No Need to Vanek, Your Player’s Slump May Have Ended
If there’s a common thread for at least some of the players featured below, it’s that long scoring droughts can end with a monster game or a corresponding hot stretch. But that’s what keeps fantasy hockey from getting dull.
Hopefully you set your fantasy lineup in time on Tuesday, as the Hurricanes/Leafs game had an unusual start time for a weekday (2 p.m. ET… or for me, 11 a.m. PT). By the time I was eating my lunch, the Leafs had already scored four goals. After taking a one-period sabbatical during the second period, they scored four more to finish with an 8-1 pasting of the Canes.
The Mitch Marner – Tyler Bozak – James van Riemsdyk line combined for 11 points in this game. It’s been all or nothing for Bozak the last ten games. He has been held pointless in eight of those ten games, but he has also collected seven points over the other two games, including four points on Tuesday.
Marner, though, is an interesting case. I had picked him up off waivers in my shallowest league about ten days ago after a seven-game stretch where he didn’t record a point. Since I added him to my roster, he has recorded eight points (1g-7a) in six games, including today. I know he hadn’t been scoring and wasn’t playing on the Leafs’ top line. But this was a player who was drafted 16th overall in this league (not by a Leafs’ fan, in case you were wondering). Marner’s point totals have been assist-concentrated, but three goals is still quite low. So with a 4.5% shooting accuracy, a few more pucks should start going into the net.
As a Nazem Kadri owner in another league, I was disappointed that he couldn’t get even a single piece of the action in an 8-1 game. So that’s now eight games without a point for Kadri, who was my most reliable center during that time prior to that. Despite starting him consistently, I often wondered in the back of my mind whether the presence of fellow center Auston Matthews would decrease Kadri’s offensive zone starts and increase his responsibilities in defensive situations. Yet Kadri has actually been more productive with Matthews in the lineup (until recently). So combined with a rather high 16.3% shooting accuracy, I wonder if this is a sign of things to come.
Scott Darling was in net for all eight goals that the Leafs scored. It made sense to peg Darling as a preseason sleeper, given his solid numbers as Chicago’s backup and his new role as the starter for an up-and-coming team. Yet with more losses than wins, a goals-against average close to 3.00 and a save percentage now below .900, the Canes’ starter has been anything but a darling for fantasy teams. The Canes have the highest shot attempt differential in the league yet sit at the bottom of the (strong) Metropolitan Division, which is a sign that Darling hasn’t been making the saves when needed. Bench Darling for now, or at least pick and choose his matchups. Cam Ward may be starting more often than we expected this season.
Eric Staal scored two goals and added an assist in the Wild’s 6-4 win in Ottawa. On a Wild forward group that has had its share of injuries and a disappointing scorer or two (see the next paragraph for one), Staal quietly leads the team with 31 points in 34 games. He is on pace for his second consecutive season with at least 25 goals, 60 points and 200 shots. That’s solid production for a player who was drafted outside of the top 100 in most leagues – a player that many had thought was on the downside of his career after the Hurricanes finally decided to move on without him.
With a goal in this game, Mikko Koivu broke his major slump. He had not recorded a point in his previous 11 games or scored a goal in his previous 24 games. His shooting percentage sits at around 5 percent after two previous seasons in the 12-13% range. He’s one of those players that you just couldn’t keep rolling with that lack of production, but you know that he’ll rebound if he continues to center two talented players like Mikael Granlund and Jason Zucker.
In a losing cause, Erik Karlsson scored two goals while logging 30 minutes of icetime. I mentioned Karlsson as a buy low in my last Sportsnet piece. Any window of that kind will shut quickly (if it hasn’t already), as the previously slumping Sens’ captain now has points in three of his last four games. It’s hard to believe, but those goals were his second and third of the season. Remember that he was coming back from a serious foot injury, which probably explains his slow start and recent slump. Start him with confidence in all leagues. Full stop.
T.J. Oshie returned to the Capitals’ lineup after missing the past two weeks with a concussion. Playing on a line with Evgeny Kuznetsov and Jakub Vrana, Oshie did not record a point in 19 minutes of icetime.
