Welcome back to another exciting edition of The Puck Stops Here. I have watched about 50 hockey games so far this season and the Pens-Red Wings game on Tuesday was by far the best game I have seen this young season. I am pretty sure it is the best game of the year so far. Both teams picked up right where they left off last June. An ESPN hockey analyst commented that this is what game seven would have looked like. You rarely see regular season hockey played so well and so hard. Of course, I may have appreciated the game more than others because of being a Pens fan.
My love for the Pens can also help your fantasy team. Based on what I have seen lately, I can make a couple recommendations for you. First and foremost, Jordan Staal, C, Pittsburgh, looks to be coming out of his shell. After recording only 3 assists in all of October, Staal has 5 goals and 1 assist in 4 November games. I doubt Staal becomes a point-per-game kind of player but he showed his rookie season that he has some scoring touch. If he gets significant minutes on the second line with Malkin and Sykora, you could see a much more productive Staal. He was dropped in many leagues because of a horrible October, but he may be worth a look again. I may still be excited from what I watched on Tuesday, but it has been a long time since I have seen a player take over a game and will his team to victory.
Max Talbot, C, Pittsburgh, is receiving significant minutes on Sidney Crosby’s line and has been producing because of it. He had a goal and assist against Detroit and has 3 goals and an assist in his last 4 games. If Talbot continues to play with Sid, he is fantasy relevant, but if he drops back to the third line then he isn’t worth owning. Also, keep an eye on Mike Zigomanis, C, Pittsburgh. He has been getting ice time with the top power play unit as a face off specialist to ensure the Pens take advantage of face offs. However, that primo ice time will result in an increase in production. He was on the ice for the Pens’ 5 on 3 in the third period against Detroit. He isn’t worth adding yet, but keep an eye on this situation. Lastly, right now might be a good time to buy low Ryan Whitney who will be back in a couple of weeks. The Pens look to be hitting their stride and this win could catapult them the way beating Ottawa in late November last year really got them going.
Ok, enough about the ‘Guins. Let’s take a look at some other players you should be keeping an eye on.
Rob Blake, D, San Jose – Blake had a pretty slow October, but has picked it up recently and has 5 points in his last 6 games with 3 of those points coming on the power play. I am surprised that Blake is currently a -2, but that should improve as he continues to get some consistency. San Jose has an incredible team +/- so Blake should have no problem improving his. Blake will also provide solid PIM and will continue to produce decent power play numbers. He is at worst a very good #4 defenseman and a solid #3.
Jason Williams, RW, Atlanta – It took Williams a month to realize the season started but he has 4 goals and 2 assists in his last 5 games with 3 of the goals coming on the power play. Williams is logging significant ice time on Ilya Kovalchuk’s even strength and power play line. Kovalchuk is one of those rare players that make his line mates better simply by being on the ice with him. Williams has shown significant talent in the past and he may be starting a productive stretch. If you have a player that you aren’t crazy about, I would roll the dice with Williams.
Luca Sbisa, D, Philadelphia – Sbisa was the Flyers’ first round pick last June and is being given every opportunity to flourish in a high-powered offense. Sbisa has 6 points in his last 9 games and is continuously becoming a better defenseman. As an 18-year old rookie, he will have his ups and downs, but I believe the ups will vastly outweigh the downs. He is getting significant ice time, averaging above 20 minutes per game, and is also getting plenty of time on the power play. If you are in a keeper league, you need to get Sbisa and hold onto him. In a non-keeper league Sbisa could be a very inexpensive but solid #4 defenseman.
Lee Stempniak, RW, St. Louis – I played against Stempniak in both amateurs and in prep school and this kid can flat out play. He never overly impressed anyone with his raw talent but he always seemed to find a way to get things done. After a very solid sophomore season, Stempniak struggled last year, but seems to be hitting his stride recently. Stempniak has 2 goals and 5 assists, including 3 power play assists in his last 5 games. Like Williams, this could be a sign of things to come. If you have a player to get rid of grab Stempniak, take a wait and see approach, but if he keeps this up you will not be able to wait long.
As with any SportsJudge.com article, feel free to post a comment or question. Until next week, The Puck Stops Here.