Dropping the Gloves is a new series in which Cameron Chase and Alexander Monaghan share their weekly thoughts on fantasy hockey via email. The main purpose of the article is to entertain so keep in mind that the contents may, or may not, be factual. Feel free to gripe in the comments.
If I were a betting man, chances are, I would be broke. I don’t typically place wagers simply because I understand the value of the dollar, and the hard work entailed in earning that dollar. Having said that, there are times that call for exceptions — notably the playoffs — so let’s call for a friendly wager.
Let’s chose one goalie, one defenseman, and one forward who we think will tear it up for the remainder of the stretch drive. One exception: they can’t be very popular in fantasy hockey circles.
Starting up front, my man is Mikael Samuelsson. Owned in only 11 percent of Yahoo! leagues, this guy is a trigger-man for hire. Playing with the talented duo of Sean Bergenheim and Marcel Goc, the 35-year-old looks like he found new legs. Furthermore, the veteran looks to be finally over his season-ending surgery that prevented him from playing in the Stanley Cup Finals.
Back when he played on Vancouver, there was a phrase to describe his talents. I believe it was: “Everything Samuelsson touches turns to goal”. And while his goal scoring talents may have been aided by playing with the Sedins on the PP, the Swedish winger has a knack for stepping up in big games. He can keep up with the stars in Vancouver and Detroit before that and now that winning mentality is spreading to Florida.
The Panthers have a chance at taking the second playoff seed from the Boston Bruins should they continue their winning ways. With Kris Versteeg now healthy and added to an already talented PP unit alongside Tomas Fleischmann, Stephen Weiss, and Brian Campbell, Samuelsson should be primed to continue his steady pace.
The Cats surprised everyone by becoming the real deal in the face of adversity. Take solace in knowing they should continue to play well as the season ends.
You’re definitely onto something there, Samuelsson was my sleeper pick in one of my leagues and although he did miss a substantial part of the season; lately he has risen up (line-by-line) on Florida. He will definitely do some damage on this last stretch before the playoffs.
The forward that I’m going to “draft” (so to speak) will have to be member of the Pittsburgh Penguins that has really capitalized from the return of Sid the Kid: Matt Cooke. Now, this pick largely relies on the hopes that Cooke stays on the Crosby line, which would be the obvious way to go considering the chemistry Crosby, Cooke and Kennedy, has displayed in the games following Crosby’s return. Plus the damage that Neal, Malkin and Kunitz have been dealing is not something the Pens coaching staff would want
to mess with.
The Pens have pretty much locked down that playoff spot but they haven’t skipped a beat in this last stretch before the playoffs. It appears that they are looking to take top spot league from St. Louis and the title of “best in the west” from the Rangers. It’ll be interesting to see who ends up in what position after these next few games before the season runs out. Looking for player’s like Matt Cooke in the next week or two would be ideal for fantasy pools that involve salary caps, because then you’d be getting Crosby-like points, without Crosby-like prices.
Assuming this little thing we have going here is a Snake-type of draft; that would mean I pick next and I’m going with a d-man. I’m going with Oliver Ekman-Larsson; the defenseman so nice, they named him twice. Everyone had high hopes for this Phoenix rookie defenseman at the beginning of the season but sadly those hopes slowly dwindled away over the course of the season. Recently though, as Phoenix has been caught up in a battle with teams like Calgary, Los Angeles, Colorado and San Jose, Ekman-Larsson has put up some decent points for the team, gathering up 6 points (4 goals/2 assist) in the past week.
Although Ekman-Larsson has been flip-flopping between the first and second line on the Phoenix’s defensive pairings; he has been able to keep his cozy position on the PP. This is also a player that I’m going to keep in mind not only for the playoffs (that is if the Coyotes make it in) and possibly even next year as a good sleeper pick.
Crazy how much better playing with Sidney Crosby makes Matt Cooke. I mean the guy was always decent in deeper leagues because he’s one of the few guys who post over 100 PIM, 10 goals and don’t kill you everywhere else. But jeez, four goals in four games makes him look like Jari Kurri to Crosby’s Wayne. Just insane.
As far as my d-man, I reluctantly would have to choose Marek Zidlicky. With the Wild, the grizzled veteran simply looked done. There was no zip on his shot, the passes weren’t as crisp either. His poor attitude to basically his first NHL benching also didn’t go a long way but the New Jersey Devils still sent a bounty — Steph Veilleux, Nick Palmieri, Kurtis Foster, a pick, three chickens and a cown– to Minnesota for the aging d-man. And despite my doubts, the guy still has it in him.
Playing decent minutes at even strength — he averages about 17 minutes — and mounds of time on the PP, Zidlicky has come alive. Playing on a unit with Zach Parise, David Clarkson, Ilya Kovalchuk and one of Adam Henrique or Patrik Elias certainly can pad stats. The Devils are currently in the playoff mix, and won’t slip out of it. Grab Zidlicky while you still can, or don’t, and regret it.
With my final pick in this made up entry draft, my guy is Michal Neuvirth. Tomas Vokoun is still hurting and unavailable to play for a few more days while Neuvy and Braden Holtby should hold down the fort. The Caps have been excellent as of late and should make a late surge into the playoffs. You know what that means: wins.
Neuvirth gets a lot of chirps mainly because he isn’t flashy. Despite the criticism, however, the team thought enough of him to keep him over Semyon Varlamov and to start him in the playoffs last season. No reason to doubt good hockey minds in this case, well, unless you don’t want to win your league. In that case, go back to playing lacrosse, or something.
Oh, there is doubt in my mind that Neuvirth will be doing his absolutely best to keep the Caps within those top 8 seats. However, the real question there is; will the struggling Washington defense be able to help Neuvirth out in these last few games before the playoffs? They do seemed to be tighter out there on the ice recently, but as fast as it takes for a defensive pairing can get their “groove” back; they can collapse just as fast. I have faith in Neuvirth but those Caps; they need to keep their head up.
Saying that; the goalie I’m drafting is for a team that really doesn’t have a chance of even coming close to playoff seat. Which may go against the whole point of this “draft”, but at the same time this goalie is still playing like they’re in the run for that 8th seat. Devan Dubnyk of the Edmonton Oilers has a stock photo that resembles my six-year-old cousin but he has really stepped up in Khabibulin’s place.
Even though the Oiler’s are a lost cause for the playoffs, especially with Hall now out and Khabibulin falling off the face of the planet, but this didn’t stop Dubnyk from giving it his all. He’s played very well considering the lacking Edmonton defense (similar to Neuvirth) posting up five wins in his past 8 starts with one shutout and an overall .927 save percentage.
Not only does this pick seems a bit unorthodox cause it’s Edmonton; it also seems somewhat sacrilegious since I’m a Flames fan to the bone (you could even say I’m a “flamer”). There’s one thing I cherish more than patriotism…and that’s defeating the other guys in my fantasy leagues. I tend to get pretty competitive like that.