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With too many games going to the shootout last night (three but one is too many) I figure we may as well start this off with Sean McIndoe’s piece railing against the “loser point”. A great read, I must say.

 

*

 

Hats off to the goaltenders in the Rangers-Wings contest last night. Jimmy Howard and Henrik Lundqvist combined to stop 85 of 86 shots in the Rangers’ 1-0 victory.

 

Kudos to both those netminders as they have really battled injuries and inconsistency this season. Lundqvist, has started to come on of late having allowed two goals or fewer in each of his last five contests. Normally that’s not something you’d celebrate with Lundqvist but this is just the second time he’s had a streak that long all season so yes, break out the confetti.

 

 

Chris Boyle makes an excellent argument that Lundqvist’s struggles shouldn’t continue. This may not be where Lundqvist turns his season around but it’s hard to imagine him playing as poorly as he did in the first half.

 

The Rangers’ margin of victory came on a late goal from Mats Zuccarello assisted by Derrick Brassard and Benoit Pouliot. This might be the best third line in the game right now. At least for fantasy purposes anyhow. That’s a semantic argument of course, as you could probably label any of the Rangers’ top three lines the top line or the third line on any given night. The reality is that they now have nine forwards who warrant fantasy attention.

 

The aforementioned three skated 2:03, 2:33, and 2:03 on the power play respectively, which ranked them 2-4 for power play time among Rangers forwards. That’s more like top line material.

 

I think it’s time we accept that the Rangers have entered the dreaded zone of bountiful mediocrity. Now, Rangers fans should be pleased. Bountiful mediocrity is a great way to be competitive but for fantasy owners this basically means we start treating every Ranger forward like we did Blues forwards the past five years. No one is scoring more than 60 on this team but you might have seven or eight guys score more than 40. Lots of talent to fill out the end of your roster but no big cats.

 

You wish Rick Nash would be that guy but over a decade in the league tells us that he just isn’t. 

 

Brad Richards used to be that guy but it’s been three since he could carry an offense on his own. 

 

Derek Stepan looked like he was breaking towards being that guy but maybe not under Alain Vigneault.

 

*

 

Detroit, man, they need to get healthy or the playoffs are not going to happen. They’ve slipped to 20th in the league in scoring thanks to their recent stretch of anemia where they’ve scored just 2.05 goals per game over the past 17 games. That mark rates as worse than every team but the Buffalo Sabres.

 

Of course, a team that invests so heavily in geriatrics should expect to deal with injury woes. Their top four scorers (among forwards) are all 33 or older with injury histories you just cannot count on for sustained health.

 

And the much lauded kids that they’ve called up to fill in? Well they’ve fallen flat on their faces because well that’s what happens when forced into duty before ready. What the likes of Tomas Tatar, Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Jurco should be doing is skating on the third line facing easy matchups and friendly zone starts while the veterans handle the heavy lifting. Instead, they have been tasked with more and it’s failing.

 

If this team does get healthy, though? Well lookout. I think that if you put those young talents in a secondary or tertiary role while Daniel Alfredsson, Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen do what they’ve been doing for a decade, well that’s a team that could really make noise.

 

*

 

What a tough one for the Ottawa Senators. I mean, that’s a real heartbreaker.

 

They go down 3-0 early battle all the way back to take a 4-3 lead going into the third and then a rebound bounces off Jared Cowen into the net to tie it up and PK Subban squeezes one through Craig Anderson for the OT winner just 23 seconds into the extra frame. All that after they dominated the play for much of the game with a 44-23 shot differential. Ouch!

 

The good news is Anderson extended his point streak to nine games. The bad news is that the fantasy arsonist is still alive and well masked by a recent run of hot scoring in front of him. Anderson has allowed three goals or more in six of nine games on his nine-game streak so don’t be fooled.

 

Much of the Senators’ scoring was done by the big guns so not much to report on that front. Milan Michalek’s scoring drought fell to a season-long five games, which is interesting considering his struggles this season.

 

Michalek’s whole line with Mika Zibanejad and Cory Conacher is cold right now despite accounting for the team’s second power play unit.

