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Neutral Zone Wrap: Managing disappointment

by | Rotowire.com
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Disappointment just happens. Face it. You just can't be perfect all the time. There's no way to live up to unrealistic expectations when reality ends up blocking the way.

The same principles apply to Fantasy hockey. The history of a player could tell a story of awesome achievements and incredible intangibles, but certain factors may currently exist to diminish their value – whether it be a deteriorating body, decreased opportunities, or the unwanted appearance of Father Time.

You may be able to spot a few trends from the early returns, but we're way too early to base players' worth from these over a full season. I will use every attempt to leave out obvious statistics, but may be forced to do so if the numbers explain the insight. Look over the following fellows and try to hold back your hopes on their 2013-14 prospects:

(For related material on the same subject, check out Jan Levine's busts column.

Niklas Backstrom, G, Wild: Not to be confused with the Washington star forward of the extra 'c', this Finnish netminder has served as the Wild's backbone the last seven-plus seasons. At 35 and with a new three-year deal, Backstrom looks ready to continue his legacy. That may become difficult with backup Josh Harding waiting for his full-time break and prospects Darcy Kuemper and Johan Gustafsson excelling in other leagues. Even if the incumbent can hold on to No. 1, his stats could suffer as Minnesota seems to be built around an offense that looks like it will be regularly involved in high-scoring shootouts.

Daniel Briere, F, Canadiens: The Habs presumably signed Briere for his French Canadian heritage and/or his ability to seamlessly adapt to their vertically challenged lineup. The 36-year old was once known for his scoring touch but has lately been more associated with injuries. Philly deemed Briere buyout-worthy, but his arrival in Montreal looks to be leadership-based. He may be skating on the first line and earning significant power-play minutes, but try to be like the Flyers and stay away.

Jarome Iginla, F, Bruins: Yes, Iginla is really on the Bruins this time. No online trickery, no last-minute destination changes. Like Briere, he is 36. But unlike the diminutive winger, Iginla appears to have at least something left in the tank. The key issue to remember about the Edmonton native is that he isn't the power forward he used to be (although he did drop the gloves in Game 1). Teaming up with David Krejci and Milan Lucic may be one thing; keeping up with them (and other younger scorers) over the long haul is the problem.

Jaromir Jagr, F, Devils: By now, we're betting you can spot the trend. If you didn't notice 'ancient, past prime, and advance hospital reservations', then you can go ahead and skip to the next player. Jagr's career credentials are impressive and lengthy, so they need not be mentioned. As active players go, only Teemu Selanne (at 43!) is older. Recent point totals (35 points in 45 regular-season games split between Dallas and Boston) may suggest the Silver Mullet can still provide a significant offensive contribution. And especially since the Devils lost Ilya Kovalchuk to defection, it would seem as if Jagr would be the perfect fill-in to offset some of the missing production. But anyone who witnessed his struggles skating last postseason will easily be able to resist owning him.

Erik Johnson, D, Avalanche: How dare we include someone here who is only 25?! Well, if you were selected first overall in the 2005 draft and haven't lived up to the hype, then it's probably no surprise to be listed amongst these fossils well-preserved examples. Johnson topped out at 33 and 39 points in his first two years but the decline since has proved painfully obvious. The USNTDP alumnus still logs mega minutes (at least 20 a night, including top power-play billing), but the output has been lacking. So with Tyson Barrie in the background, Ryan Wilson soon to return from injury, and blueline bluechippers like Duncan Siemens and Chris Bigras next in line, there's enough talent to eventually supplant Johnson in the pecking order.

Honorable mention: Derick Brassard, F, NY Rangers; Troy Brouwer, F, Washington; Erik Cole, F, Dallas; Christian Ehrhoff, D, Buffalo; Kari Lehtonen, G, Dallas

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Player News
Corey Crawford
Blackhawks' Crawford Back In For Game 3
Corey Crawford, G, CHI
12:57 AM
News: Corey Crawford will be back in the crease for Tuesday's Game 3 against the Wild, Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune reports.
Analysis: After delivering victories for the Blackhawks in the first two games of the series, Corey Crawford will unsurprisingly remain in the crease as his team looks to extend its playoff winning streak against the Wild to nine games. Should he struggle as the series shifts to Minnesota, Crawford probably would still have to worry about getting replaced by Scott Darling as the Blackhawks' primary netminder, but for now, coach Joel Quenneville will ride Crawford while he's playing well.

Ryan Pulock
Isles' Pulock Could Make Team As A PP Specialist
Ryan Pulock, D, NYI
5/4/2015
News: Ryan Pulock's best chance to make the Islanders out of training camp could be as the point man on the power play, according to SNY.tv.
Analysis: The Islanders took a doughnut on the power play versus the Capitals in the playoffs and the PP also wasn't up to par during the final weeks of the regular season. One of Ryan Pulock's best attributes is his cannon of a shot from the point, something the Islanders could desperately use, especially if Lubomir Visnovsky decides to retire.

