Tonight is another action-packed Saturday in the National Hockey League that will give some fantasy owners that big push needed to move up in the standings, and leave others falling further out of reach. There is also likely to be a lot of movement in the Eastern and Western Conference at the end of the night, as five out of the twelve games are divisional match-ups. I am going to focus mainly on the game in Nashville, where a lot is at stake in the Central division.
Red Wings @ Predators fantasy breakdown
I saw Detroit’s game against Anaheim last night, and despite the Red Wings prevailing in overtime, it wasn’t a convincing performance by any means. The Ducks are still the worst team in the Western Conference and Jean-Sebastian Gigeure didn’t assure much confidence with the goals he allowed, though owners of Todd Bertuzzi won’t mind that as he recorded two goals on the night. It’s still been a pretty disappointing season for Bertuzzi so far, especially considering he has played most games alongside Pavel Datysuk. Though would it be a bit of a stretch to expect more of Bertuzzi? Well, it certainly looks like his 85 and 97 point seasons with the Canucks are were in the past, and a 60 point season should be at least what he was aiming for this season, but he is only on course for 40 at his current pace. The Red Wings have been disappointing for fantasy owners across the board this season, though there have been a few exceptions. Henrik Zetterberg has 32 points from 31 games- a great pace on a team which has been hit hard with injuries and if he continues getting a point per-game it will be one of his best ever seasons.
Tomas Holmstrom has also been a worthy acquisition for fantasy owners, leading the team with 12 goals on the season. As impressive as that is it also highlights the team’s scoring problems. It was a huge display of confidence in the organisation when the team let the scoring talent of Marian Hossa (40 goals last year), Mikael Samuelsson (19), and Jiri Hudler (23) leave during the summer, but it hasn’t worked out they way fans would have hoped. Bringing in Todd Bertuzzi and Jason Williams wasn’t really replacing that scoring to its previous capacity in the first place, and even if guys like Ville Leino would be scoring more, you just felt that with losing so much, especially a 40-goal scorer, and bringing in so little, that this season would be tough.
The Red Wings have suffered big-time in terms of injuries, with the biggest being Johan Franzen, whose impressive goalscoring numbers so far allowed the team to let Marian Hossa go, and he could well have broken the 40-goal mark if he was healthy. With the injuries to Valterri Filpulla and Jason Williams the Wings has chosen to center Datysuk between Bertuzzi and Holmstrom for most the year, but it’s been consistently bad set-up, and ended up damaging Pavel’s ability to produce. Now despite all of the men lost, all scoring talent is now on the top line of Zetterberg-Datsyuk-Holmstrom, which should really help the team and fantasy owners, and it’s great to see this line back together. On the back end Nicklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski have had two of the biggest drop-offs for anyone in the league, considering they were both amonst the league leaders last year with totals just under 60 points. Lidstrom and Rafalski are still 95 and 91 percent owned respectively, so owners are just praying for a better second-half, though with only three goals combined it would be understandable to want a change. Especially with Nicklas Kronwall out of action it’s been a poor offensive year overall for Detroit so far.
The Predators have been surprising everyone this year, including myself who had them down as a contender for next year’s no.1 pick because of their lack of offence. Even though they still lack the big scorers in that area to justify any kind of big fantasy investment, they still haven’t really slowed since getting hot and that’s pretty amazing. Nashville won the first meeting against Detroit this year, had a 3-3 record against them last year (which is also surprising since they missed the playoffs and Detroit placed 2nd), including a 8-0 win in Nashville.
Martin Erat has been the hottest Pred with six goals in his last four, including a hat-trick against Vancouver where Pekka Rinne got the better of Roberto Luongo. Erat has a five-game points streak making him one of the hottest forwards in the league overall, causing many to fetch him off the wire. Erat showed signs of greatness earlier in the season, but now he is performing consistently well. Even if he will slump soon for fantasy owners, the general chance of his being on the scoresheet is much greater than the beginning of the season, but Jason Arnott is still the best producer with 11 goals and 20 points. Nashville will need Erat and Arnott to continue playing well as J.P Dumont has been struggling with no points in four, and Patric Hornqvist has been horrific with just one goal in his last thirteen games.
The main defensive unit of Shea Weber and Ryan Suter has been pretty solid as would be expected, but could be doing alot more to help the team offensively. Weber is a popular choice for Team Canada and with one of the best shots in the league should be doing better than the underwhelming total of 6 goals and 16 points. If he doesn’t ramp it up will fall short of his impressive 53 point total for last year, which included 23 goals. Suter is also on a slow pace, but looks more likely to match his 2008-09 total of 45 points.
Jimmy Howard has been outstanding recently, but Red Wings fans will look on nervously as Chris Osgood will be between the pipes tonight as Howard played last night. Ozzy hasn’t played for a week and has certainly been the weaker goaltender overall with a current 2.75GAA and a pretty awful .896sv%. He has only made .900 once in his past five starts, and that was exactly .900. Pekka Rinne, has been a bit shaky at times, will be at the other end. His stats certainly aren’t the best, but he is still the Pred’s best bet in goal and when good is outstanding with 3 shutouts already that helped his team climb into a playoff spot.
With the Blackhawks not taking opportunities to extend their lead atop the Central division a win for Nashville would propel them to being only a point back of Chicago. Though it looks like the Red Wings really need this one more, as they have the Canucks, Blue Jackets and Oilers all only a point behind him, and are therefore still closer to being overtaken than overtaking anyone themselves.
Remaining divisional matchups tonight:
Philadelphia Flyers (29pts) @ New Jersey Devils (43pts)
San Jose Sharks (45pts) @ Phoenix Coyotes (38pts)
Minnesota Wild (33pts) @ Vancouver Canucks (34pts)
Dallas Stars (37pts) @ Los Angeles Kings (43pts)