Commentary

Thin Blue Line: Bruins bubbling up

Weekly news, notes and rankings on fantasy hockey defensemen

Updated: February 10, 2010, 12:44 PM ET
By Victoria Matiash | Special to ESPN.com

It would be difficult to believe there's another team relishing this Olympic break more than the Boston Bruins. After halting the slow train wreck of 10 consecutive winless games with a 3-0 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday, the Bruins have since won their second straight, beating the Buffalo Sabres 3-2 in a shootout on Tuesday. The timing couldn't be any better. If the Bruins manage to win one of their last two before the break (versus the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers), they'll be mentally and emotionally poised to tear it up once the NHL schedule resumes in March.

Top 75 Defensemen

Note: Victoria Matiash's top 75 defensemen are ranked for their expected performance in ESPN standard leagues from this point on, not on the statistics that have already been accrued. ESPN standard stats include goals, assists, power-play goals, shots on goal, plus/minus, penalty minutes and average time on ice. Last week's ranking is indicated in parentheses.

1. Mike Green, Was (1)
2. Duncan Keith, Chi (2)
3. Chris Pronger, Phi (3)
4. Dan Boyle, SJ (4)
5. Sergei Gonchar, Pit (5)
6. Andrei Markov, Mon (6)
7. Drew Doughty, LA (8)
8. Zdeno Chara, Bos (7)
9. Tobias Enstrom, Atl (9)
10. Nicklas Lidstrom, Det (10)
11. Dion Phaneuf, Tor (12)
12. Christian Ehrhoff, Van (11)
13. Mark Streit, NYI (13)
14. Kimmo Timonen, Phi (16)
15. Brian Campbell, Chi (15)
16. Brian Rafalski, Det (17)
17. Scott Niedermayer, Anh (14)
18. Shea Weber, Nsh (20)
19. Tyler Myers, Buf (21)
20. Stephane Robidas, Dal (18)
21. Tomas Kaberle, Tor (22)
22. Lubomir Visnovsky, Edm (19)
23. Jay Bouwmeester, Cgy (24)
24. Erik Johnson, StL (23)
25. Bryan McCabe, Fla (27)
26. Rob Blake, SJ (29)
27. Brent Seabrook, Chi (26)
28. Marek Zidlicky, Min (30)
29. Matt Carle, Phi (25)
30. Alex Goligoski, Pit (33)
31. Ryan Whitney, Anh (31)
32. Ed Jovanovski, Pho (32)
33. Joni Pitkanen, Car (37)
34. Pavel Kubina, Atl (34)
35. Francois Beauchemin, Tor (35)
36. Filip Kuba, Ott (39)
37. Kyle Quincey, Col (36)
38. Michael Del Zotto, NYR (42)
39. Andy Greene, NJ (40)
40. Adrian Aucoin, Pho (38)
41. Anton Stralman, Cls (41)
42. Kurtis Foster, TB (44)
43. Kris Letang, Pit (45)
44. Keith Yandle, Pho (47)
45. Mark Giordano, Cgy (53)
46. Cam Barker, Chi (46)
47. Ryan Suter, Nsh (49)
48. Alexander Edler, Van (48)
49. Zach Bogosian, Atl (43)
50. Roman Hamrlik, Mon (55)
51. Braydon Coburn, Phi (54)
52. Niklas Kronwall, Det (52)
53. James Wisniewski, Anh (60)
54. Derek Morris, Bos (57)
55. Dennis Wideman, Bos (58)
56. Craig Rivet, Buf (51)
57. Denis Grebeshkov, Edm (56)
58. Jaroslav Spacek, Mon (70)
59. Sami Salo, Van (61)
60. Brent Burns, Min (64)
61. Dennis Seidenberg, Fla (62)
62. Tom Poti, Was (65)
63. John-Michael Liles, Col (50)
64. Joe Corvo, Car (67)
65. Ian White, Cgy (59)
66. Jack Johnson, LA (66)
67. Victor Hedman, TB (63)
68. Chris Butler, Buf (68)
69. Matt Carkner, Ott (69)
70. Shaone Morrisonn, Was (NR)
71. Tim Gleason, Car (75)
72. Matt Gilroy, NYR (72)
73. Mattias Ohlund, TB (73)
74. Marc-Edouard Vlasic, SJ (74)
75. Tom Gilbert, Edm (71)

If you're skeptical, consider the following: The Bruins are almost completely healthy, to a man, and fully fit on offense. Young Tuukka Rask is hot as heck between the pipes, while Tim Thomas has been exceptionally patient in taking a backseat. And the team, believe it or not, didn't actually play that badly during that torturous 10-game stretch; as much as the expression is overused, they truly didn't get the bounces.

