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Blue Line Buzz: Defensive movers and shakers

by | Rotowire.com
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Observations and Ponderings

Mark Streit may be one of the league's best offensive defensemen no one talks about, as he suffers from the same disease as John Tavares: being a member of the New York Islanders. Streit's overtime goal against Los Angeles on Saturday was Scott Niedermayer-esque. Streit collected the puck at center ice, built up speed and smoothly navigated his way through all four Kings' players and placed a slick backhander past Jonathan Quick. True, Streit is not greatest shut-down defender in the league, so we'll disregard his minus-19 rating, but he has goals in the last two games and three points over the last four contests. If you can take the plus-minus hit, grab him before your league's trade deadline. He runs a power play with Tavares and the quietly productive Matt Moulson, logs a ton of minutes each night and has 31 points on the season.

One of the best saves of the season undoubtedly had to be Dallas netminder Kari Lehtonen's pad save against Buffalo's Thomas Vanek Friday in the waning seconds of overtime. Lehtonen denied Vanek a tap-in after a nifty drop pass from his teammate, Christian Ehrhoff, as Lehtonen somehow lifted his leg off the ice while sprawled out on his stomach. Dallas eventually lost in a shootout, but Lehtonen's mind-blowing save secured a much-needed point for the Stars.

Those looking for slick stick handling, will want to check out Jamie McGinn's goal for the Sharks from Friday night, which iced their win over Chicago. McGinn stunned Corey Crawford from the side of the goal, changing the angle thanks to some deftly skilled dragging of the puck.

Philadelphia simply can not beat the Rangers, and made it five losses to their rivals Saturday. It does not matter if Sergei Bobrovsky or Ilya Bryzgalov is between the pipes. Bryzgalov missed the game with the flu, but he seems to be conspicuously absent from games against stronger teams. When Bryz does play, it's a rough outing as evidenced by last Sunday against the Rangers and two weeks ago against Boston. Regardless, the Flyers seem to be reverting to their goonish ways on occasion thanks to Tom Sestito and Zac Rinaldo, who combined for 43 penalty minutes on Saturday.

However, Scott Hartnell is enjoying a career season and roused the Philly faithful with a unique goal celebration Thursday against Toronto. After slamming home the game's opener, Hartnell immediately celebrated by fighting Dion Phaneuf, who had leveled him moments earlier. The fight seemed to draw a greater response than the goal.

If you weren't fortunate enough to grab Hartnell during the draft, hopefully you snagged his teammate Wayne Simmonds or New Jersey's David Clarkson in leagues that reward penalty minutes. Both are having career seasons; Clarkson has 21 goals and is close to cracking the 100 penalty minute barrier. Simmonds has been red hot since the All-Star break with five goals and two assists along with 12 penalty minutes.

If Evgeni Malkin does not win the Hart Trophy this season, then the same people who vote in college football polls now cast the ballots for the NHL's awards. Malkin has carried an injury-riddled Pittsburgh squad through the league's toughest division (or second-toughest, if you favor the Central) into playoff contention and starred in Saturday's boat race with Winnipeg, notching five points. Malkin's quiet leadership and ability to improve those around him is exemplary.

Staying in Pittsburgh, Kris Letang rejoined his team's success with a two-goal, three-point effort in Saturday's win over Winnipeg, ending a six-game point drought, his longest of the season.

You have to give Montreal's Tomas Plekanec credit for flying so boldly in the face of fashion. He singlehandedly has to be keeping the mock turtleneck makers the NHL uses in business, especially considering the hit designers took when Alexei Yashin retired.

NBC is continuing to promote their seven-team league on Sunday afternoons, with Washington and the Rangers facing off in the national spotlight this week. I'm not advocating the inclusion of Columbus and Minnesota on a weekly basis, but acknowledge a few more teams than the usual seven.

Colorado's Erik Johnson scored a goal Saturday. And no, that's not a typo. Johnson notched his first tally since December 17 and just his second of the season, meaning Johnson is only nine goals behind St. Louis' Chris Stewart on the year. Johnson has had a disappointing first full season in Denver, with 20 points through 51 games. Cracking 30 points, which Johnson should do, is still a good benchmark for a defender, but the Avs had been expecting more from the former first overall pick.

Despite scoring one goal since the New Year, San Jose's Brent Burns is on a tear the last week, with eight assists in the last four games. Burns started slowly, by his standards, but a good finish can put him close to the 40-plus points San Jose had been hoping for when they dealt for him this past summer.

Lucy Moved The Football Again

After Ryan Whitney jumped in on Edmonton's fun last week, and Fantasy owners pounced on him, but Whitney disappointed owners this past scoring period. The brittle blue liner failed to register a point in three games this week, not contributing to any of Edmonton's nine goals. He's notoriously streaky, but his bull market phases help owners immensely, you just have to deal with the bear market days.

