Interesting one in New York to start last night with Rick Nash finally taking on his former team, the Columbus Blue Jackets. It’s safe to say this was not his most impressive performance of the year, going minus-two without taking a getting a single shot on goal.
Nash has actually been pretty cold of late with just two points in six December games.
Dylan McIlrath made his NHL debut last night, skating a little over eight minutes. He has some serious PIM/Hits upside whenever he becomes a lineup regular.
What really made this one interesting was that both backups made an appearance in this one.
First Henrik Lundqvist was pulled in the first after ceding three goals on 13 shots. Cam Talbot, who has been exceptional all season, came in and settled things down allowing just one goal on 14 shots the rest of the way, while the Rangers mounted a comeback.
Then Curtis McElhinney left with a lower body injury after one period sporting a 3-1 lead, which led to Mike McKenna taking over the rest of the way.
They held on for the victory but as if things weren’t bad enough for the Blue Jackets with Sergei Bobrovsky out with what looked like a bad groin pull now they could lose McElhinney for the foreseeable future. I guess you go out and grab McKenna if you are desperate for starts because the alternative at the moment appears to be Jeremy Smith, a former Predators prospect currently starting for Columbus’ AHL affiliate in Springfield and doing merely a mediocre job of it.
Smith has some upside as he posted a couple of solid seasons at the AHL level while in the Nashville program but I’m sure I don’t need to remind you of the lack of success demonstrated by former Preds goalies at future stops in their careers.
First off, add Marian Gaborik to that equation as well because he also figures to come back at some point (he’s been out for a month now), which will only further muddy this situation.
Secondly, the best I can do here is speculate so don’t read too much into my musings here but I always like to take a stab.
I was going to break into a long spiel about where Gaborik and Horton would fit into the lineup as it is currently structured but the reality is that Gaborik and Horton are guys around whom you structure a lineup, not the other way around.
Adding two top-six forwards to this group creates an intriguing depth problem that will likely be resolved by building three scoring lines and two equal power play units. I figure the guys we see on the power play will be Johansen, Cam Atkinson, Gaborik, Horton, Dubinsky and Foligno but that sixth spot is really up in the air.
If you look at the current lines of the Blue Jackets, courtesy of FrozenPool, you’ll see who the likely losers in this scenario would be:
13 ATKINSON,CAM - 11 CALVERT,MATTHEW - 17 DUBINSKY,BRANDON
71 FOLIGNO,NICK - 19 JOHANSEN,RYAN - 18 UMBERGER,R.J.
42 ANISIMOV,ARTEM - 14 COMEAU,BLAKE - 38 JENNER,BOONE
55 LETESTU,MARK - 24 MACKENZIE,DEREK - 26 TROPP,COREY
I don’t see either Dubinsky or Johansen losing much when Gaborik and Horton return because they are the team’s top two centermen. It only serves to help them that the top two right wingers are set to return to the lineup.
Dany Briere made his return to Philadelphia last night and amazingly enough was well received. He did very little in the game, as he has done all year but his 14:13 was the most minutes he’d skated in the past week, which may be a good sign.
This is kind of a ridiculous stat but I’ll throw it out there any way. Briere has 10 points in 17 games where he has skated at least 12 minutes this season and no points in six games where he has seen less than that.
Alex Galchenyuk scored the lone goal for Montreal with under a minute left as they came up short in trying to mount a comeback.
Carey Price was his usual stellar self, shaking off a thumping at the hands of the Kings earlier this week.
Good news for Jakub Voracek owners, he continued to resurrect his season with two assist last night, giving him scores in three straight games.
Claude Giroux also got in on the action with two points and has scored damn near a point per-game since starting the season scoreless for his first five.
Michael Raffl, who was elevated to the top line last night in lieu of Scott Hartnell, got an assist and has four points in his last five games. He could be worth a pickup in deeper leagues.
Emelin most certainly warrants a suspension here so adjust accordingly.
The Sens got revenge for their loss earlier this week with a 2-1 win over Buffalo last night.
The fantasy arsonist, Craig Anderson, got the start in this one and resisted the urge to burn owners once again with a 40-save performance in the victory. Of course, how many of you kept Anderson on the bench knowing his arsonist ways?
The win gives Anderson three in his last four starts, which gives him a leg up on Lehner in the battle for the crease.
