The NHL regular season is on hold at the halfway point, and three of fantasy hockey’s most important players should be in for very interesting second halves of the season. Here is a look at the trio in question and their soap opera-like storylines.
Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals (LW)
How many fantasy owners predicted that Ovechkin would go from being a Top Five fantasy pick to netting fewer goals than Phoenix’s Radim Vrbata and Philadelphia’s Scott Hartnell and being tied for 38th place in the scoring race? The answer is about as many people who predicted Arcade Fire would win the Grammy for Album of the Year last year.
Ovechkin has looked out of sorts all season. I'm not sure if he is playing hurt, dealing with personal issues or maybe has lost a little passion since his main enemy, Sidney Crosby, has not been around to spar with him. The bottom line is that his production, or lack thereof, has been unacceptable.
Now Ovechkin is mad at the NHL and the world. He was suspended for three games for an illegal hit, then sulked himself out of the All-Star Game because he did not think he deserved to be there. Put on a happy face, Alex! Fantasy owners and Capitals fans need you to score more goals after the break!
Ovechkin has too much talent to be this mediocre all season long, right? Right? Well, right?
Ovechkin owners better hope so. If not, they wasted first-round picks on a guy who is putting up Erik Cole numbers when they could have drafted Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin, Philly’s Claude Giroux or one of the goalies mentioned below.
Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers (G)
“The King” normally saves his best hockey for February and March when his Rangers are struggling to secure a playoff spot. Fantasy owners have thought of Lundqvist as the best second-half fantasy goalie to own for years.
But this season has been a role reversal of sorts for Lundqvist and the Rangers. The Rangers are on top of the Eastern Conference standings, while Lundqvist is third in the NHL in both goals-against-average (1.87) and save percentage (.937) and has been Roy Halladay-like in the shutout department (five SO).
So this begs the fantasy question—has Lundqvist peaked too early this season? Will his fantasy numbers become more pedestrian in the later months while he fails to keep up this Vezina pace, or is he on his way to the best season of his outstanding career?
Some fantasy owners might be tempted to sell high on the Swedish stopper now, and by all means do so if you can get back Roberto Luongo and Corey Perry. Most owners will hold on to Lundqvist, though, and hope he continues stoning more people than Cheech and Chong.
Tim Thomas, Boston Bruins (G)
Thomas has been a fantasy demigod who deserves no scorn from any fantasy owners who own him and nothing but scorn from those who don’t. But even though he has been as impenetrable as a maximum-security prison this season, posting a 2.12 goals-against-average and .933 save percentage, this whole hubbub about him no-showing when the Bruins visited the White House last week might be a slight cause for concern.
Thomas has been berated by fans, followers and politicians for passing up a chance to trade hellos with President Obama because Thomas believes the government “has grown out of control.” That’s all fine and dandy, but unless he is auditioning for a hosting gig on a Fox News Channel talk show, fantasy hockey owners do not care what Thomas’ political views are.
But will this brouhaha serve as a distraction for Thomas? Will the constant hounding and pounding from Thomas haters put undue pressure on the Vezina winner and cause his second-half stats to suffer?
Only time will tell. I think if Thomas can handle the pressure of Stanley Cup playoff games, he can handle this. But if he slips and slumps, backup Tuukka Rask—who has better numbers than Thomas (1.82 GAA, .938 SP)—might steal some starts from him down the stretch.
Three Players Fantasy Owners Should Pick Up This Week
Jonas Hiller, Anaheim Ducks (G)
Hiller was a human sieve early in the season and was most likely dropped by many fantasy owners, but lately the guy has been playing like Ken Dryden between the pipes. Hiller has only allowed eight goals and has a .954 save percentage over his last half-dozen starts.
Todd Bertuzzi, Detroit Red Wings (LW)
The brawny Bertuzzi is now playing on the top scoring lines with some of Detroit’s most talented playmakers and his point production is better for it. The power forward has four goals and three assists over his last eight games and is in the Top 10 in plus-minus at plus-22.
David Desharnais, Montreal Canadiens (C)
The shifty, smallish centerman enters the All-Star break playing his best hockey of the season. He has scored nine points and is plus-seven over his last seven games, and has really picked up the scoring slack since similarly-sized Michael Cammalleri was traded.
Three Players Fantasy Owners Should Worry About
Evander Kane, Winnipeg Jets (LW)
The high-scoring phenom is the latest victim of a concussion and has been placed on injured reserve. Kane’s timetable to return is unknown, which is why concussions are the No. 1 bane of fantasy owners’ existences these days. Let’s hope the 20-year-old, who has 18 goals and 35 penalty minutes in 46 contests, will come back quickly after the All-Star break.
Derek Roy, Buffalo Sabres (C)
Roy has been as disappointing this season as the Green Bay Packers were in the NFL Playoffs. Usually good for 60-70 points when healthy, Roy only has 25 points in 47 games and has been especially terrible recently, scoring just one point while being minus-seven in his last seven games. If Roy keeps this up, he will be playing full-time on the fourth line with the non-scorers.
Stephen Weiss, Florida Panthers (C)
Weiss is no January man. His October, November and December were great when he averaged almost a point per game, but the crafty playmaker has come down to earth this month, netting only one goal and adding a paltry three assists in nine games since the New Year.