We are up to an even 50 games this week, and it shows on the schedule: For the first time in a couple of weeks, no team plays only one game. There is still imbalance, however, as 12 teams play four games and five teams play only twice.
Among those teams playing twice are the Tampa Bay Lightning and Buffalo Sabres, who will be packing up for a trip to Stockholm, Sweden, to square off in the home country of Rasmus Dahlin, Victor Hedman, Victor Olofsson, Marcus Johansson and Linus Ullmark. (So maybe we give the Sabres home-ice advantage, as the only Lightning player mentioned here is on the injured list.)
The Washington Capitals, Dallas Stars and Anaheim Ducks also have lighter, two-game schedules for next week. This week, we’ll take a closer look at the Stars.
On paper, this Dallas team was expected to come into the season and compete for the Central Division title. In reality, the Stars are 5-8-1, sitting 11th in the Western Conference. They have the fewest goals per game in the NHL, with 2.21, though they are top-10 in goals-against per game at 2.71.
The goals against are not a concern. Ben Bishop has looked rock solid playing behind a strong defense. His ratios are just fine. If he had a handful of additional wins, he’d be a top-10 goaltender. As it stands, his goals-against average and save percentage are helping your team. It’s just the lack of wins that hurts, and that’s not his problem.
That problem lies squarely at the doorstep of Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn and the rest of this offense.
This was Seguin’s worst healthy October of his career, with just three goals and nine points. Shockingly, he has just two power-play points, with the Stars’ power play scoring only four goals on 40 attempts. Seguin has 81 power-play points over the previous three seasons combined. That represents 35% of his scoring, so it’s a significant part of his profile. Part of the problem here is that Seguin isn’t letting loose as often as he should be. He’s on pace to take almost 100 fewer shots than his usual output.
I want to blame the inconsistent lines for part of Seguin’s slow start. Rarely have I seen a team mess with its combinations as frequently — even in the early part of a season. Perhaps Wednesday’s contest will remind coach Jim Montgomery that his top trio might be best left alone on a line together.
The game started with Corey Perry playing on a line with Seguin and Benn. The Stars were down 3-0 as the clock ticked down on the second period. Alexander Radulov was moved back to his familiar spot with Seguin and Benn. The trio would account for nine points as the Stars marched back to a 6-3 victory.
The power play is another matter altogether, but it sure would be nice to see this trio left alone at the top of the depth chart to get their groove back. Seguin and Radulov would be my top targets, but all three players could be part of some trade discussions to bolster your team. Their value probably won’t get any lower than it will be over the next week.
Then there’s the defense. Is the John Klingberg era over as the reign of Miro Heiskanen begins? It sure as heck looks that way after the first 14 games of the season. Heiskanen has three goals, eight points, is plus-4 (on a minus-8 overall team) and leads all Stars in ice time per game. Klingberg has one goal, three points and is minus-10. Between them, Klingberg has the only power-play point — an assist. While Klingberg still leads in power-play ice time, its not a huge gap (40:05 to 30:36). Really, the deciding factor is probably going to be luck; whichever player is on the power-play unit when it starts clicking will stay there.
I wouldn’t bet against Klingberg fueling a power-play resurgence for the club, but I’m not betting on it. He’s not a trade target for me, but I’d hang on if I had him. It’s too soon to throw in the towel. In the meantime, Heiskanen should be a lock in all leagues. If your league is one of the 20% in which he’s a free agent, act now. His stats are already fantasy-relevant in all leagues. If he ends up being the one to get the power play going, he has top-20-defenseman upside.
What of Joe Pavelski, Roope Hintz or Corey Perry? Maybe Denis Gurianov? Pavelski and Hintz should be rostered in all leagues, and I’m holding Pavelski until I see this offense find its footing. Hintz, I’m shopping around. He’s popped too many goals on too few shots to start the campaign and still has only one assist.
Perry and Gurianov are speculative, at best. They could find a role that’s relevant, but it’s far from a sure thing. I’d consider rostering in leagues that have 250 or more players.
Fantasy Forecaster: Nov. 4 to Nov. 10
For those new to the forecaster chart, here are some explanations: “O” (offense), which is on the left for each game, and “D” (defense), on the right, matchup ratings are based on a scale from 1 (poor matchup) to 10 (excellent matchup) and are calculated using a formula that evaluates the team’s season-to-date statistics, their performance in home/road games depending on where the game is to be played, as well as their opponents’ numbers in those categories. The “Ratings” column lists the cumulative rating from 1 to 10 of that week’s offensive (“O”) and defensive (“D”) matchups.
In the notes below, the focus every week will be mainly on players that are available for potential use. Ownership below 50 percent of ESPN leagues is generally a good cutoff. I’ll try to also include players below 10% ownership whenever possible to cater to deeper formats.
Arizona Coyotes: Give me some shares of Christian Dvorak next week. He’s rocking the top line with Phil Kessel and Clayton Keller, while sticking with the duo on the top power-play unit for the Coyotes. There haven’t been a lot of results to show for it, but Dvorak is a free pickup in most leagues and the Coyotes play four games next week.
New York Rangers: Mika Zibanejad could make his return this weekend from an upper-body injury, but even if he does, I still think there might finally be something there with Ryan Strome. He has a five-game point streak with eight total points, playing largely with Artemi Panarin. But even if Zibanejad returns, there is enough firepower on this offense to go around if Strome is separated from Panarin. When I really buy in is when Strome stays on the top power play with Zibanejad also healthy. In the meantime, it’s a good week to try to get ahead of the potential curve here, as Strome and the Rangers play four times, are mostly at home and get some softer opponents (Ottawa, Detroit).
And while I’m not completely out on Jacob Trouba, who was one of my favorite sleepers during the offseason, Tony DeAngelo is the man for now. He’s available in more than 40% of ESPN leagues and has eight points this season — with six of them coming in the past four games (two on the power play, where he quarterbacks the top unit).
Chicago Blackhawks: The Hawks have a four-game schedule on tap too, and there are plenty of doors open to getting a piece of the offense at the moment. Ryan Carpenter has played a couple of games as the third member of a line with Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome. The trio went off on Sunday (Carpenter was plus-3) but were held in check on Tuesday. Carpenter could be a short-term asset in deeper leagues. Kirby Dach, meantime, continues to try to find a role in the offense. His most recent assignment was with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. If he manages to hit on some points this weekend, he could be an asset next week. If he has a quiet weekend, stay away.
P.S. – It’s time to get Robin Lehner on rosters even in shallow leagues. The Blackhawks can’t keep up this charade of starting Corey Crawford with regularity for long. The chasm between their ratios is growing.
Calle Jarnkrok, W, Nashville Predators: Even with everyone healthy, Jarnkrok stayed in the Predators’ top six. He stuck with Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson, while Filip Forsberg joined Mikael Granlund and Matt Duchene. That’s some lofty company to be hanging out with and Jarnkrok has six points in his past five to show for it.
Joonas Donskoi, W, Colorado Avalanche: You have to pick him up given the circumstances, and he has goals in two straight, but Donskoi has fallen flat in previous top-line opportunities over the years, so don’t blow your FAAB budget or anything. But with both Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog sidelined, Donskoi has a chance to hang out with Nathan MacKinnon for the coming week(s).
The current rotation has Thomas Greiss starting two of the New York Islanders’ three games next week. That’s a no-brainer stream, especially with the Senators as one of the opponents.