Get the Midseason Guide here!

 

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Instead of just repeating myself, check out yesterday’s ramblings for most of my thoughts on the Carolina Hurricanes.

 

One thing I will point out is that Andrej Sekera found himself back on the top power play unit, with John-Michael Liles relegated to the second unit. Three points later, and yeah Sekera is back in business. I hope none of you gave up on him after his recent hiccup.

 

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Good on the Sabres for keeping this one close, including holding a couple of leads.

Cody Hodgson’s return has really breathed some life into the Sabres’ offense. Much of that is simply Hodgson producing, he has six points in six games but Christian Ehrhoff and Tyler Ennis have benefitted as well.

 

Ennis has points in all six since Hodgson returned and has eight points in his last eight. If you picked up the Midseason Guide, you’d know he’s one we projected to improve in the second half. It’s nice to see that one coming in.

 

Ehrhoff has been held without a point in each of his last two games but has scored 14 points in his last 23, which is right where he should be. His yearend total will be down but his second half numbers should be rock solid.

 

Poor, Jonas Enroth is still stuck with just one win in 16 appearances this year. He’s been solid, especially considering the team in front of him but hasn’t won since October 25.

 

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Sooo Rick Nash is heating up just in time for the Olympics. He has scored six goals in the last four games after scoring the Rangers’ lone goal against the Blues last night. The past week has almost single-handedly brought his shooting percentage (11.5%) back up to his career average (12.6%). Of course, he’s still well below a point-per-game pace so he’s underwhelming but it’s starting to come along.

 

Hopefully Nash can drag linemate Derek Stepan back to respectability along with him. Maybe that’s poor phrasing. Nash and Stepan have respectable numbers so far but these guys produced like stars last season. That’s what we expect. Maybe they can get each other back to that level. I have my doubts but Stepan has six points in the last four games as well so they are trying.

 

Michael Del Zotto was only a threat to Ryan McDonagh the way you or I would be a threat to a Shaquille O’Neal dunk. That said, any doubt in McDonagh owner’s minds is gone with Del Zotto. I have a feeling that as long as he was around the coaching staff was going to keep giving him chances at the expense of McDonagh to try and salvage some value out of him. Now they’ve cut the cord and good for them.

 

It’s a tricky situation for sports franchises and fantasy players alike giving up on a young player like that but sometimes it just has to be done. If Del Zotto can be salvaged it’s probably in Nashville but didn’t we say the same thing about Devan Dubnyk?

 

If there’s any value to extract from Del Zotto it’s going to require time and coaching because he is a seriously flawed player. Change won’t occur over night so if you are going to be patient here you’ve got to be REALLY patient. Like, ready to wait a full year to see results patient.

 

Del Zotto is going to be buried in Nashville off the bat. Shea Weber and Roman Josi are running the show there and Seth Jones and Ryan Ellis have the second power play unit. Even if the Predators get Del Zotto skating with Jones on the second line there’s only so much upside in those minutes. Josi and Weber will be the guys producing points. If Jones couldn’t change that, Del Zotto sure isn’t.

 

So if you haven’t given up yet just know you are in it for the long haul.

 

Meanwhile, McDonagh is on easy street now, unless you think John Moore is a threat.

 

Oh and Henrik Lundqvist is really heating up at the right time for Sweden’s Olympic hopes. He’s now run off eight straight games with a 0.920 save percentage or better. The King is back!

 

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DO NOT MISS THIS READ: Brendan Ross weighs in with his latest prospect ramblings over at DobberProspect! He speaks on the 2014 NHL Draft class, Top Prospects game, NHL Calder Trophy race and current production from recently drafted prospects. Plus, see what 15-year-old should've received "exceptional status"....it's all waiting for you.

 

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Alexander Steen scored the opening goal for the Blues but then left with a LBI or an STI or… Ahhh, who gives a crap. He got hurt and it wasn’t a concussion so good news on that front.

 

Honestly, unless it requires surgery or is a concussion I don’t much care what the problem is. So as long as the NHL remains cryptic about injuries, I’m going to make up their cause. Let’s say Steen had a gonorrhea flare up mid-game. What? It’s lower body.

