December already? This hockey year is just flying by, much like the lede to today's Ramblings...

 

*

 

Before we get to the 11 games that were on tap in the NHL last night, I want to quickly discuss two young players who will face each other on Sunday afternoon. Between Mika Zibanejad and Gustav Nyquist, Nyquist is far and away the more ballyhooed fantasy asset at the moment. But don't sleep on Zibanejad, who gave me more this past week and who I'm modestly higher on at the moment.

 

Five games ago Zibanejad's minutes spiked as he was bumped into Ottawa's top-six forward group (alongside Jason Spezza). This past week the Swedish forward gave fantasy owners 2 goals, 0 assists, was -2, had a PPP, and recorded 7 shots and 6 hits. That's an OK weekly line for a guy available in 95% of fantasy leagues, but nothing eye popping.

 

Thing is: it's comparable production to what Nyquist provided this week and everyone's rushing to pick him up. Also, Mika's the modestly better bet for the balance of this season I suspect. Consider that since Mika joined Jason Spezza's line at even-strength, he's "Corsi'd" near 60% at even-strength. He's been a minus player in more games that not as a top-six forward, however, because of an ~.850 on-ice sv% (and a 916 PDO) during that stretch. Those tough bounces won't continue, but it seems very possible that the Zibanejad, Spezza, Michalek line will continue to crush it possession-wise...

 

Nyquist is the other side of the coin. In his five NHL games so far this season, Nyquist's PDO is up near 118, thanks both to an on-ice save percentage north of .960 and an on-ice sh% that is hovering near 16%. Those are some damn lucky bounces...

 

All of which is to say that if you're in a deeper league and need a multi-cat player, Zibanejad looks promising and is likely to crank it up if he continues to see big minutes in Ottawa...

 

*

 

Okay, let's move onto the afternooner. Chris Kreider broke out and rung up a hatty against the coach who used to bench him, or make him ride the train to Connecticut. Kreider has been fantasy gold over the past couple of weeks and we all could sort of smell a game like this coming. Perhaps more notable is that Kreider was shifted up and onto New York's top-line with Rick Nash and Derek Stepan, and that group had instant success and chemistry (obviously). Kreider owners should be happy, it's not difficult to imagine the big forward's production spiking if he continues to skate on the top-line...

 

*

 

Alex Burrows continues to rack up hits, which is some consolation I suppose for his lack of goal scoring, but is crazy snakebit. Burrows has put up more than 20 even-strength goals like clock work for years, but he's yet to score his first this season despite a myriad of opportunities.

I wouldn't go dropping him just yet, however, if you own him in a deeper league (and I do so I've thought about this a lot). He's still generating at whole whack of shots and he actually led my team in hits this week. That's useful and the goals will come. Burrows has a ~920 PDO so far this season, which means he's been among the unluckiest  players in the league to start the year. That won't continue.

 

*

 

Speaking of regression: Brad Marchand's production has turned the corner of late as the agitating, diminutive winger recorded a multipoint game on Friday and an assist on Saturday night (to go along with a hit post). 

 

Meanwhile Marc-Andre Bergeron's ghost (my new name for Torey Krug) continued to light it up on the power-play with five shots from the blue-line, a PPP (an assist) and a hit. What a revelation he's been for Boston.

 

*

 

The Leafs are what they are: an awful five-on-five team that is way too permissive in their own end and requires above-average goaltending just to break even. This could get pretty ugly, I think, but it's not quite there yet.

 

Big minutes Leafs players who've brought good value so far (guys like JVR, Dion Phaneuf) remain some of the league leaders in PDO. So Toronto's top-end talent hasn't hit a "wall" yet (even if the team itself has), and might be worth selling high on

 

*

 

Over the past 10 days Max Pacioretty has probably been the single most dominant force in fantasy hockey. He turned in another astonishing line Saturday night finishing with 2 goals, an assist, +2 and 10 shots on goal. He would've added a few hits but Montreal had the puck the whole night.

 

*

 

After a slow start to the season - a start that was slower in fact than it was on the stat sheet - Evgeni Malkin had a much better week of hockey since we last rambled in this space. He was dominant again on Saturday night, recording four points in a blowout victory over the Florida Panthers. Malkin's underlying numbers are finally trending in a promising direction, so it's not just smoke, mirrors and power-play production that's making him look good anymore. He genuinely seems to be back, somewhat, to his overpowering self at even-strength, which is great news for the Penguins and Malkin fantasy owners (and bad news for the rest of us).

 

*

 

Newly acquired Panthers forward Jimmy Hayes appears to be playing minutes, and he managed four shots and six hits on Saturday (if nothing else, he was pointless and went -2 on the night). That's a promising effort in a blowout, and Hayes might be worth keeping an eye out for, at least as a free-agent pickup during a week where you need shots or hits.

 

*

 

Scottie Upshall is scoring at a torrid pace and managed his tenth of the year on Saturday night. Still, he's one of the worst contracts in the league...

 

*

 

The Sabres and Devils played on Saturday night and it was a snoozer (predictably). The teams went into overtime and still couldn't combine for 40 shots. Steve Bernier's game-winner was legitimately lovely and hilarious but otherwise, if you watched that game, I have one question for you: "why?"

 

*

 

With Nabokov expected to miss at least another week and Kevin Poulin's effectiveness cratering, it's no surprise that the Islanders are rumoured to be working the phones and looking to acquire a goaltender. In the meantime, Anders Nillsson played pretty well on Saturday night in his first career start (in a losing effort) and may see some playing time based on nothing beyond necessity on Long Island. Worth keeping an eye out for.

