Only three games last night but don’t worry, I’ve got lots of material for you…
Make sure you vote in our latest Cage Match Tournament, my single greatest creation. Rick Roos is running this one, so make sure you direct all complaints to him!
You also have to read Rossy’s ramblings from yesterday over at DobberProspects. He went in depth to break down the prospects you’ll see at the upcoming World Junior Hockey Championships later this month.
That was a wild third period in the Devils-Habs game. It was looking like another Eastern Conference snoozer with the Habs up 1-0 heading into third when the teams blew the doors off. The Devils took the lead on goals from Andrei Loktionov and Michael Ryder who teamed up with rookie forward Reid Boucher to be the Devils most productive line last night.
Ryder and Loktionov each got a goal and an assist, while Boucher, skating in his first career game, registered his first career point, an assist.
Loktionov has some upside but not right now. He can’t even get a regular power play shift on this team so keep him on waivers.
Ryder on the other hand, jumps up from his third line spot to top unit power play time so he has some value but he has struggled so far given the Devils’ mediocre power play (19th in the league) and general lack of playmakers. But he looked good last night firing five shots on goal and showing some real jump. I am not convinced this is the end for him.
Consider that he is shooting right around his career average this season but his teammates are not offering him much at 5-on-5 where his on-ice shooting percentage is just 5.15%. We already touched on the miserable power play but some renewed health from Patrick Elias would certainly help in that department.
The only thing that really concerns me is the decline in Ryder’s shot rate. A third of the way into the season he is only taking 1.57 shots per game. His career average (2.42) is damn near a full shot per game higher than that. In Ryder’s worst seasons as a pro he allowed his shots per game to drift below 2.00, which doesn’t bode well for this season.
Still, I don’t see why he has to drop off SOOO much just because the Devils stink. I could see him giving you a 40-point pace the rest of the way, which is by no means great but it’s better than what he’s done so far.
The EGG line has really slowed down and has in fact been broken up with Brendan Gallagher skating on a line with Max Pacioretty and David Desharnais. That said, Eller may be waking up a bit with four points in his last five.
Then with a minute to go PK Subban delivered one right to the tape of Elias for a beauty assist. You’ll find Subban’s credit for that one in the minus column.
Don’t fret because he soon made up for it. With the net empty and the puck in the Devils’ zone Subban pinched in and took out Elias allowing Brian Gionta to pick off Adam Henrique’s pass and fire a shot that was deflected in by Desharnais. Subban won’t see points for that play either but he was overcome with relief that he wouldn’t be the goat in this one.
Desharnais, by the way, is experiencing some real positive regression with nine points in his last eight. Safe to say the buy low window is closed.
Overtime left nothing resolved so they took it to the coin flip, which Montreal won. I suppose I shouldn’t call it a coin flip in this case, as Boucher’s shootout marker was the Devils’ first and only shootout score of the season (they are 0-5 in the skills comp) so they have notably struggled in this regard but I still think it’s a joke so I will continue to treat it as such.
The “loss” ended Cory Schneider’s three-game winning streak but I wouldn’t be looking to him for wins. I’d be looking for solid save percentage and goals-against average because he’s a quality netminder and that’s what they do best.
The Red Wings actually jumped out to an early 3-1 lead but powered by their rejuvenated power play (currently 18th and climbing) the Flyers roared back with five unanswered, included four in a dominant final period.
Sean Couturier was the star in this one with two goals and two assists, while finishing second on the Flyers in ice time (behind only Kimmo Timonen). A big reason for that was the number of penalties the Flyers took – seven in all – and Couturier’s responsibility as their primary penalty-kill forward.
It’s amazing that Couturier wasn’t tired out skating over six minutes on the penalty kill but he managed despite just 46 seconds of power play time. I’m not overly optimistic about Couturier because of his penalty kill role and his lack of power play time but it’s hard to argue with the success he’s had since Steve Downie returned to the lineup and was put on a line with Couturier and Matt Read.
None of that trio sees anything more than second unit power play time and yet they’ve combined to score 29 points over the past 12 games. Definitely a trio worth watching going forward.
Scott Hartnell got in on the action as well with a three-point night. There is still some room to buy low here. Even if you are pessimistic you have to figure Hartnell gets 40 points this year. That means at least 29 points over the next 54 games.