 

Mark Stone is seeing no power play time but I am intrigued by him skating a season high 14:13 alongside Jason Spezza and Colin Greening, firing off five shots in the process.

 

*

 

Since you know Ottawa landed 44 shots on goal last night you can probably figure out that Carey Price had a nice game. Obviously four goals is not what you want against you but he held solid stopping 40 of those for shots. It’s good to see he is finally fulfilling his promise.

 

 

Brendan Gallagher took over a third of all of the Canadiens’ shots last night landing eight on goal. He came away with just an assist but it’s hard not to like the potential of the line with him David Desharnais and Max Pacioretty, who also scored last night.

 

Tomas Plekanec is pretty streaky and he’s currently on a nice run with six points in seven games in 2014.

 

*

 

Devan Dubnyk spent his first game with the Predators on the bench watching Carter Hutton play the Flyers to a draw. It was a performance that Dubnyk could learn a thing or two from.

 

 

David Legwand, taking his turn as the hot Predator of the week, led the way with a goal, an assist and six shots on goal. He has five points in the last two games. As I always say, I can’t advise grabbing him because these Predators forwards burn like a grass fire. One minute they are out of control, the next it’s like they were never there at all.

 

Shea Weber had a big night as well getting in on all three goals. He is on pace for his best season yet (as long as you ignore plus/minus, which you should, you really, really should). Since going scoreless in the first four games of the season, Weber hasn’t gone more than three games without registering a point. Not bad for a defenseman skating on the sixth worst offensive team in the league.

 

*

 

Steve Mason was solid for the Flyers pushing the game to a draw.

 

The Wayne Simmonds hot streak continues as he got in on all three Flyers goals. That’s 20 points in his last 15 games.

 

His linemates Scott Hartnell and Brayden Schenn continue to burn hot as well. Hartnell shook off a tough block from Tuesday’s game to stick in the lineup tonight and notched an assist while Schenn added a goal.

 

Andrej Meszaros is inexplicably loving life as well having scored seven points in the last five games. What do you call it when a blind squirrel finds a nut five days in a row?

 

*

 

Oh that’s just wonderful. Calvin de Haan finally earns some second unit power play time and that’s the game he decides to end his scoring streak… unbelievable. Let’s see how this plays out over the next little while before making judgement.

 

Nice bounce back by Kevin Poulin scraping out the tie and shootout “win”. That’s seven wins in his last nine. Not bad. It counters the seven losses he had in his previous nine appearances.

 

*

 

Ben Bishop is just having one of those unholy seasons of brilliance. Seriously, he has no holes. Even returning from injury he has allowed just two goals across two games. It pretty well requires divine intervention to get a puck past him right now. I don’t know what pact he made with the Devil but I am getting ready to make a similar pact to get him on my fantasy team.

 

Tyler Johnson is on a nice run for Tampa Bay skating on the top line with Martin St. Louis and on the top power play unit as well. He has scored a healthy nine points over his last 12 games.

 

After a seven-game scoring streak Matt Carle has now gotten donuts in two straight. He is not a driver of offense for the Lightning so his scoring is prone to fluctuations like this.

 

*

 

Brian Campbell skated just 28:48 last night, the first time in 2014 he skated fewer than 30 minutes in a match. He’s basically going full Suter but without the accolades that come from playing on a team that actually wins games. It doesn’t help that the Panthers’ offense is so abhorrent that he can’t even manage to score at a 40-point pace. Free Campbell!

 

Unfortunately, his contract is probably immovable with the cap so low this season both from the perspective that no team could absorb it but also from the perspective that the Panthers might go under the cap floor were they to trade him.

 

All of the Panthers’ attractive veterans carry term beyond this season, which makes the free Tomas Fleischmann campaign a tricky one as well though with some retained salary (something the Panthers proved they were not above in the Kris Versteeg deal) you can create some real cap bargains for other teams. I mean, who couldn’t use Fleischmann at say $2.25 million? Might be worth acquiring him now in case a move is made in the next couple of months.

 

Sorry, the Panthers got shutout and are abysmal. This is all I have to talk about.

 

Even Aleksander Barkov, their lone bright spot this season, has gone cold with just one point in his last four after scoring 12 in his previous 12. Maybe he picks it up again but I’m not overly optimistic.