 

*

 

Cal Clutterbuck with a nice line for the Fishsticks: a goal, +1, 4 shots and 4 hits. Not to shabby for the mustachioed one. Thomas Vanek also managed 6 shots and a messy goal, which is interesting. Vanek has been solid on Long Island, but I'm not sure that trade has paid off in spades the way Garth Snow and company were hoping.

 

*

 

The Nashville Predators dressed precisely one defenseman with more than 100 games of NHL experience on Saturday (Roman Josi). So you might not be surprised to hear that they blew a two goal lead in the third period on their way to a shootout loss. 

 

Predators center Matt Cullen has been on a bit of a tear of late, and though it came to an end production wise on Saturday, the skilled American born centre still managed five shots on goal...

 

*

 

The Chicago Blackhawks butchered the Coyotes in Glendale, and their fourth line was particularly good. Brandon Bollig scored a lovely insurance marker with a really nice wrist shot and has evolved into particularly the type of useful size that teams should be looking on their fourth line. He's legitimately a player.

 

*


Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith contributed two more assists to put the cherry on top of his dominant fantasy week. 6 assists from a defenseman? I'd imagine Keith singlehandedly won a lot of owners the assist category this week.

 

*

 

I'm still not buying the Avalanche, even after they took two in a row from the Wild (who I do believe are a sleeper team in the West). Colorado led most of the game so it's tough to tell, I suppose, but Saturday's game looked to me like another Roy special: "Varlamov saves nearly 40 shots and the Avalanche win narrowly."

 

*

 

Interesting thing to look for is the production from Minnesota's third-line. Matt Cooke, for example, had a dynamite outing on Saturday night with a goal, five shots and three hits. That's cool, but it's worth pointing out that Cooke's linemates Torrey Mitchell and Kyle Brodziak also had points and their fair share of offensive opportunities (3 and 2 shots on goal respectively).

 

That's a pretty nice third line with some skill and speed, and under Mike Yeo they're empowered to make the decisions that top-six forward lines are. I don't think it's worth going out and picking up Torrey Mitchell unless you're in a league deeper than James Earl Jones' voice, but if you need shots and hits and maybe some production in free-agency some week: consider Minnesota's grinders.

 

*

 

Mike Cammalerri scored a late goal, taking a can opener to the Los Angeles Kings defense. He played 22 minutes on Saturday night and single-handedly bested one of the stingiest defensive teams of my life-time. Be fun to see him on a good team in the Pacific...

 

*

 

Kris Russell is having an impressive season for the Flames, both in real life and in fantasy. He added another three hits and soaked up well over 26 minutes on Saturday night against Los Angeles.

 

*

 

Finally there was the late game: an enteraining contest between the Sharks and the Ducks. The Sharks started the game so, so strong but couldn't hold a lead in the third period as the Ducks came storming back. Anaheim's performance in the third period was spectacular, and though they've been successful on and off for a several seasons this is the first time I've ever thought Anaheim was "for real." It's their depth guys stepping up and rounding into quality young forwards, guys like Nick Bonino who was dynamite on Saturday, that has me believing what the Ducks are selling this year...

 

*

 

Sharks defenseman Justin Braun managed a couple of assists, and had a nice line too (2 shots, 2 hits). Good to see because Braun is massively under-rated, and deserves more attention. He's soaked up top-pairing minutes for the past couple of seasons and he's done it capably. Meanwhile for San Jose the likes of Hertl, Wingels and Burns continue to post excellent fantasy lines while also playing exciting hockey... Ho hum!

 

Thomas Drance is a news editor at theScore.

// ]]>

 


Write comment
Comments (3)add comment

number54 said:

number54
This is the title. There are many like it, but this one is mine. I definitely agree about Colorado getting bailed out by some stellar goaltending; I think the Leafs are in a similar boat (in the sense that they're keeping afloat on the back of some games that were absolutely stolen by Bernier/Reimer). No chance either of those goalie tandems can handle that kind of a load over 82 games, though. I think Lundqvist and Rinne are probably the only 2 goalies who could thrive despite seeing that much rubber.

On the flip side, I don't agree about Minnesota being a sleeper. Their goaltending situation is sketchy (I wouldn't bank on Harding for the bulk of the season, and Backstrom's been in and out of the injury ward), along with their 2nd line (sans Granlund). For this team to make noise (or even a whisper, frankly), they'll need Granlund back and they'll need him to be even better than he was before he got his head caved in; they'll somehow need to make a useful asset out of Dany Heatley again (barring the discovery of the holy grail, it's not going to happen); and they'll need to have more than one defenseman play big minutes (I think Suter is now on the first, second and third pairings). Outside of Parise& Mikko, Nino's about the only bright spot in the top-6, but even his 1005 PDO is on the back of a 930 sv%, which neither of the Minnesota tenders is likely to provide for long, whereas the 730 s% is probably not going to trend much further up without an improvement in linemates that can shoot.
December 01, 2013
Votes: +0

Daydream Nation said:

Daydream Nation
... Agree with Rob.

Good stuff!
December 01, 2013
Votes: +0

rob2kx said:

rob2kx
... Nice ramblings. Good length for the number of games played - unlike most people here, I'm not a huge fan of the 10 page ramblings. Like the use of advanced stats - not too much not too little. I'd add a video clip of that dirty JVR flip goal last night though.
December 01, 2013
Votes: +4
You must be logged in to post a comment. Please register if you do not have an account yet.

busy