Defensive Awareness

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Defensive Awareness
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Michael Finewax takes a look at players who are good at a combination of hits, blocked shots and plus/minus …

In one pool I'm involved in, we do not play penalty minutes as a category but have blocked shots, hits and plus/minus as three different categories.

The categories tend to look at how well you are defensively (I know plus/minus rewards you for a goal while you are on the ice, but it also takes away when the player is on the ice for a goal against) so I combined all three to see who was the best in the NHL.

It's not a surprise that of the 34 players who have a plus-40 or better that most are defensemen with Matt Greene and Kevin Bieksa the only two over 60 at 65 and 61 respectively.

Greene has 35 hits, 26 blocked shots and a plus-four rating while Bieksa has 28 hits, 22 blocked shots and a plus-11 rating.

There are nine players with totaling 50 or more including Radko Gudas (58), Dion Phaneuf (57), Ladislav Smid (55), the first forward Evander Kane (54), Nicklas Grossmann (53), Brooks Orpik (51) and Shea Weber, Mike Weaver and Cody Franson, all with 50.

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Twenty-three players have 40 or more including forwards Tommy Wingels, Justin Abdelkader (whose 47 includes 43 hits), Martin Hanzal, Tanner Glass and Troy Brouwer.

The rest of the defensemen include: Francois Beauchemin, Bryan Allen, Brent Seabrook, Nate Guenin, Jan Hejda, David Savard, Brenden Dillon, Jeff Petry, Erik Gudbranson, Drew Doughty, Josh Gorges, Matt Martin, Jared Cowen, Zbynek Michalek, Carl Gunnarsson, Paul Ranger, Zach Bogosian and Dustin Byfuglien.

There are four Maple Leafs on the list and three Winnipeg Jets.

Now to The Week Ahead.

WEEK OF OCTOBER 28 - NOVEMBER 3

4 Games - Chicago, Dallas, Montreal, New York Rangers, Pittsburgh

3 Games– Anaheim, Boston, Buffalo, Calgary, Carolina, Detroit, Los Angeles, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York Islanders, Ottawa, Philadelphia, Phoenix, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Toronto, Vancouver, Washington

2 Games – Colorado, Columbus, Edmonton, Florida, Nashville, San Jose, Winnipeg

 Anaheim, Detroit, Montreal and Toronto three games on the road.

Minnesota, the New York Rangers and Vancouver play three games at home.

Editor's Note: Rotoworld's partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $2,500 Fantasy Hockey league tonight (Friday). It's just $10 to join and first prize is $500. Starts at 7pm ET. Here's the link.

INJURIES

Taylor Hall is out four weeks with a knee injury. (Click here to see the rest of the injury list.)

ANAHEIM

Games this week

@ Philadelphia, @ Boston, @ Buffalo

Notes

The Ducks will be rested on Thursday in Boston as the Bruins are in Pittsburgh Wednesday night. Viktor Fasth is still unable to play due to a lower body injury that occurred last week so Frederik Andersen is backing up Jonas Hiller.  Dustin Penner suffered an apparent concussion when hit in the head courtesy of Dallas' Ryan Garbutt on Sunday and is out of action. Jakob Silfverberg is off to a good start with seven points in nine games. Francois Beauchemin has two points in nine games and has gone seven straight games without a point but his plus-eight rating gives him fantasy value.

BOSTON

Games this week

@ Pittsburgh, vs. Anaheim, @ New York Islanders

Notes

The Bruins play three games in four nights so expect to see Chad Johnson play once in place of Tuukka Rask. The Bruins will be tired Thursday when they host the Ducks after playing in Pittsburgh Wednesday. The will be rested when they are in Long Island to play the Islanders who are in Ottawa Friday.  Brad Marchand was demoted to the third line but with the injury to Loui Eriksson, Marchand will once again see second line minutes alongside Patrice Bergeron and the surprising Reilly Smith. Eriksson is out indefinitely with a concussion. Jarome Iginla finally found the  back of the net Thursday and has four assists in nine games. Torey Krug has been terrific on the blueline fantasy-wise as he has three goals including two on the power play, in eight games.

