NHL Fantasy Hockey: Week Two Preview (Jan. 28 – Feb. 3)

Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury

For most people, Week One was a roller-coaster of emotions.

If you stockpiled San Jose Sharks on your squad, you probably have a big lead going into this last day. If you relied on goalies like Jon Quick, Henrik Lundqvist, Jimmy Howard, Mike Smith or Cam Ward (all Tier One goalies, mind you), then you’re probably in a world of hurt.

Luckily for most, there’s either 10 or 11 weeks left in the fantasy hockey regular season. So although you never like putting yourself behind the 8-ball this early in the year, I assure you there won’t be four San Jose Sharks players in the top-12 in scoring at the end of the year. You have to give things time to normalize.

So let’s take a look at the second week of this fantasy season, along with brief notes about some of the teams along with goalies/skaters I really like/dislike for the upcoming week.

Two-Game Teams

Believe it or not, in this condensed schedule, there are teams that will still play just two games in a normal week. These two teams are: Calgary Flames and St. Louis Blues. 

If you have to lock in your roster at the start of the week or unless your hands are tied, there is no one on either team I would feel 100% comfortable in starting. Two games is just not enough. Miikka Kiprusoff isn’t off to a hot start and neither St. Louis goalie has played above the other yet. Also, beyond super-rookie Vladimir Tarasenko, there’s no one dynamic enough to make me bet just two games on a studly effort.

Three-Game Teams

New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist
New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist (30) watches the puck during the second period against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center. Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Anaheim, Carolina, Chicago, Detroit, Florida, Los Angeles, Minnesota, Nashville, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia, San Jose, Tampa Bay, Toronto, Vancouver, Winnipeg

This is a big week for Florida. With just one win so far and two division games this week, I hate to say it’s do or die so early, but two points after your first seven or eight games might be do or die. With all their injuries, I don’t expect much from them. Sometimes starting on the road is a good thing for a team; the Chicago Blackhawks are 4-0 on the road this year and play three road games this week. They play their games at Minnesota, Vancouver and Calgary. While they are not easy places to play, those three teams are a combined 4-4-1 at home to start the season, not overwhelming by any stretch. Nashville, on the other hand, is 1-1-1 on the road and have three tough road contests in Phoenix, Los Angeles and San Jose. I can’t

recommend to sit Rinne, but if you have other options I would explore them further. Remember when I talked about pain for Henrik Lundqvist this past week? Well the Rangers’ three games this week are vs Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and on the road at Tampa Bay. We know how good Pittsburgh is; Philadelphia has scored 10 goals in their last two games; Tampa Bay is T-1st for most goals scored in the NHL so far this season. For those hoping this week would be a turnaround for Lundqvist, I doubt that is the case. Both San Jose (vs. Anaheim, Edmonton, Nashville) and Tampa Bay (Florida, Winnipeg, Rangers) have all three of their games this week at home and are two of the top three teams in goals-for at home this season. Send ’em all in there! Finally, if you have Ondrej Pavelec, this is a good week for him as he plays in Montreal, then at home against Florida and Tampa Bay. Winnipeg‘s MTS Centre is a safe-haven it seems for the Jets and I would start him with confidence.

Four-Game Teams

Boston, Buffalo, Colorado, Columbus, Dallas, Edmonton, Montreal, New Jersey, Ottawa, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Washington

If you have any offensive players from these teams, get them in your lineup. Four games is too much to pass up from a seven-day week. Both Boston (@Carolina/Toronto, vs. New Jersey/Buffalo) and Buffalo (@Bos, vs. Toronto/Montreal/Florida) have soft-ish schedules, so start Miller and Rask with confidence. Like Florida, this will be a big week for Colorado. Sitting eighth in the West, they have four division games this week, three on the road against Edmonton, Vancouver and Calgary and one at home against Edmonton again. With such an up-and-down start to his season, I’d be wary of throwing Varlamov in if you are locking your roster. For those waiting for a Devan Dubnyk week, this isn’t it. Edmonton has those two games with Colorado, plus road games at Phoenix and San Jose. Start The Kids, sit the Doober. This is a mixed-bag week for the New Jersey Devils. They have tough games in Pittsburgh and Boston and a home-and-home with the Islanders. Martin Brodeur is off to a great start this season so this week will be a good test for him and the team. I would fully expect the Ottawa train to keep on rolling. They have a home-and-home with Montreal this week, they get a hot-and-cold Carolina team in Raleigh and a home game against the pathetic Capitals. Get all of your Senators in there. If you’re riding the tandem of Fleury and Vokoun, you should have a good week and so should Pittsburgh. Their four games are in New York (Rangers) and Washington and at home against the Islanders and Devils. Only one of those teams (the Islanders, surprisingly) are currently a top-10 team in goals-for. If you are waiting for the Holtby/Neuvirth situation to play out in Washington this week, I doubt it will. They are on the road against Ottawa and Toronto and at home for Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Three of those four teams are top-12 in terms of goals-for and Philadelphia is getting hotter.