 

Rumours of Jaden Schwartz’ decline may be greatly exaggerated. He was supposed to get pushed back in the lineup when everyone was healthy again. Welllll, Steen was back and Schwartz was still up on the top line and top power play unit stealing jobs from TJ Oshie and Derek Roy respectively. Step aside, the big dog is here to stay.

 

For the record, I still lean towards Vladimir Tarasenko when asked to choose between the two but that argument is looking thinner by the day. And for the record, I’m not anti-Schwartz. The first thing I ever wrote as a member of our Black Aces was a glowing review of why I think Schwartz will be a stud. He has great talent, a high compete level and hockey sense oozing out his butthole (which is to say, out of everywhere).

 

I’m just infatuated with Tarasenko’s game. He plays a loud game and it’s not like he’s a dumb player by any means he just isn’t Schwartz, which is probably why Schwartz is having success sooner. I don’t want to be one of those guys constantly falling over themselves about a player’s farfetched upside. I almost always preach a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. I don’t think my Tarasenko over Schwartz stance is long for this world but I’m still clinging on for now.

 

I KNOW you guys have an opinion on this one. Let’s hear it.

 

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Interesting and important contest between the Flyers and Jackets last night. It was minor penalties galore with the teams combining for 13 power play opportunities. Oddly enough special teams didn’t decide the game as each team converted just once with the man advantage. That makes the dominance of the Jackets in the half of a game that was played at evens all the more impressive. They outshot the Flyers 24-19 at evens but destroyed them 4-1 on the scoreboard. Impressive.

 

Obviously goaltending plays a factor here. The Flyers had Ray Emery, who should probably not be goaltending any more. There are a lot of solid backups in the league. But Emery’s numbers this season are basically on par with what Steve Mason has done over the last month and a half so perhaps they are damned if they do or damned if they don’t with their goaltending… again. More on this in yesterday’s ramblings.

 

It’s sadly poetic that the goalie the Flyers gave up on Sergei Bobrovsky has ended up a saviour for the Jackets and was there to whoop their butts last night as they pulled into a tie (while holding the tiebreaker) with the Flyers. This was Bob’s first game against the Flyers and that has to make for some sweet revenge. He has now won seven in a row since returning from injury. The bubble will burst eventually but this team is built to keep grinding out points night after night so they won’t be going anywhere so you should be confident with Bobrovsky going forward.

 

Speaking of bubbles bursting, Nathan Horton has been pretty hot since returning from injury with four goals and seven points in 10 games. That isn’t necessarily much but it’s tremendous for a guy stepping in midseason after shoulder surgery. His current 22.2% shooting is bound to regress but we’ll see if his assists pick up the slack.

 

 

Don’t be surprised if Jack Johnson finishes with more than 35 points. He’s back up on the top power play and is rolling with seven points in the last six games. He’s sitting at 18 points now, so he has to double that in the remaining 32 games, which is doable although his history suggests that it might be difficult. I like where he and this team are at though.

 

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Another couple of defensemen I’m feeling good about right now are Sergei Gonchar and Alex Goligoski in Dallas. They’ve had some notable ups and downs this season. Okay, pretty much all downs but they’ve turned it on lately, especially after each getting two assists in last night’s drubbing of the Leafs.

 

Goligoski is the Stars’ lead dog from the back end, which may explain some of their struggles with consistency but he’s got seven points in his last six games and is now on pace for 34 points. Not what you were hoping for when you drafted him but I’m betting he finishes with 40 this season and I’ve been saying that since he opened the season scoreless in his first nine.

 

Gonchar, meanwhile, is on a much slower pace (27 points right now) but is showing some flashes of picking it up. It is concerning that a quarter of his points this season came from one outing against sieve-tastic Ondrej Pavelec and the Jets over a month ago but I’m still betting he gets to 30 points this season.

 

Most of why I am betting on these two is the group of forwards up front. You don’t need me to tell you that the top line of Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Valeri Nichushkin is sick they do that all on their own. And when this team gets depth scoring they are damn near unstoppable.

 

 

The problem is that depth scoring. Sometimes guys like Cody Eakin and Rich Peverley are able to turn it on like they did last night but the veterans Eric Cole and Ray Whitney have basically been non-existent when not skating on the top line. Do take note, Cole has been hot lately thanks to some extended time on the top line and some top power play unit time as well.

