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From the Pressbox: Slow starts and new coaches

Rotowire.com
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Today, from the Pressbox ...

A coaching change already? Are they serious in Philly?
Looking for goalies
Key injuries: Who steps up early
Hit the ground running
The pressure is off Brad Richards

The Philadelphia Coaching Decision

So, your team starts with an 0-3 mark and three goals for vs. nine goals against. Is that enough evidence that a coaching change is in order? It is in Philadelphia, as Peter Laviolette was fired and replaced by Assistant Coach Craig Berube. The party line on Monday was that the Flyers brass wanted to give Laviolette a full training camp ahead of this projected 82-game season to get this ship pointed in the right direction. Measuring that against this slow start we see a sense of panic here. That makes this a team whose players have a negative Fantasy value with the current environment.

We have to balance that view with another strong possibility. On any team, the assistant coach can be the most popular member of staff for most players. The assistants are on the practice ice every day and often are sought by players as the friendly ear to air their beefs. In a pressure environment like the one under fiery owner Ed Snider, the players are more likely to feel that pressure for this bad start.

With Berube now the headmaster, I look for a quick change of fortunes in the short term. We look at the fact that Claude Giroux, Scott Hartnell and Wayne Simmonds were pointless in these three games and have no qualms about projecting that they will still be among the club's top scorers at season's end.

Just because the Flyers' top management has soured on their head coach doesn't mean you have to bail on the Flyers who are on your Fantasy rosters. Three games is not a representative sample size. This point speaks to the need to be patient, as a Fantasy owner. Making a knee jerk reaction to your own Fantasy squad's potential slow start may only lead you to make your own errors in judgment. Those errors will possibly multiply that tough beginning to your season. Give your roster at least a month to reveal a more telling form chart for your collection of players and measure that against career norms for them before making any rash decisions.

Looking For Goalies

In Rotisserie formats, goalies may have an impact in only a couple of categories, but that doesn't mean you throw up your hands and simply punt those categories.

In considering your early season options, you have to do some simple math. Look at last year's stats as a guide in considering which goalies are the clear number one keepers on teams who lean heavily on them. That means in last year's 48 game campaign, you should note that only 21 goalies even appeared in as many as 30 games. That tells you almost a third of the teams had no better than a 60F%/40% spilt between their top two goalies. Even so, of those 21 goalies, only 10 topped the 20-win mark. Those are the goalies and team situations that you should be targeting to populate your roster.

Looking at some early team situations, we all know that barring catastrophic injuries, Tuukka Rask and Carey Price are going to play the lion's share of the games for Montreal and Boston respectively. The same goes for Jonathan Quick in Los Angeles.

What about a circumstance like the one in Toronto? The Leafs were a surprise entry into the playoffs last year, largely on the strength of James Reimer's play. Yet, GM Dave Nonis brought in Jonathan Bernier as a viable competitor for the number one goalie job with the Leafs. Of course this removed Reimer from the list of goalies that were initially expected to play upwards of 50 games this season.

Now, three games into the season, and after seeing Reimer get pulled in as game that the Leafs turned into a surprising win, thanks in large part to Bernier, a quick Fantasy owner reaction may have led to support for Bernier. Once again, we point to the small sample of games this season and warn against such a quick overreaction. One game result should not change perceptions so dramatically. Who's to say that Bernier doesn't have a bad night in the near future and is similarly upstaged by Reimer? If you fall for these single-game scenarios, you will be chasing short sighted options. Once again, we urge you to sit back and take a comparative look at the goalie situations on the 30 teams in the NHL. You, as part of a 10-15 team Fantasy league, will find good options to consider in season.

Injuries and Slow Starts

Key injuries are always a part of the hockey landscape. Kris Letang (knee) has yet to suit up for the Penguins and top sniper James Neal is also out with upper body injury. The Pens have not missed a bit in winning their first two games and two lesser lights among the Pens star-studded lineup have stepped up into those key vacancies. Veteran winger Craig Adams has fired two goals and Matt Niskanen has been prominent in the top two defense pairs, notched three assists. As long as the two big guns are out, these recently promoted depth players will get a chance to continue to produce. If they succeed you ought to consider them. If they fail, watch for the next options who will try to fill those same roles.

Similarly, in Toronto, Dave Bolland arrived with some fanfare, although he was ticketed as the number three center behind Tyler Bozak and Nazem Kadri, the club's top scoring centers. When Kadri struggled in the faceoff circle, Coach Randy Carlyle moved Bolland up to the second scoring line and the veteran capitalized for a two-goal game. The Fantasy owner who has followed Boland's career will recall that he showed an offensive flair during his time in Chicago, when he stepped up into the Hawks' top two lines periodically and produced similar results. Bolland has established himself as a player who has the coach's trust, is good in the faceoff circle, is defensively responsible and is not afraid to go to the tough areas on the ice.