Despite what I’ve said already, there are specific skaters and goalies that I love this week. No, they won’t be Stamkos, Malkin and Crosby. Rather, the skaters will be borderline players that some guys might not start, I will provide three of each from the forwards back to the goalies.

Three Forwards I Love This Week

Cory Conacher (C/LW – TBL) – This one might seem fairly obvious given the week he just had (2G, 5A). However, he may have not gained some people’s trust because he is not a proven player yet. With Tampa’s schedule this week, three home games against two weak-ish teams and a Jekyll-and-Hyde Rangers team, it gives me the confidence I need to start him. These are the types of players where you have to ride the wave until they give you a reason not to. He was put on a line with Vincent Lecavalier last game which is cause for concern, but he still managed two assists that game and gets the PP time still. Coach Guy Boucher is a notorious line-up mangler, so as long as he doesn’t start finding third-line minutes, let it ride!

Jamie Benn (C/LW – DAL) – Dallas has four games this week, lots of time for Benn to get back into the swing of things after just inking his new 5-year contract. Although he (at time of writing) is still waiting on his work VISA, the hope is he will be ready for Monday night’s game. I imagine he will be thrust into top-6 minutes right away with power-play time, so for those concerned with his ice-time, I am not.

Ales Hemsky (RW – EDM) – I know he’s as brittle as a porcelain doll. But I’ve watched every Oilers game so far this season and he has been absolutely flying. He only has two points in his first four games, but they both came on the power-play. Edmonton does have three road games this week including Colorado, San Jose and Phoenix, but I like the fact that they play four games this week. Hemsky’s PDO of 813 means there should be a huge turnaround coming for him soon.

Three Defensemen I Love

Buffalo Sabres defenseman Christian Ehrhoff
Buffalo Sabres defenseman Christian Ehrhoff during the game against the Minnesota Wild at the First Niagara Center. Sabres beat the Wild 3-1.  Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Christian Ehrhoff (D – BUF) – Putting up three assists in four games is nothing to sneeze at from a D-man. But over his last three games he’s been on the power-play 75% of the time for Buffalo and he’s already shown a penchant for putting up double-digit goal totals. I would expect that with four more games this week and all that man-advantage time he’ll find the back of the net sometime this week. They have a soft schedule this week and I’m expecting big things from Ehrhoff.

As a package pair, I will include Alex Goligoski and Stéphane Robidas (D – DAL) together. Quietly, they are both top-15 skaters this year in terms of plus/minus (+6 for Robidas, +5 for Goligoski). They are playing together for the most part and with the return of Jamie Benn, that power-play should get a big shot in the arm. These two guys are on the power-play pretty much the entire time, so I’m expecting better things (although their 82-game pace is impressive already). Not to mention their four games this week are a home-and-home with an unimpressive Phoenix team and two road games against the lowly Blue Jackets and enigmatic Red Wings.

Three Goalies I Love

As explained above in the team notes, I love the tandem of Marc-André Fleury and Tomas Vokoun (G – PIT) this week. They have an easy-ish schedule and should come out of this week with at least two wins. Obviously if you are locking rosters, Fleury is the one to start. However, if you have the option of substituting players, going between these two should be fine for this week.

