Fantasy Hockey Cheat Sheets: Shot blockers

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shotblockin.jpgWhile Pro Hockey Talk doesn’t specialize in fantasy hockey (our Rotoworld cousins do, though), we still think that there are areas where we can help you, the budding imaginary general managers. For that reason, we’re going to discuss different philosophies, strategies and cheat sheets as fantasy drafts begin to increase around North America.

Previous entries: Penalty Minutes, Faceoff winners, Shots on Goal leaders, Hits leaders.

Today’s entry: Blocked shots.

With this being the fifth cheat sheet, we’re finally weeding through the obscure hockey stats. One of the most “unsung” (and, frankly, insane) duties in hockey is blocking a shot. If you cannot develop at least a begrudging respect for a guy who lays down in front of a 100 mph slapper, then I don’t know if we can see eye-to-eye.

I stated before that if you need to choose hits or blocked shots as a category, go with hits. I looked at the top 10 shot blockers of the last three seasons and all 30 entries were taken up my defensemen. Hits are more of a mixed bag. Still, you might have it as a category, so here are the top 10 shot blockers of the last three seasons. Also included: their hits, goals and shots on goal to give you a quick snapshot of their overall relevance.

(I’m going to put together an “all-around” post or two anyway, but the more information the better, right?)

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My guess is Stephane Robidas might get picked up in a few more fantasy hockey leagues next year.

Two other names from 09-10 that jumped out to me were Chris Pronger and Kimmo Timonen. They didn’t hit the top 10 in 08-09 or 07-08, so I wonder if a coaching change indicates that they’ve been asked to block more shots. Both guys are already strong fantasy hockey defensemen, so being strong in “jack of all trades” categories can only be good for their value.

snuffoutthepass.jpgAs usual, I decided to see which players consistently ranked in the top 10 in those three years. Keep in mind, though, that Jay McKee is still looking for an NHL contract and Niclas Havelid is playing overseas.

Keith Ballard: 3, NR, 10
Greg Zanon: 4, 3, 7
Mike Komisarek: NR, 4, 1
Anton Volchenkov: 8, 8,2
Niclas Havelid: NR, 6, 6
Jay McKee: NR, 7, 9
Roman Hamrlik: NR, 5, 4

Anton Volchenkov is now a member of the New Jersey Devils, but chances are he’ll still put his body in front of high-speed shots in Newark too. Mike Komisarek could be a candidate for a bounce back year after he shared in the Maple Leafs’ collective misery last season. Keith Ballard could benefit in many areas after leaving the Florida Panthers for Cup contender Vancouver, although people felt that way about Jay Bouwmeester in Calgary last year so don’t get too dreamy. It’s great to see Greg Zanon rank highly in one fantasy hockey category since he’s widely considered to be a defenseman with considerable – but very subtle – skills.

So, those are the guys you need to look out for if your league adds blocked shots as a category. We hope you find these cheat sheets useful. Expect to see some more in the future, but feel free to tell us if there are any categories (or strategies) you’d like us to clear up.

Lightning-Stars stream: 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Final

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NBC’s coverage of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs continues with Saturday’s Stanley Cup Final matchup between the Lightning and Stars. Coverage begins at 8 p.m. ET on NBC. Watch the Lightning-Stars stream on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

In by far the most competitive and only back-and-forth game this series, the Lightning came out on top in the first overtime game of this Cup Final. Tampa trailed 2-0 and 3-2 before taking its first lead of the game when Alex Killorn scored 6:41 into the third period to make the score 4-3. Joe Pavelski tied things back up with 8:25 left in regulation, forcing each club’s first overtime game since their respective Conference Finals series-clinchers. Offseason signee Kevin Shattenkirk, playing on his fifth team and in his first Cup Final, then netted the winner, 6:34 into the extra session to move the Lightning one win from their second-ever Stanley Cup (2004).

