The season may be approaching its final few weeks, but there’s still time to tinker with your lineup in the hopes of make a final push for the championship. I’ve watched my fair share of hockey of late and I’ve made some observations I think will be useful to you. Here’s a peek inside my notebook.
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The workload faced by Ryan Miller since joining the Blues must feel like a walk in the park for the former Sabre. Despite posting a virtually identical save percentage with his new club (.925 vs. .924 in Buffalo), Miller has amassed a 4-0-1 record to go along with a 1.78 GAA with his new team. When you compare that against the 15-22-3 mark and 2.72 GAA he accumulated before he was traded, defending the Blues’ goal almost seems like cheating. To put the difference between the two situations in perspective, Miller faced an average of 35.3 shots against in 40 appearances for the Sabres, who are 29th in the NHL in that category this year. Conversely, he has faced an average of 24.0 shots per game with St. Louis, who trail only the Devils in fewest attempts allowed this season. Each of Tuukka Rask, Jonathan Quick and Ben Bishop probably has a reasonable argument against what I’m about to say, but I think I would lean towards Miller if I were re-ranking all goaltenders from this point forward.
If you follow me on Twitter, you probably noticed a few posts over the weekend where I bragged about accurately predicting that Ales Hemsky would be worth an add in most fantasy leagues after he was traded to the Senators. In hindsight, I think we all should have expected this. I believe it was fantasy baseball pioneer Ron Shandler who long-ago made the case that a player who demonstrates a particular skill “owns” that skill even if he hasn’t recently shown it. In 360 games played between 2005-06 and 2010-11, Hemsky racked up a combined 331 points, good for a rate of 0.92 points per game so we knew this offensive ability was present. It was fair to presume Hemsky’s offense was being stifled by a combination of a diminished role with the Oilers and a de-motivated player as a result of said role. With an expanded position on Ottawa’s top line and equipped with a renewed drive, Hemsky has been lights out with his new team, picking up six points in three games. Despite giving the fantasy community ample proof that his hot play with the Sens is sustainable (increased shot rate, greater percentage of offensive zone starts), he remains owned in just 21 percent of Yahoo leagues. It’s surprising enough that P.A. Parenteau is owned in 58 percent of leagues and Jonathan Huberdeau is rostered in 44 percent, but I was floored to see that Nail Yakupov carries a 55 percent ownership rate. Yes, that Nail Yakupov. The one who has scored just 11 goals and owns a league-worst minus-29 rating.
In last week’s column, I suggested that the trade of Martin St. Louis to the Rangers would have a detrimental effect on both he and Steven Stamkos going forward and one week post-trade, neither player has done anything to convince me otherwise. In his first four games on Broadway, St. Louis has recorded one measly assist and although his 14 shots on goal are a positive sign, the Rangers defensive system won’t generate enough chances for the veteran to score at the pace he did while with Tampa Bay. As for Stamkos, some of his struggles can likely be attributed to rust, but the fact he has been held without a point in three games while registering just eight shots on goal is a troubling signal in the short-term.
With the Maple Leafs in the midst of a West Coast road trip, I’ve been burning the midnight oil to watch my hometown team in action this week. In Monday’s win over the Ducks, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry reinforced my belief that the duo is as fearsome a pair of teammates as there is in the NHL today, despite the fact Anaheim came out on the losing end. If you have even a casual interest in the NHL, my proclamation definitely isn’t news to you, but if you’re seeking a way to capitalize on this information, I’d advise you to pick up whoever plays on the same line as these two superstars. If Getzlaf and Perry can make Dustin Penner into a useful fantasy commodity, which they did for some time earlier this season, then these guys truly are miracle workers. Of late, winger Patrick Maroon has been skating with them on the club’s top line and while there are no guarantees about how long this will last, he’s worth a shot in very deep formats.
You may not have noticed, but after a horrendous start to the season, Tyler Ennis has remarkably turned his year around. Ennis tallied just one point in his first 13 contests of the year, but since the arrival of bench boss Ted Nolan, he has been deployed in a more offensive manner, an opportunity he has taken full advantage of. In 43 games under Nolan, the shifty playmaker has registered 28 points, including 19 in his past 23 outings. The fact the Sabres have few other offensive weapons on their roster might be artificially inflating his statistics, but that’s all the more reason to think Ennis can keep this up in the short term.
It’s incredible to me that Tampa Bay youngster Ondrej Palat’s excellent play this season hasn’t generated more fanfare in fantasy circles. The 22-year-old was a seventh round selection of the Lightning in 2011 so expectations for his career weren’t overly optimistic, but he has already outperformed those by notching 42 points in 65 games this year. While that alone is a solid stat line for a player of his age, it’s even more impressive to consider that Palat has amassed 27 points in 26 games since January 1st. Given that his peripheral stats support his primary ones, there’s no reason to believe the Czech winger can’t keep up this level of play.