 

*

 

Alex Stalock got the shutout for the Sharks, the first of his career. He has been very solid in relief of Antti Niemi putting up Bishop-esque numbers. Obviously he’d tank if forced into regular duty but he’s a nice backup for really deep leagues.

 

I’m tempted to say that every goose egg that Dan Boyle lays makes him that much more affordable for the Sharks but then I remember that Sergei Gonchar got two years and $10 million from the Stars. Veteran defensemen don’t take paycuts unless they cross the Ryan Whitney line. And to be fair, Boyle is still scoring a point every other game, which is quite relevant in fantasy, just not up to his usual standard.

 

*

 

The Los Angeles Kings took one back in their rivalry with the St. Louis Blues avenging their blowout loss from two weeks ago.

 

Jonathan Quick has entered superstar mode since returning from injury. If he keeps this up he’s the starter in Sochi, Gold medalist, Olympic MVP, Vezina Trophy winner, two-time Stanley Cup champion and Conn Smythe winner… too far? Okay, too far. Let’s see him sustain this for a while because for the last year of regular season play Quick has looked awfully average – enough to make me question his place among the elite fantasy goalies.

 

The Kings have mostly struggled to score but not Jeff Carter. He’s got 18 points in his last 17 games, which is the best run of scoring he’s had since he was a Flyer.

 

It makes sense then that the Kings have planted Carter beside sleeping giant Anze Kopitar. Kopitar has struggled for much of the season but does have 10 points over his last 12 games.

 

Carter’s next mission should be waking up Mike Richards. There’s a joke here somewhere…

 

*

 

This was a nice reminder of why Jaroslav Halak is not a goalie I would trust the Blues Cup hopes on if I had a say. Yes, he is among the group of goaltenders I would consider capable of being a top starter for an extended stretch but it seems to me that he is more inconsistent than most goalies. Throw in the injuries and I have little faith.

 

This is hardly a technical assessment but he is a smaller goalie and to me he plays small, which leaves him with less margin for error. The goalies who are succeeding the most look more like Quick – tall, lanky, eliminate the lower half of the net and then hope to see the shots that go high when the opponents try to pick corners.

 

A guy Halak’s size has to go full on Tim Thomas psychopath mode. Even knowing the playoff run that he went on with the Habs in 2010 I’m still not sure Halak has that in him.

 

Couple that uncertainty with the need to free Ryan Miller and I have to like the fit for a trade here. I can appreciate that the career numbers of both Miller and Halak indicate goalies of similar puck-stopping ability but I see Miller having way less downside than Halak.

 

I have heard the Jay Bouwmeester second-half decline theory bandied about a bit lately. Here are his per game numbers by month:

 

October – 0.35

November – 0.47

December – 0.36

January – 0.44

February – 0.39

March – 0.39

April – 0.59

 

To me, that’s just some random fluctuation. There were years where he scored more in the first half and years where he scored more in the second. There were years where he was equally mediocre. 

 

Now, this isn’t to say that Bouwmeester isn’t headed for a second half decline. I just think that it’s because the Blues are due for some regression from their ridiculous shooting as a team and not because of some notion that Bouwmeester slows down as the season wears on.

 

Bouwmeester has now fallen just off pace for 50 points. I’m rooting that he gets there because I want to see three defensemen score 50 in one season on the same team but he probably gets more like 45. Kevin Shattenkirk and Alex Pietrangelo though? They are both getting at least 50.

 

*

 

I swear The Walking Dead wasn’t due back until February but I guess corpses don’t get memos like that. So there’s Dany Heatley’s corpse taking full advantage of the injuries in Minnesota scoring five points over the last four games.

 

Charlie Coyle is getting in on the action with five points over the last four as well.

 

Darcy Kuemper is making his bid to be the next great backup to grab off the waiver wire. He’s made four starts in 2014 winning three and allowing just five goals in the process. Keep the small sample size in mind but at the same time if you are hurting for goalie starts you could certainly do worse, just look at Ben Scrivens’ debut for Edmonton.