There is also room to buy low on Jakub Voracek who is mired in a slump that has stretched six games now. The big issue with Voracek has always been expectations and after he scored damn near a point-per-game last year, everyone kind of assumed he’d broken out and 70-points would follow. The issue, of course, was sample size. It was only a half-season! And he shot 17 freaking percent! Regression alarms were going off all over the place.
Of course, this start to the season is regression’s ugly cousin, over-compensation. Voracek is now shooting just 4.7% on the season, which is due to regress in its own way back to the mean.
The real Voracek is something in between these two extremes. He’s a career 10.0% shooter, I’d expect him to shoot like that going forward.
It isn’t all bad news for the Red Wings. Both Datsyuk and Danny DeKeyser skated yesterday (but did not play) and could be back soon.
The Wings also got production out of their youngsters with their two big stars out. Tomas Tatar scored two goals on six shots and has five points in his last four games. I wouldn’t be looking to get him in a one-year league just yet as he is only skating with Drew Miller and Joakim Andersson but he did find himself on the top power play unit last night so perhaps there’s some short-term value to be gained.
The biggest news for Detroit was that Weiss managed an assist even in his mummified state. It was his first point in exactly a month. Who knew ice-time was so important to production?
Jimmy Howard owners (myself included) cannot be impressed with how things went south in the third period. Howard has won just one game (a shutout over the Islanders) since November 1st and is looking awfully mediocre. He has officially earned a seat on my bench until further notice and considering the way Jonas Gustavsson has played of late I may not have a choice. Howard may have earned a spot on Mike Babcock’s bench as well.
The late game between Calgary and Phoenix was a battle of the backups with Karri Ramo besting Thomas Greiss despite a significant shot deficit. In all, the Coyotes outshot the Flames 30-18 but lost 4-1, which is basically the exact opposite of everything that they’ve done all season.
It was Greiss’ first miserable outing of the year so those Mike Smith owners out there (once again, count me among you) who are growing restless with his astronomical goals-against average (3.02) you need not worry so much about Greiss stealing starts.
Despite the limited offense Shane Doan managed to find his way onto the board with an assist. He has something like a bajillion points since he knocked the lid off against Carolina on October 13th, which makes this essentially two straight months of unrelenting dominance.
It’s not hard to see why. Doan, a career 10.2% shooter is shooting 15.6% this season. The Coyotes are shooting 11.1% at 5-on-5 with him on the ice and they also boast the league’s sixth best power play on which he is responsible for parking in front of the net and wreaking havoc.
Because Doan was such a solid producer for so long and is so well respected as a leader we don’t often look at him in the same class as guys like Hartnell and David Clarkson but that’s where he is. He is now a “net-presence guy” and he just happens to be the one who is having a monster year.
There are always one or two of these guys every year who jump from 40 to 60 points because of good chemistry and luck. Looks like it’s Doan’s year. I’m not optimistic that this will continue but it wouldn’t shock me if it did because as I said, this happens every year.
Radim Vrbata’s five-game scoring streak was snapped last night but the way he’s been going this year it won’t be long before he gets back on the board.
Keith Yandle has goals in two straight as he attempts to get back on pace for his fifth straight double-digit-goal season. He’s up to three for the year now, which is just off pace a third of the way through the year. I’ll bet he gets to 10 though.
I know I keep saying that Jiri Hudler is going to slow down but every time he starts to he pops out a multi-point game. It’s infuriating as someone who logically passed on the opportunity to buy high on him.
Much to my chagrin, Hudler now has 25 points in 27 games but he should regress. The Flames are shooting 12.26% at five-on-five with Hudler on the ice. That’s 15th in the league and the only guy ahead of him on that list who has played more minutes is Francois Beauchemin. Hudler’s either freaking amazing or he’s got a clover-crested horseshoe lodged in his colon.
Mark Giordano made a splash in his return to the lineup scoring a power play goal and adding a short-handed assist for some all-around special teams magic. Of course, if you are looking for regression you can’t do better than Giordano who has 11 points in nine games so far and is shooting 15.8%.
Giordano is a great shooter for a defenseman fielding an average of 7.0% for his career but 15.8% is insane. Of course, He’s also a really solid producer in peripheral categories so you don’t necessarily need him to be scoring so much anyhow. So definitely not a guy to drop but maybe you can sell high after this big return game. You’d have to yield a real top producer for it to be worth your while.
As expected, Kris Russell did not lose his power play time upon Giordano’s return. That’s because Dennis Wideman is now out with an injury so now it’s when Wideman returns that it’s time to cut bait on Russell.