Jean-Gabriel Pageau was called up yesterday and got into the lineup. He was held scoreless in just 10 minutes of ice time. I don’t see him being worth a pickup until you see him getting power play time.
Kyle Turris notched two assists last night despite seeing his minutes cut to under 15 for the first time all season.
Bobby Ryan’s minutes were cut even more significantly because he doesn’t get a regular PK shift. He saw just 11:53 last night but got two points of his own anyway.
Cory Conacher joined Turris and Ryan last night and notched an assist for the second straight game after going scoreless in the previous seven. Perhaps this is where he shows us flashes of offense – he won’t see a better opportunity than this one.
Tyler Ennis scored the lone goal for the Sabres and fired seven SOG. He skated over 21 minutes for the second straight game and has four points in his last four games. I still need to see more before I commit to him though. Buffalo is just too much of a dead zone.
Cody Hodgson missed the game with a lower body injury.
I didn’t watch the game but I’m calling the Wings-Lightning 1-1 tie last night a snoozer. Oh wait, it wasn’t a tie, the game was decided by a skills competition, which I suppose Tampa Bay won. Even with dynamos like Pavel Datsyuk and Martin St. Louis involved, I couldn’t care less.
Ben Bishop continued his stellar season and is doing everything possible to get himself a spot on the US Olympic team. If you look at who was in goal across from him last night, you’ll see one reason why it’s a serious discussion.
Jonas Gustavsson, not Jimmy Howard, was in goal for Detroit after Howard injured himself earlier this week. But I think Gustavsson deserved the start anyway. He’s simply been better than Howard this season as he has basically played out the script I’d written for him before last season when I made him one of my dark horses. After Gustavsson’s struggles with injury last season I pretty much wrote him off. Now here he is making the most of the opportunities he’s been afforded. Good stuff.
Johan Franzen has been on quite the hot streak this past month. Ever since returning from injury on November 12, Franzen has scored 18 points in 15 games to help make up for his poor start to the season. But Franzen is a Band-Aid Boy and a Windex Wonder so it might behoove you to sell high here.
On the Tampa Bay side of things, Alex Killorn hasn’t scored in seven straight games and is easily droppable in one-year formats if you are still hanging on.
Valtteri Filppula has just one point in his last six games and has seen his fantasy value plummet as well.
Matt Carle has two points in his last four games but those are also the only points he’s had in his last 12 games and I can’t see much justification for hanging onto him as long as Stamkos is out.
Is there a worse back-to-back situation than the one the Leafs just faced with Los Angeles on Wednesday followed up by St. Louis last night?
Wouldn’t it be nice if the Leafs could just have Reimer and Bernier alternate hot and cold at different times instead of both starting hot before cooling right off?
Now if only that damned Metro Division could get its act together my anti-Leafs bet might start to look really good.
Alex Pietrangelo ended a seven game scoreless drought with an assist last night. I’d still go about kicking tires on a buy low opportunity here because odds are his owner has felt the last two weeks of misery.
David Backes continues to shoot an obscene percentage boosting his shooting up to 22.4% on the year scoring the opening and closing goals of the game. It will definitely help your shooting percentage to score the empty-netter, which is exactly what Backes did last night.
Alexander Steen is impervious to regression. At this point I might have to stick my head in a meat grinder I’m so baffled.
Jaden Schwartz’s three points last night give him 12 in his last 11 games. He now has 22 points in 30 games this year, a 60-point pace and climbing. What’s scary is he only has three power play points so far. I don’t know if Schwartz will ever get considerable power play time but consistent power play time would do wonders for his already intriguing fantasy value.
Derek Roy isn’t far behind Schwartz with 13 points in his last 14 games. He has been something resembling a power play specialist with 12 of his 21 points coming with the man advantage. Roy only skates 13:33 per game ahead of just fourth liners Brenden Morrow, Maxim Lapierre and Ryan Reaves but he is also a regular on the top power play unit skating 2:22 per game with the man advantage behind just Backes, Steen and TJ Oshie among Blues forwards.
Brian Elliott got his second straight win making the last two starts for St. Louis. Is Jaroslav Halak hurt and I don’t know about it? Or is Ken Hitchcock just playing Hitchcock games? I hate you, Ken!
