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Neutral Zone Wrap: You must make the tough decision

by | Rotowire.com
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Breaking up is hard to do. Just ask the Fantasy owner who can't get rid of a certain player mainly out of devotion. You've given so much to support him but he hasn't recently reciprocated the love. You lose sleep trying to figure out the reason for his pathetic performance. Why is he hurting you when you've stood by him for so long?

So when is it time to say goodbye?

Knowing when to drop is not an exact science and often depends on league structure and available replacement options. First, there's the difference between keeper and one-year formats. They are similar in many ways, but the carryover involves an added decision of whether or not you would retain a player for the following season and beyond. Of course, you would not dump anyone without a suitable fill-in. Can Player X in the free-agent pool do more? Or would Player Y on that other owner's squad be a better fit (provided the asking price isn't too steep)?

Patience is a virtue. But sometimes, it gets in the way of statistics and good old-fashioned common sense. Even if your underperformer has established himself as a mid-level scorer, maybe he's better off gone if he hasn't done anything in 10 games and his ice time is steadily decreasing. The signs are often present, but we often ignore them because we believe in what a player once did - and not what they are failing to do now. If that's the case, then cut the cord. Most likely, he will be happier with someone else.

Maybe you'll discover the perfect mate on one of the following teams. Or a match made in Fantasy hell:

In the continuing love-hate relationship between Leaf fans and the club, the momentum is quickly shifting to the negative side. After a preseason romance and a shotgun fling, the mood has soured of late. Is this typical reactive support behavior? Or is the honeymoon over in Toronto? The goaltending situation is deteriorating without James Reimer (concussion), as neither Jonas Gustavsson (3.78 goals-against average, .880 save percentage in nine) nor Ben Scrivens (4.05 GAA, .870 save percentage in three) can handle #1 duties, let alone serve as an able #2. Tim Connolly (upper-body injury absolutely, positively not related to earlier shoulder problem) has already reverted to fragile form after a promising run (six points in four). And Tyler Bozak (zero in six) isn't the solution as the top-line center, but 6-foot-5 kid Joe Colborne (19 in 12 in the AHL) could be the savior down the road. Maybe Cody Franson (one assist, minus-5, healthy scratch in eight of the last nine) isn't fitting in, but that might have more to do with the depth of blueline competition.

After an early European swoon (listless in two OT defeats), the Rangers are flourishing closer to home (winners of five straight). It's always sweet to tag along with a healthy Marian Gaborik. The latest beneficiaries are Artem Anisimov and Derek Stepan (combining for 13 in the last three), but that could easily change with the flick of a head coach's mood. Ruslan Fedotenko (one in seven after five in the first seven) has successfully performed another disappearing act. And hey, Ryan Callahan, you may be up there in goals (six), shots (52), hits (32), and blocks (20) but please try to do more in the points department (only one assist). You too, Brandon Dubinsky (no goals, six assists), although you're a pleasant surprise in the penalty minute category (tied for fourth in the NHL with 47). Ryan McDonagh may not receive much power-play time, but he's the defensive workhorse without Marc Staal (at over 25 minutes a night) and chipping in with the right amount of offense (six).

Not much changed over the summer, so no surprise on Anaheim's terrible beginning following a disappointing playoff exit. When you rely so much on your big guns to carry the load, the deficiencies really show when they - and everyone else - struggle to score (the Ducks sit last averaging 1.83 goals per game). It's unfortunate what happened to Jason Blake (lacerated arm, out another two months), but it is also important to realize he wasn't that important Fantasy-wise (name something relevant he has done since the 63 points of 2008-09). Neither Andrew Cogliano (two) nor Brandon McMillan (three) has earned the open second-line slot, so perhaps it's time to provide rookie Devante Smith-Pelly (first NHL goal Wednesday night, arguably Anaheim's hardest working forward) with more chances to shine. And where in the world is Lubomir Visnovsky (four, minus-9)?

