Get the Midseason Guide here!

 

Before anyone goes and gets too horny about this little run that Jiri Tlusty is on, please keep in mind that he’s yet to get back on the top power play unit. Tlusty is back skating with Eric Staal and Alex Semin, where he made a killing last season, but that was also with top unit power play time.

 

Those minutes now belong to Elias Lindholm and Jeff Skinner. Maybe he gets the bump eventually, likely at the expense of Lindholm, but until that happens I’m not moving on Tlusty.

 

Keep in mind he only has three points in his past two games. Which, I mean, woopedy-doo. Yes, he is taking advantage of this golden opportunity but I’d like to see him keep it up.

 

I will grant you that Tlusty has shown he can put together half-seasons that dreams are made of so he can’t be ruled out. Just remember, last season was predicated on skating big time power play minutes and a massive shooting percentage both of which he is unlikely to see a repeat of.

 

If you are in a pool and need depth, well Tlusty might get you 20 points the rest of the way but outside of that I’m not jumping.

 

Tlusty’s gain is Skinner’s loss. Yeah, he’s still a power play fixture but he’s cooled right off with a five-game drought. He has fired 22 shots over that stretch though so it’s only a matter of time.

 

 

How about Anton Khudobin coming back from injury and standing in as the Hurricanes’ starter as they push to get back into the playoff race – although that has more to do with the mediocrity ahead of them than it does with their skill as a team. Khudobin has started nine in a row and has looked good doing it.

 

This Hurricanes goalie situation is something else. Their weakest goaltender is probably their big money starter Cam Ward but his contract makes him damn hard to move, especially mid-season. And he’s the only one of their goalies with any NHL playoff experience, which is apparently something teams value despite the past long list of goalies without any who have succeeded right away, including Ward himself who won the Conn Smythe as a rookie and has basically rode the coattails of that throughout a long career of mediocrity.

 

The Hurricanes are in a very sticky situation with both Khudobin and Justin Peters reaching unrestricted free agency this summer. They’ve both proven at least worthy of a backup spot and definitely a shot at something more but the Hurricanes are hitched to Ward and any attempt to become unhitched is basically squashed by Ward’s recent injuries and history of just average play.

 

I have no idea how this works out but you certainly have to like Khudobin for the rest of the year, either as a quality depth option sticking with the Hurricanes or maybe if he is dealt he can offer you great spot starts like he did when he was the Bruins’ backup last season.

 

Oh yeah, and you can dump Ward in your one-year leagues (if you haven't already). Dude is probably useless the rest of the way.

 

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Speaking of goalies, anyone terrified that Steve Mason just got paid? In two starts since signing the deal he’s been rocked in one and was average in last night’s loss to the Hurricanes.

 

Personally, I think the notion of a guy getting paid and then falling off a cliff is a bit of nonsense, right up there with guys playing great the year leading up to free agency. I think it’s a mixed bag. For every guy who tears it up in a contract year, there are a similar number who go and do nothing or get hurt or perform just average. And for every guy who gets paid and has a terrible season there are an equal number who live up to their contracts. Every situation is different.

 

I’ve no doubt there are some guys who mail it in once they get the cash but most of these guys are professionals. They are going to try their best regardless because they know pride and shame. So I don’t think that this extension is going to ruin Mason’s season but it’s a nice narrative if it does go downhill from here.

 

No, I’m just concerned because Mason is only an average goalie. Given, Mason’s tumultuous past and Philadelphia’s tortured history his average performance this season has appeared otherworldly but what happens if it goes south for no other reason than things always go south for Philly goaltenders. That contract becomes yet another failed attempt.

 

Credit where it’s due – Mason was the Flyers’ best player through the first half of the season, especially in the early going when they couldn’t score a goal. He kept them afloat while they figured things out but his season has been on a downward trajectory for a while now, not just since he signed his extension.

 

Since the start of December he boasts a 3.06 goals-against average and a 0.893 save percentage. What’s crazy is he’s been winning in spite of that boasting a 10-4-3 record in that stretch. So long as the Flyers are winning I’m not sure they care but dammit if the numbers from the past month and a half don’t bear a striking resemblance to his awful numbers from the past four seasons with the Blue Jackets.

