Update: Dan Bylsma has confirmed that Kris Letang is set to make his season debut tonight. FINALLY!!!
No one takes it to Boston the way the San Jose Sharks did last night, more than doubling the Bruins in shots 39-17. And yet the Bruins came out with the win thanks to some great goaltending from Tuukka Rask who stopped 38 of those 39 shots.
It’s getting about that time to start calling Rask the best goalie on the planet. It’s a title in constant flux but Rask has been killing it for literally his entire career and is the undisputed starter on one of the league’s best teams. Team quality doesn’t technically matter but you know it plays into public perception.
The only chink in Rask’s armor continues to be his lack of games played. He’s never played in more than 45 games in a season and still has to prove to some that he has the stamina to start 60+ games. Of course, circumstance keeps throwing roadblocks in his path to doing so.
When Rask first took the reins in Boston, Tim Thomas still loomed to steal starts. The next season Rask got hurting (possibly proving he doesn’t have the stamina?) Then, with Thomas gone, last year’s lockout happened cutting the season in half. Now the Olympics loom and Rask looks like he should be Finland’s starter.
Could Rask start 60 games for Boston, five or six more for Finland and then carry the Bruins through the playoffs?
That would be asking a lot but it’s not impossible. Bruins backup Chad Johnson is zero threat to steal starts (but, as he proved last night, still capable of winning) so you can definitely count on Rask to continue to see the bulk of the load. I’m interested to see how this experiment plays out from afar, as I have Rask on none of my fantasy squads (though not for lack of trying).
Since, I brought up the Olympics we definitely have to discuss Rask’s counterpart last night, Sharks netminder Antti Niemi. Niemi didn’t have his best start allowing two goals on just 17 shots last night but he has been great all season despite a light workload (in terms of shots per game). At this point Niemi and Rask look like they are 1-2 not just in the Finnish goalie ranks but also in the overall goalie rankings as our incumbent big three have all stumbled to start the year. It’s still too early to give up on any of those guys, by the way, but it’s not too early to acknowledge just how brilliant Rask and Niemi have been this season because it’s not just a one-year occurrence.
A reader asked yesterday about Sharks backup Alex Stalock and if/when he might see some action with Niemi playing so well. I will go out and guarantee we see Stalock this weekend. The Sharks haven’t had a back-to-back yet this season but their first comes when they face Montreal and Ottawa on Saturday and Sunday this weekend. Stalock is getting one of those starts. The Sharks have nine more back-to-backs after that and unless the Sharks are battling for playoff position Stalock will start at least one game in pretty much all of those.
The Olympic break offers an interesting wrinkle to the Niemi situation. As good as he is and as well as he is playing the Finnish goaltending situation remains a numbers game. They have four or five guys who could easily start for them and only two guys are even going to see game action. Will Niemi be one of those two? Right now it looks like, yes, he will be but you never know and even as a backup the Olympic break could be a two week respite to help Niemi recharge for the stretch/playoff run.
I think Niemi starts at least 70 games this season so don’t expect much from Stalock, though he is great insurance if you have the roster space.
I responded, “The hip?”
Yep, the hip. He’s getting surgery to fix that nagging issue he’s had ever since having surgery on it in the spring. I do not like hip/groin injuries for goalies. Their bodies take such a pounding from moving in and out of the butterfly the way they do that once these hip/groin issues start to come up they don’t go away quickly. I actually, remember reading an article in Sports Illustrated years ago on how many goalies actually have congenital defects in their hips that lead to long term issues exacerbated by the wear and tear of the butterfly. Is that the case here?
I don’t know but I don’t like it. Rinne is officially on the black list for me. I actually made sure to avoid him in my drafts this year because of the lingering hip issues. Now surgery again. I’m terrified.
Carter Hutton got the start for Nashville last night and hung on for the overtime win. He’s not the guy I’d be after though. As most franchises do the Predators have kept their promising young goaltender down in the minors to get more game action while a veteran journeyman (Hutton) plays backup to the workhorse starter. With Rinne out the Predators called up that promising young goaltender, Magnus Hellberg.