In Carolina, injuries have sidelined Tim Gleason and Joni Pitkanen, two of the Hurricanes' top defensemen. That has thrust depth player Jay Harrison and Justin Faulk into more significant minutes of playing time and they have each responded with tow points in their first two games. Of the two, Faulk has the greater upside and can be viewed as the more likely player who is capable of a solid offensive contribution. Sometimes, all that a player like Faulk needs is the regular opportunity to share his ability in replacing the expected play of Pitkanen, who was expected to be the team's top offensive defenseman.

Hit the Ground Running

Sometimes a fast start is a portent of a breakthrough season. In Montreal, Lars Eller has long been projected as a scoring center. Well, he has progressed steadily in his first three years as a pro and has gotten off to a great start this year, firmly entrenched in the Canadiens' top two scoring lines. He has ample size at 6'2" and 210 lbs to help withstand the rigors of opposing top defensive checkers and tough defensemen and is not the only offensive weapon that Montreal's attack is predicated on. There's no reason to doubt this early surge and he is a good bet to have this hot start evolve into a breakthrough campaign.

Similarly, Torey Krug, a defenseman with Boston Bruins is off to a fine start. He moved up on Boston's depth chart after a strong playoff run last season. That effort gave the Bruins some comfort when Andrew Ference left the team in favor of Edmonton in free agency. Through two games, he has already tallied a goal and an assist and continues to play well at both ends of the rink. He and Dougie Hamilton are the young components of an otherwise veteran blueline, but these two kids are only behind Zdeno Chara, in terms of what offense they can add from the defense corps.

Brad Richards is a well-decorated veteran of 12 NHL seasons, during which he has been known as a very consistent offensive player. Last year, he found himself miscast in John Tortorella's primarily defensive minded scheme. As a result, he slumped almost to a career-low scoring pace. With the arrival of Alain Vigneault, as the new Rangers' bench boss, Richards was expected to be one of the main beneficiaries of that change. Through two games he has averaged 18.5 minutes of playing time and has already recorded a two-goal game. He may be ready to get back to the 60-70 point range this year.

Similarly, Mikhail Grabovski may not have been given the best chance to thrive in his last season in Toronto, because two other centers with comparable skills were ahead of him on the Leafs' depth chart. Consequently, he was relegated to the third line for much of last season. His year, he has signed on with the Caps and found a great spot on the first line with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. Three goals and two assists in three games is a good indicator that Grabovski has found an early groove here.

Finally, we want to highlight Jiri Hudler. Here is a veteran player who has scored well in a support role throughout his career. In Calgary, to start this season, Hudler has emerged as a key part of the offense, mainly due to more responsibility and opportunity. He has paid off to the tune of 4 points in only three games.

The sharp Fantasy pool owners will keep an eye out for these individual storylines. Choosing from among them will boost your Fantasy team significantly.

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Player News
Oscar Dansk
Jackets Sending Dansk Back To Sweden
Oscar Dansk, G, CLB
6:38 AM
News: Oscar Dansk will play for newly promoted Rogle in the SHL next season rather than returning to the AHL, the Columbus Dispatch reports. "We wanted to make sure he gets to a place where he can play and get his career back on track," Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen said.
Analysis: The young goaltender struggled in his first season in North America, posting a 3.57 GAA and .880 save percentage in 21 games for AHL Springfield and a 3.73 GAA and .889 save percentage in 11 games for ECHL Kalamazoo. Oscar Dansk still has a potentially bright future, but he'll need to rebuild his confidence back at home before the Jackets give him another shot on their side of the pond.

Steven Stamkos
Bolts' Stamkos Stays Hot In Game 4 Loss
Steven Stamkos, C, TB
1:11 AM
News: Steven Stamkos stayed hot Friday, scoring for the third straight game in a Game 4 loss to the Rangers.
Analysis: While it was another strong performance from Steven Stamkos, the Bolts fell 5-1 to the Rangers in the game, bringing their best-of-seven series to a 2-2 tie. The 25-year-old has now scored in five of his last six games and is up to 15 points in the playoffs -- fifth most in the NHL. He's fired four shots on goal in back-to-back outings and is the first Lightning player to score in 3 straight playoff games since Sean Bergenheim did so in 2011. While Stammer had a slow start to the postseason, he's in full throttle now and will play a key part in determining whether Tampa Bay can advance onto the Stanley Cup Final.

Michael Keranen
Wild, Keranen Agree To One-Year Deal
Michael Keranen, LW, MIN
12:21 AM
News: Karanen agreed to a one-year, two-way deal with the Wild on Friday, Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.
Analysis: Michael Keranen appeared in 70 games for AHL Iowa this season, registering 10 goals and 27 assists to go with a minus-12 rating. He'll look to crack the Wild's roster at some point in 2015-16.