 

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LOL Luke Schenn:

 

 

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Where on Earth has the Canadiens’ power play vanished to? Over their past 22 games they’ve scored just eight goals across 69 tries an 11.6% success rate worse than everyone but Florida’s league worst power play. Prior to the Canadiens had boasted one of the league’s very best power plays at 24.5% that would sit second to only the Penguins had they kept it up.

 

They currently sit 12th and are falling fast as teams like Anaheim and Columbus ramp up their power play efficiency.

 

Montreal is not a great team at evens. They have been outscored by a good margin at five-on-five this season and are frequently outshot as well. This is a team that has relied on the excellent goaltending of Carey Price as well as the splendid performance of their special teams. Their penalty kill ranks among the best in the league still but without the power play you’ll see their wins come fewer and farther between.

 

Over the last quarter season that has seen their efficacy on the power play dwindle the team is hanging in at 11-9-2 but it’s clear they are coming back to the pack. Something to keep in mind if you are vested in the Habs goaltending.

 

This decline in power play efficacy has also hurt the big guns on the back end. Over half of Andrei Markov’s points this season have come from the power play and if they are going to continue to score at an 11.6% rate he is looking at 40 points being in doubt.

 

Meanwhile over 40% of PK Subban’s points have come from the power play and this decline has seen his pace drop below 60. So the likes of Duncan Keith and Erik Karlsson have surged ahead in the defenseman scoring race and Dustin Byfuglien has passed him. It won’t be long before Alex Pietrangelo and a few others do the same if this keeps up.

They probably right the ship but it’s something to monitor. Anyone watching the Habs on a regular basis that can point to what’s been wrong?

 

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The Penguins have had no such problems. In fact, they are back healthy (minus Pascal Dupuis who is out for the year) and have the look of a buzz saw, at least on paper. But do the Penguins lose their focus when they are fully healthy?

 

It’s an interesting theory and something I’ve mentally taken note of in the past. It certainly plays into the Malkin plays better without Crosby narrative, whether that’s true or not.

I think that there’s something to be said for seeing a top player or two go down and rising to the occasion to fill the void. Sometimes a bunch of desperate and motivated third liners are better than a regular lineup. It’s something we might see out of the impressive Tampa Bay Lightning when Steven Stamkos returns.

 

But back to the Penguins. They were firing on all cylinders last night.

 

Matt Niskanen has continued to produce despite Kris Letang returning and bumping his ice time down, particularly on the power play. I know Letang has stunk this season and can’t reliably be counted on to stay healthy but I’m still pushing Niskanen owners to sell high. 

 

He’s scored 15 points in his last 15 games, which is awesome but also extremely unlikely to continue. Or have you forgotten how four Niskanen scored just four points in his previous 22 games?

 

Speaking of Letang, he is coming around with six points in seven games since returning from injury while soaking up all of the big power play minutes.

 

Paul Martin is back now too and rolling on the second power play unit. He notched his first point in two games since returning from injury. Martin had taken the top spot on the power play from a struggling Letang earlier this season but then he got hurt. All things considered I think if anyone is a threat to take Letang’s spot on the power play it is Martin because he’s much more experienced than Niskanen, though Niskanen is a more natural fit because he shoots the same as Letang.

 

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Things got frisky near the end of the Penguins-Habs game and we nearly had a goalie fight between two willing combatants but the refs stepped in. Thanks a lot Ray Emery! Knuckleheads like you are why we can’t have nice things.

 

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Oh, hello Red Wings offense, so nice of you to stop by. No doubt the struggling Blackhawks had something to do with this re-appearance but still this is exciting all the same.

 

This was a team that had scored just 2.00 goals per game in the 21 previous games so to throw up four against the visiting Blackhawks has to be seen as something of a miracle.

 

Naturally, Henrik Zetterberg was in the middle of it notching three assists. Zetterberg dragged linemates Gustav Nyquist and Justin Abdelkader along with him, which is a great sign for Nyquist owners.

 

Nyquist has been living beside Zetterberg for a while now but the results have been uneven. The good news is he has four points in his last three games.

 

Jonas Gustavsson made his first start in nearly a month and was decent, considering the opponent, allowing four goals but hanging on for the tie.

 

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As mentioned, the Blackhawks have been in a bit of a slump. They just haven’t been putting away games like they have for much of the past couple of years. Eight of their last 15 games have reached overtime with a number of “losses” coming via shootout. If this was ten years ago we’d have thought nothing of the Blackhawks tying a bunch of games mid-season as they are getting everyone’s best every night but because they go up as losses when the shootout doesn’t go their way, well then it becomes troubling.