BUFFALO

Games this week

vs. Dallas, @ New York Rangers, vs. Anaheim

Notes

At 1-9-1, the Sabres are the worst team in the NHL in the early going. Look for John Scott to get a hefty suspension for his hit to the head on Loui Eriksson. The Sabres other enforcer, Patrick Kaleta could be appealing his 10 game suspension to a neutral arbitrator. Ryan Miller is just 1-7-0 with a 3.01 GAA, but that could be more about the team around him as his save percentage is .918. Steve Ott has only two points in 11 games this season. Ville Leino (cracked rib) could be ready to return to action this week.  Nikita Zadorov scored his first NHL goal this past week. The defenseman was selected 13th overall in the 2013 Draft.

CALGARY

Games this week

vs. Toronto. vs. Detroit, @ Chicago

Notes

The Flames get a huge break this week as they are the rested team twice. The first time is Wednesday against Toronto as the Maple Leafs play in Edmonton the previous night. They are in Chicago Sunday to play the Blackhawks as Chicago is in Winnipeg Saturday. Jiri Hudler was the last player to score in every game this season but that came to an end Thursday when he was held off the scoresheet. Sven Baertschi was a healthy scratch Thursday while Matt Stajan returned to action after missing eight games with a leg contusion.  Lee Stempniak is on a five game scoring streak and has four goals and nine points this season.

CAROLINA

Games this week

vs. Pittsburgh, vs. Tampa Bay, @ New York Rangers

Notes

The Hurricanes are the tired team Saturday in New York as they take on Tampa Bay at home Friday. Carolina is hurting in goal with Cam Ward out a month and Anton Khudobin on the shelf as well, leaving the net to Justin Peters. Rookie Elias Lindholm, the Hurricanes first round pick in 2013, has missed the last five games with a shoulder injury but should be back this week. Tim Gleason has been out all season with a concussion but his return is imminent. They miss his steadying influence on the blueline. Jeff Skinner leads the team in points with nine.

CHICAGO

Games this week

@ Minnesota, vs. Ottawa, @ Winnipeg, vs. Calgary

Notes

The Blackhawks are the tired team twice this week with the first game coming on Tuesday against the Senators at home as Chicago plays in Minnesota Monday. They are home to Calgary on Sunday after playing the Jets in Winnipeg Saturday. The Blackhawks start the week in the second game of back-to-back contests against the Wild so look for Brandon Bollig to get into a fight as he is the Blackhawks resident enforcer. Patrick Kane leads the Blackhawks with eight points in 10 games after his two point effort on Thursday against Tampa Bay. Mike Kostka is out four-six weeks with a lower body injury suffered in practice.

COLORADO

Games this week

@ Dallas, vs. Montreal

Notes

The Avalanche are still the surprise team in the NHL and although they only play twice, there are seven teams that do so, so I suggest keeping your Avs in the lineup if you have a lot of players only playing twice in weekly transaction pools. Erik Johnson could miss some time after being hit in the foot by a shot during practice Wednesday. Cody McLeod will be eligible to return against Montreal after being suspended five games for his hit on Niklas Kronwall. P. A. Parenteau has been very impressed with the play of linemate and first overall pick Nathan MacKinnon. With all the offensive skill that MacKinnon possesses, Parenteau loves his competitiveness and the way he battles. That bodes very well for the future of the Avs and MacKinnon as he has huge offensive talent.

COLUMBUS

Games this week

@ Pittsburgh, vs. Pittsburgh

Notes

The Blue Jackets play a home-and-home series against the Penguins this week for their only two games of the week. If there are any fisticuffs, and usually in  back-to-back games, tempers tend to flare, then look for Jared Boll and possibly Nick Foligno to be involved. Cody Bass is another possibility but he has yet to be cleared to practice after injuring his thumb and could be sent to the minors for conditioning. Sergei Bobrovsky got back in the win column Tuesday after giving up four goals apiece in his previous two games. James Wisniewski should feel under the weather a few more times this season. He was considered a game-time decision Tuesday with flu-like symptoms but played and had a goal and two assists in the win.