Another Panther on the Prowl?

Florida defender Jason Garrison, still leading all NHL defensemen with 13 goals, left Saturday's win over New Jersey with a lower-body injury, playing only 9:08. Garrison has been quiet lately compared to his rate of production earlier in the season, with five points in the last 15 games. Garrison will not play in Sunday's game, according to Florida play-by-play announcer Steve Goldstein. The nature of Garrison's injury is not known, but if he is out for a while, the Panthers will be down both him and Dmitry Kulikov.

True, Kulikov's production while he has been injured was the same as when he was playing prior to the injury, but the Panthers need someone other than Brian Campbell to shoulder the load. Youngster Erik Gudbranson played solidly in Saturday's win over New Jersey, grabbing an assist and seeing power-play time later in the game. Gudbranson has just five points on the season but boasts tremendous upside as one of the Panthers' top prospects. The former third overall pick who played his OHL hockey in Kingston probably won't challenge Erik Karlsson for the defensemen scoring lead, but he did pot 12 goals his last year in the OHL. Gudbranson has been on the radar of keeper league owners since 2010 and he could see a boost in value if Garrison is injured for a while. Gudbranson is a physical player with much upside.

Sword Play

Buffalo enigma Tyler Myers has been enjoying his team's recent run of success, as Ryan Miller is not the only player apparently turning their game around. Let's face it, Myers was primed for a bounceback season only to start abysmally, yet is starting to find his way back to relevance. Myers grabbed an assist in three straight games this past week while his teammate, Christian Ehrhoff, had a goal and an assist in two contests. There is nowhere but up to go for both Myers and Ehrhoff, but they appear to be on their way, following their teammates' lead.

Talk To Me, Goose

It might seem like we're jumping to conclusions, but Pittsburgh may have won the James Neal-for-Alex Goligoski trade from last winter. Goligoski can still go on to have a great career, but it won't be riding shotgun with Malkin or Sidney Crosby. Goligoski has certainly had his ups and downs this season, but the Minnesota native is turning the corner as Dallas battles for a playoff berth. Goligoski has six points over the last six games and eight in the last eight dating back to before the All-Star break. The talent has always been there, as evidenced by his breakout season last year, but it has been frustrating as he is one of those players that has too much potential to simply reserve on a weekly basis.

Conversely, Sheldon Souray has been mostly invisible since the calendar turned to 2012, as he has two points in 13 games. Souray is battling an ankle injury, but given that he has five points since November 11, most owners probably moved on after being rewarded with a strong start.

Something Blue

To say Columbus is having a slightly forgettable season is putting it lightly. Newly acquired Jeff Carter is a shell of himself and Rick Nash remains buried in obscurity. The Jackets did get a glimpse of their future this past week courtesy of rookie defenseman David Savard, who registered a two-point night in Tuesday's rare win, grabbing his first career goal. Keep your eye on him. Fedor Tyutin continues to lead the way for Columbus rearguards with 22 points. Sure, he has a minus-14 and his three points over two games may have ended a nine-game points drought, but he could be kicking around on your league's waiver wire if you're willing to endure his inconsistency.

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Player News
Alex Biega
Biega Signs With Canucks
Alex Biega, D, VAN
7/1/2015
News: The Canucks re-signed Alex Biega on Tuesday, the Province reports.
Analysis: Alex Biega, who notched a goal in seven games with the big club in 2014-15, spent most of the season with AHL Utica, where he recorded 19 points in 62 games. The 27-year-old is thus slated to reprise his role as a depth blueliner for the Canucks' organization.

Drew Stafford
Jets Retain Stafford
Drew Stafford, RW, WPG
7/1/2015
News: Drew Stafford signed a two-year, $8.7 million deal to remain with the Jets on Tuesday, Sportsnet.ca's Elliotte Friedman reports.
Analysis: The 29-year-old Drew Stafford, who was acquired from Buffalo in February, finished up the 2014-15 season with 18 goals and 43 points in 76 games overall, but his production picked up with the Jets (19 points in 26 games), earning him a nice two-year payday with the team in advance of free agency.

Dougie Hamilton
Flames' Hamilton Signs Six-Year Deal
Dougie Hamilton, D, CGY
7/1/2015
News: Dougie Hamilton signed a six-year, $34.5 million deal with the Flames on Tuesday, Yahoo! Sports reports.
Analysis: Dougie Hamilton came over from Boston in a trade last week, and it appears he's viewed as a key part of the Flames' future. The 22-year-old, who showed flashes of promise as a member of the Bruins, notched 42 points in an average of 21:20 of ice time per game last season.