 

My first instinct was to blame Corey Crawford but he’s actually been quite solid since his return from injury boasting a 2.52 goals-against average and a 0.919 save percentage over eight games. But that play hasn’t been good enough for many wins as he boasts a strange 2-1-5 record over that span.

 

It’s probably been a lack of scoring that’s done the Blackhawks in, particularly from Patrick Kane who even after scoring two points last night has just five points in his last 11 games. Of course, he’ll get it going again soon but this is clearly some regression from the inhuman pace he’s scored at over the last year.

 

Andrew Shaw has been bumped up to play with Kane. Perhaps that will get them both going, though obviously keep modest expectations for Shaw.

 

Shaw’s promotion sees Kris Versteeg falling back in the lineup. He’s scored just two points over the last 12 games so it makes sense to drop him back.

 

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The late game saw freshly extended Matt Stajan score the game winner, which is a nice story if you place any added value on goals that are the “difference” on the score sheet between winning and losing.

 

Sean Monahan scored as well. While he has fallen precipitously his shooting percentage has lingered at a very high 17.7%, which doesn’t necessarily bode well for those clinging to what little value he has left (in one-year leagues). It’s also interesting to note that 70% of his points have come from goals. Part of that is surely just sample size but interesting nonetheless. I’m just spit-balling here but he feels like he’ll score in that Logan Couture/Joe Pavelski range in a couple of years – you know 30 goals/65 points – and I’m sure the Flames would kill if he ended up being that type of player.

 

Very interesting split of power play time for Flames defensemen. All four of Mark Giordano, Dennis Wideman, Kris Russell and TJ Brodie were up around two minutes. If this keeps up the losers are Giordano and Wideman who could easily be skating all these power play minutes.

 

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On the other side, Keith Yandle’s hot streak continues. He’s got six points in the last five games.

 

Shane Doan may be over the Rocky Mountain Fever but he’s still struggling from Rocky Mountain Regression. His goal last night was his first in two weeks and first point in six games. His shooting percentage has taken a dive and now sits at 13.7% still above his career average but much more within reason.

 

That’s back-to-back games with a short-handed goal for Antoine Vermette. If you league is silly enough to include that stat I hope you’ve enjoyed the windfall. If not, I’m sure you still appreciated the production as Vermette has just three goals in the last month and they’ve all come in the last four games.

 

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As always, some real gems in Elliotte Friedman’s latest 30 Thoughts:


23. NHL teams always try to take away at least one major thing from an opponent's power play and Henrik Sedin sees what it is for the Canucks: "They are not letting me create anything from the corner ... They'll give us the shot by [Jason Garrison] at the other side, but teams don't cover the points. They'll give you the top of the zone." Vancouver's power play is 24th overall. It was top six from 2010-12.

 

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An interesting look at how coaching can affect goalie save percentages:


Right now, the idea that a coaching system can inflate save percentage is a point of contention. One of the issues is that some of those who champion the cause regularly misidentify coaches who don’t truly have a history of affecting goalie stats. Mike Smith has a great year out of nowhere for Phoenix and the credit goes to Dave Tippet. Smith crashes the next two seasons and it devalues the legitimacy of a coaching-systems argument. The problem is Tippet hasn’t really influenced his team defence during his coaching career. His goaltenders have been .003 better than the league average, which pales in comparison to coaches like Pat Burns, Jacques Lemaire and Claude Julien who are in the plus-.010 range.

 

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The Jets are looking to move their AHL affiliate to Thunder Bay.

 

As a resident of Northwestern Ontario who spent a good amount of time living in Thunder Bay as a child this is exciting but I remember the days when previpis semi-pro teams in the city didn’t do so well. And the economy up here is not exactly booming so I have a tough time seeing this working. I suppose it’ll do well if they can put a winner on the ice.

 

A disproportionate number of NHL players come out of Thunder Bay and it would certainly be nice to see this reflected in the hockey landscape. Now, part of that is simply the success of the Staal brothers but even cutting them out and you are still looking at a great number of players who have come from Thunder Bay over the years.

 

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Sean McIndoe weighs the merits of NHL 93 vs. NHL 94.

 

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Make sure you give Aaron Ward’s ReOrientation series a look.