DALLAS

Games this week

@ Buffalo, @ Montreal, vs. Colorado, @ Ottawa

Notes

The Stars play four times this week but not three games in four nights. Nevertheless, look for Dan Ellis to play at least once as Kari Lehtonen just returned to the lineup after missing five games with a lower back injury. Brenden Dillon has been a fantasy hidden gem in the early going as the defenseman has three goals, five points and a plus-seven rating thus far. He will also pick up penalty minutes and has eight in 10 games. Ryan Garbutt was suspended for five games for his hit on Dustin Penner. Ray Whitney has yet to find the back of the net but has six assists. Alex Goligoski was a healthy scratch on Thursday.

DETROIT

Games this week

@ Vancouver, @ Calgary, @ Edmonton

Notes

The Red Wings play all three games in Western Canada this week and they play all three in four nights so look for Jonas Gustavsson to play once in place of Jimmy Howard. The Red Wings will be tired on Saturday in Edmonton after playing the Flames in Calgary Friday. Jonas Gustavsson was named the first star of the week in the NHL. Niklas Kronwall returned to action on Wednesday after taking a hit to the head courtesy of Cody McLeod. There was some doubt as he took a puck to the mouth in practice but after a visit to the dentist, he was deemed okay to play. Patrick Eaves could return to the lineup on October 26 after being out of action all season with knee and ankle problems.

EDMONTON

Games this week

vs. Toronto, vs. Detroit

Notes

The Oilers are the rested team on Saturday against the Red Wings after Detroit takes on Calgary the previous night. They play only twice this week but both games are at home. Taylor Hall is out four weeks with a knee injury suffered on Saturday against the Ottawa Senators. Justin Schultz potted his first goal of the season Thursday but his minus-eight rating has to cause some concern for poolies. Sam Gagner is at least another week away after doctors determined his jaw was still too tender. Mark Arcobello is tied for second in the NHL in assists with ten. He's been a nice waiver wire pickup as he wasn't expected to make the team out of training camp, and as a bottom-six player at best if he stuck around.

FLORIDA

Games this week

vs. St. Louis, @ Washington

Notes

The lowly Panthers play only twice this week so suggest benching your Florida players in weekly transaction pools. Tim Thomas (leg) is hurt again so the goaltending may fall to Jacob Markstrom and the recalled Scott Clemmensen although Thomas is eligible to return Friday against the Blues. Dmitry Kulikov scored his first goal on Tuesday and it was the defenseman's first point of the season as well. Rumors have the Toronto Maple Leafs interested in his services but the former first round pick is still highly regarded by the Panthers so it will take a lot to pry him away. Sean Bergenheim is close to returning to action after missing the last 18 months with groin, abdomen and hip injuries that required multiple surgeries.  

LOS ANGELES

Games this week

@ Phoenix, vs. San Jose, vs. Nashville

Notes

The Kings are the tired team on Wednesday at home to San Jose after playing Tuesday night in Phoenix. The Kings finally got a couple of goals from their centers on Thursday as Anze Kopitar and Mike Richards found the back of the net for the first time this season. It was Kopitar's first goal in 27 games dating back to last season. After being a healthy scratch on October 18th, Matt Frattin's game has improved according to coach Darryl Sutter. He should fit in on the second or third line the rest of the season. Jonathan Quick has struggled in the early going as he is 6-4-0 with a 2.71 GAA and .904 save percentage.

