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Blue Line Buzz: Predicting a streak

by | Rotowire.com
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(all statistics through Sunday, December 1)

We're Going Streaking ...

Part of the maddeningly frustrating appeal of Fantasy sports is the streaks. Winning streaks, hot streaks, steady yet unspectacular streaks and, of course, those stretches of futility. Streaks where you leave a player in your lineup for games or weeks and they fail to even look as if they're on the ice. Disgusted, you then remove the dead weight from your lineup, either cutting them or benching them, and then they proceed to remind you why they were in your lineup in the first place, by, you know, actually producing. Reinsert them, only to see zeroes.

On a larger scale, this always seems to work in threes. Player Y explodes in year one (not necessarily a rookie year, but year one for example's sake) when you didn't own him. Draft Player Y in year two anticipating that same level of production. He's a bust in year two; by year three you'll be damned if you'll invest in them again, only to see them explode back to year one level production.

Managing these streaks can be the key to finishing atop the pool. Some of it is dumb luck, but having an idea of players prone to streakiness can pay off as you decide whether it's a sage decision to utilize their skill set.

While power-play ice time and shots on goal are typically statistics to examine as harbingers of future production, looking at game logs is paramount.

Marek Zidlicky, New Jersey: Zidlicky has 13 points in 27 games. For defensemen that aren't elite point producers, a benchmark of a point every two games is solid, players you can rely on in later rounds to fill your roster. Take a closer look at Zidlicky. The Czech veteran is mired in a six-game points drought and has a mere four points over the last 15 games. Throughout his career, he's been a player who binges on points, doing just enough to mask those stretches where you forget he's on the ice in the offensive zone. (You likely won't forget he's on the ice in the defensive zone, neither will the opposition.) True, the emergence of rookie Eric Gelinas (2-8-10 in 17 games) and the recently hot Andy Greene (1-5-6 over his last five games) has had something to do with Zidlicky not producing as much, but Zidlicky has also seen his power-play time decline over the last five games, comprising a smaller percentage of his total ice time, which has stayed largely the same.

Utilizing a player like Zidlicky can pay off in deeper leagues, but the negatives and the unproductiveness outweigh most benefits.

Jason Garrison, Vancouver: Those who employ the talents of Garrison on their roster have likely enjoyed the six points he registered over a five-game span this past week, notching a goal and five helpers. However, you could excuse most owners if Garrison had been removed from the active lineup or jettisoned unceremoniously to waivers. The Orcas' blue line bomber had recently endured a span of 14 games where he didn't register a single point. True, Vancouver was mired in a losing streak at that time, but Garrison was still seeing regular ice time including one game with almost nine minutes on the power play. Garrison's goal in Thursday's win over Ottawa was his first in 25 games after he'd opened the season with a goal in each of Vancouver's first two tilts. Again, Garrison's numbers are deceiving on the whole, as he has 15 points in 29 games, just a shade over .50 points-per-game, solid numbers for a defensemen of his caliber, but is the production worth the hassle of owning him?

Remember, this is the man who potted 16 goals in the 2011-12 season for Florida, just three of which were tallied after the All-Star break. Goal-scoring defensemen are not easy to come by, which makes Garrison's slumps almost a necessary evil to having him on your roster. The flip side to this argument is that the 16-goal campaign was an aberration, as Garrison had seven tallies in his first two NHL seasons. That monster season earned him a massive contract with Vancouver in July 2012 and he slammed home eight goals in shortened season one winter ago.

Garrison has a howitzer of a point shot and gets to dish the puck to the Sedin twins on the power play when the two of them decide to play. Six of Garrison's 15 points, 40-percent, have come on the man advantage. Despite his having just three goals on the season, the prospect is there for Garrison to deliver quality numbers despite the fluctuation in production.

Duncan Keith, Chicago: Four years ago, Duncan Keith won an Olympic Gold Medal, a Norris Trophy and a Stanley Cup. Since then he's won another Cup but has seen his offensive production slide prior to this season. If you're looking for consistency this year without the peaks and valleys, Keith has delivered for owners, failing to register a point in only six games this season and never going more than three contests without one. Will he challenge the league's elite point-producing blue liners come season's end? Probably not, but it's steady production from a player known more for his name than his offensive production the last few years. While Keith is raking in helpers, 23, the same amount as Sidney Crosby heading into Sunday, tied for third in the league, Keith won't be scoring 14 goals as he did in his golden year. His 24 points put him behind only Ottawa cyborg Erik Karlsson's 27.

The sheer consistency with which Keith has been collecting assists lately is pleasing to owners (nine over his last seven games). You're not getting a player who is binging on points, scoring three goals over three games then disappearing (with Keith, you don't have to worry about goal scoring at all, actually). You're receiving consistent numbers, albeit ones that likely will slow down soon, but there is a track record of production (despite the last three seasons of regression). If Keith settles into the essentially guaranteed production levels of a Ryan Suter, that has to be considered more valuable than a player slamming home goals in spates only to vanish for a stretch.

Torey Krug, Boston: One of last spring's breakout stars of the playoffs, Krug is terrorizing Eastern Conference netminders with seven goals through 28 games, a pace that could regress back toward the mean, but an impressive one nonetheless. Krug is tied for the goals lead among NHL defensemen with seven, sharing it with Karlsson, Shea Weber and Phoenix's Michael Stone. There has to be attention paid to Krug (not that there hasn't been), who's ability to blast the puck unseated Zdeno Chara from the Bruins' power-play point, but again there are stretches where Krug just isn't finding the net, with a modest one goal over his last 12 games. He has nine assists and 16 points on the season, but over that 12-game stretch he did notch six assists, hitting the magic .50 points-per-game mark. Krug will continue seeing scoring chances, but do his goals make him more valuable than a player similar to him only putting up assists, say a Kevin Shattenkirk, whose 16 points breakdown is 1-15-16 rather than Krug's 7-9-16.

Question of the week: Steak or sizzle? Would you rather quiet, consistent production (think Loui Eriksson in his Dallas years) or a player who binges on points?

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