Let's start in Boston, where the Colorado Avalanche and netminder J.S. Giguere shutout the Boston Bruins to improve to 4-0-0.

 

The Avalanche are easily the biggest surprise of the 2013-14 regular season so far, racking up points against pretty good teams (the Ducks, Bruins, Maple Leafs in particular).

 

Colorado's early season success is probably not sustainable - Giguere and Varlamov have combined to post a Jonathan Bernier-like .984 sv% at even-strength - but the Avalanche have a lot going for them. Varlamov and Giguere should be good enough to post an above average save-percentage, and that top-nine is just nasty. 

 

That blue-line, however...

 

*

 

I used the elipsis because I want to talk about a particular Avalanche defenseman from a fantasy perspective: Andre Benoit.

 

Benoit is a veteran journeyman, a guy who has toiled at the NHL's fringes for years mostly in the Montreal Canadiens organization. He's logging major minutes for the Avalanche this season, and obviously has Roy's trust (his minutes bumped up significantly in the third period on Thursday).

 

So far Benoit has been 3rd among Avalanche defenseman in even-strength and short-handed ice-time and is playing almost 4 minutes a game on the power-play. Actually because his teammate Erik Johnson is used as a forward on the Avalanche power-play, one could reasonably say that Benoit is receiving the most PP TOI among all Avs defenseman.He had a power-play assist on Ryan O'Reilly's goal on Thursday, his first point of the season.

 

Benoit's not a fantasy killer or anything, but if you're in a deep league and need a defenseman, it's possible that Benoit could have some upside if he continues to get this much burn from Roy.

 

*

 

As good as Nathan MacKinnon has been, he's still 18-years-old and Patrick Roy has treated himself as such. On Thursday night in the third period of a one goal game, MacKinnon took only four shifts in the third period and only two (both of which lasted less than 40 seconds) in the final ten minutes.

 

MacKinnon still registered four shots in the game, so he had an OK outing. But I'd wager that the "MacKinnon's minutes being curtailed substantially late in games when the Avs are narrowly leading" thing will be something of a trend this seaosn. Or, at least for the first half of this season.

 

*

 

Minnesota finally got off the schneid with a 2-1 victory over the Winnipeg Jets. The results haven't been there (in part because Minnesota is shooting under 3% as a team at even-strength), but I think Minnesota might be the single most improved team in the league this season. 

 

One othe note: Jonas Brodin scored again on Thursday night. I'm really high on Brodin as a player, but I didn't take him in fantasy this year because I was skeptical about his offensive upside. He's looked pretty good in the offensive end to start this season, however.

 

*

 

Jonathan Bernier has a .978 even-strength save-percentage through 4 appearances. That's insane and won't continue (whic his a really bold prediction on my part, I know).

 

On the other hand the Maple Leafs are 4-1-0 despite a depleted lineup, they're only narrowly below 50% in terms of shot attempts, and their PDO sits at a somewhat sustainable 102. Yeah it's early, but they've exceeded my expectations by the underlying numbers so far and this bit of success doesn't smell completely like a mirage to me (unlike last season). Obviously we'll know more in another 20 games...

 

*

 

James Van Riemsdyk makes the 2014 Sochi Olympic Team for the USA, right? 

 

*

 

It was only a matter of time before Steven Stamkos had a breakout game, and what better way to do it than a Mario Lemieux hat-trick? Stamkos had a shorty, a power-play goal and a five-on-five tally against the Panthers on Thursday night, the first three goals of what I'd assume will be another  40+ goal season for the Lightning sniper.

 

*

 

Radko Gudas update: almost 20 minutes of ice-time, +2, 1 shot, and 8 hits. No PIMs for Gudas on Thursday night, however, because I guess he was slacking.

 

*

 

One thing about Gudas' sleeper value that I'd missed until I watched a bit of the second period on Thursday is that he's a right-handed shot. Against the Panthers on Thursday night, Gudas played only nineteen seconds on the power-play.

 

But when Sami Salo is inevitably injured, I'd suspect Gudas is first in line to take over those minutes. Worth watching for if you're in a league where Gudas is still on the wire...

 

*

 

Anton Khubodin played another stellar game for Carolina against Washington on Thursday night. Indeed, it's beginning to look like he's got a shot at stealing serious minutes from Cam Ward this season.

 

Khubodin is owned in only 6% of Yahoo Fantasy Leagues, and might be one to look out for if he keeps getting split duty with Ward...

 

*

 

Wouldn't you know it - the Coyotes get Derek Morris, Rostislav Klesla and Oliver Ekman-Larsson back in the lineup, and all of a sudden they can hang with teams like the Red Wings again! Shocker. 