 

Yes, it was not a great start for Scrivens and he really could use one. This is his opportunity to showcase his skills for a future job as a starter. Of course, I’m not sure how much you can read into any game Scrivens plays behind this porous defense. It’s almost a can’t lose situation. If he plays poorly, blame the defense. If he plays well then he’s gold.

 

Of course, it isn’t a can’t lose because the dollar difference between playing well and not will be huge but it’s not like he can be written off for not playing well.

 

*

 

The well is starting to run dry for David Perron and it’s not difficult to tell why. He has been unable to maintain his ludicrous early season shooting pace. He’s landed just 33 shots on goal over the past 17 games, a pace of less than two per game. He had previously been averaging almost 3.5 shots per game. Over these past 17 games Perron has just seven points. It’s not looking good for his second half.

 

Sam Gagner, in spite of all the trade rumours, has actually been fairly productive of late with six points over his last eight games. Any team acquiring him is buying at the right time.

 

*

 

If this keeps up Erik Cole is going to be quite the second half addition to fantasy teams. 11 of Cole’s 13 goals this season have come in the past 22 games, indicating he is awakening from his early-season slumber. Cole has been up on the top power play unit of late, which can help account for his recent success.


Defending Big D asks if Kari Lehtonen is elite or not?

 

Personally, I’d say yes. Give him a #1 defenseman to play behind and let’s see how elite he can be. He’s a second tier guy in fantasy because of this lack of elite defenseman and he may stay that way for his career since they don’t grow on trees but that doesn’t mean he isn’t an elite talent.

 

*

 

So it appears that Reilly Smith may not slow down after all. In three games since Loui Eriksson’s return to the lineup Smith has two points and has managed to avoid a demotion to the third line or off the power play. Smith is still shooting a Looney Tunes 18.8% that is due for a decline but he won’t be disappearing so long as his opportunity remains.

 

Eriksson has instead found himself on the third line, though still on the power play so he won’t go away either but any hopes that he would finally develop that excellent chemistry with Patrice Bergeron may be dashed.

 

Bergeron, by the way, is coming on strong with 18 points in his last 22 games. Hope you bought low!

 

David Krejci and Milan Lucic both dashed scoring slumps last night, however linemate Jarome Iginla is now scoreless in four straight.

 

*

 

After an injury scare Erik Johnson was back in the lineup against the Devils last night, finishing second to Matt Duchene in overall ice time and power play ice. Duchene faced double-duty with Paul Stastny sidelined. A glimpse towards next season perhaps?

 

*

 

Cory Schneider suffered the “loss” because he was unable to shutout the Avalanche, seemingly the only way he can get a win skating behind this god forsaken team. His numbers were spectacular as he stopped 37 of 38 shots but oh, the one that got away.

 

Patrick Elias drew back into the lineup and was out there on the top power play unit but no luck so far.

 

*

 

It’s been a while since I’ve examined the impacts of mid-season coaching changes but the last time I investigated teams often improved after making the switch, whether by becoming more defensive minded or by becoming more offensive. No real patterns, which is to be expected considering the different styles every coach will have but the theme of improvement is one pretty easily explained – things have to hit rock bottom for a coach to be fired mid-season so whoever steps in is likely to see improvement via regression alone.

 

Whatever the case, two games in and it’s good times for the Jets as they’ve outscored the competition 10-3. Now that competition was hardly stiff with a visit from the road-wary Coyotes and then a trip to always welcoming Calgary but hey, wins are worth two points no matter how slice them (even in a shootout, where the win is a total façade, you get two points). So hurray Jets.

 

Of course, they still haven’t addressed the fact that Ondrej Pavelec is this close to changing his name to Hoover but he could change his name to Pylon and it wouldn’t much matter if they keep scoring like this… but they won’t keep scoring like this and Hoover is going to be the death of this team.

 

But still, good times!

 

I am so glad to see Dustin Byfuglien back up as a forward, something I have been suggesting may happen since last season. Because of the addition of Jacob Trouba the Jets have enough defensemen, even if Byfuglien is dynamic from the blue line. He has six points over the last four games and is clearly working as a forward.