Hellberg's stats have been impressive at every level and he’s a huge goaltender in the Pekka Rinne mould. Maybe Hutton and Hellberg split starts for the next month (or however long Rinne is really out for) but I’m betting on Hellberg to be the better goalie.
There is certainly more to discuss regarding Finnish goaltenders (my goodness, they have an embarrassment of riches) but we really need to divert back to last night’s games.
The Krejci line is starting to click for Boston. Jarome Iginla scored his first goal as a Bruin, Milan Lucic notched an assist to stretch his point streak to three and David Krejci got in on both Bruins goals.
As expected Carl Soderberg stuck in the Bruins lineup with Eriksson’s absence and even saw some second unit power play time. Brad Marchand got bumped back up to the top line with Patrice Bergeron and Reilly Smith (he’s been bouncing between the first and third line) but still got shut out of power play time.
Freddie Hamilton has gotten into two games now and has skated on the top line with Joe Thornton and Tomas Hertl. So far he has (obviously) been a real step down from the force of nature that is Burns. Thornton and Hertl have each gone scoreless without Burns.
If I were against advanced stats I would make Tyler Kennedy my number one case study. He is the king of poor shot quality. Kennedy has taken over 1,000 shots in his career and has just 77 goals to show for it. He took six last night and scored on none, of course. He is seeing big minutes alongside Patrick Marleau and Logan Couture and obviously has value even if he’s just blindly ripping shots to no result but I think it’s just funny to see a guy launch that much rubber and have such little success.
Marc-Edouard Vlasic notched an assist last night and quietly has eight points in 10 games this season. I’m not buying it though. He may be the Sharks’ best defenseman but he still isn’t seeing much for power play ice time and just doesn’t have the track record to indicate he is all that fantasy worthy. His career high was 36 points back in 2008-09 and he could duplicate that but I wouldn’t count on him for any more.
There’s also a lesson to take away from that 36-point season. Vlasic started with seven points in eight games then had just 29 in 74 the rest of the way. I’m not buying high on this guy. Sell high if you can though.
Luongo: 2 – Schneider: 0
It’s unfair to characterize it as that but I know that’s how many will perceive it as the Canucks bested the Devils for the second time this season. Both games went to extra time awarding the miserable Devils with valuable loser points.
Schneider may not have come out on top but he continues to be a MUCH better option than Martin Brodeur, who has been awful. Brodeur has simply hung on for too long, which is understandable but for the sake of us poolies please just keep starting Schneider. I can’t bear another Brodeur stinker.
Ryan Kesler continues to benefit from skating on the top line with the Sedins. He scored a goal and an assist last night and now has points in three straight. Henrik Sedin had two assists and his points streak now sits at seven games. Daniel Sedin added a goal but continues to “struggle” with just 11 points through 12 games this season.
High-five to the Devils for scoring on one of their three power play chances after I ripped their power play in yesterday’s ramblings. You believe what you want but I’m gonna go ahead and say that my bulletin board material is what inspired them.
What made that goal extra special was that Devils rookie defenseman Eric Gelinas scored it for his first career NHL goal. Last night was his season debut. He skated just 16:27 but 2:18 of that came with the man advantage. There is some upside here.
Patrick Elias made his return to the lineup following an illness. He scored a goal and remains New Jersey’s most fantasy relevant forward.
If it’s at all meaningful to you, Jacob Josefson and Mattias Tedenby continue to receive healthy scratches. Remember when those two had upside? Oh man. You couldn’t even find a pair of busts that big in a porno mag.
Imagine if every struggling team got a week off to regroup? The Philadelphia Flyers played their first game in exactly a week last night and pulled out a tight one against the battered Rangers.
For Matt Read that week off was just what the doctor ordered as he finally got on the board with a goal (short-handed to boot) and an assist. He continues to lead the Flyers in shots this season and with the minutes he’s been getting it was really only a matter of time.