 

Ribiero was bumped to the wing with sneaky good fantasy player Radim Vrbata for Thursday night's game, and that might be a twosome to look out for.

 

Ribeiro in particular has dealt with a crazy low on-ice shooting% and is getting very favourable deployments from Tippett. Maybe you can sharp him for 50 cents on the dollar from a frustrated patsy in one of your pools. At least it might be worth a shot.

 

*

 

Alex Edler caught Tomas Hertl with a shoulder to the head on Thursday night. Here's a .gif if you want to do the CSI thing and debate whether or not it was suspendable.

 

The CSN broadcast crew of Randy Hahn and Drew Remenda certainly thought so, but I'm not so sure. You can see in that .gif how low Hertl is to the ground. Edler doesn't appear to play the puck, but his elbow is tucked, and the new "unavoidable" wording in the NHL's headshot targeting language would seem to apply here. Also, Hertl wasn't injured.

 

Maybe Edler will still get slapped with a ban of some sort, he is a repeat offender and Hertl is the toast of the league at the moment, but I don't think it's open and shut. 

 

*

 

The Sharks are crazy good, obviously, but they're going to come back to earth somewhat. Remember how fast they started last season, then ended the year with an unsustainably low shooting percentage (one which disguised just how good they actually were offensively). 

 

The lowest PDO among all Sharks players belongs to Dan Boyle after four games, and he's still at 105.9! Braun, Vlasic, Thornton and Burns are all above 120. What I mean to say is don't go overpaying for Sharks based on their hot start, the good times ain't going to last forever in San Jose.

 

*

 

The sample of games since the Sharks bumped Brent Burns up to wing with Joe Thornton is now approaching 30 games (28 games, to be precise). So it's beginning to get to a point where we can call the underlying numbers those two are putting up "meaningful." Here's what you need to know: together Burns and Thornton are shooting at an elevated clip (~8.5) and controlling about 60% of shot attempts. That's super, duper elite first line territory...

 

*

 

Antii Niemi should probably get more buzz as a potential starter for Finland at Sochi (everyone seems to think its between Rinne and Rask exclusively). Check this out from stats.hockeyanalysis.com, it's the goaltenders who have led the league in even-strength save percentage the past three seasons.

 

It's time we put Niemi in the category of "an elite" goaltender. It also might be time to question our assumptions about Carey Price and Jonathan Quick...

 

*

 

Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher were dynamic against Edmonton on Thursday, and have continued to produce at an absurd rate.

 

Watch for that to slow down significantly, however, especially for Galchenyuk. The Habs are shooting almost 20% with him on the ice at evens through five games and his IPP (individual point percentage) rate just won't continue. I still like both forwards to provide you with top-line point production this season, but consider moving either player for value if you can net a more proven multi-cat piece in a trade.

 

*

 

The question has to be asked: to what extent does P.K. Subban's individual dominance paper over some of the flaws on an otherwise pretty average Canadiens roster? If you watch Wednesday's game against Calgary in particular, the answer seems to be: significantly.

 

Maybe the Habs just miss the under-rated Alexei Emelin a lot, but seriously, when PK's not on the ice they look a bit lost in all three zones to me.

 

*

 

Speaking of lost in all three zones: what is going on with the New York Rangers? They have been just horrendous defensively this season, allowing 74.8 shot attempts against (pro-rated per sixty minutes). They're controlling games worse than the Buffalo Sabres and haven't been quite as unlucky!

 

It's crazy to see such a stingy team forget how to play defense this early in the season. There's some reasons for them to struggle: new systems, Rick Nash will be out for the weekend, they have some key out of shape pieces etc., but to be outscored 15-2 in consecutive games? Man...

 

Thomas Drance is a news editor at theScore.


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Comments (16)add comment

Isle B. said:

Isle B.
... @Mabus

If the playoffs and the way they are called simply pad goalie stats then someone should let Fleury, Nabokov, Vokoun, Anderson, Price, Hiller and Elliott know about this because their numbers were all atrocious in last year's playoffs.

Maybe we're actually on the same page here, though, because, other than Lundqvist, what other goalies are better than Rask, the best young goalie in the league, and Niemi, Quick and Crawford who are three out of the last 4 Cup winners?
October 12, 2013
Votes: +0

mabus said:

mabus
... yep, he was better, but you also need to consider that the playoffs are called much differently, so playoff stats look awesome for goalies. His numbers were good but almost exactly the same as the average of Rask, Crawford and Niemi. When was the last time Quick outperformed Rask? What about Crawford? I am just saying bumping him down wouldn't be crazy.
October 11, 2013
Votes: +0

Isle B. said:

