Without a clear top storyline from this weekend - considering the fact that the not-so-shocking announcement of the 2014 Winter Classic doesn’t have any fantasy relevance - it seems most appropriate to go with a theme. In that case, the biggest developments were likely goalie-related.
Let’s take a look at the developments that might swing a week or two (or perhaps even more) in your fantasy stretch runs.
NOT UNDER THE RADAR MUCH LONGER?
Brian Elliott (40 percent owned) - Before we delve into the details, do you notice that 40 percent owned mark? You should help move the needle in the higher direction (as infinitesimally as that might be) right about now if you even need a solid third goalie. My guess is that the Elliott owner population will grow in phases:
1. The first 30 minutes or so of work where a person cannot believe it’s Monday already, so they’re browsing.
2. When you get hungry and need something to distract yourself from the angry noises that you’re digestive system is making. (Times may vary depending upon your lunch break.)
3. “That 2:30 feeling.”
4. At the end of the day, when you don’t want to start something new.
That’s four HIGHLY SCIENTIFIC periods of time where your ruthless competitors can scoop up a possibly rejuvenated goalie.
Sure, his numbers still look pretty awful overall, but it’s a short season and a hot streak can push you through your brackets. It’s no secret that Ken Hitchcock’s system is pretty goalie-friendly (although stats bloggers will grumble at my assumption), and that system got a whole lot more solid with the addition of Jay Bouwmeester. (Jordan Leopold too, I guess.)
Elliott's best performance of the three came on Sunday when he stopped all 28 Detroit Red Wings shots for a 1-0 shutout. The game bored your fearful Dose author to tears, but if anything, that shows that St. Louis might be back to playing serious D again. I'd strongly consider adding the unlikely 2012 All-Star if I were you.
Ben Bishop (46 percent owned): To think, just about a year ago, Ben Bishop was wistfully watching two St. Louis Blues goalies in front of him (plus Jake Allen fighting for attention) before being traded to Ottawa. He was then in another Three’s Company situation with the Sens, though not with hilarity nor voluptuous co-eds.
Where Elliott faces serious potential competition from Allen and possibly Jaroslav Halak (health permitting), Bishop could very well get the kind of big workload that belies his size. It certainly showed in the fact that he’s played every Lightning game he’s been eligible for.
The honeymoon might be over after that ridiculous 45-save shutout, but if you need a cheap workhorse, he could be a nice fit. I’d go with Elliott first, though, as every start counts in the fantasy playoff (and Bishop should expect to be a lot “busier” in rudderless Tampa Bay).
While some new/half-forgotten names emerged in Bishop and Elliott, crucial goalies came back from irritating injuries this weekend.
First it was Mike Smith on Saturday. He pitched a shutout and got downright feisty when Cody McLeod took an extra stab at a frozen puck on Saturday, possibly making a statement that he’s not taking kindly to players who might test what they can get “away with” regarding the big netminder. The odds are pretty heavy against the Coyotes to make the playoffs, so it probably means Smith will get a ton of starts. Considering his need for a new contract, it wouldn’t be shocking if he made things awfully interesting for the West’s lower seeds.
Then came Craig Anderson on Sunday. While he couldn’t keep Ottawa from slipping to its fourth loss in a row, Anderson only allowed two goals. Seeing Bishop leave town removes one significant obstacle for Andy owners; it remains to be seen considering how high the franchise is on Robin Lehner’s future, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Anderson plays a ton in April, too.
BACKUPS AND WORKHORSES
From the sound of things, quite a few heavy-workload guys will really carry the mail to close out the regular season. Beyond guesses on Anderson and Smith, it sounds like familiar names like Pekka Rinne, Kari Lehtonen, Niklas Backstrom (who answered a tough outing with a shutout on Sunday) and Antti Niemi won’t get many breaks. There will probably be some guys who aren’t Finnish who fit into that category, too, like Henrik Lundqvist.
There are a few interesting platoon scenarios that don’t seem like they’re totally resolved, though. Joel Quenneville went as far as to admit he might be open to using both Ray Emery and Corey Crawford in the playoffs and the Anaheim Ducks still seem content to roll with their one-two punch of Viktor Fasth and Jonas Hiller.
We could gab about what some might call should-be 1a/1b situations like in Los Angeles, in Boston and (sorry for beating the dead horse) Vancouver, but that seems unproductive. Those teams are obviously more likely to give their No. 1 guys a breather, though.
Jump for more from around the league.
GREAT 8 PART II
Ladies and gentlemen, let’s welcome Alex Ovechkin back into the select stratosphere of first round-quality players. We missed you, buddy. His split stats tell the story in the simplest way possible:
January (seven games): two goals, one assist for three points, -3, six PIM
February (12 games): six goals, six assists for 12 points, -4 rating, 12 PIM
March (16 games): 10 goals, nine assists for 19 points, +2 rating, eight PIM
April (four games): seven goals and two assists for nine points, +5 rating, two PIM
Ovechkin had two goals on Sunday and a four-point output (hat trick plus assist) on Saturday. He's only failed to score a point once in the last 12 games, with six multi-point games and five single point outings. He's also doing Ovechkin things like shooting a lot, hitting people and, you know, smiling.
Hopefully you survived that slow start, because he's the kind of player who can swing a round again.
INJURIES (full list)
Ailments were worrisome enough this weekend that they’re more important than leftover thoughts ... Alexander Semin’s day-to-day with an upper-body injury. Hey, just be happy he’s been pretty healthy this season overall (and his production has been especially robust) ... It seemed like Henrik Lundqvist hurt his hamstring, but he had a lights out Saturday after that Friday worry. He’s probably OK, but at least beware ... Ryan Getzlaf’s day-to-day with a leg injury. With Anaheim’s comfortable place in the West, the Ducks might be concerned about rushing him back. That’s smart, yet it could be bad news for your team. Don’t panic until there’s more official info, though ... Martin Erat took a nasty spill, but his new team in Washington insists it’s not a concussion. Tough start, obviously. He’s marginal enough that it’s likely best to part ways ... Alexei Emelin had a rough weekend, as he was pummeled by Evander Kane in a fight on Friday and then injured by a Milan Lucic hit on Saturday. Woof.
The Chicago Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins clinched playoff berths on Sunday. Yup, it’s that time already ... Raffi Torres had two assists in his Sharks debut (with boos) yesterday ... The Dallas Stars have been a little feisty in their stripped down form. At least so far ... The New Jersey Devils lost their seventh game in a row. Few teams lean as much on one player as the Devils do with Ilya Kovalchuk ... Ryan Suter’s been fantastic for the Wild, no doubt. Speaking of Minnesota, Jason Pominville had a beauty of an assist on Sunday ... It seems like the Boston Bruins are struggling a bit to find the right line combinations with plenty of struggling players and Jaromir Jagr to integrate into the system ... Vincent Lecavalier has three points in three games back from injury issues that kept him out almost a month ... The Buffalo Sabres are showing some fight, believe it or not.