Most importantly, however, the Bruins truly want to win. As defenseman Andrew Ference put it on Tuesday, each skater is "emotionally invested" again. The pieces are in place for a stellar finish; it's up to the players to make it happen. And it very well could.

Of course, when a team is scoring and winning, you can appreciate the fantasy ramifications. Defensemen Dennis Wideman and Derek Morris -- hardly fantasy superstars, admittedly -- are in position to finish the season strong. Don't roll your eyes, few are expecting Wideman to even approach his numbers from last year (50 points), but the guy still logs a ton of minutes (nearly 32 versus the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday), skates on the power play and shoots the puck regularly. There's still a good deal of potential left.

As for Morris, outside of a seven-game dry spell in mid-January, he's been steady all season. If you buy into the theory that the Bruins will finish the season strong, by the law of averages, Morris' numbers will benefit. With 23 points in 55 games to this stage, it wouldn't be unreasonable to hope for 35 points by season's end.

With respect to Wideman and Morris, the undisputed fantasy heavyweight on the Bruins' blue line has been, and continues to be, Zdeno Chara. Some are already labeling this season a disappointment for the towering defenseman, although he's averaging more than 25 minutes/game, has 32 points, 169 shots and 66 penalty minutes. He hasn't been that much of a dud and there are still many games left. The only fantasy concern regarding Chara at this point is his finger injury. He won't be doing much fighting between now and April, and he passed on an opportunity to drop the gloves in Tuesday's game against the Sabres. But he hasn't done much of that this season anyway.

Rising and Falling

Marc-Andre Bergeron, Montreal Canadiens (off): As first reported by the Montreal Gazette, and then confirmed by coach Jacques Martin, Bergeron will miss 6-8 weeks with a left knee injury. He took a puck off the leg during a game versus the Boston Bruins on Feb. 4. As recipients of more power-play time, fellow Habs defensemen Roman Hamrlik and Jaroslav Spacek receive a slight boost to their fantasy values in Bergeron's absence.

Michael Del Zotto, New York Rangers (up four spots): The acquisition of Olli Jokinen via a four-player trade with the Calgary Flames makes the Rangers better. In particular, it makes the team's power play better. Del Zotto puts in more minutes with the man advantage than any other Rangers defenseman, by a long shot. Therefore, he too should be better. The 19-year-old already has two power-play points in the two games since Jokinen joined the team.

John-Michael Liles, Colorado Avalanche (down 13 spots): A healthy scratch in three of the Avalanche's past five games, Liles is clearly in coach Joe Sacco's doghouse again. There are too many solid healthy defensemen in Colorado at the moment, and until that changes, or he's traded (unlikely), the fantasy roller-coaster ride that Liles has provided this season will continue. It's unfortunate, since he's been productive when he's played.

Ian White, Calgary Flames (down six spots): He never even got a real chance to settle in. A moderate asset only a week ago, White's value took a hit after the Flames acquired winger Ales Kotalik from the Rangers in the aforementioned Jokinen deal. Kotalik scoops up most of White's ice time with the man advantage -- treading on his fantasy value in the process.

Power-Play Performers

Don't count on his ever admitting it, but Bryan McCabe looks simply exhausted. Averaging over 22 minutes of ice time in all of the Florida Panthers' 59 games this season, he's clearly bushed. That's why you shouldn't be too alarmed about his one lonely point in his last 13 games. McCabe will use the Olympic break to recharge and return strong.

Victoria Matiash is a fantasy hockey analyst for ESPN.com

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