 

You can lump rookie forward Alex Chiasson into that mix as well. He was productive early while skating with Seguin and Benn scoring five goals and nine points in his first nine games. Since then he has just four goals and 15 points in the last 40 games but he’s a nice part of their future.

 

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As for the Leafs, well, both of their goaltenders got nicked up in this one.

 

The only silver lining here is that Nazem Kadri and Nikolai Kulemin were able to keep their personal hot streaks going.

 

Kadri has six points in the last five games, while Kulemin has four points in the last five games. That might not seem like much but for Kulemin that’s like tin foil in the microwave kinda hot – expectations, man.

 

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Remember when the Lightning traded Cory Conacher for Ben Bishop? We call that one the old buy low/sell high, executed to perfection by Stevie Y.

 

Last night’s Senators-Lightning contest turned into a goalie battle with both teams firing a ton of rubber at one another. The result was a tie game and don’t try telling me any different.

 

Credit to Craig Anderson for continuing to battle. His numbers stink but he’s been better than the numbers show over the past while. The Senators are playing defense like the Washington Generals but he keeps battling. Good for him, still not great for your fantasy squad though.

 

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Tyler Johnson continues to keep humming along. He’s not scored 14 points in the last 15 games after last night’s shortie. Someone is going to be left hanging when Steven Stamkos returns and even though I don’t own Johnson, I hope it’s not him. He’s been impressive. Ultimately, it comes down to him or Valterri Filppula though because Martin St. Louis and Teddy Purcell (for whatever reason) are entrenched on the Lightning’s top power play unit.

 

My hunch is that Filppula gets the demotion but wait and see. Neither one of these guys was on the top unit before Stamkos went down so it is up in the air who will stay when he returns.

 

Victor Hedman notched three assists and continues to churn out a fantastic breakout campaign. There are some warning signs like his huge (10.4%) shooting percentage and his off-and-on top unit power play time. But it’s clear he has hit another level in his game and the power play time is coming more consistently. Maybe his shooting regresses and he only scores two more goals this season. He could still finish with 45 points, which would be a huge step forward.

 

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Two more points for Matt Niskanen. I’m going to keep saying this until he finishes the season with 50 points, sell high on Niskanen! Sell high!

 

Olli Maatta too while you are at it, though the pools where he’d be relevant are probably deep keepers where you maybe should just keep him around even if his upside isn’t huge.

 

James Neal had a bit of a scare getting hit by a shot on Wednesday night but he was back in action last night looking no worse for wear.

 

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I find it pretty funny that Calvin de Haan goes on this tear to start the month earning himself some more responsibility including some power play time and it’s once that power play time comes that his production goes down. Of course, it’s not top unit power play time that he has been getting so it’s little wonder he isn’t producing. There is literally one circus on Long Island and that’s the John Tavares show and you must be this tall to ride. Unfortunately, for whatever reason de Haan isn’t there yet.

 

Let’s give Michael Grabner a bit of credit here. He might have some value in deeper pools and is almost surely available on the waiver wire. He has one great dimension – speed – and it’s what allowed him to score 30 goals in a season once. He isn’t getting the kind of minutes to pull that off again. He sees zero power play time so there is not going to be any huge break coming.

 

But Grabner still has that one dimension and it’s allowed him to be a career 12.2% shooter. He’s shooting just 7.5% this season so with any luck or regression or whatever you want to call it, Grabner could throw up close to 10 goals and 20 points over the final 29 games here.

 

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If you are curious how the Wild managed to upset the slumping Blackhawks last night despite being outshot 34-19 look no further than Darcy Kuemper our latest rookie goalie to go off this season. You know, at some point I am going to have to run back my Autobots vs. Decepticons concept that I used to assess rookie goalie value. Hard to believe that was three years ago.

 

Zach Parise made his return for the Wild after a month on the sideline. He got right back into top line/top power play duties but managed no points and no shots even.

 

Parise’s return did not spell the end for Dany Heatley’s corpse, which continues to run amok on the top power play unit. It even showed some real signs of life, which can only mean Mike Yeo has been dabbling with necromancy. Be afraid, be very afraid.