Brett Connolly
RFA Connolly Gets Qualifying Offer From Bruins
Brett Connolly, RW, BOS
11:37 AM
News: The Bruins have extended a qualifying offer to Brett Connolly, csnne.com reports.
Analysis: The same applies to fellow forward Ryan Spooner, with both restricted free agents ticketed for regular duty this coming season, more so with the the team having parted ways with forwards Carl Soderberg and Milan Lucic. While it's too early to get a great read on how the B's lines might shake out next season, Brett Connolly has a shot to land a top-six role and in such a scenario, he could emerge on the fantasy radar. He's coming off a 2014-15 campaign in which he recorded 12 goals and 17 points in 55 NHL games, including five in a Boston uniform following his trade from Tampa Bay.

Brian Flynn
Habs' Flynn Signs Two-Year Deal
Brian Flynn, RW, MON
10:37 AM
News: Brian Flynn agreed to a two-year, $1.9 million contract extension with the Canadiens on Tuesday, NHL.com reports. "We're very pleased to have reached an agreement with Brian. A fast, versatile and reliable player, Brian bought into the team's philosophy from the very first day. He brings the right attitude to the dressing room day in and day out, and has a professional approach to the game. We are proud to have him among our group of forwards," said general manager Marc Bergevin.
Analysis: Brian Flynn came over from the Sabres at the trade deadline and finished the season with five goals and 12 assists for 17 points in 63 combined games. The 26-year-old typically saw time on the Habs' fourth line last season, a role he seems destined to fill again in 2015-16.

Ryan O'Reilly
Sabres' O'Reilly Expects To Play Center
Ryan O'Reilly, C, BUF
10:36 AM
News: Ryan O'Reilly says he is more comfortable playing center and expects to play at that position for the Sabres, reports the Olean Times Herald.
Analysis: On a team that lacks true centers, Ryan O'Reilly is a good candidate to be the team's new No. 1, and head coach Dan Bylsma certainly said as much after the trade. The Sabres will have a bit of a logjam at camp, with Zemgus Girgensons, David Legwand, Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart all preferring to play center. While general manager Tim Murray noted that O'Reilly has played on the wing in the past, O'Reilly is arguably the team's best faceoff specialist. With an increased role, O'Reilly has the potential to set new career-highs. It's likely he'll begin camp playing alongside Tyler Ennis, the team's reigning top scorer and teammate at the most recent World Championships.

Cody Hodgson
Sabres' Hodgson Clears Waivers
Cody Hodgson, C, BUF
10:27 AM
News: Cody Hodgson has cleared waivers, reports Hockey Night in Canada's Elliotte Friedman.
Analysis: No surprise Cody Hodgson cleared waivers, as his performance doesn't nearly justify his cap hit. After signing a lucrative extension with the Sabres, Hodgson's play fell off a cliff, having never improved his skating, consistency or defensive play. The Sabres will buy him out shortly, making him an unrestricted free agent on July 1. Hodgson's fantasy value can only rebound if he starts scoring again and plays on a team that is willing to give him a scoring role.

Brad Boyes
Panthers' Boyes Placed On Waivers
Brad Boyes, RW, FLA
10:18 AM
News: Brad Boyes was placed on buyout waivers Tuesday, Bob McKenzie of TSN reports.
Analysis: Brad Boyes will be subject to waivers and will likely be bought out of the remaining $2.5 million on his contract for next season. It's somewhat of a puzzling move, as Boyes recorded a respectable 38 points in 78 games last season. His $2.5 million salary for 2015-16 isn't overly crippling for a team well below the cap, and he's actually set to make less next season than he did in 2014-15.

Sam Gagner
Flyers Say They'll Keep Gagner
Sam Gagner, C, PHI
10:14 AM
News: Sam Gagner has been informed by the Flyers that the team intends to keep him on the roster, CSN's Tim Panaccio reports.
Analysis: Sam Gagner was acquired via trade over the weekend, and the initial expectation was that he would be bought out by the Flyers. However, the team said Tuesday that it intends to hang onto Gagner, and neither a buyout nor a trade is in the works.

Martin Jones
Bruins Deal Jones To San Jose
Martin Jones, G, BOS
10:10 AM
News: Martin Jones was traded to the Sharks on Tuesday in exchange for a 2016 first-round pick and Sean Kuraly, NHL.com reports.
Analysis: Martin Jones, who spent last season with the Kings, was acquired by the Bruins just four days ago. He appeared in 15 games in 2014-15, going 4-5-2 with a 2.25 GAA and .906 save percentage.

 
 
 
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