Antti Niemi (G – SJS) – He has three wins already this season and with Thomas Greiss starting last night with three home games this week, Niemi could be in line for three more against Anaheim, Edmonton and Nashville. All three teams have looked bad at times this season and San Jose has already spanked Edmonton. This is one of those cases where Niemi won’t have to stand on his head to get the wins and if he does, it’s a bonus.

Three Forwards I Hate

For my first one, I’ll just say any players from St. Louis or Calgary. If you don’t have other options, so be it. But most of you should have a serviceable bench and two games just is not enough for a week of head-to-head hockey, not to mention the layoffs in a shortened season can take players out of a rhythm. If your rosters don’t lock, you can slide them in for their games, but if they do, I would not.

Ryan Callahan (RW – NYR) – With just one goal and a (-4) rating to start the year, I don’t expect things to turn around for Callahan this week. In just a three-game schedule, the Rangers are playing in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia and on the road against Tampa Bay. When you’re going up against Malkin, Crosby, Giroux and Stamkos all in the same week, I do not expect the +/- to improve at all. The Rangers are leaning heavily on the top line of Nash/Richards/Gaborik which puts Callahan into even more of a checking role. I would avoid this situation.

Bobby Ryan (LW – ANA) – Another player off to a slow start, Bobby Ryan has just one goal in four games, isn’t shooting the puck very much and is enjoying a four-year low of 16:08 of ice time. Until that third line of Koivu/Winnik/Cogliano slows down and the second line starts clicking, things won’t change much.

Three Defensemen I Hate

Erik Johnson (D – COL) – With just one point so far, Johnson isn’t really living up to his potential just yet. He’s getting loads of ice (the most of any Colorado player) so it’s just a matter of time for the turnaround. But with a home-and-home with Edmonton and visits to Calgary and Vancouver, this middle-of-the-pack road team from last year could be in a whole world of hurt this year. Johnson’s +/- should take a hit this week and I don’t think he’s worth the risk.

Cam Fowler (D – ANA) – A player I was very high on in the preseason is not panning out just yet. There are three tough games ahead for Anaheim playing in San Jose, then hosting Minnesota and the Kings which makes me worry if he will break out this week. He’s so far averaging about a minute less of power-play time than he was from last year, so until that comes up (and I have my doubts with the acquisition of Sheldon Souray), he’s going to be iffy until he proves otherwise.

Shea Weber (D – NSH) – Am I recommending sitting Shea Weber? Not exactly. But he does have zero points so far this year and Nashville has three road games this week in Phoenix, Los Angeles and San Jose. If you’re waiting for him to return to form, I doubt it will be this week. San Jose is the hottest team in the NHL so far this year and Weber only had three points in eight games with a (-2) rating against Nashville and Los Angeles last year. The fantasy sports mantra is “never sit your studs”, but I would be awfully tempted this week.

Three Goalies I Hate

I already talked about it, but I hate Henrik Lundqvist (G – NYR) this week. Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay are top-10 teams in terms of goals-for this year (and Tampa is tops at home) while Philadelphia is banged up but has averaged five goals scored over their last two games. If I had three solid starters, say Lundqvist, Rask and Brodeur, I would be tempted to leave Lundqvist on the bench.

Corey Crawford (G – CHI) – Although he is off to a good start this year, Chicago has three road games this week and it would not shock me to see Emery start one of them. With three tough road games in Minnesota, Vancouver and Calgary, I would think the Blackhawks would do well to go 1-1-1 this week and who knows which game we will see Crawford in the pipes for.

Braden Holtby and Michal Neuvirth (G – WSH) – Who their number one starter actually is is anybody’s guess. They do have four games this week but it is four in six nights, featuring both teams from Ontario and Pennsylvania. With no easy games and a team that is looking so terrible all around, I could not in good conscience start any of these goalies this week. You have to have better options.

That’s it for this week’s preview. You can always reach me on Twitter @SlimCliffy for specific fantasy hockey questions. Good luck in Week Two of the NHL!

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Michael Clifford
Michael Clifford was born and raised in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada and is a graduate of the Unviersity of New Brunswick. He writes about fantasy hockey and baseball for XNSports and FantasyTrade411.com. He can be reached on Twitter @SlimCliffy for any fantasy hockey questions. !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src=p+'://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js';fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document, 'script', 'twitter-wjs');