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Matt Niskanen’s little run of productivity is probably over. Yes, he did manage an assist last night and he actually has three points in five games since Kris Letang’s return to the lineup but his ice time is also way down over that period. He saw a skated low 15:52 last night with less than a minute of power play time.
You know who hasn’t been hurt by Letang’s return? Paul Martin. His season averages of 25:59 with 4:13 on the power play haven’t wiggled with Letang back. In fact, the two are currently partnering on the Penguins’ power play and will most likely continue to do so until James Neal makes his own return, at which point Martin will find himself on power play two with Niskanen. But until then Martin could provide a short-term boost.
Martin has just five points on the season, which underscores his modest fantasy value but Letang helps an already solid power play and that could kick Martin’s production up a bit.
Letang, by the way, scored the game-winner, his second goal of the season. All three of his points so far have come on the power play and he sits at a minus-five through five games. Only a matter of time before he starts scoring at even strength, if you were at all concerned.
The Penguins chased Sergei Bobrovsky early in the second period, the first time he’s been chased all year. His numbers don’t look great through four starts but they aren’t all that bad either. Bobrovsky looks like he’s on his way to a pretty average season, which might be disappointing considering his Vezina form last season but it isn’t all that terrible either when you consider how some of the league’s more dependable goalies have started this season.
The Blue Jackets have taken Marian Gaborik off the top line and paired him with Nick Foligno and Artem Anisimov of late. Gaborik is scoreless in two straight but we know he’ll be fine. Foligno and Anisimov, on the other hand, have benefited. Foligno has points in three straight, while Anisimov has six points in his last seven games but was held scoreless last night.
Anisimov has some intriguing upside if he sticks with Gaborik because the Jackets are giving him the third most power play time among forwards on the team(2:52 per game). Foligno has much less upside and is seeing just 20 seconds of power play time per game.
Cam Atkinson is ice cold with just one point in his last seven games but his ice time is still respectable and he has been firing a lot of shots, including five last night. It hurts that Gaborik has been moved off of his line but I still think Atkinson has upside this season.
Is Ryan Johansen starting to put it together? He has points in three straight and has seven in his last seven. He’s skating on the third line with R.J. Umberger and Blake Comeau so that’s not very positive but he does see second unit power play time. This feels like just a hot streak. Has anyone seen a notable improvement in his play?
No Ovechkin, no problem. Well at least not against the miserable Flyers. The Capitals figuratively bent the Flyers over jumping out 5-0 before the fisticuffs started. The game ended 7-0 with over 150 penalty minutes. That’s actually nowhere near the single game record of 419 set by the Flyers (of course) and Senators back in 2004 but still an impressive total.
Steve Downie wasted no time getting into his first scrap in his return to Philadelphia, racking up 17 PIM. He also landed himself a concussion and had to be taken to hospital.
There were plenty more fights, even the goalies got into it. Well, Ray Emery basically dragged Braden Holtby into a fight and gave him quite the whooping so if you happen to play in a league where your goalies can actually count towards skater stats Emery may have lost you all your goalie categories but he may also have single-handedly taken the PIM category with 29 in total.
Oddly enough, for all of the Flyers’ offensive struggles, this was the first time they were shutout all season. Between that and the childish tantrum they collectively pulled I’d say this is rock bottom. If you believe that it’s always darkest before dawn then maybe this is a turning point for the Flyers.
Joel Ward notched a hat-trick and is on some kind of a hot streak with nine points in his last nine games. Don’t recommend him except for in the deepest of leagues. He is a third liner, with second unit power play time but he has a career high of 35 points. How deep does your league have to be for that to be relevant?
Ward’s linemate, Jason Chimera had four points and has nine in his last four games, which is damn impressive for a guy with a horseshoe up his butt.
Mike Green has points in three straight. He still hasn’t scored a goal yet this season so I think he has more to offer than the eight points he has so far. If you can stomach his injury risk there is some buy low potential here.