MINNESOTA

Games this week

vs. Chicago, vs. Montreal, vs. New Jersey

Notes

The Wild are rested Sunday against the Devils as New Jersey is home to Philadelphia Saturday. They play the back half of a home-and-home series with Chicago so expect to see some fisticuffs with Zenon Konopka and possibly Clayton Stoner. Josh Harding left Thursday's game with an undisclosed injury. He has been terrific thus far as he is 5-2-1 with a sensational 1.00 GAA and an equally as good save percentage of .953. Jonas Brodin suffered a broken cheekbone on Tuesday but could play with a full cage this week. Justin Fontaine is seeing some first line time with Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu so consider picking him up in deeper leagues.

MONTREAL

Games this week

@ New York Rangers, vs. Dallas, @ Minnesota, @ Colorado

Notes

The Canadiens play two back-to-back games in their four game week so look for Peter Budaj to play once in place of Carey Price. The Habs sent Jarred Tinordi to Hamilton of the AHL. P.K. Subban leads Montreal in points with 11 and right now is the best fantasy defenseman in the NHL. Despite playing in only the opener, George Parros continues to lead the team with 20 penalty minutes. He participated in Thursday's morning skate but has still not been cleared for contact. The Canadiens other tough guy, Brandon Prust, has missed the last two games with a shoulder injury and should miss the next three weeks. Price is only 5-4-0 but his peripherals are great as he has a 2.13 GAA and a .936 save percentage. He has a very good chance to be Team Canada's starting goalie at the Sochi Olympics.

NASHVILLE

Games this week

@ Phoenix, @ Los Angeles

Notes

The Predators have lost starting goalie Pekka Rinne for a month with a hip infection, so look for backup Carter Hutton to get most of the starts. Hutton is off to a 2-0-0 start this season with a 1.37 GAA and a .959 save percentage. Magnus Hellberg will be the backup. The Predators play only twice this week and since they are a low scoring team, do not start any skaters in weekly transaction pools unless you have little other choice. Good news for Roman Josi owners as he returned to practice Thursday for the first time since suffering a concussion on October 4. There is no timetable for his return.

NEW JERSEY

Games this week

vs. Tampa Bay, vs. Philadelphia, @ Minnesota

Notes

The Devils are the rested team Saturday when they face the Flyers as Philadelphia is home to Washington Friday. New Jersey will be tired Sunday in Minnesota as they face a rested Wild team. It looks like Cory Schneider will get the majority of the starts with Martin Brodeur seeing a lot of bench time this season. Adam Larsson returned to the lineup on Thursday after being a healthy scratch for the previous two games. He is going to be a good player in the league but you have to be patient with him as defensemen usually take a lot longer to develop. He is pointless with a minus-five rating in seven games. Patrik Elias scored the lone goal for the Devils on Thursday after missing two games with an illness.

NEW YORK ISLANDERS

Games this week

vs. New York Rangers. @ Ottawa, vs. Boston

Notes

The Islanders will be rested on Tuesday when hosting the Rangers as New York take on Montreal Monday. The Islanders will be the tired team on Saturday when they are home to the Bruins after playing in Ottawa on Friday night. Lubomir Visnovsky is out indefinitely with a concussion so the Islanders inked veteran defenseman Radek Martinek to a one-year deal.  The 37-year-old Martinek has been practicing with the team since training camp so he is familiar with his teammates. Look for Matt Donovan to take over the power play duties from Visnovsky although Andrew MacDonald will also see extra ice time with the man-advantage. Frans Nielsen is tied for the team lead in points with John Tavares at 11. Nielsen is plus-four while Tavares is minus-one.

NEW YORK RANGERS

Games this week

vs. Montreal, @ New York Islanders, vs. Buffalo, vs. Carolina

Notes

The Rangers finally play at home this week for the first time this season and play three games in four nights as part of their four game week. Look for Henrik Lundqvist to return to action as he suffered an undisclosed injury and play three times this week with Cameron Talbot playing once. The Rangers will be the tired team on Tuesday in Long Island after playing the Habs at Madison Square Garden Monday. They will be rested on Saturday when facing the Hurricanes who are home to Tampa Bay Friday. Brad Richards is back to his old self as he leads the Rangers with five goals and eight points in eight games. Mats Zuccarello was a healthy scratch on Thursday. There is still no change in the status of Rick Nash who has been out with a concussion since October 8. He could be out a while and his Olympic status is now in doubt.

