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Quick update: It appears as though Scott Laughton was sent back to junior by the Flyers this morning, which just reinforces my point down below - why was he up at all if he was never going to play. Frustrating.
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Hockey is back, baby! There were only three games last night (and three the previous night) so many teams will be making their season debuts tonight or tomorrow night. I can’t say I’m a fan of this staggered start to the season but hopefully you took advantage by drafting some Leafs even for the simple intent of dropping them after their first two games or to take advantage of their heavy early schedule. Little edges like this may not go too far but if you do not have games-played limits in your pool this makes an excellent way to gain one early.
A good example of this came up in one of my drafts last week. In the very last round I was picking my last defenseman. I was stuck between Roman Josi and Justin Faulk. If this was a season-long decision I might have deliberated on this one for a long time but knowing very well that I wouldn’t likely keep this player for the entire season I took Josi because Nashville plays two games prior to the opening weekend versus Carolina’s one. That’s a small advantage but I will take them wherever I can get them.
Welp, just one day after being called up it would seem that Habs defenseman Nathan Beaulieu is on his way back down to the AHL. I could see him riding the bus between Hamilton and Montreal quite a bit this season. The Canadiens are too deep on the blue line for Beaulieu to be a regular this season.
The Penguins signed Chuck Kobasew to a one-year deal worth the league minimum on Wednesday. I am not overly optimistic about his fantasy prospects this season but he is in the right place.
There is a top-six wing spot on the Penguins open to whoever wants it. I consider Kobasew a long-shot candidate for that spot along with Matt D’Agostini (also on a minimum contract), Beau Bennett (who was recalled from the ECHL yesterday) and Jussi Jokinen.
Jokinen and Bennett are the obvious favourites here but even if Kobasew is a third-liner he could still score 45 points on this team, much like Tyler Kennedy in the past. For what it’s worth, 45 points would be a career high for Kobasew, a once promising player. It may seem far-fetched for Kobasew to reach those heights so late in his career but after post-30 career seasons from Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis we cannot rule anything out with Penguins role-players.
It will be important to monitor ice-time and line combinations for all four of these guys as they all have upside. The Penguins’ first game is in New Jersey tonight. Consider it the first test. For what it’s worth, here are Kobasew’s most frequent linemates from the pre-season courtesy of FrozenPool:
That’s a bit of a mixed bag but from that sample Kobasew looks like a third-liner to me, which is the most you should expect beyond the odd injury fill-in.
What a great start to the season for the Toronto Maple Leafs coming away with two big road wins on back-to-back nights to open the season. I didn’t catch the game on Tuesday night but the Leafs were thoroughly out-played by the Philadelphia Flyers last night. They looked sluggish and took many undisciplined penalties throughout the game. They came away victorious anyhow and most of the credit goes to Jonathan Bernier who was stellar throughout.
Bernier allowed just one goal on 32 shots and helped the Leafs to hold the vaunted Flyers power play (third in the league last season) to just the lone goal on seven opportunities. This shouldn’t be too surprising considering the Leafs were the second best penalty-killing team last season but I felt like this was more about Bernier than it was about stout penalty-killing from the Leafs who were merely decent but allowed a number of quality chances.
With James Reimer getting the win in Montreal and Bernier’s excellent play in Philadelphia does this mean that the goaltending controversy is officially on in Toronto?
Despite the additions of Vincent Lecavalier and Mark Streit this off-season the Flyers’ top power play unit from last season returned as the top unit to start this season. To refresh your memory that unit includes:
Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds, Jakub Voracek, Scott Hartnell and Kimmo Timonen
That meant Lecavalier and Streit were relegated to the second unit along with Matt Read, Andrej Meszaros and Brayden Schenn. Giroux also jumped on this second unit in Meszaros’ place for obvious reasons.
For what it’s worth, the lone Flyer goal came from that second unit with Lecavalier and Streit picking up assists but I would still lower my expectations for Streit and Lecavalier this season if they continue to see just second unit power play time because opponents aren’t going to give them seven power play opportunities every night.
All of the Flyers’ power plays led to some truly interesting ice times for several players that you probably shouldn’t read too much into but that I will list anyway:
Nazem Kadri – 11:53
Jake Gardiner – 13:59
Mason Raymond – 10:10
Luke Schenn – 14:39
Sean Couturier – 11:23
For the Leafs listed it’s simply tough to get on the ice much when you don’t kill penalties but your team spends nearly a quarter of the game doing so. For the Flyers it was the opposite problem. So like I said, try not to read too much into those ice-times.
It was really disheartening to see Morgan Rielly scratched by the Leafs and Scott Laughton scratched by the Flyers. Why are these kids up if they aren’t going to get to play? I suppose they are getting an NHL paycheck so long as they are up but they are at a point in their careers where playing is the most important thing. Some bogus ceremonial roster spot where they don’t actually get into the lineup isn’t doing them much good.