Less seems to be more for Mikhail Grabovski. After his four-point opening night, Grabovski had really cooled off and the Caps recently took him off their top power play unit. For whatever reason that has paid dividends with Grabovski on a five-game scoring streak including three points last night, pushing him back to a point per-game.
Martin Erat had two points last night but that’s fool’s gold. He has scored in just two games all season, both multi-point affairs. He has been seeing some power play time but he’s mostly still a fourth line player, which just isn’t something you should roster.
Ben Bishop continues to be one of the best goalies in fantasy hockey this season. He shutout the Hurricanes last night, his first of the season. Starting to get that Cory Crawford/Jimmy Howard feeling from Bishop where I may not believe in him but it’s impossible to criticize the results.
Ryan Malone bounced between the second and third line while this was going on, which isn’t great for his dwindling stock. The good news is that Malone was still a fixture on the top power play unit. No one else on the roster is built like Malone so it’s hard to see him losing that job any time soon.
Since he returned from injury the Hurricanes have been trotting out Elias Lindholm on their top power play unit, pushing Jiri Tlusty to the second unit. It’s only been three games so it’s probably too early to judge but I don’t see Lindholm producing much. He is the long-term solution there however.
After some early season run on the top power play unit Justin Faulk was demoted to the second unit and the results have been devastating. He is scoreless in five and has just one point in his last nine. He has more talent than he is being allowed to show.
Ryan Murphy is lapping up all the top unit power play time. He has a respectable five points in 12 games but hasn’t scored in his last four while the power play has struggled. But it’s struggled all season so it’s hard to blame Murphy. The Hurricanes are a bad team but with the high end talent they do have they should at least be able to muster a decent power play. Unfortunately, this is a continuation of last season when the Hurricanes had the fourth worst power play in the league.
Nathan Gerbe continues to see top unit power play minutes as well and he’s starting to look like a reasonable fantasy option. He is firing over three shots per game and has five of his seven points on the power play. If the Hurricanes were a good team, I doubt that he would be getting this opportunity but that’s what these borderline players need to get their chance. I don’t think we are looking at a future star but if Gerbe can be a 50-point power play specialist on bad teams that would have value in fantasy leagues.
In his season debut Manny Malhotra won 15 of 20 faceoffs.
Robin Lehner was spectacular for Ottawa in the shootout loss last night. He stopped 53 of 57 shots as the Senators seem intent on allowing the young netminder to get completely shelled this season. I mean, this is starting to look like Roberto Luongo in Florida all over again. Lehner has faced at least 47 shots in three of his four starts this season, which is just ridiculous when you think about it.
The Kyle Turris breakout really looks like it’s going to be a thing as he has developed some solid chemistry with Bobby Ryan and Clarke MacArthur. Those three, along with Jason Spezza and Erik Karlsson were the Senators’ top power play unit last night, which is huge for Turris’ and MacArthur’s fantasy stocks if it continues.
Turris is shooting the puck more than ever (just over three shots per game) and while he only has two goals so far, you get the feeling that more are on the way as he has been really involved offensively.
The loser in all of this is probably Milan Michalek. If you were hoping for a reboot of his 35-goal/60-point season from 2011-12, it is currently looking like a pipe dream. Even though he has actually been skating a good number of power play minutes so far if that number is to go down his production surely suffers.
You know who else is hurting? Cory Conacher. He has just three points on the year and his minutes dipped below 10 for the first time all season last night.
I tend to overthink player handedness a bit too much but for whatever reason I don’t like the idea of two right-handers alongside the lefty Tavares up the middle. But when you consider that the Islanders had taken to skating Moulson on the third line at even strength you can understand why they made the upgrade to Vanek. On paper at least he and Tavares should be dynamite together and if this was a long term marriage I could even see Vanek scoring 50 in a season on Long Island.
And who’s to say they don’t already have chemistry:
Okposo is surely headed towards a career season. He won’t maintain his point-per-game pace but his position alongside Tavares looks secure and that means at least 60 points is in store. It’s easy to forget considering how his development had stalled but Okposo actually has broken the 50-point barrier already. The next step is 60 and he is so ready.