 

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Any American readers check out the first episode of NHL Revealed? I'm excited to check it out when it premieres in Canada tonight. My old roommate is working on this project and has promised good things.

 

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You can follow me on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.


Write comment
Comments (10)add comment

bullwinkle said:

bullwinkle
P.S. Steve You want to see a silly stat? Look at +/-. Really goofy. We dropped that stat like a hot potato. (BTW all ten guys in my league love SHP)
January 23, 2014
Votes: +0

bullwinkle said:

bullwinkle
What are you talking about Steve? SHP is not a "silly stat". In fact it's one of my favorite stats simply because it takes in another dynamic from the game and in addition is volatile. There is nothing more boring in a rotisserie league than stats like shots where you're 60 below one guy and 60 above another. BORING!!!!

SHP offers the possibility of changing position quickly since not that many are scored.

I've been the commissioner of a league that is 27 years old and we have used SHP with great success from the beginning.
January 23, 2014
Votes: +0

jer_33 said:

jer_33
Thunder Bay / NHL94 As a Thunder Bay resident, I won't get my hopes up for an AHL team until the new arena gets built. AHL would be the highest level of pro hockey to reach the city - most of the previous pro teams have been senior hockey, or small regional leagues like the USHL. I know if an AHL team came to town, I'd be buying season tickets.

NHL94 all day long, one-timers and manual goalie control rule. We play the games online today at NHL94.com, with draft leagues and tournaments. Still awesome.

Jer
January 23, 2014
Votes: +0

metaldude26 said:

metaldude26
... Thanks, Newf! I hate that my concerns about Markov have not been unfounded.

Darth - And people questioned why Yandle was left off the US Olympic team... I actually loathe plus/minus without context so just keep in mind that Yandle's a mediocre high usage defender on a mediocre team. Not a recipe for strong plus/minus.
January 23, 2014
Votes: +0

DarthVain said:

DarthVain
Keith Yandle he may have 6pts in the last 5, but he is -13 on the last 8. He is -16 in total, and is killing me. wtf Yandle?

Yeah, we count +/- in our league.
January 23, 2014
Votes: +0

newfcollins said:

newfcollins
... "Anyone watching the Habs on a regular basis that can point to what’s been wrong?"

Got 20 minutes or so?

Roughly speaking: Their PP is too predictable, so other teams know to just stop Subban and Markov at the points. Markov is playing too many minutes and is wearing down. There are too many floaters. There doesn't seem to be a true leader that will step up every game and make an impact of some type. Their forwards are streaky. They rely too much on Price to bail them out. They can't score 5 on 5. They can't win faceoffs (Eller is the only player that has taken more than 10 draws and won 50 per cent of them). There's no one in the system they can call up to force veterans to up their games. Their coach seems more interested in sending a message than in winning hockey games. They play under-performing veterans more than young guys who should be logging more minutes. The Briere signing has been a disaster. Prust hasn't been as effective. Moen is horrible, but still signed for two more years at almost $2 million.

Personally speaking, I have no idea what the direction of this team is from the GM. If they Habs are going big, why sign Briere? If they want to go youth, why sign Briere, Prust, Murray? If you want to shake up the team, why has there only been one big trade since Bergevin took over (Cole for Ryder)?

But hey, at least they now have a French coach, GM and they signed a French player last offseason. *rolls eyes
January 23, 2014
Votes: +1

Loki said:

Loki
... Steve - thanks for the "good read"...that and sticking a fork in Cam Ward.
I've been waiting for someoneto do so for ahile now.
I fell for the over-valued Cam Ward in 2 of my prior drafts but wasn't about to do so a third time.
January 23, 2014
Votes: +1

metaldude26 said:

metaldude26
Peters gfunkb7 - you are correct, Peters got yanked in Sunday's game against Tampa Bay. Nice catch. Khudobin was the goalie of record in that one so I didn't look any further.
January 23, 2014
Votes: +0

gfunkb7 said:

gfunkb7
... Didnt Peters start one and got yanked?

Other than that, nicely done. Loved all the outside links

NHL 94 die hard fan. PS: In head to head, you can easily overcome one-timers with manual goalies. That's how we used to play. No wraparound allowed. One timer only. And also you get extra dibs if you busted the DB level lolol
January 23, 2014
Votes: +1

Bomm Bastic said:

January 23, 2014
Votes: +0
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