3/18/12- Studs & Duds
Shifting Eastern Scenery- Despite the fact that Boston and New York are still in first place in their respective divisions, they have teams below them that are playing better and knocking on the door lately. Meaning that teams that are seeds four to six could be seeds one through 3 depending on how the last few weeks play out.
With that in mind, Sidney Crosby's three assist game against the suddenly struggling Devils was a welcomed sight for Penguins fans as the Pens beat the Devils, Christmas tree throwback jerseys and all 5-2. The score would have been worse if not for Brodeur as coach Pete DeBoer faces his biggest test of the season: can he get his team to finish as the sixth seed and play the Southeast winner who likely will have less points than the fourth and fifth finishers or will he let his team sink to seventh or eighth.
Pittsburgh is looking the other way on the standings as they look to climb currently. Now that they have what they need to be Cup contenders with Crosby, Malkin and Fleury healthy as well as on their game. Kris Letang and James Neal's presences on the ice also further increase their chances. Fortunately for them, with their core all back and Crosby regaining that form that made him such a dominant force in hockey, they have enough time to push the Rangers for a top three seed and first in the Atlantic Division.
Boston managed a big win in shootout at home against another team that is challenging the Rangers' Atlantic crown, the Philadelphia Flyers. Flyers goaltender, Ilya Bryzgalov could not stop any of the three Bruins shooters in the shootout leaving some to worry if after his hot streak he'll just be mediocre again. Boston is trying to hold off the Ottawa Senators in the Northeast. The Devils, Flyers and Penguins all benefitted from the Avalanche defeating the Rangers 3-1 thanks to Semyon Varlamov's 41-save effort.
Use the Schwartz- The St. Louis Blues became the first team to clinch a playoff birth and sit on top of the NHL standings. Even after losing Andy McDonald to injury curiosity of a Tuomo Ruttu hit on the often-injured Blues forward, the organization's endless supply of quality depth came through again. The Blues brought in Schwartz who was fresh off of his junior season at Colorado College, where he posted another point total over 40 points in 30 games as he did his sophomore year. Schwartz has great potential both in fantasy hockey and for the Blues. However he also made an immediate impact scoring last night's game winner in the 3-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning. Worth picking up now if you are desperate in a one-year league. If he has another big game or two pounce on him if he is on wire. In keepers, he probably is going to command too high of a price already for you to make a move to get him but maybe now is better than later if you are going to do it.
Got Havlat?- Chances are in most one-year leagues you don't have Havlat or if you do he has been added and dropped a few times in your league. Havlat has been a strong performer when healthy during his career and the situation is perfect for him right now in San Jose. The team is playing poorly so he'll get his chance to shine. Havlat had two goals last night against the Detroit Red Wings, including the overtime game-winning goal. If he continues to step up as a key player for the floundering Sharks, his value skyrockets. Since he has the pedigree and a situation that if he continues to produce will allow San Jose to lean on him heavily.
Hack-ing the Habit- Even though Matt Hackett is hardly to blame for the present state of the Minnesota Wild, looking down the list of Carolina Hurricanes goalscorers who combined to down the Wild, 5-3, it is far from a top-notch offense that lit him up. Whether it is Josh Harding, Niklas Backstrom or Josh Harding I don't think any of them could consistently out duel Brian Boucher, who is a back-up on a team in transition. The Wild's historic strength, defense has hardly been up to par and Minnesota's retooled offense that added Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi in the off-season has been a flop all year.
Off the Mark- It might not be fair to expect more from a player who has missed almost two full seasons but right or wrong more was expected from Andrei Markov. The good news is that he is still healthy, meaning he is still working off some of the rust. The bad news is for all the hope that he would pay immediate dividends for the Montreal Canadiens, he has not. Since his first game back on March 10 when he had an assist, Markov has not been credited with any points and now sits at a minus-three on the year. Despite the injury troubles, it is hardly time to write him off long term. However short-term it could be time to start looking elsewhere until Markov stays healthy and regains his form.