Tampa can become the first team in the NHL expansion era (1967- present) to win the Stanley Cup the season after being swept in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Last season, the Lightning tied the NHL regular-season record with 62 wins but lost four straight games to the Blue Jackets in the opening round for an early playoff exit. Over the last six years, no team has more playoff wins or Conference Finals appearances than Tampa, and now they’re one victory away from their first title in the Jon Cooper era.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Pat Maroon, who the Lightning signed in the offseason, is the only player on the team who has won a Cup and he can become the third player in the expansion era (since 1967) to win a title in consecutive seasons with different teams after helping the Blues win their first-ever championship last year (Cory Stillman 2004 with Tampa and 2006 with Carolina … Claude Lemieux 1995 with New Jersey and 1996 with Colorado).

Historically, a 3-1 series lead in the Cup Final has almost guaranteed an eventual Cup victory, with teams converting 33 times in 34 total tries. The only time a team blew a 3-1 lead in the Cup Final was in 1942, when Detroit lost to Toronto after leading the series 3-0.

WHAT: Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars
WHERE: Rogers Place – Edmonton
WHEN: Saturday, September 26, 8 p.m. ET
TV: NBC
ON THE CALL: Mike Emrick, Eddie Olczyk, Brian Boucher
LIVE STREAM: You can watch the Lightning-Stars stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars (TB leads 3-1)

Stars 4, Lightning 1 (recap)
Lightning 3, Stars 2 (recap)
Lightning 5, Stars 2 (recap)
Lighting 5, Stars 4 [OT] (recap)
Game 5: Saturday, Sept. 26, 8 p.m. ET – NBC (livestream)
*Game 6: Monday, Sept. 28, 8 p.m. ET – NBC
*Game 7: Wednesday, Sept. 30, 8 p.m. ET – NBC

*if necessary

Stars will not have Roope Hintz, Blake Comeau for Game 5

Stars Game 5
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The Dallas Stars will be without several key forwards for Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final on Saturday night (8 p.m. ET, NBC, Livestream)  as they look to fight off elimination and extend their season.

Coach Rick Bowness announced that forward Roope Hintz will not be available for Saturday’s game after he was injured in Game 4 on Friday night.

Hintz logged just five minutes of ice-time in the Stars’ 5-4 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

That is a pretty significant blow to the Stars’ lineup, not only because Hintz finished the season as one of their leading goal-scorers (19 goals in only 60 games), but because they are already dealing with injuries to a couple of key depth players.

In addition to Hintz, the Stars will again be without forwards Radek Faksa and Blake Comeau.

Comeau has missed the past two games in the Stanley Cup Final, while Faksa has been sidelined since the middle of the Western Conference Final.

What really makes this an issue for the Stars is Comeau and Faksa were two of their most used forwards on the penalty kill during the season, with Hintz also playing a minor role in that spot.

Tampa Bay’s power play has caught fire in the Stanley Cup Final, scoring on six of its 15 opportunities. Taking those three out of the lineup is not going to help the Stars’ chances of containing the Lightning power play.

More: Stars need one more improbable run to complete improbable season

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars (TB leads 3-1)

Stars 4, Lightning 1. (recap)
Lightning 3, Stars 2. (recap)
Lightning 5, Stars 2. (recap)
Lightning 5, Stars 4 [OT]. (recap)
Game 5: Saturday, Sept. 26, 8 p.m. ET – NBC (livestream)
*Game 6: Monday, Sept. 28, 8 p.m. ET – NBC
*Game 7: Wednesday, Sept. 30, 8 p.m. ET – NBC

*if necessary

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Stars need one more improbable run to complete improbable season

Stars Stanley Cup
Getty
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It would be easy at this point to write off Dallas Stars’ chances in the 2020 Stanley Cup Final.

They enter Game 5 on Saturday night (8 p.m. ET, NBC, Livestream) facing a 3-1 series deficit to a steamroller of a Tampa Bay Lightning team that is clicking on all cylinders.

They need to find a way to win three games in a row against a team that has more regular season and playoff wins than anybody else over the past six years. Three wins in a row against team that has lost three games in a row on just five different occasions over the past three full seasons.

Not only that, but in the history of the league only one team has comeback from being down 3-1 in the Stanley Cup Final, and it required a lot of madness and insanity for it to happen (read about it here).

