Welcome to a special holiday edition of the Sunday Ramblings! As a Christmas treat I'll share a fantasy war story with you right off the bat.

 

Last night I started Ilya Bryzgalov over Kari Lehtonen (I didn't want to start either, but my opponent's goaltender Curtis McElhinny was just good enough against Philadelphia that I had a .002 save percentage deficit and a .15 GAA deficit). My reasoning of course was that the Sharks are a nominally better offensive team than the Blues. Hey, it's not like Lehtonen has been lights out or anything this season!

 

Of course, Lehtonen proceeded to save 37 of 39 shots faced while Bryzgalov stopped 21 of 26. So that awful decision quite literally cost me my fantasy week...

 

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Honestly are we even sure the guy the Edmonton Oilers signed is Ilya Bryzgalov? Maybe Bryzgalov was abducted by Aliens and he's been replaced by some reflex-less avatar. Would help explain this goal against...

 

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Okay I'll put aside my own Fantasy Hockey related anger this morning and recap last night's action. We'll start with the afternoon games of which there were three on Saturday night. 

 

Calgary visited the depleted but oh so impressive Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday afternoon and lost because Crosby. Curtis Glenncross appeared to sustain a knee injury as his injury-plagued season continued. 

 

Last weekend I suggested that Penguins defender Bortuzzo might be able to do a "poor man's Radko Gudas" impression over the next few weeks (with all of Pittsburgh's regular top-four out of the lineup). If you took my advice you've been a happy fantasy owner this week, and Bortuzzo managed two assists, two hits, and was a +1 on Sunday...

 

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The Penguins at the moment are basically the Black Knight from Monty Python's Holy Grail. Except way more successful.

 

The Penguins have won seven games in a row, including four this past week. At the moment they're without Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, Paul Martin, Brooks Orpik, Deryk Engelland and Rob Scuderi. But they're winning games with an AHL blue-line because that's what good organizations do: they have the depth and quality elsewhere to tread water with a depleted lineup. 

 

The likes of Jon Hynes (who coaches the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Penguins), Ray Shero and Dan Bylsma deserve a good deal of credit...

 

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Antoine Vermette's heroics keyed a late Coyotes comeback victory over the Ottawa Senators, a critical result for the Pacific Division team. Vermette also blocked a shot with his head in the games final minutes, and I was pretty worried about him while watching the game. Then he scored the overtime winner, completing his hat-trick and I figured he was probably OK. 

 

Hell of a performance from the former Senator, even if it angered some of Ottawa's unwashed. It was also a necessary one for an undermanned team desperate to keep pace in hockey's most difficult division...

 

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We knew that Ottawa's goaltending would regress somewhat this season, but did we know that they'd morph into a complete tirefire defensively? Perhaps some people realized the extent to which the Senators defense was playing over their heads last season, but I'm not one of those people. 

 

At the moment the Senators are the third worst defensive team in the league by goals allowed and only the New York Islanders and the Edmonton Oilers are worse. They're on pace to allow over 270 goals against. Massive steps backwards from the likes of Jared Cowen and Peter Wiercioch have hurt Ottawa significantly, as has the clubs decision to roll with Craig Anderson rather than Robin Lehner (who is, simply, out performing him).

 

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Oliver Ekman-Larsson managed 6 shots and 3 hits, so he had a useful fantasy day despite going pointless. OEL's Fantasy Value has persisted this season even as his underlying numbers have cratered somewhat. Meanwhile Cory Conacher has obviously fallen somewhat out of favour and played fourth-line minutes again on Saturday afternoon. I hated the Bishop deal for Tampa at the time - and still don't think he's a particularly good bet to provide above average goaltending as a starter, frankly - but Yzerman's gamble is looking pretty smart at the moment...

 

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Speaking of smart and good bets to provide above average goaltending, let's talk about Martin Jones for a minute. The rookie standout has won eight in a row, setting an NHL record for most consecutive victories to start a career for an NHL rookie goaltending. Jones' emergence means the Kings have effectively replaced Jonathan Quick two times this season.

 

Based on large sample even-strength save percentage Quick is right in that group of "average-to-modestly above average and massively over-rated goaltenders" alongside Cam Ward, Carey Price and Ilya Bryzgalov (before he signed with Phildelphia). Moreover, if you can be replaced in the blink of an eye twice then I might suggest that you're probably not a player who is worthwhile to have on an expensive long-term contract...