Of course, if you want the flip side of that week-off narrative you need only look at struggling star Claude Giroux who had his three game point streak snapped last night.
Vinny Lecavalier made his return to the lineup and saw huge minutes with over 20 on the night and over six on the power play. That power play continues to stink, despite the loads of talent the Flyers have on their roster. The sit 29th in the league in efficiency at just 8.1%. Maybe they are headed for one of those inexplicably miserable seasons but I still think they make a healthy buy low team across the board.
Ultimately, the Flyers are just happy to get the win though it begs the question how impressive it is to beat a Rangers squad missing half their payroll with Rick Nash, Ryan Callahan and Henrik Lundqvist all hurt. To be fair the other half of their payroll (Brad Richards) has been on fire this season including a goal last night to give him eight points in eight games so far.
The Lundqvist injury is obviously the biggest one as the Rangers can ill afford to lose him for any length of time. There is some mystery regarding his injury as the Rangers will not disclose the nature of it beyond that it is “minor”. The window to buy low on Lundqvist has re-opened and I would take advantage.
Chris Kreider made his season debut for the Rangers last night and notched an assist. He skated big minutes with Richards. This is his chance to earn a regular spot even if he is in tough to hold onto it as the Rangers get healthy.
The Ducks outshot the Canadiens last night but Carey Price had another great start in net. His numbers look great so far but keep in mind he was great to open last season as well only to fizzle down the stretch. I’m not saying you should bail out on Price but I am not expecting his 0.936 save percentage to hold up.
The lone Ducks goal was managed by the fourth line with Patrick Marron, Nick Bonino and Devante Smith-Pelley each getting in on it.
For Smith-Pelley this was his first game and point of the season. He has some intriguing multi-cat upside but I don’t expect to see too much of him this season.
For Bonino that makes his sixth point of the season but I think that’s something of a mirage. He has been demoted to the second power play unit and obviously playing on the fourth line doesn’t offer much potential. He still has some upside but he is nowhere near as intriguing now that he’s off the top power play unit.
With two points last night and a four-game point streak, Michael Bournival has my attention. Actually, it was his ice time last night that really got my attention – over 16 minutes including 2:36 on the power play. I don’t think it continues but if Bournival can continue to get these minutes he’ll have some fantasy relevance. Add him to your “watch” list.
Tomas Plekanec is heating up with three points last night and seven in his last four games. I think he’s just a 60-point guy when it all shakes out but ride this hot streak while you can.
Alex Galchenyuk led all Habs forwards in power play ice time last night with 4:18. Very interesting development. He notched an assist ending a five-game scoreless drought.
That was a real shootout between the Blackhawks and Lightning down in Tampa Bay. With the 6-5 overtime win the Lightning now have wins over both Stanley Cup finalists from last season. Impressive.
Ben Bishop hardly had his best outing of the season but he continues to pile up the wins.
Teddy Purcell was one of the few Lightning players held off the board. He is actually off to a strong start this season despite losing minutes to Tampa Bay’s youngsters. He skated just 11:03 last night with Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat.
The key to Purcell’s success has always been his spot on the Lightning’s top power play unit and he has maintained that spot thus far this season. As long as he’s getting top unit power play time, he is a threat for 60 points, no matter how miserable his linemates are otherwise.
Alex Killorn was also held scoreless and has been for four straight games now. It was only a matter of time before the well dried up. 40 points max for Killorn this year though he does have upside for more.
Bryan Bickell continues to be a complete and utter enigma to start this season. After skating big minutes on the top line with lots of power play time Bickell had no goals and was looking like a bust. Then he gets demoted to the third line and finds himself on a three-game goal streak. I am at a loss. Let’s just move on.
What were the odds Mike Smith AND Anthony Peluso would score a goal before Giroux this season? One in a billion? We are truly blessed folks because Peluso scored last night. To be fair, Peluso flashed some nice mitts on his goal.
