Good job by the Rangers to get some real value out of reclamation projects Benoit Pouliot and Derrick Brassard. The two former top 10 picks have provided some essential depth scoring to a team that has whiffed on a number of first rounders over the years (Huge Specimen, anyone?) and had some terrible luck as well (RIP Alexei Cherepanov).
They have combined with the nifty Mats Zuccarello on the third line. Zuccarello has slow down a bit of late but with three points across the Stadium Series he is back on track.
Rick Nash’s five-game scoring streak came to an end last night. He’d scored 11 goals in his last 11 games as well, a truly impressive run. What’s crazy is that he has yet to register a single assist in 2014. Just one of those statistical anomalies I guess.
As disappointing as Nash’s season has been he has still been firing the piss out of the puck adding another five SOG last night.
Two games back and no points for Lubomir Visnovsky but they are coming. As expected the veteran blueliner is back out on the top power play unit, which screams “$$$$$$$” with John Tavares (quietly the league’s second leading scorer) out there. Of course, we’ve seen many players struggle upon their return from a concussion so maybe it’ll be a while for Visnovsky but I have a tough time believing he won’t get the odd assist just by proximity.
Visnovsky’s return has relegated Andrew MacDonald to the second power play unit and fantasy irrelevance (unless you count blocked shots).
What the hell, let’s give it to Nelson who hammered home the lone Islanders goal off a pretty touch pass from Matt Donovan.
Nelson is a real solid forward that you’ll want to keep your eye on for keeper leagues. He’s another prototypical US forward, like the Rangers’ Chris Kreider, who is just big, fast and tough to play against. Nelson’s not as fast or as skilled as Kreider but he isn’t that far off. I’m interested to see just where he fits in for the Islanders long term.
Nelson is currently skating as the third line center but with talents like Tavares and Frans Nielsen ahead of him right now as well as Ryan Strome (who could play wing) coming up as well it’ll be tough for Nelson to carve out a permanent top six role even though the talent is there.
Solid start from Evgeni Nabokov last night. His first in a while.
It’s not enough that Ben Scrivens is one of the most gif-able players in the league he had to go set the modern record for saves in a shutout with a whopping 59 last night. Suck on that, Mike Smith! If any of you had the good fortune of starting him last night, wow! You could have started Scrivens and Roberto Luongo and still be crushing save percentage.
What is it with these terrible Oilers and ludicrous fantasy performances? Remember Sam Gagner’s eight-point game from a couple years ago? Keep that in mind before you go balls deep after Scrivens. It’s a fine performance and maybe that’s enough to earn him an extra million or two on his contract this summer but I’m not even sure he’s the Oilers’ starter of the future.
That said, I haven’t seen a goaltending performance like this in an Oilers uniform since maybe CuJo, so yeah, I’m excited. I think it’s absolute horseshit that Sports Club Stats hasn’t updated the Oilers’ chances of making the playoffs to even 0.1% now that Scrivens has gone full on Brick Wall a la Wayne Gretzky’s 3D Hockey.
It was nice to see the kids provided him with some scoring support as well. Taylor Hall got in on all three Oilers goals and is on an absolute tear right now and has climbed to a tie for 11th in league scoring. It wouldn’t surprise me if he finishes in the top five by season’s end.
Hall is far from a complete player but he’s becoming underrated as his game improves. A lot of the flaws in his game that people (myself included) used to rag him for – you know, the constant one-on-one stuff – he’s cleaned a lot of that up and is becoming a dominant driver of possession and one of the few consistent performers on a team desperate for them.
Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins each added two points. I recently traded Nugent-Hopkins for Phil Kessel in my cap league. Not a trade I am in love with but with contending team in serious need of goal scoring and shots Kessel is a serious upgrade now and not a huge step back long term.
If Nugent-Hopkins and the rest of the Oilers offense goes on a run to close the season I may be regretting this deal though. Especially since this is a cap league and Kessel’s deal because damn near untenable next season. If he helps me win the ‘ship it will have been worth it though.
Before we talk Canucks-Blackhawks consider one of five individual stats you might find interesting:
22:15 — Ryan Kesler‘s average ice time, the highest among NHL forwards. A combination of injuries and new coach John Tortorella’s philosophy of giving his best players a ton of ice time has contributed to this. Two other Canucks, Daniel Sedin (21:38) and currently injured Henrik Sedin (21:15), are fourth and seventh in this category, respectively. Is the philosophy working? Well, Kesler has just one even-strength goal in his last 22 games and Daniel hasn’t scored at any strength in his last 13. But hey, at least they can get some rest on the long flight to Sochi.
