Thomas and I swapped nights so you’ve got me for the big Saturday recap. Strap yourselves in because last night was a doozy!
The Boston Bruins beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-1 in the afternoon game. Typical Bruins performance. They outshot the Blue Jackets 35-27, failed on all of their power play attempts, spread their scoring across nine different players and got a great game out of Tuukka Rask. This is as reliable a team as you’ll find in any sport.
Loui Eriksson and Jarome Iginla each got their first points as Bruins. Personally, I have never liked this destination for Eriksson from a fantasy perspective. He has demonstrated he can score 70 points in the right situation but in Boston they spread the minutes around too evenly for anyone to be a big time scorer. He’s a lock for 60 points though so it’s not a huge hit.
Iginla, on the other hand, could arguably benefit from being in Boston where he won’t be relied upon to be “the guy” like he was in Calgary. Those days are obviously behind him. However, Iginla is still getting big minutes for Boston skating 17:30 alongside David Krejci and Milan Lucic. Most importantly, Iginla is seeing 3:30 per game on the Bruins’ top power play unit. That power play unit stinks but it’s still important he get those minutes since even a terrible power play is successful enough to boost a player’s numbers. It will be interesting to see how long he can maintain these minutes both because his old body could wear down and also because the Bruins might be best giving someone else a shot on that top power play unit.
Dougie Hamilton was a healthy scratch as Matt Bartkowski drew into the lineup for the Bruins. This is just one of those typical hiccups that a young player must endure as he finds his way in the NHL. Hamilton will be back though I’m not counting on him to be productive this season.
It was a vintage Jack Johnson performance for Columbus on Saturday as he scored a power play goal and went minus-three for the game. I shouldn’t joke because Johnson has come a long way since arriving in Columbus. Johnson is still by no means a net-positive player and certainly grades as one of the worst possession players on the Blue Jackets but at least part of that is because of how many tough minutes he is asked to play.
Let’s also give credit where credit is due, Johnson’s net plus/minus since arriving in Columbus is even, which is amazing considering he is a minus-90 on his career. I don’t think he will ever be the top player that his physical skills and draft pedigree hint at but he is still only 26 (which is young for an NHL defenseman) and has become a passable player at even strength, while still being an excellent power play defenseman.
That Leafs-Oilers game sure was fun to watch. A back and forth affair as no team ever took more than aone-goal lead all game.
Ryan Smyth was in vintage form last night buzzing around the net quite a bit. He scored two goals and could have had a couple more. He skated only 12:39 but was involved in the offense whenever he was out there. Smyth now has three goals in two games since being a healthy scratch on Monday against the Devils. I think Smyth will need frequent healthy scratches to stay fresh throughout the year but if he can get 20 goals and 40 points in 65 or so games I think everyone involved would take that. The alternative is keeping him in the lineup for all 82 and watching him struggle through half of them.
The key to Smyth’s production was spotting him on a line with diminutive playmakers Jordan Eberle and Mark Arcobello who helped set up both of Smyth’s goals. Eberle scored a goal and an assist while Arobello finished with three assists. Head coach Dallas Eakins was very proactive in getting this line out there for as many offensive opportunities as possible as they are clearly not built to be a great two-way force.
Speaking of healthy scratches. Nail Yakupov was scratched last night, which will hopefully light a fire under his butt. Yakupov is scoreless through four games to start this season. Of course, it would be helpful if he saw better linemates than the likes of Boyd Gordon and Jesse Joensuu.
The CBC crew working the game were constantly applauding the Oilers’ efforts in the faceoff circle. They dominated the Leafs winning 60% of the draws. Arcobello and Will Acton were both over 70% for the game while faceoff specialist Gordon won 67%. He’d damn well better be dominant making $3 million a year.
The Oilers deserve a ton of credit for identifying faceoffs as a weakness (they were dead last in the NHL last season) and turning it into a strength (they now sit third in the NHL). Most of the best puck-possession teams like Boston and Los Angeles do so with the help of dominance on the faceoff dot. Winning faceoffs does not guarantee you success though. Win as many faceoffs as you can if you get goaltending like the Oilers did on Saturday you won’t win many games.