The odds, clearly, are not in the Stars’ favor right now.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

But when has that mattered in this NHL season, in this bubble, in this year? Especially for this Stars team that just keeps finding ways to surprise people.

It’s been easy to write this Stars team off all season. When they started the season 1-7-1 through their first nine games, no one would have blamed you for making them an afterthought and forgetting about the.

The same was true when they went through a sudden and shocking mid-season coaching change.

And it was true when they ended the regular season on a seven-game losing streak, and then lost two out of their three Round-Robin games in the Return To Play, all while looking like a complete inept offensive team.

It was a foregone conclusion to pretty much everyone outside of Dallas that Colorado was going to skate by them in the Second Round. Then when the Avalanche failed to beat them, it was just generally accepted the Stars’ luck would run out against Vegas. Wrong again! Both times!

Now here we are again in a position where it’s easy to say, yeah, they’re done.

[Lightning vs. Stars: 2020 Stanley Cup Final schedule]

But twice this postseason the Stars have ended a series by winning three games in a row (Calgary and Vegas). Obviously the circumstances here are a little different (playing a better team, actually facing elimination with no margin for error) but they have done it before and in a variety of ways. They have found a way to score goals when needed, and they have also been able to lock things down or lean on their goaltending when needed.

If the first four games of this series have shown us anything it’s that they may need more of the latter approach to stay in this. Khudobin has cooled off considerably over the past few games, but he is absolutely capable of turning things around in the blink of an eye. In his two years with the Stars he has .923 save percentage in his 95 appearances (regular season and playoffs combined), which is one of the best marks for any goalie during that stretch. He helped single-handedly get them through the Vegas series. Does he have three more games like that in him?

No matter how they go about it, the Stars’ backs are clearly against the wall here. But that has been the case from the very start of the season and it has not yet stopped them.

They need to find a way to exceed the expectations one more time.

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars (TB leads 3-1)

Stars 4, Lightning 1. (recap)
Lightning 3, Stars 2. (recap)
Lightning 5, Stars 2. (recap)
Lightning 5, Stars 4 [OT]. (recap)
Game 5: Saturday, Sept. 26, 8 p.m. ET – NBC (livestream)
*Game 6: Monday, Sept. 28, 8 p.m. ET – NBC
*Game 7: Wednesday, Sept. 30, 8 p.m. ET – NBC

*if necessary

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Steven Stamkos will not play in Game 5 of Stanley Cup Final

Stamkos Game 5
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If the Tampa Bay Lightning are going to win the Stanley Cup on Saturday night they are going to have to win one more game without Steven Stamkos.

Coach Jon Cooper announced on Saturday that the Lightning captain will not be available for Game 5 (8 p.m. ET, NBC, Livestream) against the Dallas Stars.

Stamkos has played in just one game this postseason for the Lightning as he continues to recover from a lower-body injury and a core muscle injury that sidelined him in late February.

His lone appearance this postseason was the Lightning’s Game 3 win when he played just a little under three minutes, scoring a goal on his only shot of the game.

He spent the final 47 minutes of the Lightning’s 5-2 win seated on the bench.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

On Friday, Cooper announced that Stamkos would not play in Game 4 (which the Lightning won in overtime, 5-4) but that they were not ruling him out for the rest of the series.

If the Lightning win on Saturday night, they will win the Stanley Cup for the second time in franchise history and for the first time since the 2003-04 season.

The Lightning’s top line of Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, and Ondrej Palat has helped drive the offense in Stamkos’ absence, while they have also received massive contributions from their newly formed second line and their defense.

They are 17-6 in the Return To Play, with 16 of those wins coming without Stamkos in the lineup.

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars (TB leads 3-1)

Stars 4, Lightning 1. (recap)
Lightning 3, Stars 2. (recap)
Lightning 5, Stars 2. (recap)
Lightning 5, Stars 4 [OT]. (recap)
Game 5: Saturday, Sept. 26, 8 p.m. ET – NBC (livestream)
*Game 6: Monday, Sept. 28, 8 p.m. ET – NBC
*Game 7: Wednesday, Sept. 30, 8 p.m. ET – NBC

*if necessary

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.