I wouldn’t expect to see either one stick with their respective team beyond nine games.
Not a good start to the season for the Buffalo Sabres getting out-shot 34-20 in Detroit last night but at least they got a strong game from Ryan Miller who allowed just two goals on those 34 shots.
The Sabres had several youngsters in their roster last night including rookie Zemgus Girgensons who scored his first NHL goal in just 11:23 of ice time.
Rookie forward Johan Larsson was the odd man out last night receiving a healthy scratch.
Also worth noting was Tyler Myers’ 7:42 of power play time. It would seem Myers is back in favour in Buffalo to start this season as he was second only to Christian Ehrhoff in total ice time.
The Sabres’ lines from Wednesday courtesy of FrozenPool:
It is good to see Mikhail Grigorenko getting another shot after getting jerked around last season. Especially good is the second unit power play time he received.
The Avalanche blew out the Ducks last night 6-1 getting some great offensive contributions across the board. The only notable Avalanche forwards who didn’t score were Paul Stastny (because of course he didn’t) and Gabriel Landeskog.
Alex Tanguay led the way with three assists. Jamie McGinn was all over the place scoring two goals and landing five hits. Ryan O’Reilly acquitted himself to the wing nicely notching a goal and an assist along with six shots on goal. Most importantly, Nathan MacKinnon got on the board with two assists in just 14:31 of ice time with only one second of power play time.
The forward group in Colorado is fantastically deep and nights like tonight certainly show that off. Obviously they won’t put on a show like this every night but just know that there are definitely nine forwards worth considering for fantasy pools on this team.
You have to be mildly concerned about MacKinnon’s lack of power play time as a fantasy owner though. Certainly if he keeps producing the power play time will come but don’t be fooled by tonight’s performance. Without power play time MacKinnon’s upside this season is significantly handicapped.
Keep your eye on the ice time for Avalanche defensemen early this season. Former Senator Andre Benoit led the team in ice time by a long shot with 22:41 including 3:14 on the top power play unit. Benoit immediately becomes a threat to score 40 points by virtue of skating so many minutes with all the talented forwards on this team.
Meanwhile, Tyson Barrie registered an assist but saw the least ice time of any Avalanche defenseman with just 17:53 on the night but he did see second unit power play time alongside Erik Johnson netting 2:57 on the power play.
Semyon Varlamov lost his shutout bid with just seven seconds remaining in the game. In all he stopped 35 of 36 shots from the Ducks. I’m not getting too excited by one performance. I’ve been on the Varlamov bandwagon before and was disappointed. He has a lot of talent but lacks consistency – both with health and play in general. Is this the year he puts it all together?
It could be. Consider that the Avalanche brought in Francois Allaire to work with their goalies this year, which is the first time Varlamov has had a full-time goalie coach in his career. The move could pay dividends.
That Ducks goal was put together by the fantasy sleeper combination of Jakob Silfverberg and Nick Bonino. Bonino skated just 15:18 predominantly as a fourth-liner but tied with Corey Perry for the team lead in power play time with 2:26. I don’t care who Bonino skates with at even strength, if he can lock down the third forward spot on the Ducks’ power play he will definitely be one to watch this season.
The Ducks forward combinations courtesy of FrozenPool:
Also worth mentioning, Mathieu Perreault was the second line center and Patrick Maroon lined up with Perry and Ryan Getzlaf while Dustin Penner was a healthy scratch.
Rookie Hampus Lindholm was also a healthy scratch, which is yet another example of coaches benching youngsters early in the season.
The struggles for Cam Fowler continue this season as he went a minus-three on the night. His defense partner – Francois Beauchemin – was also minus-three so at least it’s encouraging Fowler is being leaned on as a top defenseman on this team but that may be simply because of a lack of other options.
Some real gems in Elliotte Friedman’s 30 Thoughts:
17. One former Duck smiled when he heard Randy Carlyle planned to give James Reimer and Jonathan Bernier one game each in Toronto's back-to-back that opens the season. Apparently, that is a basic move in Carlyle's playbook. "He is starting the competition right away. He will make his goaltending decisions with only one interest in mind: who he thinks gives him the best chance to win."
24. San Jose outscored Vancouver 8-6 at even strength, which is close for a sweep. Coach Todd McLellan had a good quote about Brent Burns's 2013 move to forward: "We don't know what he's doing so [our opponents] sure don't. He's aggressive and reckless, which creates a ton of space for himself and others." His ability to keep it up is going to be important for them. Burns had 17 even-strength points in 30 games. The only other Shark with similar production was Logan Couture. San Jose was 25th in five-on-five goals.
Check out this very late season preview from Grantland’s Sean McIndoe.
A nifty move by Lecavalier setting up Brayden Schenn:
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