Really light schedule last night with just two games but I’ve still managed to round up plenty of content for you.

 

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The New Jersey Devils and Ottawa Senators engaged in just about the most contrasting battle there is in the league.

 

The Devils play an anemic style hell-bent on limiting shots at all costs, almost as if they are single-handedly trying to bring back the late 90’s. New Jersey is dead last in shots per game, while ranking first in shots allowed.

 

In your average Devils game you won’t even see 50 shots reach the net. Hit the snooze button on these guys.

 

 

The Senators are the complete opposite pushing for shot opportunities whenever possible but also conceding shots at an alarming rate as well. The Senators are third worst in the NHL for shots allowed per game behind only Toronto and Washington and sit second in the league in shots per game behind only San Jose.

 

In your average Sens game you will see over 67 shots on goal. That’s a 17 shot gap!

 

So what happened in last night’s game? The shots-allowed averages won out, with Ottawa allowing 33 while taking just 24. You won’t win too many games with that sort of shot differential and that reflected on the scoreboard with the Devils claiming a dominant 5-2 win.

 

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Patrick Elias is the single most fantasy relevant player on the Devils and he came through as such with two assists to give him eight points in his last seven games.

 

If there was another Devil to challenge him for that title it would probably be rookie sensation Eric Gelinas who had two points of his own last night. He is now up to 15 in 26 games this year. Gelinas still sits behind Andy Greene and Marek Zidlicky on the depth chart but he has now tied them in scoring for the year despite playing eight fewer games.

 

I recommend watching out for some pullback in Gelinas’ numbers as we head towards the second half of the season as the limited power play time could be cause for alarm.

 

Damien Brunner also had a two-point night and now has five points in his last four games. Not sure that’s good enough to get in my good graces though.

 

When is that drop-off I keep calling for going to hit Jagr? He has points in five straight and has missed just one game this season. Still waiting for that other shoe to drop.

 

Rookie forward Reid Boucher scored the first goal of his NHL career. He’s a scoring machine that you definitely want to get your hands on in a keeper league and is making a case to stick around right now. Check out his DobberProspects profile here.

 

One of the other aspects that made last night’s matchup so interesting for me was the battle between two teams who have been rocking some goalie controversies that I have not been silent about in the slightest.

 

In New Jersey, it continues to be a pretty even split, though one that slightly favours Martin Brodeur despite Cory Schneider’s superior stats. At the end of the day, Brodeur has a “winning” record and for whatever reason the team appears to play better in front of his inferior goaltending.

 

The Devils are definitely a win-now team because they don’t have their first round pick this year and management has some real incentive to push the “win now” directive to avoid the embarrassment of forfeiting a lottery pick. So if Brodeur is getting the wins they can’t really scoff at how he does it.

 

Brodeur got the win last night, which will only reinforce this stance. His underlying numbers were pretty good too and almost in mocking fashion they mirrored Schneider’s season averages.

 

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On the other side of the rink, my boy, Robin Lehner got lit up by a pretty miserable offensive team, which does not bode well for him. The good news is that nominal starter, Craig Anderson, hasn’t done much better. He was yanked after two goals on four shots in his previous outing. At this point, maybe it’s just best to stay away from the Senators goaltenders altogether. Considering the rubber getting directed their way this season, it could be the best course of action.

 

Ottawa’s line mixing continued last night with a wide array of line combinations. Check out their lines from last night’s affair, courtesy of FrozenPool:

 

12.2%

EV

16 MACARTHUR,CLARKE - 6 RYAN,BOBBY - 7 TURRIS,KYLE

10.73%

EV

14 GREENING,COLIN - 25 NEIL,CHRISTOPHER - 15 SMITH,ZACK

9.27%

EV

6 RYAN,BOBBY - 7 TURRIS,KYLE - 93 ZIBANEJAD,MIKA

8.29%

EV

89 CONACHER,CORY - 22 CONDRA,ERIK - 44 PAGEAU,JEAN-GABRIEL

6.34%

EV

16 MACARTHUR,CLARKE - 9 MICHALEK,MILAN - 19 SPEZZA,JASON

4.39%

EV

14 GREENING,COLIN - 19 SPEZZA,JASON - 93 ZIBANEJAD,MIKA

4.39%

EV

16 MACARTHUR,CLARKE - 6 RYAN,BOBBY - 19 SPEZZA,JASON

 

As you can plainly see that’s a lot of mixing at the top. I think the most important take away is that Mika Zibanejad is playing with talent and that other youngsters like Cory Conacher and JG Pageau are not.

 

Zibanejad has cooled off with just four points in his last eight games but he does have points in two straight after recording an assist last night. Maybe this is the start of another hot run.

