Each week we will look at a top 5 fantasy defensemen and top 5 fantasy goalies. The list will be based on fantasy impact over the past few days and weeks. Most elite stars consistent produce, but there are several players who are very streaky, so keep an eye on their stats so that you can dress them while they are on a hot streak.
#5 – Marc Staal (New York Rangers) finally returned from a concussion but has yet to score a point in the 12 games he has played. Staal is coming off a career year of 29 points. Don’t count on big production from Staal but he should be getting some points soon. If your keeper pool uses NHL playoffs for your playoffs then take the gamble on Staal, as the Rangers should make a long run.
#4 – Jake Gardiner (Toronto Maple Leafs) was a point a game player in his final year with Wisconsin (NCAA). Gardiner is on a three game point streak with four points and a plus three rating. Gardiner has played over 26 minutes in each of the last two games. Gardiner may bounce between the NHL and AHL a little longer but, he is the Leafs’ power play quarterback of the future.
#3 – Tomas Kaberle (Montreal Canadiens) is scoring points at twice the rate he was with the Carolina Hurricanes. In Carolina he produced at a 0.31 points-per-game rate and with Montreal Kaberle is scoring points at a 0.62 point-per-game rate. Over the last five games Kaberle is averaging over 17 minutes a game and posted four points, two of which were on the power play.
#2 – Dan Boyle (San Jose Sharks) is on pace for just 48 points this season, which would be his lowest total since joining the Sharks. Boyle has recorded a point in eight of the last 11 games. Boyle has just 10 power play points this season so his production is coming at even-strength. If Boyle can get his power play production back up he could add another 10 points to his season total.
#1 – Erik Karlsson (Ottawa Senators) has already beaten his sophomore point totals in just 52 games this season. Karlsson is producing at a 0.92 point-per-game rate and is on pace for 74 points. Karlsson is destroying his competition in the defensemen-scoring race as he has 12 more points then second pace and his 22 points in last 20 games will only help to increase that gap.
The goaltending position is the streakiest of all hockey positions so be sure to keep a hot goalie in your line-up and the cold one on the bench! (Abbreviations: goals against average GAA and save percentage SV%).
#5 – Niklas Backstrom (Minnesota Wild) is on pace for his lowest win total since joining the NHL. Backstrom has gone from one of the hottest fantasy commodities to a non-factor. Over his last eight starts Backstrom is 2-6-0 with a GAA of 3.40 and a 0.892 SV%. Minnesota struggles as of late and the return of Josh Harding haven’t helped Backstrom’s numbers.
#4 – Jaroslav Halak (St. Louis Blues) was the losing goalie in the game against the Detroit Red Wings on January 23, 2012, which was his first lost in regulation since November 22, 2011. Halak is playing in a platoon system with Brian Elliott, but coach Ken Hitchcock seems to play the hotter goalie as Halak started five straight before being the back-up after his loss to Detroit. Halak has 11 wins, one loss and three shoot-out losses in his last 15 starts.
#3 – Marc-Andre Fleury (Pittsburgh Penguins) was listed as the cold goalie in our last column as he lost five straight starts around New Years. Fleury has since won eight straight and is on pace for a career high 44 wins. Fleury is stealing games for the Penguins and is a huge reason why Pittsburgh is where they are without Sidney Crosby. Fleury has started 27 of the last 30 games putting him on pace for 70 starts, which make goalie decisions easy for fantasy line-ups.
#2 – Antti Niemi (San Jose Sharks) has won back-to-back games and both games were shutouts. Niemi is an inconsistent goaltender playing on a strong team. Niemi is on pace for career high 37 wins and career low 2.24 GAA. Niemi will be the go to goalie for the Sharks come playoff time as San Jose looks to build off a Conference Finals appearance last season.
#1 – Pekka Rinne (Nashville Predators) was named the third star of the Month (January) by the NHL as he has put up some incredible numbers. Over his last nine games Rinne is a perfect 9-0-0 with a very low GAA of 1.56 and a spectacular SV% of 0.949. Rinne is on pace to start career high 74 games and put up career high 46 wins. Rinne could see his starts slow down once the Preds secure a playoff spot to rest him for a Cup run.
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