Dustin Byfuglien is now scoreless in three straight for Winnipeg. I’m not overly concerned. He skated over 30 minutes in last night’s overtime affair and tossed six shots out for good measure. Just a blip on the road to 50 points – with dazzling peripheral stats I might add.
Blake Wheeler is off to a slow start this season but now has goals in each of his last two. He’s still Winnipeg’s best option for points-only leagues. Patience is a virtue with him.
Let’s give a round of applause to the 50-point guys on the Predators getting in with some scoring last night. David Legwand notched two assists, Patrick Hornqvist had a goal on six shots and Craig Smith had a goal on four shots. The only guy left out was Matt Cullen. For shame Matt Cullen…
Oh yeah, and the two stalwarts on defense each chipped in with a point in a combined 60 minutes of action. You know who they are!
Marcus Johansson and Nicklas Backstrom each had two points last night as that top line is clicking. They are the new/better version of what Tlusty-Staal-Semin had in Carolina last year. More on them later.
Mike Green has just one point in his last seven games. The minutes are there in hefty amounts. He just isn’t producing. Buy low if you can stomach the injury risk.
Don’t look now but Caps rookie Tom Wilson skated a season high 11:36 last night – the first time he’s broken double-digits all season. Nothing like a blowout against the Oilers to get your play thing a little extra run.
The Oilers put together a top line of Nail Yakupov, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle last night. They got buried, each going minus-four as they were on for every Capitals goal. Maybe that line deserves another try but holy mackerel did they stink.
Last night brought an end to Eberle’s four-game scoring streak but continued Yakupov’s misery so not all was lost.
Justin Schultz got his first goal of the season, which will keep poolies happy. He’s still the man for the Oilers as far as power play time goes.
David Perron notched an assist and fired six shots for the second straight game. If nothing else, at least that acquisition has worked out for the Oil.
Ryan Smyth received an old-man scratch last night. If Smyth responds anything like the way he did to his last one, expect fireworks when he returns.
Devan Dubnyk owners, why do you still have this guy?
Strange one in Minnesota last night as BOTH starters left the game early. Cam Ward left in the first period and is out three to four weeks with a lower-body injury. Of course, backup Anton Khudobin is also out with a LBI so now it’s Justin Peters, Mike Murphy and a re-run of last season’s dreadfulness. Yay, Carolina!
Josh Harding got the win for Minnesota but couldn’t finish the game, as Niklas Backstrom recovering from his own injury took over in the third period. It was only a matter of time before Backstrom took control of the crease again but this is just a continuation of miserable luck for Harding. MS aside, Harding could probably have been a starter in this league at some point if not for getting hurt every chance he’s gotten. Oh well, time to get back on Backstrom.
Have you started your quest to buy low on Wild players yet? Zach Parise got a goal last night and fired four shots. He’s actually fired 59 shots on the season – second only to Ovechkin. He is shooting more than five shots per game, which is a pace for over 400 SOG. He can’t sustain that pace but he has fired more than 360 in a season twice in his career already. Why couldn’t he make that a third time? Buy low!!!
Even Dany Heatley’s corpse got in on the action last night. He scored an empty-netter, which is just classic zombie work.
As mentioned earlier the Hurricanes’ top line is back together. They skated over five minutes apiece on the power play last night and managed a goal by Semin with an assist by Staal. No points for Tlusty because he’s the third wheel. He has just two points on the season but makes a good buy low even if he can’t return to last season’s pace.
Interesting development with Andrej Sekera leading the Hurricanes in overall ice time and power play ice time last night, including over six minutes with the man advantage. He notched a power play assist giving him four points for the season. I’m getting 30-point vibes from Sekera this season.
So I think we are finally seeing the Jamie Benn breakout we’ve all been waiting for. With two goals last night he now has points in six straight and 11 in nine games to start the season. What I’ve been most impressed with is his tenacity firing the puck. He fired seven shots last night and has 19 in his last three games.