 

 

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Dubnyk was so awful in his Predators debut that they immediately screamed, “What have we done!” and went right back to Carter Hutton. Let’s be fair, Hutton has been solid and has actually won four straight now. Maybe they just brought Dubnyk in to give him a confidence boost.

 

As for Del Zotto, as mentioned above, he’s getting buried in this lineup. His Preds debut saw him skate just 13:15 alongside Seth Jones with exactly zero power play time. Hey, at least he’s not in the press box. That’s next coming next week.

 

Who knew the latest hot Predator forward would be Nick Spaling, who has five points in the last five games. Don’t pick him up. Don’t pick any of these guys up. Only one or two of these guys can go off on any given week and trying to guess is like playing Plinko.

 

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The Canucks offense continues to drown. They can use Henrik Sedin’s recent injury as an excuse for the last two games but how do they excuse their previous four? This team has scored just eight goals in the last seven games, which is helping no one but the fantasy owners of goaltenders they face.

 

But hey, with Sedin out Alex Burrows got a chance to try his hand on the top power play unit skating over 7:44 on the power play. The result? His slump continues. At this point I’m not sure he could hit water if he fell out of a boat but I bet you fantasy owners are itching to push him out of yours.

 

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After winning 14 straight games, back-to-back losses for Jonas Hiller have opened the door for Frederik Andersen to creep back into relevance. Andersen has won all four of his starts in the new year but be warned he has never actually taken the reins for an extended period yet this season, just like three or four games here or there before Hiller has stepped back in. Still, those able to use Andersen’s spot start have to be liking every time he pops back onto the radar.

 

Speaking of popping back onto the radar, Dustin Penner scored just his fourth point in the last 17 games last night. Who has two thumbs and saw that one coming? Everyone with 10 digits.

 

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Awww, Jeff Carter’s four-game goal streak came to an end last night. It’s nice though, the Kings took my advice (not actually but for narratives sake let’s say it was because of what I mused a week ago) and put Carter back on a line with struggling Mike Richards after he had worked wonders with a struggling Anze Kopitar.

 

Well, before last night Richards had scored five points in three games. Let’s consider that a success, though their linemate Matt Frattin was not dragged along for the ride.

The lineup swap has left Kopitar centering Trevor Lewis and Dwight King, which, I mean… sucks. Sorry, Kopitar owners.

 

The good news is all 15 Lewis and King owners are rolling in the money. They’ve each scored in each of the last two games, which frankly deserves a cake baking if you ask me.

 

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In the late game the formerly sieve-tastic Pavelec was anything but and has been since the coaching change. He finally suffered a loss though allowing just one goal to the Sharks to end his four-game winning streak. Has Pavelec turned a corner? I doubt it.

 

Three of those four wins came against Edmonton, Calgary and a road-weary Coyotes team, which is hardly impressive. These last two strong performances on the road in San Jose and Anaheim? Well those were much more impressive but I need to see more before I buy in.

 

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On the flip side that’s two shutouts in a row for Alex Stalock but his starts are so few and far between that he hardly warrants a pickup in most leagues.

 

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Jeff Skinner gets back on track with this SICK backhander:

 

 

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You can follow me on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.


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Comments (12)add comment

donpaulo said:

donpaulo
... great writeup !

Moore is not a challenge to McDonagh this season but perhaps in a season or three but he could be. The interesting part of the Klein trade for NY is how it will affect the bottom 2 pairings which have been Staal-Stralman MDZ-MooreRD

versus the Blues it was a round robin with Girardi playing with McD and Staal

I think we see McD-Girardi, Staal-Klein, Moore-Stralman as the set pairings down the stretch but I suppose that isn't a tough call to make
January 24, 2014
Votes: +1

27Blue said:

27Blue
... rataylor - you obviously don't watch parise or schwartz with a comment like that. parise isn't a ppg player anymore - schwartz actually has a better ppg then parise this year. defensively there is no comparison.
January 24, 2014
Votes: +1

rataylor22 said:

rataylor22
... At this point in their careers, there is no feasible way you can call Schwartz a "more well rounded Parise". While I agree with the comparison, Schwartz is humming along at a Dustin Brown type player and could only hope to become a Parise one day.
January 24, 2014
Votes: -1

OceanMon said:

OceanMon
awesome ramblings! fantastic! i love the humor!

i thought i would really miss angus when he left, but you guys are doing a phenomenal job!
January 24, 2014
Votes: +0

metaldude26 said:

metaldude26
... UW - tell you what, Nelson gets a mention next week no matter what he does.