 

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Kings defenseman Jake Muzzin had a hell of a game on Saturday against the Avalanche. The young, talented puck mover didn't record any points but he managed five hits and five shots from the blue-line.

 

I hadn't realized that Muzzin's teammate Drew Doughty opnely lobbied to play with Muzzin at training camp. Really interesting to hear a player basically talk about the experience of posting a corsi% through the roof with a certain teammate...

 

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Ryan O'Rielly had the rare two point game in which you're also a -2. ROR managed three shots and a hit for good measure, and his goal was an absolute stunner...

 

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The Bruins man-handled the Sabres 4-1 on Saturday, in the least surprising result of the game. More surprising? That Patrice Bergeron and Tyler Myers dropped the gloves. The fact that most of Myers' punches missed high on Bergeron was probably my favorite part of last night's slate.

 

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I've been a big proponent of Bruins forward Rielly Smith - as you may have noticed - over the past few weeks, but he actually had a dog of a fantasy week until last night when he managed two goals (including the empty netter). Carl Soderberg managed five shots, while Iginla managed six. Also managing five shots on goal? Sabres teenager Zemgus Girgensons, who is still about twelve months away from breaking out.

 

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Bruins rookie Ryan Spooner was excellent in preseason, but it looks like the Bruins knew what they were doing when they sent him to the AHL this past fall. On Saturday Spooner played on a third line mostly with Carl Soderberg and Matt Fraser. That line started constantly in the offensive end of the rink, but lost the territorial battle for the most part (Soderberg was better with other line-mates, as he played up the lineup a bit more often than Spooner and Fraser did). 

 

Anyway, Spooner is really talented and I admire his game. I don't mean to take any shots at him but I thought he might have some opportunity to really step up in Boston over the next month or two. He's definitely an NHL caliber forward at this point, but I'm not convinced he's got fantasy value yet.

 

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Linus Omark played under 13 minutes and was quiet (just one shot on goal) in his Sabres debut. 

 

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The Maple Leafs and Red Wings played a wild one - a 5-4 shootout victory for the Red Wings that we'll get to watch again next week on 24/7. Tomas Jurco scored a ballsy goal, Jonas Gustavsson may have made the save of the season, and Dion Phaneuf had one hell of a game on the back-end (a goal, +2, 3 shots, 3 hits). So did Cody Franson for that matter (a goal, 7 hits).

 

Another Leaf who had an excellent fantasy game was David Clarkson. Clarkson managed a goal (maybe the ugliest of the year? Can't wait to see it in slow-motion on HBO!), three shots and five hits. That's the sort of game all the homer Toronto Maple Leafs fans who drafted Clarkson in the fourth round (or earlier?) in their fantasy draft this season were waiting for!

 

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Nice Toronto homecoming for Red Wings rookie Riley Sheahan - who managed the first points of his NHL career, in just his third NHL game, in his hometown (or thereabouts, he's from St. Catherines). Meanwhile Red Wings winger Jordin Tootoo, who only just returned to the Red Wings from the Grand Rapids Griffins, had a productive five minutes of icetime on Saturday. Tootoo managed an assist, four hits, and two shots despite limited icetime.

 

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In case you missed the best moment of last night's NHL slate: fantasy darling Radko Gudas scored the overtime winner in Tampa's win over the Hurricanes! Gudas finished the game with 5 hits, 5 shots, and a goal we might add. 

 

Fellow Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman had a nice game as well (a goal, an assist, three shots and two hits) while Matt Carle managed seven shots on goal from the back-end. On the Carolina side Ron Hainsey recorded six hits and added an assist, while Jiri Tlusy scored twice for the 'Canes.

 

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Ryan Getzlaf managed a hat-trick for the Ducks on Saturday in a 5-3 victory on Long Island. Getzlaf scored two goals off of rebounds and added an empty netter. No style points for Getzlaf, but lots of actual and fantasy points (which are what matter). Getzlaf didn't record a hit in the game and scored on all three shots he took.

 

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Ducks forward Kyle Palmieri had himself one hell of a weekend as he added two additional points on Saturday (he had a two point game including the OT winner on Friday night in Newark). Palmieri also took six shots on Saturday...

 

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On the Islanders side: Thomas Vanek scored a couple of goals, while Michael Grabner went -4 in the contest. 

 

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The Devils outlasted the Capitals in overtime with a 5-4 victory in which Ovechkin scored his 30th goal of the season on Saturday night. Let that sink in for a minute. Many of you reading this probably don't have a single 30 goal scorer on your fantasy team (presuming you play in a deeper league).

