Brooks Orpik is quite the destructive force. Some Pittsburgh Penguins fans even believe that he’s self-destructive, as his acumen has been questioned by more than a few observers.
His hard-hitting ways have certainly made a wave, as he’s injured important players from the two teams that played in the 2013 Stanley Cup Final. Earlier this season, Orpik’s hit on Boston Bruins forward Loui Eriksson inspired a tidal wave of ugly retribution. Now you can add Chicago Blackhawks star Jonathan Toews to the … hit list.
That hit will keep Toews out for the remainder of the regular season, and who knows how close he’ll be to top form when the first game of the postseason begins. If your league allows you to drop Toews, it's obviously time to make that uncomfortable decision (obviously don't do that in keeper leagues, though).
(I joked that the Colorado Avalanche keep getting lucky breaks when it appeared that Patrick Kane might limp into the playoffs … now this is just growing kind of ridiculous.)
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BLESSING IN DISGUISE - IN REAL LIFE, AT LEAST
From a reality standpoint, this could be a blessing in disguise if Toews and Kane will indeed be 100 percent by the postseason (a very iffy if, if you will, Biff). There’s word that Kane may start skating again, and while I understand the upside of shaking off rust, I’d err on the side of safety for Chicago.
Honestly, teams like the Blackhawks should take this closing stretch as a chance to rest people up. If the Detroit Red Wings keep winning on the heels of impressive play by Gustav Nyquist (and Tomas Jurco, and Tomas Tatar), then why roll the dice too much with Pavel Datsyuk’s knee? Sports Club Stats give the Red Wings a 93.7 percent chance to make the playoffs in their current state.
I’d probably rest some combination of Marian Hossa, Corey Crawford and so on if I’m the ‘Hawks. They’re clearly locked into a playoff series against Colorado (almost sure to start in Colorado), so why push a team that has accrued a lot of mileage with that Stanley Cup run and the heavy Olympic usage?
(Again, I’d apply the same logic to other teams who are unlikely to see their position change. Why not rest up various Los Angeles Kings, Pittsburgh Penguins, Tampa Bay Lightning and Montreal Canadiens?)
A SHAW THING
The Blackhawks are probably going to be in cruise control going forward, which isn’t great for fantasy owners. Especially if Chicago follows my not-so-fantasy-friendly advice.
As far as who might gain a boost from Toews’ injury, it sounds like Andrew Shaw (only owned in 23 percent of Yahoo leagues) will be that guy. The short version is that I think you should give him a shot, especially if you start calling him “The Chain Shaw.”
Long version: Shaw actually hasn’t been half-bad in fantasy this season to begin with it.
He's already dwarfed previous career-highs in goals (19), assists (17), points (36) and games played (74). Most importantly, the 22-year-old is useful in the grit categories; he has 74 PIM (and is averaging just over one per game in his career with 162 in 159 games), he's been a respectable - though not standout - SOG guy with 141 and has an enticing 158 hits.
Honestly, if he stayed on that trajectory, he's already worth adding as a depth option in leagues with PIM and hits. He's done this all with a TOI average of 15:24 this season, so more ice time and a plum assignment could be nice.
Granted, the Blackhawks could also struggle and he could have issues facing tougher competition, but I think it's easily worth taking a shot. Shaw seems to me to be a poor man's Brad Marchand. In reality ... that's not very good, but it's intriguing in fantasy.
UPDATED COYOTES VS. STARS BATTLE
Boy, things sure have moved in the Dallas Stars’ favor lately. If you’re hoping to see more teams shrug their shoulders and go for it on offense, you have to at least be a little pleased that a fun-but-flawed team might beat out the old guard (traditionally bland, although ohmygoodness the Phoenix Coyotes are actually scoring this season).
Anyway, here’s a quick look at what the two teams are up against in the stretch run:
Dallas: 85 points, 75 games played, 37 wins, 34 ROW
The Stars actually have an outside chance of catching the Minnesota Wild for the top wild card spot (which I'd wager would be ideal for the Stars, as potential second seed Anaheim strikes me as an easier matchup than the likely conference No. 1 St. Louis). Anyway, the Stars have an intriguing closing schedule.
They've won the first two games of their five-game road trip, beating the mighty Blues and throttling the Capitals. They face the Hurricanes in Carolina on Thursday, the Lightning in Tampa Bay on Saturday and then the Panthers in Florida on Sunday. If you're the Stars, you have to look at that as a three-game stretch in which anything less than four points would be disappointing.
After that, it's a three-game homestand (Nashville, Columbus, St. Louis), which could be at least a little easier if the Blues decide to rest up late in the season.
Finally, there's that final game against the Coyotes in Phoenix. We'll see if that's a do-or-die game ... the Stars have enough tiebreaker advantages right now that Phoenix needs this seesaw to move in a different direction.
Phoenix: 85 points, 77 games played, 36 wins, 30 ROW
As bleak as things look for Phoenix, the Coyotes enjoy an easier - if briefer with two fewer games remaining - closing schedule. They face the lowly Oilers in Phoenix Friday, the desperate Blue Jackets in Columbus with a nice break on April 8, the unpredictable Predators in Nashville on April 10 and then a home game against the San Jose Sharks. The hope for Phoenix would be that San Jose is already locked into its spot and takes it easy on that night.
That would be big, because while the Stars visit the 'Yotes in Phoenix, the Coyotes close things out with back-to-back games (San Jose on Saturday [April 12] and Stars on Sunday [April 13]).
Again, the Stars have some tiebreaker advantages, so it's plausible that the Coyotes could be mathematically eliminated in Game 82. The good news for fantasy owners is that they absolutely need to win every game (so hopefully they'll send more than 17 pathetic SOG like they did against the Kings on Wednesday).
I think Tomas Tatar (15 percent) is at least worth a look. Interesting, he has identical offensive numbers as Andrew Shaw: both have 19 goals and 17 assists for 36 points so far. Tatar isn't as much of hits and PIM beast, but he's reasonable enough in those areas. Tatar wouldn't top my list, but he'd still be a (resists saying saucy) solid pick … Carl Soderberg should be on your radar, too, even if it's for next season. He has 15 points in his last 18 games ... Remember all that "only one 100-point scorer" talk? It would be surprising if there's more than one 50-goal man, as Alex Ovechkin seems likely to hit that mark (48 goals) while Corey Perry has a shot (41). Pretty amazing to ponder where Steve Stamkos (23 goals in 31 games) would rank if he stayed healthy this season, however … I wouldn't blow things up if I were the Ottawa Senators, as the last two seasons probably inflated the value of a team that still needs some tweaks to be a contender. Personally, I'd try to add Ales Hemsky and maybe let Milan Michalek walk (or take a pay cut), add a solid free agent defenseman bargain (Ron Hainsey? Tom Gilbert?), lock up Robin Lehner for cheaper than expected and then hope Craig Anderson rebounds in a contract year (not outside the realm of reason, by any means).