Devan Dubnyk was horrible for the Oilers once again. It’s hard to criticize the goalies too much because with the wide-open nature of the game that was played in front of them there were great chances going both ways but it really didn’t feel like Dubnyk made a single tough save and he let in a couple softies as well.
On the other side, this was definitely the worst game of the year for Jonathan Bernier but he was actually quite good despite the numbers. He made a number of tough saves including this beauty on what would have been the clincher for the Oilers:
And let’s be clear, that shot was a total muffin but it was an impressive game-saver nonetheless.
There were lots of impressive performances by the Leafs offensively last night so I won’t list them all but Joffrey Lupul was clutch scoring his second goal of the game to tie things up with just 31 seconds left in regulation.
Jake Gardiner got an assist on that goal and finished the game plus-three in over 21 minutes of ice time. Not bad for a guy with trade rumours swirling around him.
It’s probably too early to declare this with any certainty but the results so far this season have only confirmed what I suspected before the season began – the Philadelphia Flyers stink.
They deserve some credit for outshooting the Red Wings 34-29 last night including 29-19 at 5-on-5 but they lost yet again as the Red Wings pulled away to win 5-2.
Claude Giroux finally got on the board with an assist, his first point of the season.
Andrej Meszaros was a healthy scratch last night and there are rumours he could be on his way out of Philadelphia. That blue line is certainly a mess.
Erik Gustafsson finally got into the lineup for the Flyers and scored a goal on one of his four shots. The acquisition of Mark Streit this off-season pushed Gustafsson out of the lineup and will probably keep him from being an everyday player but Gustafsson is still a solid guy to own in a keeper league and he has some upside as an injury fill-in for this season.
Meanwhile, the Red Wings continue to rollover Eastern Conference opponents. Yes, they lost to Boston but everyone loses to Boston, whom they have to play once again on Monday.
It was the Red Wings’ best game of the year offensively as the got three-point nights out of Pavel Datsyuk, Daniel Alfredsson, Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall. Kronwall may not be that under-the-radar but I think he’s a lock for 50 points this season and has upside for more.
If you are a fan of strong goaltending the Penguins-Lightning match last night was certainly not for you. Marc-Andre Fleury got dusted up for the first time this year allowing four goals on 18 shots but as is often the case he was good enough for the win!
Sidney Crosby notched a hat-trick and finished with four points to take over the NHL lead for points with nine.
Jussi Jokinen appears to be a real fit in on the Penguins’ top power play unit and registered two power play assists last night.
Lightning forward Alex Killorn continued his hot start scoring a goal and an assist to bring him to six points through five games. This is quite reminiscent of Cory Conacher’s hot start to last season so try to keep in mind that Killorn probably isn’t a point-per-game guy. He is seeing plenty of solid minutes on Tampa’s second line and second power play unit but he’s still just a secondary option right now.
Consider Killorn’s linemate, Richard Panik. Panik just notched his first two points last night despite seeing the same minutes as Killorn this season. They both have a solid amount of talent but I would be weary counting on even 50 points from either of them this season.
Ryan Malone had himself a great rotisserie game with 15 PIM, three SOG, two Hits and two Blocked Shots. In case you had forgotten, Malone is still a great fantasy option in rotisserie leagues.
Anders Lindback got the start for Lightning with Ben Bishop hurt. Bishop is day-to-day with a leg injury. You hate to see this happen as Bishop is off to a great start this season and this could be a real setback. The silver lining is that with every game Lindback plays it becomes all the more clear that Bishop should be the starter.
Wowee, look at the Avalanche! They are now 5-0-0 on the season despite getting consistently outshot each game including an insane 41-28 last night. Okay, that’s not insane, what’s insane is that they won 5-1 despite getting outshot by such a margin. This obviously cannot continue. Teams don’t typically win over the long-haul while consistently getting outshot so frequently.
But maybe the Avalanche are outliers. They certainly appear to reaping rewards from the hiring of goaltending coach Francois Allaire. Good goaltending is definitely one way to overcome getting consistently out-played.