Carter Hutton has now won back-to-back games and has ceded just two goals in his last four appearances. I don’t think he’s worth scooping up but obviously if you’ve been relying on Marek Mazanec then desperate times call for desperate measures.
Did you buy low on Roman Josi? He’s now got five points in his last five games and is skating huge minutes alongside Shea Weber, including on the power play. It’s worth noting that the Predators have the league’s 11th best power play, which is really good news for Josi going forward.
Weber, by the way, notched two assists to get back on the right side of 0.5 points per game.
David Legwand, who I swear is the multi-point king, dropped two points for the second straight game, his eighth multi-point effort of the season.
There has been a fair amount of trade talk surrounding Legwand given his UFA status this summer. Can anyone envision a situation where a trade actually improves his fantasy value? I figure any move pushes Legwand into a guaranteed third-line position instead of taking turns the way they do in Nashville.
If I’m a Legwand owner I’m pushing to sell high, counting on his history as a 40-point guy and not much more than that, while also considering how a trade likely hurts more than it helps.
I touched on this yesterday but Dallas’ power play woes continued last night with an 0/3 effort. They sit dead last in the league in power play efficiency at just 10.5%. It’s easy to look at struggling offensive defensemen Alex Goligoski and Sergei Gonchar but at what point do we point the finger at the Stars’ best player and historically mediocre power play scorer, Jamie Benn?
Benn’s career high for power play points is 11. Part of that was due to receiving limited power play time under previous coaches but maybe he didn’t see many minutes for a reason? I’m grasping at straws here really because he’s obviously a talent and it doesn’t make much sense that he wouldn’t produce with the man-advantage.
It’s worth noting that Benn’s production in 41 games last season was 10 PPP, which is a 20 PPP pace.
Some of the blame probably falls to power play specialist Ray Whitney, as well. Whitney is showing all the telltale signs of a buy low guy – low scoring, low shooting percentage, lots of power play time – but he doesn’t necessarily pass the eye test. He looks used up when you watch him, which is a real shame because he could have been the catalyst for this Stars team seriously contending.
I mean, look at where they stand. They are clearly a tier below playoff level but their goal differential is a decent minus-five. Obviously, if they were in the East they’d be a playoff team but in the West you need to be special and right now the only thing special about the Stars is that their power play stinks.
Give this team a good power play and a bunch of these close losses turn into wins. Not that the West needs another powerhouse.
Matt Duchene shook off his recent slump with a three-point effort for the Avalanche last night. His shooting percentage had been in the process of regressing but last night’s efforts brought him back up to 16.9% for the year, which is about 3% above his career mark. Expect some more regression to follow.
Ryan O’Reilly notched two points and Nathan MacKinnon got one to round out a very solid night for the Avalanche’s new top line.
Their second line – Paul Stastny, Gabriel Landeskog, PA Parenteau – is now scoreless in three straight games and probably demands a shakeup. Parenteau, in particular, needs some help. Most of his points this season have come alongside Duchene or MacKinnon.
Of course, Stastny hasn’t scored in going on eight straight now so perhaps he needs the most help. Regardless, the Stastny-Parenteau combo does not appear to be working.
Tyson Barrie hasn’t scored in 10 straight games. I don’t know if his play has improved since his demotion earlier in the season but if his standing within the team is at all related to production he is surely headed for another demotion.
Very solid performance from Semyon Varlamov stopping 35 of 38 shots in a game where the Avalanche granted six power plays.
The Jets needed those power plays to make this a contest as they scored two of their three goals with the man advantage, a definite positive considering the Jets’ power play struggles this year. They currently sit 28th in efficiency at just 12.5%.
Those struggles are probably the number one reason for Tobias Enstrom’s miserable season but perhaps it’s the other way around. Either way, Enstrom broke an eight-game scoreless drought with an assist last night. It wasn’t a power play marker though. He hasn’t scored on the power play since October 11th.
Blake Wheeler scored two goals last night and now has seven points in his last seven games as he regresses positively.
Brian Burke finally put Jay Feaster out of his misery as he cleaned house in the Flames front office and will take over in the interim:
"We want black-and-blue hockey here, that's what we do in Alberta," Burke said. "We've got to be big and more truculent -- I know you're all waiting for the word, there it is. I want a little more hostility out there than what I'm seeing right now."
