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March 24, 2013
Shots On Goal
The Rundown, Week 10

by Ryan Schwepfinger

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This is crunch time. Shocking as it is, the fantasy hockey regular season is nearly at its close. For leagues that utilize playoffs, they are two to three weeks away, depending on your league's setup. For season-long rotisserie leagues, you only have five weeks to pad those crucial categories.

Surely, by now, you know your roster inside and out. You know which categories your team has no trouble amassing from week to week, and on the downside, you know where you struggle. This week, we are going to focus on that latter aspect of your roster—closing the gaps. With the season running near empty, the time is now to objectively analyze your roster and make moves with specific intentions in mind.

For many leagues, the outlet to do that is now limited to free agency, as the default trade deadline has passed. To that notion, this week, we will focus on players largely available on the waiver wire that might not be able to do it all for you, but can absolutely help you in that one category or two where you are weak.

If you are desperate for a comeback in a roto league, or on the playoff bubble in head to head, have the courage to make a swap that you probably would not have made a month ago. Consider the following example: if you lead your league in goals and shots by a wide margin (often the two are concomitant), with no one on the verge of passing you, and you have Jeff Carter on your books, what good does he provide you from here on out? Whether it is benching him for a player with much less overall skill (such as an enforcer for PIMs), or making an aggressive free agent move by dropping him, the fact is, his skillset and production this season can no longer help you moving forward. This especially holds true in full redraft leagues where he has no keeper value.

One final tip: observe the schedules very carefully. The NHL's three "big days" for games have traditionally been Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. This has been emphasized in the shortened season. For a league that has many bench spots, you can get a major jump on your competition if you utilize those spots wisely for teams that frequently play on "slow days," particularly Monday, Wednesday, and Friday—days when you only have a few players in your lineup. The goal here is to maximize those slow days.

As an example, in my league, I recently cut Cory Conacher and Cam Atkinson—not because I was unhappy with their production, but because on those "full roster" days of Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, they never saw time in my active lineup, as I always had better players active. I realized that I was better served looking ahead at the schedule and using those roster spots on players that had upcoming games on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. I have since been rotating those roster spots flexibly for this purpose, and I am able to get five to seven additional man-games per week going towards my amassed statistics.

It is especially easy to visualize what teams' players to target for this purpose using our matchup tables. Just observe who frequently plays on those off days, and target players from those teams. This week, Boston, Minnesota, Chicago, New Jersey, Phoenix, San Jose, and Anaheim play at least two games on the "slow days." Every additional man-game can go a long way towards your final ledger, and down the stretch, you need to squeeze every statistic you can out of your roster.

Speaking of the tables—this week's Cold Matchups: Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, Montreal, New York Rangers, Vancouver (New Jersey, San Jose, Detroit, Pittsburgh).

Hot Matchups: Buffalo, Tampa Bay, Washington, Colorado (Edmonton, Toronto, New York Islanders, Calgary, Dallas, Winnipeg).

Cold Offenses: Columbus, Edmonton, Nashville (Buffalo, Minnesota, Colorado, Dallas, Ottawa, Winnipeg).

Hot Offenses: St. Louis, Chicago, Montreal, Carolina (Los Angeles, Boston, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia).

  Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
  3/25 3/26 3/27 3/28 3/29 3/30 3/31
CAR   WPG   @TOR   @WPG  
WSH   NYI       @BUF @PHI
NSH EDM     PHX   @COL  
NJD @OTT       @TBL @FLA  
VAN   CBJ   COL   @EDM  
BOS TOR   MTL     @PHI @BUF
FLA   @TOR   BUF   NJD  
PIT   MTL   WPG   NYI  
BUF   @TBL   @FLA   WSH BOS
PHI   NYR   NYI   BOS WSH

If you need help on the power play, look to the Hurricanes' blue line, where injuries have taken Justin Faulk and Joe Corvo out of action. Joni Pitkanen got the lion's share of time in their last game, while Jamie McBain surprisingly received none. Short-term adds, yes, but the club has a strong schedule this week, featuring two games against the 24th ranked penalty kill in the league (Winnipeg).