OTTAWA     

Games this week

@ Chicago, vs. New York Islanders, vs. Dallas

Notes

The Senators are the rested team for the third time in the last two weeks as they take on Chicago after the Blackhawks are in Minnesota Monday. The Senators recalled Mika Zibanejad and he picked up an assist in his seasonal debut Wednesday. Grab him off the waiver wire in deeper pools. Despite picking up five assists in his first eight games, Patrick Wiercioch was a healthy scratch Wednesday. Bobby Ryan is off to a flying start with six goals and nine points in his first nine games for the Senators. He could hit the 40 goal mark this season. Although his GAA is a bit high at 2.58, Craig Anderson is 4-1-2 with a .930 save percentage.

PHILADELPHIA

Games this week

vs. Anaheim, vs. Washington, @ New Jersey

Notes

The Flyers will be tired on Saturday in New Jersey after taking on the Capitals Friday. Steve Mason has played very well this season in spite of his 2-5-0 record as he has a 2.17 GAA and a .930 save percentage. Vincent Lecavalier returned to action on Thursday after missing two weeks with a lower body injury. He was held off the scoreboard but managed four shots on goal in a rare Flyers win. Kimmo Timonen is pointless in nine games thus far and has lost his spot on the top power play unit as Mark Streit has taken over. Michael Raffl saw plenty of time on the first line Thursday with Lecavalier and Claude Giroux and that bears watching in the short term while Scott Hartnell remains out of action.

PHOENIX

Games this week

vs. Los Angeles, vs. Nashville, @ San Jose

Notes

Shane Doan missed Tuesday's game with a lower body injury but returned to action on Thursday. Mike Smith gave up four goals on only 15 shots Thursday before being pulled after the first period. He is now 5-2-2 with a mediocre 3.08 GAA and a middling save percentage of .907. Martin Hanzal has 10 points in 11 games with 17 penalty minutes and it looks like Mikkel Boedker is finally showing Coyote fans why Phoenix grabbed him eighth overall in the 2008 Draft as he now has two goals and nine points in 11 games, second best on the Coyotes. David Rundblad has been a healthy scratch in eight games thus far and could be sent to the minors to get in some playing time.

PITTSBURGH

Games this week

@ Carolina, vs. Boston, vs. Columbus, @ Columbus

Notes

The Penguins play three games in four nights this week so you can look Jeff Zatkoff to get a start this week in place of Marc-Andre Fleury. The Penguins play a back-to-back series against Columbus so expect some fireworks. Beau Bennett has been placed on injured reserve but the move is retroactive and he can return at any time from his lower body injury. Rookie Olli Maatta will stay past the nine game mark with the Penguins as the defenseman's play has been steady. Kris Letang is slated to return on October 25 and will likely be paired with Rob Scuderi. Evgeni Malkin has nine points in nine games while Sidney Crosby leads the league with 17 points in nine games after being held off the scoresheet Tuesday.  

ST. LOUIS

Games this week

vs. Winnipeg, @ Florida, @ Tampa Bay

Notes

Chris Stewart has been practicing with Jaden Schwartz and Patrik Berglund. Jaroslav Halak continues to shine as he is 5-1-0 with a 2.26 GAA and a .919 save percentage. Ryan Reaves leads the Blues in penalty minutes with 29 and has scored once in seven games. Alexander Steen leads the team with 11 points. Alex Pietrangelo should be good to good on October 25 as should Brenden Morrow and Barret Jackman.  Magnus Paajarvi has been given an opportunity to play alongside Vladimir Tarasenko and Derek Roy. We shall see if he is able to take advantage of the chance.

