Stalwart gets used as a cliche adjective to describe a defenseman, and with good cause. It manages to wrap in the feeling of both reliability and grind that go together when a defenseman does the work necessary to keep pucks out of their team's own net.
And if there's one defensive group that I think can be considered the most stalwart of the bunch, it's the Boston Bruins. You can use any number of metrics to evaluate a team defense, but one I tend to come back to is the rate of high-danger scoring chances an opponent is allowed at five-on-five.
Really, that's what it all ends up boiling down to. A goaltender is at his most vulnerable when there is a high-danger shot against. If you need to stop and revisit the high-danger shot definition, NaturalStatTrick.com has one in their glossary. Limiting these in-close opportunities means giving a goaltender the best possible chance to make a save on their own. The more often they face high-danger shots, the more often they are going to be out of position or simply be unable to make the save.
The past two seasons combined, the Boston Bruins have the lowest high-danger Corsi against in the NHL, allowing 585 opportunities to their opponents. This season, among goaltenders with at least 500 minutes played, Jeremy Swayman has faced the fewest high-danger shots against per 60 minutes, while Linus Ullmark has faced the fourth-fewest per 60 minutes. For what it's worth, while were here, poor Carter Hart has faced almost twice as many high-danger shots against per 60 minutes than Swayman (10.00 versus 5.54).
So why aren't Swayman and Ullmark among the league leaders for fantasy goaltenders? For one thing, the split workload immediately undercuts their efforts for most fantasy teams. Swayman has a 53.4 percent crease share, with Ullmark clocking the rest (46.6 percent). Additionally, a few more goals out of David Pastrnak or Taylor Hall, leading to a few more wins certainly wouldn't hurt their fantasy totals. But overall, they are in the fantasy mix, despite the workload issues. Ullmark ranks 12th among goaltenders (at least 40 percent crease share) in fantasy points per 60 minutes (FPP60), with Swayman not far behind at 16th. That puts both of them in the conversation for any active league. The trouble comes from the fact that you can't just lock them and leave them, given the shared duties.
All of this is to come in a roundabout way to the fact that Tuukka Rask is a must-add in any and all leagues. Make room for him.
Now on a contract with the Bruins AHL organization, expect Rask to sign a small-salary deal with the Bruins and join the team as early as next week. He's available in 80 percent of ESPN leagues. While the team could keep all three goalies on the roster, Swayman can go to the AHL without waivers, so that will likely be the move before too long.
Rask, by all accounts, looks healthy and ready to play. He'll step into the crease for at least 50 percent of the workload -- and maybe more if the Bruins react positively to his veteran presence in the net.
Fantasy Forecaster: Jan. 10 to Jan. 16
There's continued disparity in the schedule as cancelled games still loom large. Ten games originally planned for next week have already been nixed. None have been rescheduled for the scoring period yet, but be aware some can come after the fantasy week has started (we didn't know at this time last week that the Red Wings and Ducks would be playing this Sunday, for example).
The Colorado Avalanche, Seattle Kraken, Tampa Bay Lightning and Vancouver Canucks lead the charge with four games on the docket, while the Minnesota Wild and Montreal Canadiens only have one contest scheduled.
Minnesota Wild: This is probably as good a week as any for the Wild to have minimal game action. Only playing once against the Anaheim Ducks next Friday is a blessing. In addition to the continued absence of Joel Eriksson Ek, we are now awaiting a timetable on Kirill Kaprizov's upper-body injury. Not to mention Cam Talbot being on the sidelines as well. That said, the absences on the Wild roster meant we got to see the NHL debuts of future scoring-line regulars Matthew Boldy and Marco Rossi on Thursday. Playing on a line together, Boldy notched his first of many career goals against the Bruins. Both players are showing well in the AHL as rookies this season, Rossi with 23 points in 21 games and Boldy with 10 in 10. It's not impossible to envision either doing enough during the next couple of weeks -- with Eriksson Ek and possibly Kaprizov sidelined -- to earn a permanent spot with the club. Though we won't get to see them much next week, keep close tabs on them.
Seattle Kraken: Defense is the only place to find fantasy points on the Kraken's roster right now. That already anemic offense took another hit with Jaden Schwartz having hand surgery. But some defensemen have found a way to earn some fantasy points. During a four-game week for the Kraken, it's not unreasonable to consider starting any of Mark Giordano, Vince Dunn, Carson Soucy or Adam Larsson, all of whom have managed 1.7 to 2.1 fantasy points per game (FPPG) during the past month by virtue of blocking shots and hitting.
Tampa Bay Lightning: The Lightning lineup looked exactly as predicted with Nikita Kucherov back in the fold. Playing on his familiar line with Brayden Point and Ondrej Palat, Kucherov picked up two helpers. He's also on the power play with Point, Steven Stamkos and Alex Killorn. Due to most of these key assets already being on rosters, Killorn is likely your only access to the return of Kucherov via fantasy free agents. But he's worth a look, as this power play could explode now that it's back at full strength.
Jakub Vrana, W, Detroit Red Wings: It's possible you forget about Vrana, a sleeper coming into his first full season with a rebuilding Red Wings squad. If he hadn't had shoulder surgery, we might still be waiting for Lucas Raymond's NHL debut. But, alas, Vrana is still recovering and, via an update this week, we learned he is aiming for February for a return. What does this mean for a Red Wings offense that has precisely three fantasy-relevant forwards at the moment? It means Vrana makes four and we likely end up with an odd-man out, rather than two relevant lines. Raymond has done more than enough to establish himself, which makes me bet on Vrana as the one who might only get fantasy points on the power play.
Dougie Hamilton, D, New Jersey Devils: It's not an ideal time for Hamilton to be out indefinitely after taking a puck to the jaw, but here we are. Jack Hughes is exploding offensively and Hamilton will no longer be on the blue line to feed him the puck, on and off the power play for a while. In the meantime, Damon Severson should be added to rosters. He's available in 90 percent of ESPN leagues and is the de facto power-play quarterback until Hamilton returns.
Johan Larsson, C/W, Arizona Coyotes: If the Coyotes get goals, you can rest assured some of them will flow from the Phil Kessel-Lawson Crouse line. At the moment, that line includes Larsson. He had three assists in a game two weeks ago and then three goals in a game this past week. Getting some runtime on the power play is helping, too. He's only a candidate in deeper leagues, as more often than not you are risking a goose egg in your lineup.