When Mike Richards headed to Hollywood, many believed he was the final piece to place Los Angeles as legitimate Cup contenders. But after the first 15 contests, the Kings do not display any resemblance to hockey royalty, at a mediocre 7-5-3. The eternal Dustin Penner problem may have finally yielded a glimmer of hope (woke up with two points Tuesday). Jarrett Stoll may also be breaking out of a slump (adding two on Tuesday). Scott Parse was looking to be a worthy secondary contributor (two goals), but now he's gone indefinitely with some mystery malady. For someone who showed promise in his first full year (16 in 60), it's amazing it took 14 outings for Alec Martinez to register his first point. No question Jonathan Quick can dominate in net (1.87 goals-against average, .940 save percentage, three shutouts), as Jonathan Bernier (3.37 goals-against average, .870 save percentage in three) hasn't exactly stolen the headlines with his play so far.

This ain't your father's Minnesota Wild. You know, the one that has existed since inception with a defense-first mentality. This version will come at you with, well, moderate offense (still near the bottom of the league in goals for). Remember when many gave up on Pierre-Marc Bouchard (four in four) due to health issues? And others who pigeonholed Guillaume Latendresse (eight) as a shoot-first, power-play specialist (although the last three were goals)? Surprised Matt Cullen (six) is leading the team in goals? Who is waiting for Jared Spurgeon (three) or Marco Scandella (two) to emerge as second-tier D-men? And does anyone really believe Josh Harding (1.18 goals-against average, .965 save percentage, undefeated in five) can surpass stalwart Niklas Backstrom (2.05 goals-against average, .926 save percentage) on the depth chart?

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Player News
Tyler Johnson
Bolts' Johnson Takes Postseason Scoring Lead
Tyler Johnson, C, TB
5/26/2015
News: Tyler Johnson dished out two assists in Tuesday's Game 6 loss to the Rangers, giving him 20 points in the playoffs.
Analysis: That's good for tops in the league, one point ahead of his linemate Nikita Kucherov and Anaheim's Ryan Getzlaf (who's played five fewer games). Tyler Johnson's dozen goals easily lead the playoffs, so it's nice to see him balance out his stat line with a couple helpers, although they both came in garbage time.

Nikita Kucherov
Bolts' Kucherov Scores Twice In Game 6 Loss
Nikita Kucherov, RW, TB
5/26/2015
News: Nikita Kucherov potted a pair of garbage-time goals in Tuesday's Game 6 loss to the Rangers.
Analysis: His eighth and ninth goals of the playoffs came with the Lightning trailing 5-1 and then 6-2, so they were mainly good for padding his playoff stat line. It's a fine line indeed, as he's sitting on an outstanding 19 points in 19 contests -- good for a tie with Anaheim's Ryan Getzlaf for second in postseason scoring behind Nikita Kucherov's linemate Tyler Johnson.

Ryan Callahan
Bolts' Callahan Finally Tallies Against Rangers
Ryan Callahan, RW, TB
5/26/2015
News: Ryan Callahan potted his first playoff goal -- and first point since April 29 -- on a power play in Tuesday's Game 6 loss to the Rangers. He finished minus-2 with five shots.
Analysis: Ryan Callahan got left all alone by the Rangers' defensemen as he floated by the blue line, got fed a long lead pass, and broke in on Henrik Lundqvist with a quick deke to beat him for a stick-side goal. His last point came in Game 7 against Detroit, and Cally had only tallied three helpers over his first 17 playoff games. The appendix surgery that kept him out of the series-clinching Game 6 against Montreal only excuses part of that. Nonetheless, he looks like he's back to full health already, and you can be sure that he'll put forth a strong effort in Game 7 back at his old haunt, Madison Square Garden.

