NHL Friday Fantasy Freakout: Weekend sleeper risks
Welcome to Friday Fantasy Freak Out, where we’ll look at some of the bolder options for fantasy hockey general managers who are desperate to have a strong weekend.
Weekends can make or break weekly head-to-head fantasy leagues. No lead is safe, especially with the plethora of games that usually occurs on Saturdays. You’ll either want to fortify your team or mount an improbable comeback. The under-the-radar players I believe can help engineer either of those moves will be examined in this space.
It takes a healthy level of recklessness to make weekend fantasy moves. You’re not waiting to see how things pan out with a player over the course of a week: You need results immediately. There is a level of risk and reward involved, which is why each player cited here has been given a recklessness grade. The higher the grade, the more your fellow poolies will question your moves if not your sanity. But there’s also a greater potential for reward as well.
Marian Gaborik, RW, Kings
If you’ve managed a fantasy hockey team during the last few seasons, you’ve probably either kicked Gaborik’s tires or had him in your lineup, at least for a cup of coffee. He’s not the winger he used to be in terms of production even though he’s spent most of the season on a line with Anze Kopitar and a bevy of other wingers. Kopitar has four assists in his last five games, though Gaborik himself hasn’t scored in his last four.
This weekend could be prime time for Gaborik to put some points on the board. The Kings continue their gargantuan road trip in Pittsburgh (Friday) and Buffalo (Saturday). We know the Penguins are starting Marc-André Fleury on Friday, but the Sabres, who own one of the worst goals-against averages in the league, could allow the usually tepid Kings offense to bust out. But don’t grab Gaborik at the risk of sitting a dependable right winger, especially one who’s produced more power play points than Gaborik's lone assist on the man advantage.
Recklessness grade: C+
Artem Anisimov, C/LW, Blackhawks
Why many fantasy managers haven’t yet taken a flyer on Anisimov defies logic. He’s a regular on Patrick Kane’s line and we all know how well Chicago’s superstar sniper has been producing of late. What’s more, Hawks coach Joel Quenneville utilizes Anisimov on the power play but the Russian forward hasn’t made the most of the opportunity yet this season.
Anisimov plays dual forward positions, which could help with your lineup juggling. He’s registered only two points in his last six games (both of which came in one game), but this weekend the Hawks are home against Winnipeg (Friday) and Vancouver (Sunday). Both teams own a GAA that can be found in the NHL’s bottom dozen, which could mean it will be open season on their goalies for Anisimov and his linemates. Plus, you won’t have to alter your likely stacked Saturday lineup much either. This seems like an easy call to us.
Recklessness grade: D-
Jared Spurgeon, D, Wild
This is the very definition of an unglamorous pickup. Spurgeon ranks 50th among NHL defenseman in average time on ice (22:08 per game) and has produced only two points in his last nine outings. He does have 11 assists through 26 games this season (25th among all defensemen) but that’s not all you’re getting him for: Spurgeon also blocks shots (55) and ranks 27th among NHL blueliners in that category.
This weekend the Wild face off against the Coyotes (Friday) and the Sharks (Saturday). Therein lies the tricky part: Those two teams aren’t exactly known for generating a lot of shot attempts, which means Spurgeon may not have as many opportunities for blocks as he might if the Wild were playing, say, the Kings or the Predators. But if you’re in a league that measures blocks as a category and are close enough to the top, Spurgeon might be your guy. Otherwise, if you’re hoping that his time on ice results in some assists, pray for him to heat up a bit offensively.
Recklessness grade: B+
Cam Ward, G, Hurricanes
The only teams that have allowed more goals per game on average than the Canes this season are the Flames and the Coyotes. Carolina plays in Arizona on Saturday night and Ward, who has been doing a brilliant impression of a sieve this season, could eke out a victory for you if you’re in need of a W and have given up on stats like GAA and save percentage this week.
The Canes also play the Ducks (Friday), a team that hasn’t scored more than two goals in its last three games while producing the fewest, on average, this season in the NHL. This one also favors Ward and the Canes.
But this pick is not for the faint of heart. We are, after all, talking about Cam Ward and his Horrorcanes, who are currently tied with the Blue Jackets in the league basement. Expect a healthy amount of ribbing if you roll the dice with him.
Recklessness grade: A-