Frans Nielsen is in a similar boat, scoring over a point per-game so far. He tops out around 60 but as long as he remains on that top power play unit, he has really fantasy relevance.
With Lubomir Visnovsky out it’s Andrew MacDonald on the top power play unit. He has three points in the last six games, his only points this season. He doesn’t have much upside but he did score 27 in 60 games one season, so if you are really hurting for a defenseman he offers some short-term upside.
Matt Donovan ended a six-game scoreless skid. He has some intriguing long-term potential but currently he is a rookie skating on the third defense pairing and seeing only second unit power play time. This just isn’t the year for him yet.
So after disappointing last season, Brian Elliott looks like he’s going to start doing that shutout every third start thing again. He still has value in deeper leagues because of his random shutout potential.
Jaroslav Halak is generally killing it this year though after he changed his fitness routine this summer. If your league has the room for it, Elliott is definitely worth handcuffing still but I know most leagues don’t have enough roster space to make it worthwhile. In one of my leagues I have Jimmy Howard, Kari Lehtonen and Halak. It is a daily lineups league so there’s no way I can waste a spot on Elliott.
Also, this was the Panthers he shutout so we shouldn’t get very excited.
Alex Steen and David Backes continue to laugh in the face of regression. Sell high! Sell high! Sell high!
Another guy producing over his head right now is Jay Bouwmeester. I like him for like 35-40 points this year. Right now he’s got nine in 11 games, which is a bit much but you still have to love this situation for him. It’s the best team he’s played on, well, ever. Bouwmeester is also skating big minutes alongside Alex Pietrangelo. He is also firing the puck over two times per game, which is closer in line with what he did during his 40-point seasons in Florida than his 25-point seasons in Calgary. Considering he doesn’t have a goal yet this season, he’s technically been unlucky.
On the flip side, Patrick Berglund is ice cold, with no points in his last six. It makes sense as he is barely seeing any power play time right now. We know that Hitchcock wants to spread the ice time around a little bit more evenly so there could be some upside for Berglund in the future but it’s a hard sell considering how slow things have been for him.
The good news for the Panthers is they won’t have to see the Blues again until next season, after getting hammered by them 11-0 in two games this year.
None of their guys are scoring right now as it’s becoming increasingly unfavourable to own Panthers this year. Jonathan Huberdeau is scoreless in five, Brian Campbell in four, Aleksander Barkov and Kris Versteeg in three as whatever early-season buzz these guys had has all but fizzled. The Panthers are now fourth worst in the league in scoring and have the second worst power play.
The only Panthers I’d want in a one-year pool right now are Campbell and Tomas Fleischmann who returned to the lineup last night after missing the previous contest.
Charlie Coyle made his return to the Wild lineup last night. He skated over 18 minutes on the top line. It’s a bit deceptive because the Wild only received one power play opportunity but Coyle was also on the top unit there as well.
Coyle’s presence pushed rookie Justin Fontaine off the power play altogether and killed his cameo on the top line. Still, Fontaine managed five shots and scored a goal, his fourth of the season. Fontaine is on the smaller side but he has scored at every level and I’m not betting against him carving out an NHL career.
Jason Pominville scored two goals and an assist last night. The assist was, oddly enough, his first of the season, while the goals were his eighth and ninth. He’s shooting 22.0% so far so his goals will dry up but I expect the assists to start coming more frequently as well.
I still think that buy low window on Wild players is open. Even with Pominville’s three-point night, he’s only got 10 in 14. Parise has the same total though five of his points have come in the last five games. Mikko Koivu has just eight points so far so he’s definitely one to target. The window is closing but there is still an opportunity, I think.
Mikael Granlund is on a nice little four-game scoring streak. He has 10 points on the year, all assists. He’s still just a second-line/second power play unit guy so the upside for this season is limited but it’s encouraging to see Granlund finding his way. Long term he has a ton of potential.
Josh Harding got the win for Minnesota after missing a couple of games due to injury. He is killing it to start the season and making an impressive push to earn the lion’s share of starts.