Oddly enough it was TJ Brodie who led all Flames defensemen in ice time, however. He also chipped in a goal and an assist and has six points in his last seven games. He could be worth a short-term pickup.
I was doing some poking around on Bodog looking at the Futures bets available and stumbled upon some of the Olympics odds. Did you know that you can get Finland to win the Gold Medal at 12/1?
Aren’t those odds a little high for such a short tournament where one hot goalie can just go brick wall like it’s Wayne Gretzky’s 3D hockey and sweep the damn thing? Dominic Hasek proved as much in Nagano in ’98.
So why would the Fins with their stable of goaltenders receive such high odds? They’ve got Tuukka Rask, the current “top goaltender” belt holder and five or six other guys in line who are more than capable. They’ve also had the most success at the Olympics of any nation since we started sending NHLers. In four Olympics they’ve medalled three times, which is better than Canada, Russia, Sweden, the US or any other contender can boast. They just have never won the damn thing.
Now, it’s entirely possible that they are just too old at this point. After all, Teemu Selanne carried much of the scoring burden over the previous few Olympics but he is clearly worn out. Still, I can’t help but want to ride the hot goalie, much like Finland did in 2006 when Antero Niittymaki (yes, you read that correctly) stole the show.
Of course, that’s just proof that ANY goalie could go berserk for a few games but if I’m betting I’m throwing it at the best goalie available and right now that’s probably Rask.
Another treat, you can get Finland to win Group B at +350, right now. That group consists of Austria, Canada, Finland and Norway. All due respect to Austria and Norway, it wouldn’t surprise me if those teams were frisky but realistically they were just happy to qualify. So that bet amounts to one game, the Canada-Finland matchup, which just happens to be the final game of the Round Robin. You could bet that +350 right now and if Canada and Finland both go into that game tied with 2-0 records you could totally hedge against a loss. Feels like easy money to me!
And it's true that it doesn’t just come down to that lone game since ties are in play and tiebreakers would be goal differential so the outcome of the other games do matter beyond just the win-loss record but if I can get +350 odds on any team quality team to win one game, I’m taking it, especially when that team has the best goalie.
Lest I come off as unpatriotic, I would gladly lose these bets if it means Canada wins gold again. Fantasy sports have simply trained me to see value and pounce. And look at it this way, if Canada loses (as they have in the last two Olympics outside North America) at least I’ll have the consolation prize of possible profits.
I’m not saying the profits will fill the hole in my heart if they lose. I’m saying the alcohol I buy with those profits will.
Rask owners you may now accept my apologies for this massive jinx.
NHL.com offers up some good sources of power play points on defense:
Christian Ehrhoff (Buffalo Sabres), Cam Fowler (Anaheim Ducks), Sami Vatanen (Ducks), Ryan Murphy (Carolina Hurricanes) and Roman Josi (Nashville Predators) are owned in 57 percent or less of Yahoo leagues, but all average over three minutes per night with the extra man. Fowler is the only one of that group who has posted more than four power-play points on the season, with eight, but when predicting future performance these players could be a good place to start.
I can’t advocate grabbing all of those listed options but I do like Fowler and Josi out of that group.
Anatioly Meter takes a look at some Streaking Players Who Are Under 20% Owned:
Nick Bonino (Anaheim Ducks – C)
About three weeks ago, The Hockey Writers, explored the potential fantasy impact that Nick Bonino could have on fantasy lineups with some added responsibility. While Bonino’s ownership rate has only increased by 5% since that time, the centerman has definitely given fantasy managers enough reason to at least keep a very close eye on his production.
Over the last six games, Bonino has registered seven points (2 Goals, 5 Assists), and has been seeing a good amount of power-play time on the Ducks’ top man-advantage unit. Seeing as how Bonino has been given more responsibility as of late, fantasy managers might want to stash the centerman on their bench before his 11% ownership rate potentially sees an uptick.
Not much of fantasy value in Elliotte Friedman’s latest 30 Thoughts but I loved this dig:
Quote of the week, from Ladislav Smid of the Calgary Flames. Asked how hard it was to adjust to Calgary's system from Edmonton's, he smiled and said: "Not so bad. I've had six coaches in eight years."
Grantland's Sean McIndoe with a Brief History of NHL Coaches Behaving Badly.
You can follow me on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.