Savvy - woohoo! go team Tarasenko.

We need a contrarion or two up in here before it turns into a like-minded Tarasenko love-fest.
January 24, 2014
Votes: +0

Savvy1982 said:

Savvy1982
Tarasenko Count me in as another person who refuses to leave Camp Tarasenko. His Corsi numbers are unbelievable:

http://stats.hockeyanalysis.com/showplayer.php?pid=1675&withagainst=true&season=2013-14&sit=5v5

Think he's driving possession on the Blues, much? This is his sophomore season, and he hasn't been given the linemates that Schwartz has - Sobotka and Morrow are not going to really help pad Tarasenko's numbers - and yet he's producing despite them. I think he's becoming the straw that stirs the drink down in St. Louis, and while Schwartz is very much in the Parise mold, I think that Tarasenko could be much more like Phil Kessel.

January 24, 2014
Votes: +0

27Blue said:

27Blue
... Don't trade Brock Nelson! You will regret it.
January 24, 2014
Votes: +0

ultrawhiteness said:

ultrawhiteness
... great ramblings as always, Steve.

selfish complaint: what does Brock Nelson need to do to get some mentions around here? how am I supposed to get trade value out of the kid when you guys go ghost-mode on his 7 points in last 10?
January 24, 2014
Votes: +0

metaldude26 said:

metaldude26
... Todd - I prefer Bonino to Silfverberg, at least for this year. He's a fixture on that top power play unit, which has been humming along of late. Perfect situation for him. Silfverberg probably has more upside long term but that's not always how this stuff works out. Remember Bobby Ryan getting shut out of top unit time over the years in Anaheim. I say just enjoy the Bonino jackpot even if luck has been driving at least some of his strong production.

Gfunk - Andersen has some real start stealing potential. We've seen it all year. And Hiller is better when he has a lighter workload. Stalock has next to no chance of stealing starts. He'll get his scheduled ones from time to time but I'm not even convinced he's that talented.

Blue - Thanks for chiming in!
January 24, 2014
Votes: -1

27Blue said:

27Blue
... I would say Tarasenko's offensive game IS already as good as Schwartz's. He has played less games in his NHL career, he plays less minutes and he is only six points behind. I also think he has been getting better and better all season. Not to mention that he has quite literally hit a dozen posts this year. He needs to get a little quicker in his decisions and it will come. Tarasenko just finished his 86th NHL Game and his stats for this period are pretty impressive (Schwartz has played 100 and his stats are less impressive). I tnkhe will be he better offensive player of the two, though it will be close. What makes Schwartz SO impressive isn't his offense, though s offensive game has be impressive. It is his play away from the puck and his defense that make him such a rarity and so special. When Steen was out with his injury, Scwartz was the the forward that Hitch sent out to kill every 5 on 3 PK... he is a more rounded Parise, but he will be a better NHL'er due to his divese game.
January 24, 2014
Votes: +0

gfunkb7 said:

gfunkb7
... Seems to me like you enjoy writing these ramblings. And for that, you learn your special assignment digi-medal!

What are the chances Andersen and Stalock steal starts from now on then? And specially towards the end of the calendar to limit Hiller's and Niemi's usage before the playoffs. Seems to me every team's strategy is to run the "hot" one, regardless of over-used-term Golden Boy Status.
January 24, 2014
Votes: +0

toddmackay said:

toddmackay
... Steve: I look forward to all post-MIN wild commentary to get the downlow on the next character in a Tim Burton Movie!

Question for you: What's your take on the situation with Bonino in ANA? In the midseason guide, he's projected for 22pts in the last 36 games whereas Silfverberg (who I own) is projected for 28? Could it be that these two are switching for the current year? I still think long-term Silfverberg is the golden boy but ultimately Bonino seems to be getting the bounces these days and could be the better own for this season.

Thanks! Keep up the great work!
January 24, 2014
Votes: +0
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