 

I have an idea for how to keep Byfuglien effective. Skate him half the season on defense and half at forward. Keep the opponents guessing. He’s just a unique but physically dominant player so why pigeonhole his usage?

 

Olli Jokinen has been his centerman and he is hot. Actually, Jokinen has been producing at a solid rate for over two months now. After opening with six in his first 16, Jokinen has scored 25 points in 33 games, which is basically a return to his consistent days as a Flame and a huge improvement over his dreadful production last season.

 

Another guy who has picked it up over the past couple of months is Mark Scheifele. He has 21 points over the last 25 games. He keeps this up and those are Calder numbers.

 

Dobber has to like the fact that Michal Frolik has been skating on the top line with Andrew Ladd and Bryan Little recently. They are no longer using the pedal bike to plough the fields. Unfortunately they are instead trying to use it to deliver pizzas, a task it is equally unsuited for.

 

Tobias Enstrom is the only immune to the turning tides. He led the team in power play ice time with well over five minutes played but still went scoreless. I have no answers. I can only assume positive regression is coming soon enough.

 

*

 

Is that… could it be… are you sure? Yes. Yes indeed. Mike Smith recorded his first shutout of the season.

 

It hardly counts seeing as the Canucks offense has up and vanished like a fart in the wind. Fantasy owners aren’t discriminating though, this was Smith’s first win of 2014.

 

It’s good to see Oliver Ekman-Larsson on a roll again having scored in four straight games now.

 

*

 

Is it safe to say the Canucks lack discipline? They’ve conceded 24 power plays in the last three games, which even acknowledging the absurdity of the 11 the Ducks got on Wednesday night that’s still 13 power plays over the other two games. And these were close games! You think maybe spending a little less time on the penalty might be beneficial.

 

Their big guns – Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin – have all been silent over the past three games. Ryan Kesler’s struggles run even further having not scored in five straight with just three points over the last 14 games. 

 

Jason Garrison found himself punted off the top power play unit for stretches of last night ceding his spot to Alexander Edler. That didn’t take long. Edler, naturally went scoreless because so did the whole team. Let’s see if Edler can hold down that spot and resurrect his fantasy value. Surely that would spell an end for Garrison but I’m not sure too many would be heartbroken.

 

Fortunately a visit for the Flames awaits the Canucks this weekend, as well as a couple of games against the friendly Oilers over the next couple of weeks. The tides may turn rather quickly here.

 

*

 

Check out Dobber’s latest on Puck Daddy and The Hockey News.

 

*

 

You can follow me on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.


Write comment
Comments (13)add comment

Johnny O said:

messierforlife
"Positive Regression"??? ^ = Progression
January 28, 2014
Votes: +0

newfcollins said:

newfcollins
... I guess it's just our definitions of elite. There have been lots of elite goalies that played on teams without much defence and still did well. For me, Lehtonen isn't one of them.
January 17, 2014
Votes: -1

rataylor22 said:

rataylor22
... I agree with Laidlaw newf. You have to take into consideration the quality of team in front of him, especially over the last three years. Lehtonen is a very good goalie and could make serious run at the Vezina on a better team. Switch Rinne and Lehtonen over their careers and I bet their numbers almost identically flip flop as well.

No mention of this, Yakupov left the game last night with a concussion after a big hit from Cooke. Tough season for the kid, but I bet he rebounds next season.

Specific reason for bringing that up, why is everybody shitting on Yakupov this year when Huberdeau has been JUST AS BAD. Oh right, probably because one is Russian and the other is Canadian. God Hubs has been terrible this season with no mention of it anywhere.
January 17, 2014
Votes: +2

metaldude26 said:

metaldude26
... Newf - Goals against is not the best measure though, especially when you aren't balancing those against all the games where he has been lights out. His save percentage is consistently among the best over the past few years. In fact, among starters he rates out with the 13th best save percentage over the last four years and that's without having one ridiculous outlier of a season that guys like Mike Smith had to boost otherwise mediocre numbers.

So if goals against are what concern you, well you also have to look at that miserable assortment of defensemen skating in front of him and take note.
January 17, 2014
Votes: +0

newfcollins said:

newfcollins
... Last year he let in at least three goals in 17 of 35 starts. The year before was 22 times in 59 starts. The year before that. 33 times in 69 starts.