Isle B.
... @ Mabus - And in between that lackluster 2013 regular season, which had followed offseason back surgery, and this unimpressive 4 game-start to this season, Quick posted a .934 save percentage and a 1.86 GAA in 18 games during the playoffs.
October 11, 2013
Votes: +0

mabus said:

mabus
... @Isle B. - Quick's save percentage was 42nd last year for goalies that played a minimum of 10 games. His wins and save percentage were also in the mid to back half of the league. The first four games are bad, but he's also coming off a bad year. His career history now includes 1 good year, 1 dominant year, and 3 average/below average years. I could see why people would say that Dobber's ranking of him as the #2 keeper goalie is a bit high.
October 11, 2013
Votes: +0

Isle B. said:

Isle B.
... Hasn't Jonathan Quick accomplished enough over the past few years (particularly in the last two playoffs) to have earned the benefit of the doubt after a lackluster first four games?
October 11, 2013
Votes: +0

mabus said:

mabus
... Well done on the ramblings. Solid work.
October 11, 2013
Votes: +2

loki12 said:

loki12
Rangers What concerns me most about the Rangers is their complete lack of fight when getting blown out. Who loses 9-2 or whatever and lets a rookie hot dog like that without pushing back? Then follow that up with a 6-0 loss? Like these guys have just given up already. I know it can't be the case but damn, maybe these guys need Torts back!
October 11, 2013
Votes: +0

hawkdog said:

hawkdog
Edler I like to see a different angle on that hit, they showed one during game that made it look like Edler didn't even contact his head just his shoulder,
glad to see Hertl wasn't hurt.

great ramblings!

Whats with the football game on sportsnet pacific during a Canucks game, thats just BS this is Canada!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
screw the nfl.
If it wasn't for the free center ice right now, not sure the game would have been available.
October 11, 2013
Votes: -1

Hawkster58 said:

Hawkster58
Great Ramblings Thomas, awesome ramblings, much appreciated!!!!
October 11, 2013
Votes: +1

3nigm4 said:

3nigm4
... To me, the avs will continu to trive this season particularly between the pipes. Both Varlamov and Giguere will benefit from the outstanding work ethic and energy that bring the new coach, its like an electro shock for the team, especially for the youngster. Keep in mind that Francois Allaire helped Giguere win the Conn Smythe and the Stanley cup with the ducks but also help mentoring a young Roy winning the Cup in 1986 and 1993 in Montreal. No wonder they brought him with them in Colorado.
October 11, 2013
Votes: +0

gfhyde said:

October 11, 2013
Votes: +3

donpaulo said:

donpaulo
... NY ended the preseason with 4 road games in Western Canada and Las Vegas, then opened the season with a Western road trip to PHX, LAK, SJS and ANA while MSG finishes its upgrade.
Meanwhile Captain America Ryan Callahan missed camp as did Derek Stepan, while Shaggy Haggy is still on the mend.
Those watching the team closely expected to close out the roadie with a .500 record at best, it appears the pieces have not meshed. A well traveled Rangers site is saying that we won't "know" the team until the 20 game mark.
The cards are stacked this year due to Lundqvist being the starting goalie in the Olympics as well.
The talent is there but it was designed to play under Tortorella's system. I and others think the adjustment period should be completed around Thanksgiving.
October 11, 2013
Votes: +0

Medeiros said:

Medeiros
Avs out the gate! Just a note to add about the Avs quick start being unsustainable, which is true.
This has been the norm. for years now with the Avs-they are always blazing out of the gate with that young, fast-skating core.
The players are always great sell-highs early in the year....

I'll take this moment to also remind anyone reading this that it's only 4 games into the season smilies/smiley.gif
October 11, 2013
Votes: +0

Shoeless said:

Shoeless
Edler/Hertl I dunno, Edler didn't play the puck and leaned every so slightly to the contact but I think Hertl ran himself into a hockey hit. How is Edler targeting - I don't see it.

Good ramblings - thanks!
October 11, 2013
Votes: +0

The Hockey Hitman said:

The Hockey Hitman
... Gudas might see a very, very modest boost at best in powerplay time if Salo(or Carle) got hurt but the biggest beneficiary of such an injury would be Mark Barberio, not Gudas, as even though Barberio is a healthy scratch right now, TB management is still very high on him. Barberio also requires waivers to be sent down so when a spot opens up on D due to injury, if it's an offensive d-man hurt it'll go to Barberio.

Anyways, back to Gudas does have a nice heavy shot but isn't a natural option for the PP. Also, coach Jon Cooper has stated he'll be using Gudas very little on the powerplay as he'll need him a lot on the PK.

@thehockeyhitman
October 11, 2013 | url
Votes: +0

austeane said:

austeane
Awesome Love the ramblings. Early in the year it's good to have an idea on who is playing with crazy percentages, and who might actually sustain their level of play.
October 11, 2013
Votes: +4
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