Derick Brassard headlines a great crop of Blue Jacket rooks, but unfortunately a shoulder injury will keep him out for the rest of the season.
While it’s officially past the halfway point of the schedule, the All-Star break is the symbolic tipping point NHL year. Let’s take a look back and a look ahead at what’s happened so far:
- Boy, those Columbus Blue Jackets sure are sending out the rookies with fantasy value. Hopefully, you rode Derick Brassard before his season-ending surgery. If you were lucky and fast, hopefully you grabbed Steve Mason before people noticed how good he is. For the second half, Nikita Filitov (currently injured) might not be a bad filler pick, especially when Columbus get Kristian Huselius back from the IR. Columbus is in the hunt for a playmaking centre and if it gets one by the trade deadline, it could shift the team’s depth chart and open up more scoring situations for someone like Filitov.
- Your first-half fantasy MVP is Evgeni Malkin, though depending on what specialty categories your league has, other players could have shone brightly. Need game winners? Try Patrick Marleau of the Sharks. Love the shots on goal? Alexander Ovechkin has 100 more than second-place Eric Staal. Power play stud? Almost all of Teemu Selanne’s goals were on the power play; in fact, he still leads the league in power-play goals despite being injured.
- From a goaltending perspective, Miikka Kiprusoff might not have the best stats, but he’s piling up the wins and games played. He’s also got the most saves, though Mike Smith of the Lightning is close behind, and Smith’s saves-per-game ratio and save percentage are higher. As for shutouts, Columbus’ Mason is making Pascal Leclaire cry in his multi-million dollar boots.
- The year’s biggest surprises? Congrats to anyone who picked up a number of Boston Bruins early. Same thing with the early adopters of Jeff Carter, Mason, Devin Setoguchi, and Nikolai Zherdev. And props to players like Mikko Koivu and Shane Doan for finally fulfilling their potential, and Simon Gagne for staying healthy enough to remind us why he’s such a good player.
- The league is making noise about suspending All-Star no-shows for one game. There seems to be some uncertainty about whether or not this means just putting in an appearance at the weekend or actually hitting the ice. It’s also unclear whether or not this affects the YoungStars game. In any case, be certain to monitor this and adjust your lineups accordingly.
- To prepare for the next big league event (the trade deadline), start looking at teams that are falling out of contention. Stocking up on their veteran players might not be a bad idea as these are the guys who will most likely be shipped to Cup contenders (hello, New York Islanders and St. Louis Blues).
- As for teams that are actually coming together, the Lightning are purporting the belief that it just might be able to contend for a playoff spot. I doubt that will happen, but there are some fantasy benefits: from top to bottom, the team’s playing much better under Rick Tocchet and newly acquired Cory Murphy is turning out to be a great fit on the power play. The Phoenix Coyotes are still led by Doan and Olli Jokinen but there’s some depth coming through, with players like Peter Mueller and Enver Lisin discovering their scoring touch. And the Florida Panthers are in the playoff hunt for the first time in ages thanks to a bunch of good-not-great sleepers like Gregory Campbell and Michael Frolik.
The Week Ahead
- Shameless plug: I’ll be liveblogging the All-Star Game with a little help from the folks at Versus (and maybe some surprise dirt from RotoRob’s visit to Montreal). Drop by and say hello for a snarky take on the no-hitting game.
- The schedule resumes on Tuesday. Like I mentioned earlier, check to see who’s been given a suspension for no-showing the All-Star festivities. Games on Tuesday and Wednesday will most likely be affected.
- The marquee matchup coming out of the All-Star break? Tuesday night’s battle between East leaders Washington and Boston. Look for some of Boston’s injured soldiers to be back in the lineup for what should be a hard-hitting and uptempo game.