Andre Burakovsky had a game on Tuesday, scoring two goals and adding an assist. Steve had more on why Burakovsky hasn’t broken out this season in a Ramblings from last week. Burakovsky didn’t receive any more favorable icetime or power-play time in this game than he usually does, sticking with Lars Eller and Brett Connolly (each of whom had two points). Even though Burakovsky has a decent eight points in 15 games, I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to add him for that reason.
Great pause for dramatic effect. I wish more officials would do this.
In that game of Central Division powers Nashville and Winnipeg, Nikolaj Ehlers scored two goals. He now has six goals in seven games, and 17 goals this season. Or as my son told me the other day, Ehlers has nearly as many goals as Brock Boeser.
Out four to six weeks? No, what about four to six days? Nope, Boeser has magical healing powers. Boeser left Sunday’s game because of a foot injury from blocking a shot, and was even on crutches after the game. However, he was back in the Canucks’ lineup on Tuesday, scoring his 18th goal of the season and adding an assist in 20 minutes of icetime. Sorry if I told you that you should sit him this week. I’m a Canucks’ fan, so I’m naturally trained to expect the worst.
Thomas Vanek scores in bunches. Always has, always will. If you’ve ever owned him, you know that there’s long stretches of nothing followed by explosive production, which eventually makes his season-by-season production appear consistent. Another example: Vanek had gone six games without a point before recording a hat trick and an assist on Tuesday night. The hat trick was the tenth of his career and his 54th career multigoal game. What this means is that Vanek has ten goals, putting him on pace for his 11th career 20-goal season. If you can handle all that, he’s only owned in 6 percent of Yahoo leagues.
After a hot start, Canucks’ goaltending has crashed to earth, allowing an average of five goals per game over the past seven games. Bench Jacob Markstrom and Anders Nilsson while the Canucks are missing two-thirds of their top line (Bo Horvat, Sven Baertschi) and their top defender (Chris Tanev).
With Shea Weber being sent back to Montreal, Jeff Petry scored a goal and added an assist, logged first-unit power-play minutes, and led all Habs’ blueliners with 25 minutes of icetime. Depending on how long Weber is out, expect Petry to be leaned on heavily on a lean Habs’ blueline. He could be worth an add if you need blueline help in a deeper league.
Paul Byron scored his tenth goal of the season on Tuesday, putting him on pace for another 20-goal season. Watching the speedy Byron, I’m kind of surprised that he doesn’t have more goals. Here’s an interesting number for you: Byron is a career 18 percent shooter. In fact, his current 19 percent accuracy is actually lower than the 22-23% of his previous two seasons. So he’s also great at converting. So what’s holding him back? A lack of top-6 minutes throughout his career (although he skated with Jonathan Drouin and Max Pacioretty in this game) and a lack of shots (he has never taken 100 SOG in a season).
At what point do we just accept that the Vegas Golden Knights are destined to be a playoff team in their first season?
GOLDEN KNIGHTS BUZZER BEATER pic.twitter.com/svzd5Yhpbu
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) December 20, 2017
That was quite a night for Shea Theodore, who had already piled up three assists before this last-second goal. After starting the season in the AHL much to the dismay of fantasy owners everywhere, Theodore is finally safe and secure on the VGK blueline, logging first-unit power-play minutes along with 20 minutes per game over the last two games. What now, he’s only owned in 14 percent of Yahoo leagues? He passes my simple test of whether he should be owned, as he is scoring at over a 0.5 point per game pace now (10 points in 18 games).
With three assists in this game, David Perron is now scoring at a point-per-game pace (27 points in 27 games). Yes, the same David Perron that you often saw on the first page of your waiver-wire search. In case you’re wondering if it’s a high shooting percentage due for regression, most of Perron’s points are assists (20). His 14.9 percent accuracy this season isn’t much higher than the 12 percent in his career. After playing for four other teams, Perron clearly has found a home in Vegas and is the super sleeper that you didn’t expect. He’s one more Vegas player who received a blessing in disguise when he was left unprotected for the expansion draft.
Despite the loss, Victor Hedman scored a goal and added two assists. After a stretch of seven games without a point, Hedman now has seven points (2g-5a) over his last four games.
For more fantasy hockey information, follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.
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