It’s starting to look bleak for David Desharnais. The Habs have no choice but to use him because of that sizable contract extension they signed him to but he has just one point on the year and is losing traction in the lineup. Desharnais saw just two seconds of power play time and has been on the ice for just a quarter of all Canadiens power play chances.
It doesn’t help that Desharnais’ linemates to start the season – Danny Briere and Max Pacioretty – are both hurt right now but still, he is getting passed on the depth chart, left and right.
Louis Leblanc is skating with Desharnais right now. He has been up for three games now and while his ice time has increased with each game he is scoreless so far, which isn’t good for a kid fighting to be an NHL regular.
Douglas Murray has been back for three games now but I don’t see this as much of a positive for the Canadiens.
As expected, with Steve Downie off to Philadelphia, P.A. Parenteau was back up on the top line with Ryan O’Reilly and Matt Duchene. The trio was scoreless last night but it’s only a matter of time for them.
Is Alex Tanguay the unexpected winner of the Downie for Talbot deal? He skated 5:29 on the power play last night playing the point on both power play units. He has a five-game scoring streak going and looks like he’s headed towards a renaissance season.
Paul Stastny scored himself a couple of goals last night, including the overtime winner. He hasn’t looked great in a couple of years but he’s off to a pretty solid start and is currently riding a three-game scoring streak.
Nathan MacKinnon’s linemates last night were Maxime Talbot and John Mitchell. Not exactly the most inspiring pair but with Jamie McGinn out there isn’t much left for MacKinnon to skate with on the third line.
Semyon Varlamov got the start and the win for Colorado as he appeared unfazed by his current legal troubles.
Alex Goligoski does seem to respond to a good benching. He led all Stars in ice time with 27:01 last night including 2:50 on the top power play unit. He scored his second goal in four games since his healthy scratch. I’m still counting on 40 points from Goligoski, so buy low.
Ray Whitney is on a four-game scoreless drought and worse, hasn’t scored a goal all year. The minutes are still there as he is back on the top power play unit but he isn’t producing. Is this the year he finally falls off? I think he’s a solid buy low candidate as well.
The Tyler Seguin-Jamie Benn-Rich Peverley line clicked for five points last night. Peverley has not always found himself on that line but he has mostly been skating with the top guns for Dallas. All seven of his points this season have come while on a line with Seguin and Benn so it’s pretty crucial to his limited value that he stay on that line. Peverley has already lost his top unit power play spot to Whitney so he needs to hold onto the even strength minutes.
Johan Franzen returned to the Wings lineup last night but only appeared for one shift in the third skating just nine seconds. Perhaps a recurrence of his injury?
Tomas Tatar has goals in two straight games but skating just 12 minutes per game isn’t going to cut it, though he did see almost two minutes of power play time last night.
Todd Bertuzzi has gotten the top line assignment the past couple of games, he managed a couple of assists last night along with five SOG. If he could stick on that line AND stay healthy, I think he would return to his 45-point form but you can’t count on either from him at this point.
Stephen Weiss hasn’t scored in eight games and has just two points on the year. What a flop he has been for the Red Wings. Wasn’t signing in Detroit supposed to help his stock?
Kris Russell continues to take advantage of Mark Giordano’s absence. He is currently on a three-game point streak and has seven points in his last eight games. Definitely worthy of at least a flyer while Giordano is out.
Sean Monahan isn’t ready to cool off completely. He scored his seventh goal of the season last night and is still shooting over 20%. The drop off is coming but it helps that he’s been skating with Jiri Hudler who now has 15 points on the season after two assists last night.
Matt Stajan now has a four-game point streak going but I’m not ready to buy stock yet.
I’m selling all of my Mikael Backlund stock though. Since the Flames got healthy up front his ice time has been steadily declining. Last night he skated just 8:10, his second straight sub-10-minute game.
Sean McIndoe doesn’t think the future is too bright for the league’s slow starters.
Jeff Angus may have left us but he’s still writing. Check out his latest Prime Cuts.
You can follow me on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.