Depending upon how your holidays went, you’re likely either a) dying to get back to setting your rosters, add/dropping and other bits of day-to-day fantasy operation after spending horrible time with family or b) sad to say goodbye to loved ones and hello to routines following an all-too-short break.
(I guess you could also combine a little from Column A and a little from Column B, but where’s the fun in that?)
Either way, hockey both real and fantasy returns beginning Friday night, and this week boasts the unusual distinction of possessing more games on Friday and Sunday (10 apiece) than Saturday (eight), so you have to get back in gear ... even if you’re moving a little slower with all that excess eggnog/assorted pie weight on your person.
Without recent results to ponder, this seems like another good opportunity to survey the overall NHL landscape. In case you missed it, Tuesday’s Hockey Dose focused on teams that limped or skyrocketed into the holiday break and why some franchises might stumble out of the gate. This weekend’s column will serve as a companion piece, with bits about players enjoying strong months, teams with imbalanced road-home schedules and other assorted treats.
HOME COOKERS VERSUS ROAD WARRIORS
People can overrate the impact of home field(/ice) advantage in sports, but there’s a reason many NFL betting lines between two evenly matched teams often give the road team +3 points: playing in your own friendly confines - and probably most importantly, not needing to travel - can push the needle a bit.
Here are a few teams who’ve either played more games on the road, and thus will receive a potentially profitable final stretch of games (represented by plus-X games) and teams who enjoyed more home games and might slip with a more road-heavy schedule (exemplified with minus-X games).
Anaheim (15 home, 24 road [+9]) - Not enough people give Bruce Boudreau serious consideration as the best coach in the NHL. If you look at the kind of results he’s produced from good but often not-quite-great teams in Washington and Anaheim, it makes you wonder if he’s more brilliant than fortunate.
Either way, you can’t really accuse the Ducks of coasting on a breezy schedule. Having 26 home contests vs. 17 away ones left is intriguing because they’ve been dominant in Anaheim (56 goals for, 26 allowed for a whopping +30 margin) while merely treading water on the road (69 for, 68 allowed). If you’re looking at a coin toss-level decision between picking up a Ducks player vs. a guy in the opposite direction, that light at the end of the tunnel impression might be the tiebreaker.
Detroit (-5) - The Red Wings present an unusual conundrum in that if you look at just results alone, it would seem that the Red Wings should be glad they'll see more road than home games.
Much like Ottawa, they've played 22 home games and 17 away contests, and both have a weak goal differential at home (-18 for Detroit, -10 for Ottawa), but the difference is that Detroit is dramatically different on the road. While Ottawa is just struggling everywhere (one more goal allowed than scored away), the Red Wings have 52 goals for and 38 against in road contests.
It’s hard to fathom more road games equaling more success over the long haul, yet perhaps their quirky start might indicate that it’s more negligible a factor than it would be for other teams.
Washington (-5): The Capitals carry some numbers that are a touch worrisome.
There are just enough things about this team that seem "propped up" that at least a little concern may emerge.
-- They've played a noteworthy amount of extra home games.
-- 10 of their 19 wins came in shootouts or overtime. Eight of those were in shootouts.
-- The Caps are riding a power play that might drop off a bit, as few contemporary teams could flirt with a 26 percent (right now 25.9) success rate through a full 82 games.
-- One may argue that they depend too much on Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and the guy who’s lucky enough to ride shotgun with them (usually Marcus Johansson).
All four of the above factors could slow down in a big or even subtle way, possibly souring things Washington enough to cause damage. Then again, Mike Green went two months without scoring a single goal, so some numbers are likely to improve for the Caps.
A FEW QUICKER ONES
Boston (-3) - With a +20 goal differential in Beantown versus a +8 mark away from Boston, the Bruins check out as a very good team. But maybe they'll slide just a tiny bit as things equal out?
New Jersey (+5) - The Devils continue to be the team that seems primed for a turnaround, yet it's difficult to assert that such a development will happen for more than a mere short clip here and there.
Phoenix and Dallas (+6) - Two teams I'd describe as intriguing Western Conference "tweeners" who are pretty high-scoring teams. They also share serious attendance problems, so more home games does also opens the door for more embarrassments.
NY Rangers (-2) - Amazing to see that the Rangers have actually received more home games than road games after observing that nine-game season-opening road trip OF DOOM. They just completed a largely unsuccessful nine-game homestand and approach a five-game road trip to begin this next stretch, so their hope must be that most key players enjoyed a restful holiday break.
RANDOM PLAYER CONSIDERATIONS
The following features players enjoying a hot 30-day run who may or may not be worth your consideration. Obviously unavailable players aren’t being considered, but if you’re in the odd league that ignores a quality guy owned at a 90+ percent rate, you should probably get on that.
Ryan Johansen (62 percent) - The potential breakout forward is putting on a head-turning scoring run (14 points in the last 30 days) as he's seemingly justifying being a first-round pick. That's no small feat, as Columbus has churned out a lot of dreck (or a lot of guys who only turned things around after a trade, like Jakub Voracek) with prominent picks not named Rick Nash.
Derek Roy (33 percent) - He's not really a great peripheral generator, which makes him someone worth monitoring for a drop if you do add him, although I do like the 14 PIM. He's regarded as a feistier scorer than most, so that little outburst makes some sense. I'd probably rather have his running mate Chris Stewart (60 percent), who seems to produce more evenly ... although it's hard to predict whether he'll contribute by hurting people or scoring on them.
Chris Kreider (24 percent) - Quietly living up to the hype he received in his debut in subtler fantasy ways. I love the 22 PIM and 36 hits to go with nine points and 33 SOG over the last month.
Troy Brouwer (42 percent) - Really picking up lately, with six of his 17 regular season points coming in a current four-game streak. On the season, he's more than halfway to 100 PIM (54), gets great hits (104), solid SOG (62) and even some FW (112-106 in the dot). I'd guess his monthly boost of 10 points in 30 days will subside, but those overall "grit" numbers are promising enough.
Wayne Simmonds (50 percent) - With people finally getting the message about Jakub Voracek (76 percent) while other Flyers (#Hartnelldown means something different to fantasy owners) receding a bit, Simmonds is now the guy in Philly who’s surprisingly available. Simmonds is a big PIM guy who can score at a nice clip.
Antoine Roussel (11 percent) - He's really tapered off lately, although his hits are still solid. I'd at least watchlist him because when he is engaged and aggravating his opponents, he can enjoy the kind of nights that can fill up a host of categories.
Clarke MacArthur (55 percent) - It's weird how little respect the guy gets. I mean, the Atlanta Thrashers let him walk from salary arbitration, for goodness sake. Grab him.
Andy Greene (38 percent) and Mark Giordano (46 percent) - Two fairly boring defensemen who can also help you do what any depth fantasy blueliner should manage: brush away a variety of categories, including those hard-to-reach spots.
Nothing wrong with boosting your lineup with a few slow-and-steady types.
Ryan Miller (71 percent) - Normally, I say stick with your stars through the tough times, but I cannot blame Miller owners for blowing a gasket and canning him like mini-Steinbrenners. He does seem to be turning things around in a subtle way that would benefit those who scooped him up after the carnage, though. Just don't be surprised if this is just a minor turnaround and he goes back to being a strong player in a lousy situation.
Evgeni Nabokov (40 percent) - Sure, it's a mess in Long Island, but maybe he can at least produce quantity-over-quality numbers for you.
Antti Raanta (49 percent) - Easily worth a short-term look on arguably the best team in the NHL.