Burke has a pretty clear vision of what he thinks excites fans and wins hockey games. It’s all there in the quote above. It’s no surprise that one of his first moves was demoting rookie forward Sven Baertschi. Granted Baertschi was struggling and probably benefits from this demotion.
The big question is going to be when the big moves start to take place. Will Burke take full advantage of his interim position or will he wait until he hires Feaster’s replacement?
We know that Burke doesn’t like to make moves around the holidays so it will probably remain quiet until January. But we also know Burke likes to make his moves early in the year so it could be really explosive once January hits.
Just looking at the Flames’ cap situation and roster makeup it seems likely that impending UFAs Matt Stajan, Lee Stempniak and Mike Cammalleri will be elsewhere next season and probably before the Olympic break. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Jiri Hudler or Mikael Backlund dealt either, simply because of Burke’s truculence mandate.
I’m also curious about where Burke stands on head coach Bob Hartley and where will the new guy stand? That’s what was so ridiculous about this whole situation. Burke’s position at the top made Feaster a lame duck and yet he had just hired his own coach who could now become a lame duck in his own right. Unbelievable mismanagement by Flames ownership on this one. Hopefully, for their sake, Burke finally sets things in order from top to bottom.
Whatever the case, the Flames pulled out an OT win against Carolina last night with Karri Ramo producing his third win in his last four starts.
Justin Peters got the start for the Hurricanes and was impressive in defeat. As everyone keeps pointing out, the Hurricanes have quite the good problem with Cam Ward back and Anton Khudobin returning. As goalie genius Justin Goldman points out, both Peters and Khudobin would have to clear waivers to get sent down (so would Ward but, come on,) so a trade is pretty much necessary.
Whoever gets dealt is the big winner in this since they will no doubt be headed somewhere there is a need for goaltending. It’s anyone’s guess who will be on the way out since both Peters and Khudobin are pending UFAs.
The Eric Staal-Jeff Skinner-Tuomo Ruutu line combined for the lone Hurricanes goal last night and continues to click. Skinner is the one who scored the goal. He also fired seven shots last night as he continues his comeback season.
‘Canes rookie Elias Lindholm left the game early with an upper-body injury and did not return. He wasn’t worth much this season anyhow so not much of a loss except that this makes too injuries for Lindholm already. Band-Aid Boy in the making?
Anyone who was still holding out hope that Kevin Poulin was going to be a viable fantasy option this season can put that to rest. He followed up Tuesday’s impressive 46-save win over San Jose by getting ventilated by the Coyotes for six goals on 37 shots.
I’ve mentioned this before but Long Island is a rumoured destination for Khudobin. They could certainly use the help.
If you are into silver linings, the Islanders’ top line of Thomas Vanek, John Tavares and Kyle Okposo has now combined for 12 points over the last three games. Okposo in particular had a solid fantasy line with a goal, five SOG and 10 PIM.
Frans Nielsen also has three points in the last five games, which isn’t much but is a solid turnaround considering he’d scored just one in his previous nine games. He’s still on pace for 62-points and is carrying a 15.9% shooting percentage so he’s due some more regression yet. Enjoy these points wherever they come.
Meanwhile, the bizzaro-Coyotes continued to be fantasy hockey darlings scoring and allowing goals at great rates. Only the Chicago Blackhawks have seen more goals in their games this year than the Coyotes who both score and allow more than three goals per game.
That they did so without their captain, Shane Doan, is all the more impressive. Doan has been out for three straight games now with an undisclosed ailment but apparently it’s a long term issue, which is a real shame considering what a renaissance this has been for Doan.
Mike Ribeiro picked up the scoring slack with a three-point night. He has nine points in his last six games and is now the Coyotes’ leading scorer with 26 on the season.
Right behind him is Radim Vrbata who got up to 25 points with an assist last night.
The best name in hockey, Rob Klinkhammer, also had a three-point night. He has some serious value in deep rotisserie league’s because of his near 40-point pace and solid hit numbers.
With two goals last night Mikkel Boedker is now on pace for 24 goals and 55 points. Is this a breakout season for him or is his current 17.0% shooting indicative of overachievement?
Antoine Vermette quietly extended his scoring streak to five games.
Connor Murphy notched his first career assist as he skated over 22 minutes for the third straight game. It’s silly how loaded the Coyotes are on the back end but it really speaks to the smart way to build a hockey team as a small-market team.