Kevin Klein
Rangers' Klein Assists Twice In Game 4 Win
Kevin Klein, D, NYR
5/22/2015
News: Kevin Klein dished out two helpers, went plus-2, collected two PIM, blocked two shots and laid four hits in Friday's Game 4 victory over the Lightning.
Analysis: That's a lot of work for just 17:43 on the ice. It's Kevin Klein's first multi-point game of these playoffs, which started on a delay for him due to a broken arm. We've yet to see Klein find twine in the postseason after he did so nine times in 65 regular-season games, but he's been getting involved with the offense regularly, so it wouldn't be a surprise if the veteran were to find his way onto the scoresheet again soon.

Ben Bishop
Bishop Tagged For Five As Bolts Drop Game 4
Ben Bishop, G, TB
5/22/2015
News: Ben Bishop gave up five goals on just 24 shots Friday, leaving him with a series-tying Game-4 loss to the Rangers.
Analysis: A rough one for Ben Bishop, who saw his teammates fire 39 shots on opposing netminder Henrik Lundqvist, but this time they only got through the Rangers' goalie once. For all that Lundqvist had been criticized for giving up six goals in consecutive games, Bishop has been no stud himself in this series, as he's now allowed five goals twice in a row. He'll try to right the ship in Game 5 at Madison Square Garden on Sunday night.

Kevin Hayes
Rangers' Hayes Providing Steady Offense
Kevin Hayes, RW, NYR
5/22/2015
News: Kevin Hayes assisted on both of Rick Nash's goals -- one on the power play -- Friday as the Rangers took Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final from the Lightning by a 5-1 tally.
Analysis: Kevin Hayes has been providing consistent offense since Game 7 against Washington -- he scored a goal in that one, keying a run of five points in five games. The young forward has looked lost at times in these playoffs, but he generates takeaways and offense brilliantly, and the fact that he was able to help Nash wake up Friday is quite promising.

Rick Nash
Rangers' Nash Snaps Slump With Two Goals, Assist
Rick Nash, LW, NYR
5/22/2015
News: Rick Nash ended his four-game scoring drought with two goals -- one on the power play -- and an assist in Friday's Game 4 victory over Tampa Bay.
Analysis: Rick Nash's late-first-period goal, scored on a breakaway backhander past Ben Bishop, energized the Rangers and led to a big day for several guys who have been struggling of late -- in addition to Nash's bust-out, Martin St. Louis and Keith Yandle both scored their first goals of the playoffs, and Kevin Klein had his first multi-point game of the postseason. We've been waiting for Nash to get it going, and if he remains an offensive factor moving forward, he'll give the Rangers a great chance to win this series and move on to play for the Stanley Cup.

Martin St. Louis
Rangers' St. Louis Scores First Of Playoffs
Martin St. Louis, RW, NYR
5/22/2015
News: Martin St. Louis finally scored his first goal of the playoffs Friday in Game 4 against the Lightning, tallying on a third-period power play.
Analysis: The game was still very much in the balance with the Rangers leading 3-1 at the time, but Martin St. Louis gave New York a little extra cushion and really deflated the Lightning, who appeared to be in disarray for the rest of the game after his goal. These playoffs have certainly been a struggle for St. Louis, who's looking like he's coming to the end of his illustrious career, but he's at least starting to show a little more over the last few games. The Rangers will need him to provide more offense as they try to win two of the next three to advance to the Stanley Cup Final.

Keith Yandle
Yandle Finally Breaks Through For Rangers
Keith Yandle, D, NYR
5/22/2015
News: Keith Yandle scored his first goal of the playoffs and handed out two assists -- one on the power play -- in Friday's Game 4 victory over Tampa Bay.
Analysis: The goal was a lucky one -- he fired a shot that was headed well wide of Tampa goalie Ben Bishop, but ended up deflecting in off a Lightning defenseman and into the net. Nonetheless, it's a fitting reward for Keith Yandle's tremendously improved play over the last few games. He's got nine points in these playoffs now, with five of them (and a plus-4 rating) having come in the last two games.

Henrik Lundqvist
Lundqvist's Heroics Help Rangers Tie Series
Henrik Lundqvist, G, NYR
5/22/2015
News: Henrik Lundqvist was named Game 4's first star Friday after turning aside 38 of 39 shots in a 5-1 win over Tampa Bay.
Analysis: This one was much closer than it looked on the scoreboard most of the way, but Henrik Lundqvist was able to bounce back from consecutive six-goal disasters to shut down the Tampa Bay offense -- most critically in the second period, when the Bolts fired 19 shots on goal to the Rangers' six. Lundqvist's huge saves in that period kept the Lightning from turning the tide of the game after their first (and only) goal, and then the Rangers' offense went to work. Henrik and the Rangers will be back in action Sunday for Game 5 at Madison Square Garden.

 
 
 
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