Tyler Seguin was held off the board for the second straight game but he remains a huge part of this breakout season for Benn and will very much be a factor all season.
And how about rookie forward Alex Chiasson? He got two goals of his own in a three-point night and now has nine in nine to start the season and 16 in 16 to start his NHL career. Small sample size, I know but still, this is impressive stuff.
Try not to fall in love with Chiasson, however. He is still seeing solid minutes but is losing his grip on top unit power play time of late. If he’s not a top power play unit guy then he’s not going to keep producing. I think the obvious move here is to sell high, though maybe that’s too obvious.
From the buy low corner is Ray Whitney. He notched two assists last night and after some early snubs finds himself on the Stars’ top power play unit, where he belongs. It was only a matter of time.
Also in the buy low corner, Alex Goligoski was scratched last night. He’s pointless this year but as remarked yesterday, has been unlucky. I still have faith he can get to 40 points this year but at this point probably no more than that. Remember how he responded to getting scratched last year though.
Kevin Connauton made his season debut with Goligoski scratched. He skated 16 minutes with no points and no power play time. Not sure that’s the best use of the rookie puck-mover.
Kari Lehtonen made his first start in two weeks and was impressive as usual. Lehtonen is another one of Finland’s fantastic goaltenders though he remains a dark horse to actually make the Olympic squad.
Flames Captain Mark Giordano has an undisclosed injury and was a game-time decision last night. He didn’t skate and neither did Sven Baertschi. Matt Stajan, on the other hand, got back into the lineup and managed an assist skating on a line with Lee Stempniak and Curtis Glencross.
Stempniak scored a goal and has only been held off the score sheet in one game this season. I like Stempniak as a depth option who provides decent peripherals but this scoring pace can’t continue so sell high if possible.
Jiri Hudler was held scoreless for the first time this season but, I mean, it was only a matter of time. Hudler can get you 60 points and maybe a bit more but he’s not a point-per game guy. At least not without superstar help, which the Flames don’t have.
Please allow me to pat myself on the back for sitting Smith tonight. He spotted the Kings a 4-0 lead after the first period. Kudos to the Coyotes for battling back to tie the game at four before ultimately losing the game. What a heartbreaker.
Dwight King had a hattrick for the Kings but this guy isn’t fantasy relevant but for the deepest of leagues so ignore. And that’s acknowledging that King skated 16 minutes on the top line last night, taking Dustin Brown’s spot. He just won’t hold onto that spot long term.
Brown got the main power play minutes and added two assists so even getting shifted to the third line didn’t kill him.
What was more interesting was seeing Matt Frattin skate big minutes alongside Jeff Carter and Mike Richards, both at even strength and on the power play. Frattin scored a goal on five shots in over 16 minutes of ice time.
It was also nice to see Drew Doughty take advantage of his big minutes adding an assist. He’s now on a three-game point streak. I’m still bullish on Doughty this season. Buy low.
I am also bullish on Slava Voynov who was held pointless and has just three points so far. He’s been reduced to the second power play unit but I think it’s only a matter of time before he’s back on the top unit. Voynov doesn’t have a bomb but what makes him great is his ability to get shots through traffic to the net, which is why I think he’s valuable on the power play.
Keith Yandle now has four points in his last two games getting him back to a respectable point pace. Funny how it only takes one or two games to change things this early in the season.
Martin Hanzal continues to shred as well. With two goals last night he now has 10 points in 11 games this season. I’m waiting for the bubble to burst but maybe this is his breakout season where he becomes David Backes 2.0. He is skating big minutes with Radim Vrbata at even strength and on the power play so everything is lining up for him.
Last night saw the end of Mike Ribeiro’s seven-game point streak but no matter, Ribeiro is still seeing lots of power play time so he’ll get back at it soon enough.
Sean McIndoe wrote a solid piece on the trade value of goalies.
Classic Mike Richards:
You can follow me on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.