SAN JOSE

Games this week

@ Los Angeles, vs. Phoenix

Notes

The Sharks are the rested team on Wednesday in Los Angeles as they face a tired Kings squad who  are in Phoenix Tuesday. Once again Patrick Marleau is off to a very hot start with eight goals and 12 points in 10 games. He was the third star of the week.  Dan Boyle (upper body) is with the Sharks and participated in Thursday's morning skate but there is no timetable for his return. Antti Niemi is one of the top goaltenders this season with a 8-1-1 record, a 1.67 GAA and a .927 save percentage. Tomas Hertl has seven goals and 10 points in 10 games but has only one assist in his last four games.

TAMPA BAY

Games this week

@ New Jersey, @ Carolina, vs. St. Louis

Notes

Ben Bishop is 6-1-0 after defeating the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday. He has a 2.53 GAA and a .917 save percentage and has established himself as the number one netminder in the early going over Anders Lindback. Steve Stamkos leads the Lightning with seven goals and 14 points and his plus-seven rating is second only to Martin St. Louis who is one ahead. Former number one draft pick Brett Connolly was sent to the minors. Victor Hedman had a tough time Saturday as he was minus-five in a 5-0 loss to Boston. Sami Salo is pointless in his last two games after picking up a goal and five points in his previous four matchups.

TORONTO

Games this week

@ Edmonton, @ Calgary, @ Vancouver

Notes

The Maple Leafs play all three games in Western Canada where it may be tough to tell you the home team is as Toronto's hockey team is quite popular in Western Canada. They will be the tired team on Wednesday when facing Calgary as the Maple Leafs are in Edmonton Tuesday. The Maple Leafs are putting a third line together consisting of Mason Raymond, Dave Bolland and David Clarkson and that should cause havoc for many teams. Frazer McLaren and Nikolai Kulemin could both be back in the Toronto lineup this week. Joffrey Lupul suffered a bruised foot in practice Thursday and the Leafs recalled Josh Leivo in case Lupul is unable to go. Morgan Rielly will remain with the team beyond nine games and will burn up a year in his entry level contract.

VANCOUVER

Games this week

 vs. Washington. vs. Detroit, vs. Toronto

Notes

Roberto Luongo is 6-3-1 this season and while his peripherals are nothing special with a 2.54 GAA and a .908 save percentage, the Canucks are winning with him in net. Surprise, surprise. David Booth is injured again as he was hurt in the first period Thursday. It appears to be a lower body injury. Ryan Kesler is being used a lot by coach John Tortorella and was fourth among forwards in ice time heading into action on Thursday. Henrik Sedin leads the Canucks in points with 15, four clear of his brother Daniel. Surprisingly, Henrik is tied for the Canuck lead in penalty minutes as well with Tom Sestito as both have 12.

WASHINGTON

Games this week

@ Vancouver, @ Philadelphia, vs. Florida

Notes

The Capitals finish in Western Canada this week and then head back east. Braden Holtby got off to a horrible start but has now won four of his last five games to square his record at 4-4. His GAA has dropped to 2.78 with a .919 save percentage as he has stopped 172 of 182 shots in his last five. Marcus Johansson has 10 assists in 10 games this season with five coming in his last three games. He is playing on the top line with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. Backstrom has 12 points in 10 games while Ovechkin has 10 goals to lead the NHL and is tied for second behind Sidney Crosby with 15 points.

WINNIPEG

Games this week

@ St. Louis, vs. Chicago

Notes

Rookie Mark Scheifele picked up an assist on Tuesday to break a seven game scoring drought. He played with Evander Kane and Blake Wheeler and if he continues to get that assignment Scheifele will have a very good rookie season. Bryan Little, Evander Kane and Andrew Ladd lead the team with eight points apiece and Little and Kane have five goals. Kane also leads in penalty minutes with 19. Chris Thorburn could return to the lineup this week after being out since October 4 with a lower body injury. Congratulations to Anthony Peluso who scored his first NHL goal on Thursday.

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