Sean McIndoe wrote a great piece earlier this week about the Maple Leafs and how they are a great test case for the debate between advanced stats and traditionalists. It would seem you can lump the Avalanche into this discussion as well. I suspect the bottom to drop out for BOTH the Leafs and Avalanche as the season wears on but it won’t happen if both teams keep getting excellent goaltending because they can score with the best of them.
Nathan MacKinnon scored his first goal of his career, a power play marker. It is very promising to see MacKinnon getting some power play time as that will be key to keeping him productive this season. As was mentioned earlier this week MacKinnon didn’t see much ice time in close games against the Leafs and Bruins. That will likely continue so considering this was a blow-out I don’t know how much to read into MacKinnon’s receiving power play time.
Avalanche defenseman Andre Benoit registered two assists and is finally taking advantage of the great ice time he is receiving. A definite sleeper for 40 points if the minutes stay up.
Erik Johnson led all Avalanche in time-on-ice and was, of course, held scoreless. How long will it take the new Avalanche regime to learn that Johnson just isn’t a #1 guy?
My guess is however long it takes for Tyson Barrie to get his head out of his ass. Barrie was a healthy scratch last night and Patrick Roy has not been impressed with his play this season. After Barrie’s impressive close to last season I really thought he was ready to be the Avalanche’s #1 defenseman this season but maybe that was too ambitious. After all, Barrie is still just 22 and doesn’t even have a full NHL season under his belt yet. Fingers crossed this scratch gets him going.
Is Olympic-Year Ryan Miller a thing we should be watching for? The Sabres are terrible but Miller has been great to start the season and was spectacular stopping 38 of 40 shots in a losing effort against the defending Stanley Cup champions.
He’s only played in four games but after being so dreadful last season it is great to see Ryan Miller performing at a high level once again. Miller’s numbers to start this season (0.941 Save Percentage/2.29 Goals-Against Average) are reminiscent of his numbers during the last Olympic year. The Sabres will do everything they can to sabotage Miller’s renaissance efforts because they can’t help but be bad but maybe it won’t matter.
Brandon Pirri got called up for last night’s game but skated only 9:47 for the Blackhawks and was obviously held scoreless. That kind of ice time isn’t going to cut it. May as well keep him in the minors if that’s all you are going to give him.
Of course, who am I to lecture the most successful team of the past five years on how to develop their prospects? Just a frustrated fantasy writer, that’s who.
Mark Pysyk registered his first NHL point for the Sabres last night. He only has modest fantasy upside but he is going to be an NHL player for a long time. The rookie defenseman is already gobbling up well over 20 minutes per game for the Sabres, which admittedly doesn’t say much.
The St. Louis Blues mean business this season. Their top line of Alex Steen, David Backes and TJ Oshieis absolutely rolling to start the season. Steen scored four points last night, bringing him up to eight on the year. Obviously he won’t keep this up. Steen’s on-ice shooting percentage is pretty high and the sample size here is obviously small.
But Steen is gobbling up minutes on the Blues’ top line and plays the point on their top power play unit. He looks like a safe bet for 60 points and maybe there is upside for more if the Blues keep playing like gangbusters. The Blues are every bit like the Bruins in the way they split up ice-time so it’ll be impossible for anyone to be a run-away scorer but Steen should be owned in every league at this point.
For as miserable as the Rangers have been this season (and they’ve been miserable) they’ve gotten a solid bounce-back from Brad Richards who managed a goal and an assist along with eight SOG to bring him up to five points for the season.
Ryan Callahan got on the score-sheet for the first time this season with a couple of goals and Derek Stepan climbed up to the point-per-game mark with two assists though he is now a dreadful minus-seven for the season.
Martin Biron got the start but couldn’t get Henrik Lundqvist much rest as Biron was shelled leading to Lundqvist having to come in and face 17 shots. He stopped 16 of them, which makes this his most impressive game of the season. Lundqvist will be fine even if the Rangers stink this season.
