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On the 'D'-fence: A look back at the first half

By Brian Metzer - NHL.com Correspondent

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On the 'D'-fence: A look back at the first half
The first half has seen NHL blueliners record a season's worth of game-winning goals while scoring at an overall rate that would be the highest the League has seen in three seasons.
Every Tuesday during the season, NHL.com Correspondent Brian Metzer will provide you with an in-depth analysis of fantasy defensemen in our weekly segment: "On the 'D'-fence." From updated defensemen rankings to guys you should keep a close eye on and much more, Metzer will be your fantasy d-man expert all season long.

We have officially hit the midway point of the NHL season and with that, the midpoint of the fantasy season. Though it seems as if fantasy owners have reaped the benefits of defensemen that are scoring a bit more than the norm, they have also had to weather a number of significant injuries to players that were expected to be big-time contributors for their teams.

No less than 26 fantasy relevant defensemen have missed varying chunks of time during the first half, including Drew Doughty, Dustin Byfuglien, Kris Letang, Mike Green, and our preseason No. 1-ranked rearguard, Shea Weber. The silver lining is that these injuries have allowed others, such as Dennis Wideman (in Washington) and Matt Niskanen (in Pittsburgh) to make a larger fantasy impact than they likely would have under normal circumstances.

Though these injuries have been a big story during the first half, there are several other trends that should be on your radar when trying to determine the impact of defensemen on your fantasy lineup during the second half of the season.

TOP 60 FANTASY DEFENSEMEN

These modified re-rankings are based on expectations of the season going forward (including injuries). The plus or minus for each player is movement based on our most recent rankings from last week. (NR means not ranked in previous rankings.)
There are 26 defensemen on pace to score 10 or more goals this season, which would be the highest total in three seasons. Jason Garrison of the Florida Panthers is already there, currently sitting at 11 goals.

Defensemen have already won a season's worth of games for their respective teams, having accounted for 82 game-winning goals through Sunday. Niklas Kronwall and Jack Johnson have notched 4 GWGs each.

Shots are flying at a furious pace, as 12 defensemen have already launched more than 100 shots on goal during the first half of the season. Erik Karlsson, who leads all defensemen in assists and points, also sits on top of the heap in shots with 152.

Three defensemen have been able to accumulate at least 5 goals, 20 points and a plus-20 rating. Can you name them without looking it up? We will provide the answer following our weekly rankings, "Four Up," "Four Down," and "Four Second Half Dynamos." 

Four Up -- Preseason ranking in parenthesis

Erik Karlsson (23) -- Though it seems as if he may still have a handful of doubters around the League, this 21-year-old is the real deal. In fact, he would take our midseason "Bobby Orr" and "Paul Coffey" awards for fantasy defensive MVP and leading scorer had we been giving them out. He leads his position in assists (35), points (41) and shots on goal (152) and has a very respectable plus-7, which alleviates our only big concern about him coming into the season.

Michael Del Zotto (58) -- Del Zotto had what can only be described as a nightmare season one year ago, failing to live up to the high expectations his impressive rookie season created for him, but he has awoken in a big way. The youngster has a been a big part of the Rangers' success this season, playing on their No. 1 power-play unit and registering an impressive plus-25 to go with the 23 points (5G-18A) he has accumulated through 39 games.

Ian White (54) -- More attention should have been paid to White earlier this season. He has become a huge factor for the Red Wings, plays on their power play, gets minutes with Nicklas Lidstrom and has answered the call with 20 points (5G-15A), a robust plus-24, and 105 shots on goal in just 37 games this season.

Brian Campbell (44) -- Campbell was a huge part of the turnaround in Chicago and now he is doing it again in Florida. He may not be the flashiest guy on the ice, but he scores on what seems like a nightly basis and sits No. 2 behind only Karlsson with 33 points (3G-30A). It would be nice to see more shots on goal and a better plus-minus, but there isn't much room to complain.

Four Down -- Preseason ranking in parenthesis

Drew Doughty (4) -- Taking away a five-game scoring streak in the middle of December, Doughty has only 11 points to show for his other 33 games. He has been in and out of the lineup a couple times this season and doesn't look much like a guy who was one of the first five defensemen off of the board.

Mike Green (8) -- Though injuries have been Green's undoing more than anything else, he has still under-produced for his draft position for close to two years. He has managed 6 points in the 10 games has played this season, but four of those came in one game -- a 7-1 win over Detroit back on Oct. 22.

Alex Goligoski (15) -- "Go-Go" had everyone believing that he was going to be a fantasy stud this season; unfortunately, he has yet to live up to that billing. He did manage 6 points in his first 15 games, but since returning from an injury on Dec. 8, he has managed just 4 points in 14 games.

Dan Boyle (5) -- We have previously broken down Boyle's struggles this season, but his preseason ranking has him on this list. He does have 10 points in his last 17 games, which gives us hope for a stronger second half, but fantasy owners expected much more from a guy who has five times broken 50 points and one time surpassed 60.

Four Second-Half Dynamos -- Preseason ranking in parenthesis

Tyler Myers -- Myers has produced in each of his first two years in the League, albeit more so during his rookie year when he notched 48 points. This season didn't start great for the youngster, but he has had some time to regroup while recovering from a wrist injury. He has skated over 58 minutes in two games since returning and already scored a goal. The second half looks promising.

Cam Fowler -- The Ducks have played better as of late and their young rearguard should do the same. He is a great skater, makes a great first pass and can shoot the puck. Look for him to significantly add to his 17 points during the second half as he and his teammates look to turn their season around.

Ryan Ellis -- Ellis picked up his first two NHL points on Saturday evening, and they should be the first of many. The young rearguard has the benefit of playing behind Shea Weber and Ryan Suter, which should keep the pressure off of him. If he can stick in the League, he will produce. Dynasty owners should get him now.

Stefan Elliott -- Elliott now has 9 points in 21 games this season and looks like a guy who is fitting right in on the Avalanche blue line. If he is able to stick, which we think he will, the second half could be very fruitful for a player who has scored 60 goals over the past two seasons with the Saskatoon Blades.

Did you get the answer? Zdeno Chara, Michael Del Zotto, and Ian White have all accumulated at least 5 goals, 20 points and a plus-20 rating.
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