 

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Just as amazing: Jaromir Jagr scored a goal and added two assists on Saturday night. That brings the 41-year-old Czech legend's cumulative points total up to 33 on the season in 38 games. Ridiculous.

 

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Might be worth noting that Martin Erat played over 16 minutes on Saturday and recorded a couple of assists, three hits and a shot on goal. Quietly Erat has played over 16 minutes in each of the past 6 games and has four points in his last three (all assists). Worth looking at since if he continues to get burn then he's a top-six quality forward who is guaranteed to be available in your league right now...

 

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The Philadelphia Flyers fell 6-3 to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday night as Ryan Johansen continued his breakout campaign. Johansen added two goals to his totals (and took five shots) against Philadelphia. He's now scored 14 goals on the season and has 29 points in 36 games, which ain't too bad. 

 

Oh also Marian Gaborik is out indefinitely as he broke his collarbone early in the game. At least he recorded an assist on the sequence? 

 

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Weird fantasy line of the night has to go to waiver wire fodder Corey Tropp, currently with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Playing under nine minutes while skating mostly with Blake Comeau and Mark Letetsu; Tropp managed two assists, three shots and four hits. No way anybody had him dressed though...

 

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Brandon Dubinsky was a -2 on Saturday but managed five shots and three hits. He continues to provide excellent value and you should pick him up if he's available for some god forsaken reason in your league (which he might be, he's only owned in 38% of leagues somehow).

 

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The Canadiens are just not very good this year, frankly. They can hang with just about anyone when P.K. Subban is on the ice, but without him they're among the league's worst. Moreover they're probably the league's single most boring team to watch. I watch a tonne of hockey both for fun and for work and they've morphed into the "team I actively avoid having to watch" this season...

 

On Saturday the Habs exploded for three goals in the first, then blew their lead over the balance of the game before winning it in overtime. 

 

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Subban had a strong game - of course - managed a goal, six shots, three hits and finishing a +3. Also Max Pacioretty, who along with Subban is the exception to the "Canadiens suck to watch" rule, scored a lovely goal and finished with five shots.

 

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Predators rookie Seth Jones was struck in the face with a puck and left the game. Jones wears a visor which protected his face and the young American born defender didn't go to hospital, so hopefully he doesn't miss too much time.

 

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Roman Josi managed seven shots on Saturday, while Hornquist managed five (and a goal, and a couple of hits). Josi is probably available in your league right now, and makes a lot of sense. He's going to be more productive going forward this season than he's been so far...

 

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Chris Stewart scored a hat-trick on Saturday night, and the Oilers are so terrible that they make Brenden Morrow look good. That's really all you need to know about that.

 

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Finally the Sharks overcame the Stars in overtime on Saturday. Joe Thornton picked up his 32nd assist of the season(!) on this beauty from Joe Pavelski, Antoine Roussel continued to be a beast with his eighth goal of the season (he hadded six shots for good measure), and Brenden Dillon managed four shots and four hits in another solid outing for the massively under-rated defender.  

 

Thomas Drance is a news editor at theScore.


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Comments (12)add comment

spkrz said:

spkrz
Quick - to abandon ship? "Based on large sample even-strength save percentage Quick is right in that group of "average-to-modestly above average and massively over-rated goaltenders"

That way of thinking is way too shallow in this case. Being a (long-time) Quick owner and therefore a long-time King's observer, I see it this way: During the first month and a half the Kings still seemed challenged for goals and, knowing they had a world-class goalie in Quick behind the pipes, they played a looser style aiming for more offence with the belief that Quick would do what he had to to hold them in games while they figured out how to score. But that plan went down when Quick did.

There is no doubt that the Kings style of play reverted back to what has brought them so much success: air-tight defence - as we see reflected in the team's Goal Against. Neither Scrivens not Jones are anywhere near the calibre of Quick and instead I propose to you that the team game itself being played by the Kings since Quick's injury is simply outstanding and making the current King's goaltending tandem look far, far better than they really are. If they keep playing as a team like this when Quick returns, his wins and statistics will be sensational as he -RIGHTLY - assumes his mantle as King of King's crease.
December 22, 2013
Votes: -1

Mackgord said:

Mackgord
Richards Minutes What's up with Mike Richards consistently playing less than 15 minutes a night over the past five or six games? Is this a symptom of Carter's being back in the line up and cannibalizing his minutes? Or is the coach so intent on keeping Richards and Toffoli together that he even wants them to spend time together on the bench? Could he be suffering from a minor injury? All of the above?
December 22, 2013
Votes: +1

Anze said:

Anze
... Rask is the best goalie in the league right now, on a strong defensive team in the wealest conference. Great goalie, amazing stats.

