expanded minutes to show his capability to play top-line minutes.
In three games, Sutter has not produced any points while centering a line between Staal and Chad LaRose. However, the line has produced a handful of scoring opportunities in its brief time together and Staal has shown signs of life while playing with Sutter. Wednesday's loss in Montreal was clearly a step backward, but if Sutter and Staal can build some chemistry together, Sutter could become a fantasy waiver-wire gem.
Sutter is currently owned in just 4 percent of Yahoo leagues. Though we would caution running out and grabbing him just yet with the way Carolina has struggled, he is clearly a player to monitor. If Maurice is committed to keeping Sutter and Staal together, the pair has the potential to click at put up points. In that reasonable scenario, Sutter's production and value would increase dramatically -- making him an attractive option in deeper leagues.
I think I'm lucky to be here and you definitely don't take very many things for granted, if you take anything for granted. I definitely put my family and my wife and my close family in perspective, that they're the most important thing in the world. I want to do whatever I can to play hockey, but like I said, under the right circumstances.
— Stars forward Rich Peverley to "The Musers" radio show on The Ticket 1310 AM in Dallas