 

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The “late game” was a tight affair between the injury riddled Penguins and the Rangers at MSG. The game was tight until the third period when the Penguins jumped out to a 3-1 lead only to have the Rangers rally to tie the game with two goals in the final eight minutes. Overtime solved nothing and at the end of the night the two teams left equals having scored three apiece on 32 shots each. Some strange skills competition took place afterward but it can’t possibly have been done for anything more than a good time.

 

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Pascal Dupuis is getting his act back together with five points in his last seven games. He’ll never be an extraordinary performer because he doesn’t get power play time but we’ve come to expect more from Sidney Crosby’s linemate. He is starting to deliver once again.

 

Crosby’s other linemate, Chris Kunitz, is delivering as well, with two points last night.

 

This might be an aberration but with Evgeni Malkin out of the lineup Brandon Sutter has stepped up scoring goals in each of the last two games. He’s also skated over 18 minutes in both of those games, the only times he has done so all year, so there is reason to believe this is more than just random. Of course, Sutter has received no spike in power play time so I wouldn’t be jumping off this screen to pick him up.

 

If you are looking for other beneficiaries to the Malkin and Kris Letang injuries – and the James Neal suspension – consider Jussi Jokinen, Matt Niskanen and Brian Dumoulin who were all on the Penguins’ top power play unit last night.

 

Niskanen is an obvious beneficiary – he was productive with Letang out earlier in the year – but Jokinen might come as a surprise. After all, Jokinen also loses Malkin as a linemate but the increase in minutes is probably more important. Dumoulin wins most of all just being freed from the minors. Of course, he’ll be sent back down when the team gets healthy but what the Penguins are demonstrating right now is the power of organizational depth.

 

As has been mentioned many places the Penguins are currently without five of their top six defensemen but they have kept humming along because of how they have invested heavily in drafting and developing talent on the blue line in part so that they can survive just these sorts of problems.

 

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On the other side of the ice, the Rick Nash cold streak continues. He has scored just twice in his last six games. I’d put him right up near the top of my second half buy low list.

 

Nash’s linemate, Derek Stepan, should probably join him. He too has just two points in the last six games but he did fire seven shots on goal last night if you are looking for positive signs.

 

What those two could use is a jolt of Mats Zuccarello in their lives. After another two-point game Zuccarello has 13 points in his last 13 games. That’s admittedly cherry-picking as he has cooled off a bit lately but last night’s multi-point effort was his fifth in that span so he hasn’t necessarily been on every night but Zuccarelo has been productive.

 

After a scorching start to the month Ryan McDonagh has now gone scoreless in five straight games. He skated over five minutes on the top power play unit last night so I’m still optimistic about him but he is starting to generate some doubt as to whether or not he can be a long term solution for the Rangers power play.

 

The Rangers power play currently sits 14th in the league for efficiency so it hasn’t been all bad.

 

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Check out Elliotte Friedman’s latest 30 Thoughts:


25. There is a lot of debate about taking Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz of the Penguins as a pair for the Canadian Olympic team. In Monday night's 3-2 loss at Ottawa, Alex Pietrangelo and Jay Bouwmeester of the St. Louis Blues had a two-minute shift in overtime. They were on the ice for 26 seconds before teammate Derek Roy took a penalty and the duo stayed to kill the first 1:33 of it. Those guys are going to the Sochi Winter Games together.

I chose to highlight that thought here as a pat on the back to myself. I was calling for that pairing since the summer. It’s nice to get one right. Of course, I’m not technically right until we see those two together in February but as alluded to above, it appears to be an inevitability.

 

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I’ve railed against some of the hefty contracts doled out to goalies in recent years. Eric T. from SBNation takes a look at Goalie Contracts, Variability and the Talent Gap:


The closer a below-average goalie gets to an above-average one, the easier it is to be competitive with a below-average goalie.

My argument has been that that gap between below-average and above-average goalies has shrunk exceedingly in recent years so I wouldn’t pay for guys like Corey Crawford or (possibly) Jonathan Quick. I do still believe there is value in true elites like Tuukka Rask, Henrik Lundqvist (current struggles aside) and Pekka Rinne. I’d be much more concerned about investing in talent less than that.

 

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Have the Buffalo Sabres improved under Ted Nolan?


Before the coaching change, the Sabres were averaging 1.8 goals-per-game under Rolston, and allowing 3.15. Since Nolan took over, Buffalo actually is down to just 1.5 goals-per-game, while goals allowed are down to 2.54 on average.

You can certainly argue that their play has improved but all that has really happened is a tightening of the reins in order to produce lower scoring – but high variance – games in an attempt to be more competitive. The Sabres are still lacking talent above all else and no amount of coaching can change that.

 

Still, Ryan Miller owners are definitely being rewarded. Miller’s goals-against average is now below 3.00 and dropping while his save percentage remains solid at 0.921%. He’s also been winning some games recently. He still has the Sabre stink all over him so I bet you could buy low on him right now.

