Just to start off by saying that I am Patrick, now excited to be a part of the DailyFaceoff team. I will be posting topics of interest on the Pittsburgh Penguins as well as things concerning the NHL in general, though most important to us all is Fantasy Hockey, and so that is what will get the most attention.
Even though this season no team has not avoided injuries, the Pittsburgh Penguins have no doubt been hit the hardest. With as many as five from the top 6 defensemen being off the ice, they have had to rely on their AHL callups to log the minutes. Not only that, but to ask these defensive minded guys to anchor the powerplay.
The Pens didn’t have much production, going games without a powerplay goal until breaking through against Atlanta. Yet they were still scoring significantly- 6 against Boston, 5 against Anaheim, however Sidney Crosby only had one goal over these two games, and Malkin none.
The secondary scoring, as in goalscoring, has kept Pittsburgh near the top of the division. In the last 5 games Matt Cooke and Pascal Dupuis have had only one point less that Crosby and Guerin combined at 9, and both have 4 goals through that period. Then there is Mike Rupp, who contributed early and still has 5 goals on the season, 1 behind Jordan Staal. Secondary scoring could be considered scoring from the second line, but this consistent production from the third line and beyond.
Considering how many men they are missing and have missed, anything over .500 is incredible, but there hasn’t really been much of a big deal about this, that people aren’t surprised by it, as that’s just a compliment to the organisation and it’s depth. The western road trip was ugly, but then they were without Malkin and four from six defensemen, including Gonchar, and really he is as much value, to the team and fantasy-wise, as Crosby or Malkin.
But that’s it really. That has been the only slump, winning four from 5 since then. The last two the Pens have been exposed through the neutral zone and not assuring confidence in general, but the offense is always there with 45 shots last game and 34 before that- this being with makeshift line combinations. The team does lack an edge without Chris Kunitz and the Kunitz-Crosby-Guerin line has not been used for some time, likewise with the line of Cooke-Staal-Kennedy. Throughout last year’s playoffs Pittsburgh’s lines remained relatively intact throughout, and the sooner Max Talbot is off the top line the better!
With Orpik and Gonchar back and McKee, Letang, Goligoski, Kunitz and Kennedy all back soon, Pittsburgh can finally get back to how they want to play. This season every other win has been a grind-out for the Pens, just finding different ways to win all the time. There is a point in time when that became part of their game, and that’s Bylsma. When you have a system, and stick to it, that it shouldn’t matter who is on the ice to have success, and that was clear to see last night watching them cycle the puck endlessly and then score after a minute spent in Florida’s zone.
You’d think with all this production from guys you wouldn’t expect might damage the fantasy value of the team leaders. It hasn’t. Here are some other NHL teams who have at some point been getting good production through four lines, and if there is anyone at all that should be looked at closer for fantasy consideration.
I think the Flames are the first team that comes to mind in this area. Guys like Curtis Glencross, Daymond Langkow, Nigel Dawes, and especially Rene Bourque are at least on the scoresheet every other game. When Jarome Iginla was struggling they got it done. Now Olli Jokinen has FINALLY woken up and Iginla is unstoppable. Even with winning Calgary has shuffled it’s lines around a lot, so pay attention to who wings it with Olli and Jarome, as while they are hot someone else could profit. Personally I would put Glencross there, and he and others are on the wire in my league, but because the scoring is so varied this could be frustrating if you are expecting consistency from a Flames pickup, as there will also be games where they don’t break-out.
The Blackhawks are the hottest team in the league, scoring goals for fun, and that means some production from beyond the top two lines. If there is any way to get Kris Versteeg it should be done, as he has got going as is playing on a well-balanced second line with Patrick Sharp being demoted. He should never be on the wire but I know in my league someone dropped him early on. Also Troy Brouwer has 4 points in the last 5 and is playing alongside Madden and Ladd that will have it’s moments, but Brouwer is also at the moment on the Keith and Seabrook powerplay unit which could help him continue the streak.
The Canucks rely on the third and fourth lines for penalty minutes, but have also had production quite a bit of production from Alex Burrows when he was on the third line. Now he is on the top line with the Sedins, but Steve Bernier remains there with 7 goals and 11 points from 21 games. Even if he is -5 that puts him on pace for a career year and that pace is not to dissimilar to that of a top-6 forward. Bernier was playing on the powerplay but with Daniel Sedin back Bernier will not be play a part there.
With Savard and Lucic returning some fantasy value is going to move down to the third line. Even when Boston struggled guys like Steve Begin contributed so they really do rely on all four lines for something. At the moment it looks like the third line will be Lucic-Bergeron and Recchi which could be perfect. Bergeron is still more not-owned that owned, and Marco Sturm is on a nice streak after a slow stark, producing from the third line, and he’s been rewarded being moved him up to the first line with Savard. The line of Wheeler-Krejci-Ryder I think is still one of the best that it is just a matter of time before they all light the lamp, probably sooner rather than later. All should be clear for a Bruins revival.
New York Islanders
With the welcome of John Tavares the Islanders are playing with style, and it must be disheartening to be only 11th after beating some great teams. If they keep scoring, and that’s a big if, the third line could be at the heart of it with Jeff Tambellini and Josh Bailey playing together, and it could be said that this line could be more productive than the second right now with Tambellini’s 10 points and 7 goals from 15, and Josh Bailey’s 6 goals as well as his huge potential.