James Sheppard
Rangers' Sheppard Scores First Playoff Goal
James Sheppard, LW, NYR
5/26/2015
News: James Sheppard scored his first goal of the playoffs in Tuesday's Game 6 against the Lightning, tallying the eventual game-winning tally in the third period.
Analysis: James Sheppard played a game-low (among Rangers) 8:35 in fourth-line duty, but scored a hard-working goal to put the Rangers up 4-1. It was the second tally of what ended up being a five-goal period for the Rangers, with Tampa chipping in a pair of goals to turn Sheppard's into the game-winner. It was his first point since May 10 against Washington.

Keith Yandle
Yandle Helps Rangers Force Game 7 Against Tampa
Keith Yandle, D, NYR
5/26/2015
News: Keith Yandle scored his second goal of the playoffs and added a power-play assist Tuesday in a Game 6 victory against Tampa Bay.
Analysis: He's played his best hockey since joining the Rangers -- by far -- in the Eastern Conference finals against the Lightning. Over the first six games, Keith Yandle's racked up seven points and a plus-6 rating, as this series' fast-paced play has been right up his alley. The Rangers will be counting on Yandle to help drive their offense from the blue line in Game 7 on Friday.

Rick Nash
Rangers' Nash Racks Up Four Points In Game 6
Rick Nash, LW, NYR
5/26/2015
News: Rick Nash scored a power-play goal and handed out there assists in Tuesday's Game 6 victory over the Lightning.
Analysis: After getting shut out in Game 5 at home, the Rangers needed Rick Nash to step up and drive their offense in Game 6, and he did just that. It was his gorgeous pass to Derick Brassard that led to J.T. Miller's first goal of the playoffs, pushing the Rangers' lead to 3-1 early in the third period. Nash has had a quiet playoffs overall, but now has seven points in the last three games. If he can stay hot in Game 7 on Friday, it'll be trouble for Tampa.

J.T. Miller
Rangers' Miller Explodes For Four Points
J.T. Miller, C, NYR
5/26/2015
News: J.T. Miller scored his first goal of the playoffs, dished out three assists and went plus-4 in Tuesday's Game 6 victory over the Lightning.
Analysis: J.T. Miller's seen extensive playing time alongside Derick Brassard and Rick Nash in these playoffs, but although he's been able to generate offensive chances, he's been snakebitten as far as finding the net. That was certainly not the case Tuesday for any member of his trio, as they combined for 13 points to send the series on to Game 7 in New York.

Henrik Lundqvist
Lundqvist Stops 36, Rangers Stay Alive For Game 7
Henrik Lundqvist, G, NYR
5/26/2015
News: Henrik Lundqvist turned away 36 of 39 shots in Tuesday's Game 6 win over the Lightning.
Analysis: Henrik Lundqvist's huge saves in the first two periods helped the Rangers hold a small lead 'til the third, when their offense exploded for five goals. He only gave up Tampa's second and third tallies when the Rangers had 5-1 and 6-2 leads. Now Henrik and the Blueshirts will head back to Madison Square Garden, where they'll host the Lightning in Friday's Game 7.

Derick Brassard
Brassard's Hat Trick Leads Rangers To Game 6 Win
Derick Brassard, C, NYR
5/26/2015
News: Derick Brassard scored three goals on 10 shots, added two assists and went plus-5 in Tuesday's Game 6 victory over the Lightning.
Analysis: The hat-trick-completing goal came into an empty net, but it was a well-deserved one, as Derick Brassard played an excellent game. With nine goals and seven assists in these playoffs, he's been the Rangers' most reliable offensive performer.

Ben Bishop
Bolts' Bishop Chased In Game 6
Ben Bishop, G, TB
5/26/2015
News: Ben Bishop gave up five goals on 26 shots before being pulled from Tuesday's Game 6 loss at the hands of the Rangers.
Analysis: He and the Lightning came in with a chance to close the Rangers out and trailed 2-1 after two periods, but were unable to keep it close in the third, giving up three goals in a span of 4:12. Andrei Vasilevskiy delivered competent work in relief, but the Lightning will almost certainly turn back to Ben Bishop for Game 7 at Madison Square Garden on Friday.

 
 
 
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