There are plenty of theories as to why the Rangers have sucked so far. Between the late starts for Callahan and Stepan, the horrific road trip to start the season, injuries to Rick Nash and Carl Hagelin and getting used to a new system the Rangers have plenty of excuses. Come the end of the season they shouldn’t have any though. Especially not about their travel schedule as no one will travel less than the Rangers thisyear. So if you buy any of these excuses now might be the time to buy low on some Rangers, especially Lundqvist.
The Predators outshot the Islanders 31-16 but still had to squeak out the win in the third period.
Pekka Rinne stopped just 14 of the 16 shots he faced but it was good enough for the win.
Seth Jones scored his first NHL goal last night. With Roman Josi injured Jones has been gobbling up minutes next to Shea Weber. The results haven’t necessarily been there but this is invaluable experience for the rookie.
Ryan Ellis had a goal and an assist but played just 14:48 with only five seconds of power play time. He needs way more minutes if he is going to be productive but he is way too far down the depth chart to ever see those minutes. What he needs is a trade.
The Minnesota Wild torched the Dallas Stars 5-1, out-shooting them 36-19. It’s way too early but the Wild are looking dominant the way they are out-shooting teams this season. They chose so wisely when they signed Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to those big contracts. Parise scored a goal and had seven SOG while Suter notched an assist.
Rookies Justin Fontaine and Matt Dumba each scored their first NHL goals. Fontaine has a long track record of producing at every level but it remains to be seen if he has a future as a scorer at the NHL level. Dumba has much more upside but is a long-shot to stick beyond nine games this season.
The Stars’ top line keeps producing despite the ugly loss. Tyler Seguin and Alex Chiasson both notched assists on Jordie Benn’s first goal of the season. Chiasson is going to score a lot if he keeps seeing so many good minutes.
Ray Whitney continues to get the shaft for minutes skating just 14:11 with 49 seconds of power play time. It is little wonder the Wizard has just one point so far this season. I still have faith that he can turn it around but not if he can’t get more minutes.
Rich Peverley was scoreless and minus-two in 16:56 of ice time with 2:54 on the power play. If it was me coaching Whitney would be skating Peverley’s minutes – he was only their points-per-game leader last season.
How many fantasy leagues did this ludicrous own-goal shift?
Eller was credited with the short-handed goal as the last Hab to touch the puck. I have Eller in one of my leagues and we count short-handed goals. That goal helped pull me even in a tight head-to-head battle. If that winds up tying or winning me the week it will certainly be a fluke. This is clearly an indictment of how stupid short-handed points (or goals) are as a fantasy stat, especially in a H2H league but this week, I’m not complaining.
The Habs finally got a good start out of Carey Price as Price made 39 saves in the win.
Go out and grab Jason Garrison now. Garrison fired ten (TEN!!!) shots last night in over 26 minutes of play. He only got a lone assist but it’s clear that Garrison is going to get every opportunity to produce this season. It’s true that Alex Edler was absent, serving the first of his three game suspension but even with Edler in the lineup Garrison was seeing big minutes.
Also seeing big minutes, Mike Santorelli skated over 20 minutes last night with second unit power play time. He was held scoreless but fired five shots and appears to have found a home in Vancouver.
Zack Kassian was back for the first time this season but skated just 12:53 on the night.
The Sharks are looking absolutely terrifying with the way they are out-shooting teams this season. They out-shot the Senators (a strong possession team last season) 50-23 last night.
Tomas Hertl scored his league-leading seventh goal of the season early in the game last night but eventually left with an injury and did not return. No word on the severity of the injury.
Dan Boyle led the Sharks with nine shots on goal and registered an assist.
Patrick Marleau scored a goal and had eight shots.
Defenseman Matt Irwin had an assist and fired seven shots. Irwin is only seeing second unit power play minutes but on this Sharks team that could mean 30 points easy.
Robin Lehner got the start for Ottawa and made 47 saves. He is the future for Ottawa and is the number one reason I refused to consider Craig Anderson a top option heading into this season. Not only is Anderson a very volatile starter but Lehner’s just too much of a threat to steal starts.
Jason Spezza returned to the Senators lineup and managed an assist.
Patrick Wiercioch also registered an assist and continues to see top unit power play time, which makes him a great option going forward.
Did I miss anything?
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