 

His stats in 10 starts since Nolan took over:

 

4-6 – 2.30 GAA – 0.928 Save%

 

That’s rock solid.

 

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When Alex Steen regresses over the second half of the season will people blame his new contract extension or just plain old regression?

 

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Great story from Harrison Mooney on how Canucks coach John Tortorella used some real gamesmanship to beat the Bruins last weekend.

 

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I enjoyed this little tidbit from TSN’s latest Insider Trading:


I said a month ago the Ottawa Senators were working the phones looking for a puck-moving defenceman but they didn't find one. They checked in on Michael Del Zotto with the New York Rangers but didn't go anywhere with that. Well, Cody Ceci, who scored the overtime winner on Monday, has filled that role internally so far.

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Mike Smith sells this trip by Max Pacioretty.

 

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Down Goes Brown gets a hold of the transcripts from Brian Burke’s GM search in Calgary. This is classic DGB material.

 

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DGB creator Sean McIndoe also gives us a Venn Diagram of Hockey Hate over at Grantland.

 

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Alco-hockey may in fact be the greatest game ever invented.

 

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Sutter scores a really beauty:

 

 

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You can follow me on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.


Write comment
Comments (10)add comment

metaldude26 said:

metaldude26
... Excellent comments today!

Blackgold - I'm not sure anyone can show me over a 5-6 game sample that they are elite. Remember, Antero Niitymaki once took the Olympics by storm. If anything it just further emphasizes the high variance among goaltenders. There's been enough mediocre Jonathan Quick to question his status as a true elite performer under the criteria discussed above. To be elite you have to bring it year after year. Quick has really only had one great year and that year isn't enough to give me confidence the way guys like Rask and Lundqvist have.

Excelsior - I think MDZ has done more work than anyone to make MDZ expendable but good points on Moore. He's definitely one to watch in a keeper league.

repenttokyo - good catch on Neal!

Number54 - I'm not sure how Quincey avoids suspension there. Is it the fact Getzlaf was able to come back? That hit was brutal, so brutal it almost looked embellished, like Getzlaf wanted to get launched into the boards at full force, but who in their right mind would do that?
December 19, 2013
Votes: +0

SavageGardener said:

SavageGardener
Steve Laidlaw is an awesome rambler Only two games last night, and yet so much detail on both the games, their stars, their "who to watch out for" potential pick-ups, and also goes around the league about teams who didn't play last night but had news.

Thanks for all the details and covering so many bases, especially including players who are already on most rosters (I get the feeling that in other ramblings, there's a focus on waiver pickups)... because we may want to drop/trade/bench these rostered players. Thank you! Keep up the great work!
December 19, 2013
Votes: +0

number54 said:

number54
Quincey Anybody else think it's a joke that he's getting nothing for that hit from behind on Getzlaf? Personally, given the number of hitting-from-behind incidents in the last month, I would have expected a bit of a crack-down from the league. But no, apparently they're cool with this.
December 19, 2013
Votes: +0

rataylor22 said:

rataylor22
... I don't think Harding should be on team Canada, for this very reason. He's been a great story and phenomenal this year, but with all the travel and everything involved with the Olympics, what if something with his disease acts up. It is far too risky IMO to take him, and this weeklong stint on IR is the exact reason why.
December 19, 2013
Votes: -2

Jeremy Campbell said:

onthebeach96
Harding on IR Harding was put on the IR so he can get some new treatment for his MS. I really hope he is named to Team Canada, what a story he is and he deserves it with the highest save percentage in the league!

Crosby was tripped on a clear breakaway and not given a penalty shot! So much for him getting the super star treatment, or even rookie treatment on that one!
December 19, 2013 | url
Votes: +0

repenttokyo said:

repenttokyo
James Neal It's worth mentioning that James Neal comes back from his suspension tonight. So no one is going to further benefit from it in the lineup.
December 19, 2013
Votes: +0

jimywho1 said:

jimywho1
mooney article that money article on torts and the sedins is well worth the read! amazing!
December 19, 2013
Votes: +0

Excelsior said:

Excelsior
... Great ramblings on a two game night.

Nice rush by young NYR defenceman John Moore, finished by a the Zuccarello tab-in. I think Moore will be a player to watch next season as he is coming into his own. Excellent speed and skating ability. I think he has made MDZ expendable.
December 19, 2013
Votes: +2

rataylor22 said:

rataylor22
... I think Ben Scrivens and Martin Jones have shown that the Kings system is elite, not Quick, much like Bryzgalov and Mike Smith have shown you can be a well below average starter and be elite in the Phoenix system. Jonathan Quick simply put together an elite stretch of games in a playoff run, much like Cam Ward did.
December 19, 2013
Votes: +1

BlackGold said:

BlackGold
quick I think Quick will show you that he belongs in that Elite category in Sochi.
December 19, 2013
Votes: +0
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