The funny thing about writing a daily fantasy hockey column is that you find yourself occasionally slamming players you’d defend, big picture-wise.
Overall, I think Jimmy Howard has been unfairly disregarded during his somewhat late-blooming NHL career.
Beyond an impressive 137-76-33 record for his NHL career (which didn't really start until 2009-10), Howard has a perfectly competent .917 save percentage. Many have defamed former Red Wings goalie Chris Osgood for putting up nice win totals but not actually exceling much at an individual number, yet Howard has weathered the noticeable deterioration of Detroit's depth to help the team remain competitive despite ups and downs over recent years.
So, in the grand scheme of things, I think Howard is actually a pretty good goalie. Certainly an acceptable option for a workhorse.
Here’s the thing, though: past accomplishments don’t stop pucks. The (expected/reported) United States trio of goalies is all about resumes over recent results, something I touched on Monday. Bottom line: the 29-year-old hasn’t even been playing well enough to truly justify occupying the Detroit Red Wings’ net, let alone one of America’s coveted three spots.
Few - if any - things that happened during Monday’s return (Howard’s been … maybe mercifully … sidelined since Dec. 10) against the up-and-down Nashville Predators did anything to silence critics clamoring for Ben Bishop, Cory Schneider or Tim Thomas in his place, either. Howard allowed some softies, particularly to fellow American Colin Wilson, in a 6-4 loss to Nashville. To me, it was the equivalent to a mid-level standup comic bombing a prominent late-night set right when various connoisseurs claimed that jokester was losing his or her edge.
Does this mean Howard doesn’t deserve to be in the mix? Well, that’s debatable, but it certainly doesn’t strengthen his argument.
I can see the logic in leaning toward over-the-long-haul work, but the total indifference to the cyclical nature of the goaltending situation furrows my brow. At least until you consider that this is David Poile we’re talking about … the same guy who decided to allow his sneakily expensive Predators 2013-14 season hang on the balance of two goalies with a scant amount of NHL experience when Pekka Rinne went down with an injury.
As I’ve mentioned countless times before, don’t fall into the same lazy, risk-averse patterns as NHL GMs normally do in fantasy. Being flexible may just help you push the needle here and there, whether that means stealing the occasional weekly matchup or merely a few categories you normally wouldn’t here and there.
Let’s enjoy some game summaries after the break then, OK?
NASHVILLE 6, DETROIT 4
-- Might as well start with the guy who scored maybe the most irritating (for Howard and probably David Poile, anyway) goal of Monday, as Wilson's first of two goals was a real regret-monger. Anyway, the American-born center now has a three-game point streak going (two goals, three assists for five points), making him a somewhat intriguing consideration. After seeing him a number of times in person, I think he's the kind of guy who shows flashes of brilliance (seventh pick in 2008) but won't be a consistent performer until he gets rid of the Barry Trotz shackles. Besides, he's not going to give you much when he doesn't score; he doesn't even have two SOG per game with just 54 in 39 GP.
-- Mike Fisher's another good player who isn't quite good enough for fantasy. Well, fantasy hockey anyway. (Sorry.)
-- The Red Wings aren't out of the injury woods by any means. Johan Franzen has been ruled out of the 2014 Winter Classic with his concussion issues. Daniel Alfredsson seems like he's a tossup with groin issues that kept him out of Monday's action. At least Jonas Gustavsson's injury issues make it easier for Mike Babcock to jam Howard into Detroit's net on Wednesday, even if "The Monster" deserves it short-term merit-wise.
-- No shock that Henrik Zetterberg is picking things up right where he started upon returning from an injury. He has three points (one goal, two assists) in the two games back, with six SOG in that time.
PHILADELPHIA 4, VANCOUVER 3 (SO)
-- For all the things Steve Mason has (improbably) accomplished this season, Monday represented the first time he was forced to make more than 40 saves. More precisely, he stopped 41 out of 44 shots to improve his record to 16-9-4 on the season. If you thought we’d be a mere day from 2014 and it would be perfectly reasonable to bash Jimmy Howard and praise Steve Mason, you’re basically a) insane or b) Paul Holmgren.
-- Talk about a weird fantasy night for Ryan Kesler. He won 61 percent of his faceoffs, fired seven shots on goal and collecting two PIM. On the other hand, he didn't score and registered a -3 rating. Weird.
-- Brayden Schenn finally scored his first goal after a 16-game drought last night. Not going to lie, his peripherals (39 PIM, 72 SOG and 87 hits) still make him tempting, though.
-- Daniel Sedin has almost as many SOG (135 vs. 138), more goals (13 vs. 12) and more PIM (32 in 18) in 41 games played versus 47 in 2012-13. Certainly doesn't seem like John Tortorella is dragging his numbers down early on, eh?
-- Claude Giroux is absolutely on fire, with a nine-game point streak (six goals and 11 assists). News flash: he's amazing.
CHICAGO 1, LOS ANGELES 0
-- Antti Raanta hasn’t been better than Martin Jones through this stretch despite providing nice wins, but he got the win and the shutout last night. Impressively, both backup-turned-interim-starters saw their save percentages rise (Raanta from .906 to .913, Jones to .953 to .955) between Sunday and Tuesday.
-- To belabor the point, Jones deserves credit. Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane and Patrick Kane combined for 16 SOG and zero goals. Again, good work by Jones.
-- Brandon Saad remains an intriguing fringe fantasy option, as he now has 14 goals and 30 points in 42 games played.
-- Quite an impressive depth number night for Andrew Shaw: +1, three SOG and an astounding nine hits.
OTTAWA 3, WASHINGTON 1
-- Maybe Craig Anderson's gotten things together? He's won three games in a row, and while his overall numbers are still pretty weak, he might at least grab the Sens' starting job back again. Ottawa isn't totally out of the mix right now, but they need Anderson - a guy who came into this season with a shot at the Olympics - to prove he's legit. (Has any goalie lost and regained favor as a No. 1 as often as Anderson lately?)
-- Joel Ward scored his 12th goal this season. That's great news for the Capitals ... but that's about where it stops. He's not really all that worthwhile fantasy-wise, aside from deeper leagues.
-- With Kyle Turris, Clarke MacArthur and Bobby Ryan proving themselves as the Senators forward of use not name Jason Spezza, it's about time that Milan Michalek gets it together. We're waiting, brother of Zbynek.
-- Alex Ovechkin didn't score, but he generated six hits, seven SOG, two PIM and Chris Neil got injured trying to hit him. That's a pretty good night's work, if you ask me.