But for the other goalies career save%

Luongo 919
Lundquist 920
Rinne 919
Price 916

He is not that far behind. He is 5 years younger than Rinne and Lundquist. Rask is the same age, but he has played in 166 regular games vs 340 for Price. I also see a huge difference in his play this year. I believe he made corrections with his new goalie coach, he is more active but still has great technique. I think he will be a perennial top 5 goalie in the league, but it's true 30 games this year is a small sample size. Time will tell. Wish Goldman was there to give his opinion.
December 22, 2013
Votes: +1

beyondthewall19 said:

beyondthewall19
... And to clarify of course when you're considered something like top three or top five in the league fantasy-wise it becomes quite easy to 'overrate'
December 22, 2013
Votes: +0

beyondthewall19 said:

beyondthewall19
... price = overrated.

sarz to all those nutty habs fans believing otherwise.

And I'm all for the canes I know what you're going through!
December 22, 2013
Votes: -1

Thomas Drance said:

Thomas Drance
... Just to clarify how I view goaltending: I base most of my evaluations on large sample sv%. Price and Bishop are off to excellent starts but their career numbers suggest they probably won't sustain this level of performance. Bishop, for example, has never been this good in his career, even at the AHL level (where his career save percentage is .913). Think some skepticism on his being a quality starter consistently going forward is well warranted.

As for Price he's having an excellent season but his career EV sv% suggests that his peers are the likes of Quick, Ward etc. as opposed to Rinne, Rask, Luongo, Lundqvist. That's really all I'm pointing out. These numbers don't capture everything of course - maybe Price and Bishop have found a new level of performance - but I'm doubtful. I also watch a tonne of Habs games, I just don't enjoy their fun-averse style.
December 22, 2013
Votes: +0

Front89 said:

Front89
Did Price kick your dog? Without Price this year the Canadiens are nowhere; he has been very good and pretty consistent....for some reason people love to hate him
December 22, 2013
Votes: +0

solo223 said:

solo223
?????? Another anti-Price talking....he's been rock solid this year, without him the Habs would be in deep trouble......here's another doozy for ya...

'I hated the Bishop deal for Tampa at the time - and still don't think he's a particularly good bet to provide above average goaltending as a starter, frankly - but Yzerman's gamble is looking pretty smart at the moment...'

Bishop is the reason TB is where they are, seen him play and he's been excellent every game i've watched....As for Conacher, give me a break, the kid played ample minutes with St-Louis and Stamkos, anyone can score with those two....point in fact....Conacher has sucked since traded and he'll keep on sucking unless he plays with a superstar....Ya know...he's one of those players that don't make anyone better around them, they just look good when they are the ones playing with proven stars....Give them average talent to play with and they are just that....VERY AVERAGE....TB stole that one....Bishop is real man and Conacher is just a 3rd line dude at best...
December 22, 2013
Votes: +1

newfcollins said:

newfcollins
... Wait, Price is tied for sixth in wins, is eighth in GAA and fifth in save percentage, and he's overrated?

The Habs are 19th in the league in goals for per game. I agree the Habs haven't been that great this year, but the only reason they have the record they do is Price.
December 22, 2013
Votes: +0

Anze said:

Anze
... "The Canadiens are just not very good this year, frankly"

They are in 4th in the conference, and with that massively over-rated Price in net, they have allowed less goals than 24 teams in the league. It is true that like many Eastern Conference teams they cannot compete with the Western powerhouses like LA or StL. But they had their moments, probably when you were not watching.

If they're not good, what does that say about the 12 teams BEHIND them in Eastern Conference ?
December 22, 2013
Votes: +2

ross10019 said:

ross10019
... Great ramblings indeed. But Price "massively over-rated"? I guess the fact that you avoid watching the Habs play might explain that wrong-headed opinion.
December 22, 2013
Votes: +1

germant said:

germant
How Depressing
There some measure of pain when the highly anticipated Sunday Ramblings don't contain a single mention of any of my players. It's like all of my players are fading into irrelevance. What a horrible year so far!

Great Ramblings though Thomas! Sunday Ramblings are my highlight reading of the week and you didn't disappoint!
December 22, 2013
Votes: +0
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