Every Sunday this season, we share 20 Fantasy Thoughts from the writers at Dobber Hockey. These thoughts are curated from the past week’s “Daily Ramblings” on DobberHockey.com.
1. Jaden Schwartz made his return for the Blues on Friday after missing most of the season. He did great, scoring his first goal of the season and adding an assist in just 13:31 of ice time. True to his word, Ken Hitchcock did not use Schwartz on special teams, but of course Schwartz is so good he doesn’t need power-play time to boost his scoring. Skating with Vladimir Tarasenko helps as well.
2. Also with a two-point night: David Backes. That line with Backes, Patrik Berglund and Alexander Steen has been skating together for a little while now, but adding Schwartz to the mix along with Jori Lehtera and Tarasenko gives the Blues a line that can tilt the ice and make life easier for Backes and Co.
3. It’s only one game but my theory going in was that Schwartz’s presence would help everyone, even the guys who aren’t skating directly with him. That theory looks good one game in. We’ll see if it holds up.
4. The Blues chased Roberto Luongo after three goals on 13 shots in the first period. Luongo let in four more Saturday against Nashville. This makes five straight since the All-Star break where Lou has given up three goals or more.
5. You don’t see Anze Kopitar scoring goals too often so his hat trick this week was a real treat. With 16 goals thus far he has matched last year’s total already. He used to score more, but he also used to shoot the puck more. The good news is that he is at least getting two SOG per game this season after falling below that bar last year. Kopitar is good for 40-50 assists a year, but he becomes another animal when he can add 25-30 goals on top.
6. I do wonder if this summer is the time to deal Kopitar in a keeper league, though. He’ll be 29 when next season starts and he is locked into a massive long-term extension. He has also won multiple Cups. Kopitar has bounced back after a down year, but he is still shooting less than he was in his peak years and the realities of his massive cap hit and an aging roster could leave the Kings with less depth each year.
7. Buffalo scored six against the Canadiens and Rasmus Ristolainen didn’t get in on any of it? He was a plus-3, which is a welcome change, but I figured at least one assist considering how involved he typically is. No dice.
8. Ristolainen has two points in his past 10 games and is a minus-8 in that span. His pace has fallen below the 50-point mark.
9. Two goals from Alex Galchenyuk on Friday. He has seven points in his last seven games. Too inconsistent for my liking overall, and probably for the coaches as well considering he has been shifted back to the wing for this latest streak. Not sure it’s enough to get me to gather Galchenyuk off the waiver wire in an average league, but he is getting there.
10. No Justin Faulk for the Hurricanes Friday night. He was a game-time decision, but ended up sitting out. Doesn’t sound like he will miss much time, but we’ve heard this story before. Without Faulk I am abandoning ship on all Hurricanes. Just not interested. That said, Noah Hanifin led all defencemen with 3:13 on the power play.
11. Two assists for Justin Abdelkader Friday, and he now has five points in six games since the All-Star break. He could make for an intriguing add if he keeps riding shotgun with Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. We’ve also seen Abdelkader with hot flashes before so I’m not going all in on him.
12. Also on his way back is Niklas Kronwall. It sounds like it will be another week before he returns to the lineup. Kronwall no longer has relevance in your average league. However, there may be a spot for him if you're in a deep league.
13. Hands up if you had Shane Doan for over 20 goals this season? Lucky you as Doan has already cleared that total and has set his sights on 30. He has 17 goals and 26 points in his last 29 games. This is an astounding performance by the 39-year-old. If you’ve got him in a keeper league you need to be buttering people up and selling them on how good Doan will be for the playoff run.
14. There were was a rumour this week that Carey Price is done for the season, but that the Canadiens won’t admit it for marketing purposes. For his part, Michel Therrien denied these reports saying that Price is still working towards a comeback.
15. I was able to land Price in a deal thanks to this news. It’s a gamble because Price may not play again, but with Frederik Andersen, Jaroslav Halak, Connor Hellebuyck and Craig Anderson as my tenders I don't have a legit No. 1. What do you think: crazy move or worth the risk? This is in a one-year league.
16. Brad Marchand scored his 27th goal of the season, one shy of his career high. Marchand’s shooting percentage is right around where it usually is (16.3 per cent), so his success is due to him simply taking more shots. He appears primed to surpass 200 shots on goal for the first time in his career.
17. Shayne Gostisbehere scored again for the Flyers on Saturday. That’s points in 11 consecutive games - an NHL record for rookie defencemen. There’s not a lot that hasn’t already been said about the man we call the Ghost. A total of 30 points in 36 games, including 17 power-play points, means that he’s this season’s version of John Klingberg. Yes, Klingberg. To put it another way, Ghost’s 0.8333 points per game is just a hair under Klingberg’s 0.8392 points per game last season.
18. What do you do when your two fantasy goalies face each other in a game – start one, both, or possibly neither? I will usually start both in order to almost guarantee myself a win – even if I think one goalie is much more likely to earn the win. I say “almost” because of the scenario of one goalie getting pulled, then his replacement eventually earning the win. That’s happened to me a few times through the years.
19. With an assist on Saturday against Columbus, Dion Phaneuf now has three points in three games as a Senator. His 25:28 of icetime was also his highest since November 7. That still pales in comparison to Erik Karlsson’s 32 minutes, however. Karlsson has exceeded 30 minutes in each of his last three games. To put it in perspective, Mark Borowiecki took 12 shifts in comparison to Karlsson’s 28 and Phaneuf’s 34.
20. Brendan Leipsic scored his first NHL goal in his first NHL game. Even though he played less than 10 minutes in this game, he saw some power-play time. Dobber compared Leipsic to Kris Versteeg back when Leipsic was dealt to Toronto in the Cody Franson trade. Mike Babcock isn’t known for giving rookies key minutes, but in Toronto he won’t have much choice going forward.