Travis Zajac has lined up between Patrik Elias and David Clarkson lately, a role that is obviously suited for fantasy production, and he has responded with one goal and four assists over his last three games. It is a small sample size, but the Devils figure to lean heavily on this unit if Ilya Kovalchuk's injury keeps him out for any significant amount of time. Zajac is horribly underowned compared to his two linemates.

Naturally, shots on goal are often a statistic highly correlated to scoring, and thus, fantasy attention and ownership. Consider this exception: the Florida Panthers have slowly, quietly, been climbing up the close game Fenwick ranks, and one player who has stood out has been Peter Mueller. The former eighth overall picks ranks fifth in the entire NHL with 30 shots over the last two weeks, yet has just one point to show for his efforts.

Plus/minus is notoriously tricky to predict, and like shots, those scoring at even strength are the ones benefitting from the statistic. For our purposes, finding value lies in those players who do not score, and are thus overlooked, but can still contribute. A good example: Brooks Orpik. Orpik is a +7 over the past two weeks, while only recording one assist. That makes him largely available in fantasy leagues. With Kris Letang shelved, the Penguins have no choice but to give him even more ice time as well. Orpik is a great add for those chasing plus/minus, plus his physicality helps with hits and blocked shots as well.

  Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
  3/25 3/26 3/27 3/28 3/29 3/30 3/31
MIN @DAL   PHX   @DAL LAK  
CBJ   @VAN   @EDM @CGY   ANA
OTT NJD     NYR   TOR  
CHI LAK CGY     ANA   @DET
CGY   @CHI COL   CBJ    
NYI   @WSH   @PHI   @PIT  
TBL   BUF     NJD    
STL   EDM   LAK      
LAK @CHI     @STL   @MIN @DAL
COL     @CGY @VAN   NSH  

Credit to the Wild for turning their season around, especially lately, where their second line of Devin Setoguchi, Matt Cullen, and Pierre-Marc Bouchard have been a big reason why. Target Setoguchi for goals, and Cullen and Bouchard for assists. The trio has seen much more power play time in recent weeks as well—ride them while they are hot.

Similar to Orpik, consider Niklas Hjalmarsson if you need plus/minus. While less physical than the Pittsburgh blueliner, Hjalmarsson is another good example of the "big minutes/no offense/good team" combination that can result in a cheap plus/minus boost.

  Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
  3/25 3/26 3/27 3/28 3/29 3/30 3/31
EDM @NSH @STL   CBJ   VAN  
PHX DET   @MIN @NSH   @SJS  
DAL MIN       MIN   LAK
SJS @ANA   ANA DET   PHX  
TOR @BOS FLA   CAR   @OTT  
MTL   @PIT @BOS     NYR  
WPG   @CAR   @PIT   CAR  
DET @PHX     @SJS     CHI
NYR   @PHI   @OTT   @MTL  
ANA SJS   @SJS   @CHI   @CBJ

A sneaky add for shots on goal? Matt Irwin, who surprisingly ranks second among all defensemen over the past two weeks in the category while receiving little to no fantasy love. He has also been seeing some power play time as a bonus, and if the Sharks do move Dan Boyle at the deadline, he could see his role expand even further.

Some fantasy owners may long for a day when penalty minutes are stricken from the books as a positive statistic. Indeed, any league rule that mandates looking at Colton Orr seriously might potentially be a flaw worth inspecting. Despite this, and as dirty as this may feel for me to write, Orr's penchant for fighting could be helpful for those owners desperately needing the category. What stands out is not just his total number of PIMs, but the frequency with which he records them: he has received at least five PIMs in five of his last nine games. Richard Clune comes close, with a major in four out of his last nine, but he is now facing a suspension for yesterday's hit on Artem Anisimov. The schedule looks good for more Orr fisticuffs, as potential bouts with Shawn Thornton, George Parros, Kevin Westgarth, and Chris Neil loom this week.

It goes without saying, but Justin Abdelkader's three-goal, one-assist game on Friday in Anaheim turned some heads. He has been playing alongside Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen for a little while now, and the results have been nothing short of spectacular. With Datsyuk's playmaking skills, pick him up immediately if you need goals, or even hits.

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<< Previous Article
Angles and Caroms (03/20)
<< Previous Column
Shots On Goal (03/17)
Next Column >>
Shots On Goal (03/31)
Next Article >>
The Blue Line (03/24)

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