|ESPN.com: Boxscore Hockey||[Print without images]|
That's pretty much all she wrote, folks. The 2008-09 NHL season, for fantasy purposes, is all over after today's contests. If any of you are here for some last-second, desperation tips for this final day of the season, here's what I can offer you:
Nikolai Khabibulin is available in 42 percent of ESPN leagues and will start the final game of the season for Chicago. The Red Wings will likely be without Marian Hossa and Khabibulin has allowed just seven goals in his past five starts. Tim Thomas is likely to start for the Bruins in their final game of the regular season. They have first place in the East locked up, and may be resting some regulars, but Thomas has won four straight against the Islanders so don't rely on the Isles for any final points. In deeper leagues, look to Steve Valiquette for some help in net. The Rangers are solidified as the No. 7 seed in the East, and Henrik Lundqvist may get an extra day of rest for the postseason. Valiquette is 5-1-1 in eight games (five starts) against the Flyers, so he is a better start than one might think. The Rangers also boast the best penalty kill in the NHL, so don't expect a miracle from your Flyers power-play staples. The Blues will be playing for a shot at the seventh seed in the West, but Peter Budaj remains a decent option for those truly desperate fantasy owners. Budaj has a 0.95 goals-against average in his past four starts, despite only one win to show for the effort. Chris Mason should start his 33rd straight game for St. Louis, and is 5-3-0 with a 1.76 goals-against average against Colorado. You'll notice a lot of strong goalie matchups for these final games, meaning Blackhawks, Bruins and Red Wings are likely the best options for those desperate for offense. Andrew Ladd has six points in six April contests, Jiri Hudler has three points in his past four games, Mark Recchi has six points in three games and Matt Hunwick has points in two straight.
With no real benefit from reviewing the past few days of NHL games, I figured it was fitting to end this blog with an early look at next season's top 10. This is simply at a glance, and very much my own opinion, but should give you something to debate and consider. Let's go in reverse order.
10. Henrik Lundqvist, G, Rangers: There is something to be said for consistency, and something else to be said for being a diamond in the rough. On an offensively inept Rangers team, Lundqvist was a rock between the pipes all season. He notched 37 wins for the third straight season (assuming he doesn't start Sunday and best that total) and despite a slight rise in his goals-against average from last season, still improved his save percentage (finishing top 10 in both). Here's betting the Rangers build an even better team to support King Henrik next season and make him, once again, one of the best options for fantasy owners.
9. Marc Savard, C, Bruins: One thing keeping Savard from being among the elite in fantasy hockey has been his woeful plus/minus. With plus/minus no longer an issue for Savard on this Boston Bruins team, Savard deserves due consideration as a top option in fantasy. Consider as well, that Milan Lucic and Phil Kessel had breakthrough seasons as Savard's linemates and will be even better next year as they continue to develop. Savard basically takes over the spot in the fantasy top 10 that Joe Thornton used to occupy every season, based on the idea that the B's first line takes another step toward dominance next year.
8. Zach Parise, LW, Devils: The new Brent Sutter offense in Jersey means Parise will be a consistent threat to flirt with 100 points. The skill is not in question, it has simply been a matter of not reining in Parise and seeing what he can do. Well, we now know he is a huge threat on the power play (only seven players had more goals) and a real gunner (only two players had more shots on goal). The only asterisk here is a concern that the Devils revert to a defensive game with a healthy Martin Brodeur for the whole season, but after seeing what Parise can do, it's doubtful.
7. Ryan Getzlaf, C, Ducks: Getzlaf is your power forward option to build your team around. He took another step this season, improving from 82 to 91 points, and also built on his penalty minutes, finishing with 121. Yes, the Ducks as a team took a big step back in the plus/minus department, but they still boast the pieces to be as dominant as Boston, Detroit and New Jersey in that category. If Getzlaf managed the same plus-32 as he did in the 2007-08 season, he would be in consideration for the top three on this list, but with no guarantee of an improvement there, he still rates as a top-10 pick.
6. Roberto Luongo, G, Canucks: Despite missing almost two months of action, Luongo managed to remain one of the best options in net for fantasy purposes. He still finished in the top 10 in wins, top five for both goals-against average and save percentage, and only Steve Mason topped Luongo for shutouts. In fact, you could even argue that Luongo finished with his second-best season despite the missed time.
5. Pavel Datsyuk, C, Red Wings: How could anyone dare knock Datsyuk down in the rankings when he finished the season exactly where he was expected to. With Sunday's results still to come, Datsyuk has tied his career-best 97 points from last season, and despite a slight drop in his plus/minus, remains second in the league for that category (though he could finish first depending on Sunday's results). Plus/minus is a fickle stat to bank on when drafting, but Datsyuk is one commodity you can put some stock into: He has finished plus-20 or better in five of the past six seasons.
4. Sidney Crosby, C, Penguins: He may be the face of the game to the masses, but he is not a top-3 pick in fantasy. It's no knock on "The Kid," but rather a testament to the players I am ranking ahead of him. Crosby will remain a great anchor for your fantasy team, but he still trails the two elite Russians. If you prorate Crosby's injury-shortened season last year and average his four-year career, you get a 35-goal scorer with 72 assists.
3. Martin Brodeur, G, Devils: Despite the limp to the finish line and the three-month absence, Brodeur still showed us enough to tab him as the best in the game. He showed no lingering effect from the injury, as Brodeur won his first four games in returning to New Jersey, with two of them going down as shutouts. He'll be back for another season, and it's impossible to question him as your best option in net. It's been said before that injury is not something to expect again from Marty, as the last time he played fewer than 70 games was the 1996-97 season (and he missed the threshold by just three).
2. Evgeni Malkin, C, Penguins: There were some questions as to whether Malkin could emerge from Crosby's shadow and be the better option for fantasy owners. He answered all of them. There are seven categories in the ESPN standard game and Malkin bested Crosby in all seven of them. He doesn't have the dominance in some categories that make our No. 1 pick an easy choice, but there isn't much doubt Malkin is the No. 2 choice.
1. Alex Ovechkin, LW, Capitals: Was there any doubt? As mentioned, it's the category dominance that separates Ovechkin from the rest of the pack. Unless Jeff Carter has a two-goal game Sunday, Ovechkin will finish with at least 10 more goals than anyone else, while still managing a top-10 finish in assists. But it's shots on goal where Ovechkin becomes a force to be reckoned with: He finished 156 shots ahead of Eric Staal for shots this season. To put that in perspective, that's a whole Jonathan Cheechoo (152 shots) ahead of the competition. He has averaged -- averaged -- 55 goals a season in his four-year career. Ovechkin has taken more shots in his career than Dany Heatley (think about that for a minute). He's the clear choice.
And that puts a wrap on things for the 2008-09 season. Here's hoping you are celebrating a fantasy championship tomorrow! We'll see you again when it's time for the John Tavares sweepstakes.