Jay Beagle
Caps' Beagle Gets Game-Winner
Jay Beagle, C, WAS
5/4/2015
News: Jay Beagle scored the lone goal in Monday's Game 3 win over the Rangers.
Analysis: The shot came from behind the net and deflected off the skate of a Ranger defender, but Jay Beagle's tally ended up being the deciding tally in another tightly contested game. The four points are already a career-high in a single postseason for Beagle, but it may not necessarily be production that's sustainable.

Darnell Nurse
Oilers' Nurse Called Up To AHL
Darnell Nurse, D, EDM
5/4/2015
News: Darnell Nurse has been summoned to play in the second round of the AHL playoffs for Oklahoma City, according to the Edmonton Journal.
Analysis: Darnell Nurse just finished playing against what will more than likely be his future teammate, Connor McDavid, in the junior hockey playoffs and now will play for the Barons. Nurse should be in training camp for the Oilers this September but should begin next season in Oklahoma City.

Braden Holtby
Caps' Holtby Perfect In Game 3
Braden Holtby, G, WAS
5/4/2015
News: Braden Holtby denied all 30 shots in Monday's Game 3 win over the Rangers.
Analysis: Braden Holtby has been stellar this postseason as he's posted a .948 save percentage in nine games and he's kept getting better as he's now at .958 in the second round. The offense in front of him was only able to muster one goal, so the shutout was crucial to preserve the win and grab the series lead. The Caps will likely need another big performance out of Holtby to take a commanding 3-1 series lead in Wednesday's Game 4.

Henrik Lundqvist
Rangers' Lundqvist Sharp In Loss
Henrik Lundqvist, G, NYR
5/4/2015
News: Henrik Lundqvist turned aside 21 of 22 shots but was on the losing end of Monday's Game 3 against the Capitals.
Analysis: Henrik Lundqvist had another strong outing, but his mates couldn't find the back of the net as they were dealt the loss despite the King's fifth one-goal game of the playoffs. The one goal that did find it's way in came off a deflection from behind the net, but the Rangers will lean on Lundqvist to be just as solid again if they want to tie up the series in Wednesday's Game 4.

Kerby Rychel
Jackets' Rychel Cleared To Work Out
Kerby Rychel, LW, CLB
5/4/2015
News: Kerby Rychel (concussion) has been cleared to resume working out, Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch reports.
Analysis: Kerby Rychel has been out since February with the head injury, but finally seems to be making progress in his recovery. If all goes well in his subsequent workout sessions, he should be good to go for the start of training camp in the fall, when he'll have a legitimate chance of cracking the Blue Jackets' roster.

Karri Ramo
Flames' Ramo To Start Game 3
Karri Ramo, G, CGY
5/4/2015
News: Karri Ramo will remain in goal for Tuesday's Game 3 against the Ducks, Pat Steinberg of Sportsnet.ca reports.
Analysis: Karri Ramo replaced Jonas Hiller as the Flames' starter in Game 2, stopping 31 of 33 shots in the loss. Although the Flames find themselves down 2-0 in the series, Ramo's strong performance in defeat Sunday will allow him to pick up another turn in net. Coach Bob Hartley has shown an inclination to ride the hot goalie this season, and it doesn't look like he'll plan on changing those tendencies anytime soon.

Tim Gleason
Caps' Gleason Will Play Monday
Tim Gleason, D, WAS
5/4/2015
News: Coach Barry Trotz said Tim Gleason (undisclosed) will not be in danger of missing Monday's Game 3 against the Rangers, Andrew Gross of The Record reports.
Analysis: The Capitals recalled Nate Schmidt from AHL Hershey on Sunday as insurance in the event Tim Gleason was unavailable, but it appears the move was strictly precautionary. Look for Gleason to see around 15 minutes of ice time on the Capitals' third defensive pairing.

David Desharnais
Habs' Desharnais Could Be Option For Game 3 Or 4
David Desharnais, C, MON
5/4/2015
News: Coach Michel Therrien said David Desharnais (illness) could possibly play in one of the Habs' two upcoming games in Tampa Bay, ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun reports.
Analysis: David Desharnais didn't travel with the team to Tampa Bay on Monday, but if he notices some more improvement with his condition, he'll likely join the Canadiens later on during their stay in Florida. He likely has a more realistic shot at playing in Thursday's Game 4 rather than Game 3 on Wednesday, which would give him an additional day to show the coaching staff that he's healthy.

 
 
 
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