Overall, in his last 200 starts (stretching back to the start of the 10-11 season), he has let in at least three goals 92 times.

When you are counting on your team to have to score four or more goals half the time you're playing to win games, that's not elite.

(I smell a Forensics column in here somewhere).
January 17, 2014
Votes: +1

metaldude26 said:

metaldude26
... UKFlames - perhaps you missed it in the thousands of words up there but Scrivens gets a mention.

Fulcrum - honestly, from what I've seen Anderson hasn't been that bad lately but the numbers show him continuing to stink. I just can't resist poking fun.

Mojave - Dammit!

27Blue - Yeah, Perron will kick it up a notch. I don't think he's as bad as the numbers have been over the last month but he's also not as good as the numbers from the first couple of months. Players don't often kick up their shot rate at this stage in their career and seeing as that was the number one link to his increase in production I would say this is just a market correction.

Mojave - I'm looking at the bigger picture beyond this year. Since Lehtonen started to take nutrition and fitness seriously he's been among the most consistent goaltenders in the league. He has top of the line talent and if put in a non-compromised situation he would go off. Maybe I am bending the definition of elite here but I think being consistently good for a long stretch is a very redeemable display of talent.

Pitts - it's a veiled reference to Dobber's constant comparison of Frolik playing on the third line to a Ferrari being used to plough fields.
January 17, 2014
Votes: +0

number54 said:

number54
Total Gold. "Bishop is just having one of those unholy seasons of brilliance. Seriously, he has no holes." Thanks for the ramblings. I made a prediction to start the season that I think Dave Nonis loses his job before Torts. I think I'm going to be on the money. Considering what Burke left him, it's a complete travesty that he wasn't able to build a deeper team. Hell, nevermind building a team -- this guy makes some of the worst signings and trades, period. I'm not surprised to see this team struggle at all. In fact, they're one serious injury from being completely out of playoff contention.
January 17, 2014
Votes: +0

pittshamblyuins said:

pittshamblyuins
... Not sure I get the delivering of pizzas thing with Frolik...but I gotta like that the new coach is giving him a legitimate shot on the top unit to see what he can do. He has two points in three games...a good start for sure.
January 17, 2014
Votes: +0

newfcollins said:

newfcollins
... Like Mojave, I also thought of the dam first.

But I disagree with Lehtonen being elite. He's started 37 games this season, and has allowed three or more goals in 20 of them, and a save percentage below .900 in 15 of them. That doesn't scream elite to me.
January 17, 2014
Votes: +0

27Blue said:

27Blue
... I think Perron will be fine. He got bumped from the first PP unit recently and he has been playing with Boyd Gordon, but things will change again. They always do. No team can house a top six that also includes Gagner, Eberle and Yakupov and Arcabello. Far to soft and poor defensively… as their record shows since making the changes (only 2 wins in 7 games).
January 17, 2014
Votes: +0

mojavedesert said:

mojavedesert
Pavelec "...is this close to changing his name to Hoover"

For some reason my first thought was a reference to the dam, which segued into a leaky dam, then finally to the vacuum. Maybe Maurice has the team playing better defense but, after Edmonton on Saturday, Pavelec's first big test will be Tuesday when they head to California to play Anaheim and SJ.
January 17, 2014
Votes: +1

fulcrum said:

fulcrum
... Anderson played a good game...first hola was a breakaway, second was a one timer pp goal, third was a breakaway in tight with Desharnais and no defence, fourth as an own goal off Cowen....last one squeaked through in a net crash.

Box score might not say it but Anderson had a good game.....and the sens seriously deserved to win, Price won this one for the Habs.
January 17, 2014
Votes: +1

UKflames said:

UKflames
No Scrivens talk LOL Oh come on, the biggest trade of the year (I know it is only January) so far sends Scrivens to the Oilers, he gets into his first game and you don't even mention it?? Anyone would think you were an Oilers fansmilies/cheesy.gif
I think he found out the hard way that the Oilers don't believe in team defence like the Kings do, I bet he is glad the stop is only for 3 months.
January 17, 2014
Votes: +0
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