You can always find a way to compete with a really good group of defensemen. It’s much harder when all your best players are up front. It can be done, as the Avalanche are a great example but look at the success of teams like Nashville and Phoenix of late, who have really gone the no-name route up front while loading up the blue line through the draft. It’s not necessarily a Cup-winning strategy but it’s a good way to avoid embarrassment.
Isn’t that right, Edmonton?
The Oilers sit right behind Phoenix in terms of overall goals scored in their games, thanks in large part to a porous defense that ranks second last in the league in goals allowed per game. They got beaten up on, predictably, by Boston last night.
Boston jumped out to an early 3-0 lead, chasing Devan Dubnyk after one period.
David Perron scored a pair in the second but the Oilers comeback was halted there. Perron’s two goals gave him the outright team lead once again and with a 13.2% average for the season that’s on par with his career 13.5% shooting average, Perron does not appear like much of a regression candidate, unless of course you think he can’t maintain his near 300 SOG pace.
Taylor Hall definitely had a night to forget going minus-four as his four-game scoring streak came to an end.
On the other end of the spectrum, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was also held scoreless but somehow led the team with a plus-two rating.
Is there something going on with backups this year? Looking around the league, guys like Johnson, Talbot, Gustavsson, Robin Lehner, Peter Budaj, etc. have all done really well in their limited appearances. I swear you could cobble together an above average goalie unit if you just cycled in backups as they’ve been spot-started this year.
Considering I’ve got Halak, Howard and Kari Lehtonen as my starters in one league this year I might venture into trading a tender for some help elsewhere and trying out this spot-start theory. You can pretty much guarantee at least one start each week from the names listed in the paragraph above. I get two moves each week. It could be worth it to save one move each week just to test this experiment.
Back to Boston though. Jarome Iginla continued to torment his hometown Oilers with two goals last night. He’s scored more points against Edmonton than any other team in his career and continues to haunt them for passing him over in 1995. The Oilers had some terrible drafts in the 90s but the 1995 draft remains a nightmare for all Oilers fans. But hey, at least they drafted Georges Laraque!
David Krejci got a couple of assists and is starting to roll again with points in four straight games.
To answer my own question from like two thousand words ago, the Anaheim-San Jose back-to-back might be tougher than what the Leafs had to face and that’s what the Wild just suffered through.
For the second straight game Ryan Suter assisted on the Wild’s lone goal as they underwent a real power outage on their trip through California. Thankfully they won’t have to complete the journey with by facing the Martin Jones brick wall in LA but the schedule doesn’t get much easier all the same. They’ll face Colorado on Saturday before taking on Vancouver, Pittsburgh and the Rangers next week. Their December schedule has been just as miserable as the Leafs’ but six games in they sit at 3-3. Not bad.
The Sharks decided to overwhelm the Wild with Joe as Pavelski scored two goals while Thornton added two assists. All three of their markers came on the power play, which is not much of a surprise considering the Wild’s lone blemish is their middling penalty killing and also the fact they conceded seven power play opportunities.
Great news for Niemi owners, he drew into a tie with Corey Crawford the league lead in wins with 17 after having dropped his previous three starts.
Dany Heatley’s corpse handily won last night’s zombie battle over Marty Havlat by managing a season low eight minutes last night. Havlat on the other hand showed real signs of life skating over 14 minutes and managing two shots on goal. That kind of life isn’t going to get you a spot on the second half of The Walking Dead next year, Mr. Havlat.
Make sure you get your votes in for Round Two of the Cage Match Tournament!
Check out this piece from SB Nation’s Adam Gretz on the randomness of goalies:
Let's look at it another way: Here are the top-10 goalies in save percentage each year going back to the 2009-10 season.
There are a few consistent names (Rask and Lundqvist stand out, and Jimmy Howard surprisingly shows up quite a bit) but it's mostly a bunch of different goalies randomly popping in and out and in all sorts of crazy places. Who is going to remember that year Brian Elliott led the league in save percentage? And then he followed it up with a .907 save percentage the next season.
That sort of thing happens a lot.
Sean McIndoe looks at 12 potential stars of HBO’s upcoming 24/7 series, which is always good entertainment.
Pavel Datsyuk is the man!
You can follow me on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.