The Canucks are really struggling without Henrik and that heavy reliance on the top line is a huge reason why. It’s worth noting that the team is seriously hurting up the middle with Mike Santorelli on the shelf as well. It’s not surprising that the Blackhawks were able to wear down the Canucks as the game dragged on. Depth kills and the Blackhawks are possibly the deepest team in the league.
Back to the Canucks though, Kesler had himself a really solid game and it reflected in his fantasy line – one assist, 12 PIM, five shots, four hits. He was his usual self creating havoc all over the ice. Great player, fun to watch.
Get your offers in to your local Daniel Sedin owner now. He’s gone 13 straight without a goal, an epic run of futility that is bound to get you a good price on an elite talent. You won’t want to miss out because when Henrik returns and the Canucks need to make a push to hold on to their playoff spot the fireworks will be taking place. Could be the pickup you need to push you over the top.
I won’t lie, I hate covering the Blackhawks in the ramblings because they are boringly efficient from a fantasy perspective. I love watching them play though. No team strikes faster than these guys do. I swear it looked like the Canucks might lull them into submission but then midway through the second the Blackhawks hit their stride and it was over for Vancouver.
I was particularly smitten with Duncan Keith last night. He only had the one assist but his excellent skating was on full display. He had one stretch where he flashed three spins in less than a minute and I swear his spin move is the best in the game.
There are lots of rumours swirling about Martin Brodeur potentially being traded this season. I don’t see it. What contender could use him as a starter? What contender can afford his cap hit as a backup? What team wants the sort of distraction bringing in the legend would be? And that’s without wondering if Marty is just done, which ummm… he might be.
I’ve been ranting and raving about this all year. I think Brodeur is nothing more than a backup. Cory Schneider is the better goaltender and has been all year, especially here in January. It’s nice to see the Devils starting to figure this out. We all know what kind of competitor Brodeur is. He doesn’t want to let go but it’s getting to be that time.
More sweet digs in Elliotte Friedman’s latest 30 Thoughts:
16. I had a funny conversation with a coach a few years back about what happens when someone like Paul Maurice goes into Winnipeg and has immediate success with the same lineup. "Everybody else who is losing panics," he laughed, "because all of a sudden, your owner is thinking, 'If a coaching change helped them that much, maybe we should do it, too.'"
I remember doing some research into mid-season coaching changes for the site several years ago and found that most led to positive results but that’s predictable. Mid-season changes aren’t made unless you hit rock bottom so for teams making the change there is nowhere to go but up.
Interestingly for both Winnipeg and Buffalo the changes have seen much improved defensive play. This isn’t always the case but it seems logical that defensive changes would be easier to implement – something to keep in mind if we see another coaching change.
I said this about Burrows not that long ago, but not only is it hard to see through the jaw protector, it’s the scariest freaking thing ever knowing that your yet fully-unknit bones are supposed to go into the corner with Unpredictable Player A and come out with the puck. Seriously, it’s so easy to let that guy get there first and try to steal the puck from him, or hit him instead of taking the contact…which means your opponent gets first touch and the puck is often going the wrong way. I didn’t feel comfortable biting an apple for like a year after my jaw shattered, long after they told me I could, let alone playing hockey against monsters on skates.
Five team stats you might find interesting:
0 — The number of times Chicago, St. Louis, Anaheim, and Colorado have been shut out. Meanwhile, Nashville’s been blanked a league-high seven times. The Blackhawks were also one of three teams (Boston and Pittsburgh were the two others) to avoid being shut out last season. The last time they failed to score at least one goal in a regular-season game was Feb. 25, 2012, in a 4-0 loss in L.A.
If you recall, I dumped Letang in my cap league a while ago and it couldn’t have worked out better. Yeah, he’s back healthy and producing now but that contract extension of his is scary, so is the reality that his next injury is right around the corner.
And the guy I traded him for – Roman Josi – is killing it with four goals and 11 points in the 15 games since I acquired him.
Now, as I said at the time of the deal, I sold low on Letang but I still like the return. A rare satisfying loss of a trade.
Check out this great profile on Notre Dame’s Joe Rogers, the goaltender born with one hand.
I am so pumped for my basketball practice later today. (I coach the local junior boys high school team.) We've got former world class sprinter Ben Johnson coming in to give the boys some instruction on training, which should be just a fantastic experience.
You can follow me on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.