Just when you thought Braden Holtby might be getting his act together he goes and gets rocked by the Blue Jackets. At least Philipp Grubauer is in the minors again so you know Holtby is going to be getting the bulk of the starts until at least the Olympic break. After that, the playoff race tightens up and the Caps have no choice but to ride the hot hand. Whoever happens to have it at that point.
I’ll never understand why the Caps decided to start messing about with Holtby’s mechanics but odds are we won’t know if it was successful until next season because this season feels lost. The Caps aren’t a particularly good team anyhow and now with a starter fighting to establish new mechanics and build up his confidence, well that leads to ugly losses like last night.
Alex Ovechkin skated nearly 10 minutes of power play time but was held off the score sheet and went an ugly minus-five.
I have Ovechkin and Mike Green in one pool and I was heartened to see the defensive sieve Green had somehow avoided any minuses in the slaughter but was quickly crushed when I realized it was only because he’d gotten hurt. Upon watching the replay it looked to me like a C-word. Apparently he returned to the bench but left shortly after, no doubt experiencing concussion-like symptoms because, you know, why call it like it is. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if they labelled it an upper-body injury.
Green’s injury launched John Carlson back onto the top power play unit. Last time he was handed this opportunity he pissed it away. I can’t say I’m optimistic about his chances this time around but he warrants time back on your radar.
Caps rookie Tom Wilson is putting together an impressive rotisserie season. He sits tied for third in the NHL in PIM and is tied for 50th in Hits. His scoring (or lack thereof) is reflective of his minimal playing time but he’s still making himself an effective fantasy player. I definitely think he has potential to become one of those Scott Hartnell/Milan Lucic types, especially if he can work his way up to the front of the net on the Caps’ loaded power play. They’d have to be ready to move on from Troy Brouwer though, which isn’t all that tall a task I suppose.
Brouwer is interesting in his own right. He’s a big body with a little bit of scoring touch. He’s far from consistent though. He has skated on two loaded teams in Chicago and now Washington but still has just a career high of 40 points. Last season he flashed what could happen if all comes together. His prorated total would have been 57 points for the season but alas it had to come together in a shortened one. Opportunity missed.
Back to Wilson though. I find it interesting that the Caps are willing to use him as their enforcer. After all, he is a former first rounder. It seems to me that this is a bit of a waste of resources but I guess he wouldn’t be in the league if he hadn’t carved out a role even though it’s not the role they necessarily had planned for him when they drafted him.
I’m glad the Blue Jackets found their way to reunite the Matthew Calvert – Brandon Dubinsky – Cam Atkinson line because it’s a great one. There is quite a bit of speed, tenacity and hockey sense on that line with some intriguing underrated pieces.
Calvert, an old Jeff Angus favourite, is one of those non-descript players who is just a good hockey player. He isn’t overly fast, isn’t overly big or strong and doesn’t dazzle with skill but he works, tirelessly. He’s missed quite a bit of time with various injuries but keep him on the radar, especially in keeper leagues because he’s got some decent upside.
Atkinson’s an even more exciting player, with more offensive upside. I think he could score 70 on this Blue Jackets team some day and even more if paired with a superstar. I don’t know if he reaches that level though. He needs to prove he can be more of a playmaker, making everyone else on the ice with him better. He also needs to show he can run a power play from the half-wall. That’s how guys his size go from intriguing depth scorers to full blown stars. So far he has 10 career power play scores. Obviously he isn’t there yet.
Dubinsky is the real winner on this line getting to feed off two quality offensive players. Somehow he is pace for career highs in both points and PIM this season. He’s always been a beauty in rotisserie leagues but he’s reaching new David-Backes-like levels of rotisserie dominance. Odds are he’s owned in your league but he’s probably underappreciated all the same.
Want more Jackets gushing? Okay. Jack Johnson continues to kill it since hearing of his Olympic snub with nine points over the last 10 games. It probably has more to do with the fact that he’s back on the Jackets’ top power play unit and that the Jackets’ lineup has really fallen into place with the introduction of Nathan Horton but either way Johnson owners are pleased. If he keeps this up he’s a real threat to hit 40 this season.
Finally, that Ryan Johansen guy continues to crush. Somehow he has elevated that line of Nick Foligno and RJ Umberger into something productive, which further underscores what a leap he has taken this season. Johansen has slowed down over the past month or so with just 10 points over the last 17 games but he continues to battle and added two goals last night. He is still on pace for 60 points but I think he falls a bit short.
Johansen with some dirty mitts:
Johansen’s season reminds me of Jeff Carter in his third season, the season before he went off for 46 goals and 84 points in a breakout season almost surely to be his career best. Now, I’m not saying Johansen goes off like that next year but it’s something to keep in mind.
Nazem Kadri in scorching right now with 12 points over the last eight games. Not a bad way to get your season (and your team’s season) back on track. He is flashing all the elusiveness that makes him a great – sometimes dominant – player in this league. I can’t believe there were trade rumours swirling around him. Who could the Leafs possibly land that would make them better? Kadri is a dominant puck possession player on a team struggling mightily in that area and he makes guys he plays with better. Nice to see that on display.
What’s been interesting to see is Nikolai Kulemin getting dragged back to relevance while skating on Kadri’s wing. He has five points over the last eight games, which is almost fantasy worthy.
Kulemin’s gain has been Mason Raymond’s loss. He scored last night but has been drowning for the past month between the earlier struggles of Kadri and now his demotion to the third line.
Scott Gomez is like Jason Voorhees. Just be gone already! He’s been back for four games now and has points in the last two.
This is probably white noise given how allergic the Panthers are to scoring but Dmitri Kulikov has points in three straight and five of the last seven. Something to keep an eye on. I still think he’s got something to offer, though perhaps not in Florida.
Sean Bergenheim’s got points in five straight, which bears monitoring as well.
Interesting move by Michel Therrien giving Peter Budaj the start against rival Boston but it worked out so I can’t really criticize the move.
The Canadiens have actually kind of owned the Bruins over the past two seasons boasting a 4-1-1 (that third digit is a game they won in the shootout but I’m counting it as a tie because to hell with the shootout). They face each other twice more this season.
Brendan Gallagher led the way with two points last night and is in midst of his best scoring run of the season with seven points in the last seven games. The Canadiens need Gallagher and his linemates – David Desharnais and Max Pacioretty – to score because that’s the most offensively prolific line they have, especially with Alex Galchenyuk on the shelf.
I still remember when the EGG line was the best thing going for Montreal. RIP Lars Eller’s fantasy value.
Andrei Markov notched an assist for the second straight game. You might argue this is where he gets it going again but I doubt it. All those miles on those bionic knees. Unless they’ve got some souped-up WD-40 back in Russia Markov is just going to continue to wear down as the season goes along.
I see a lot of people falling head over heels for Reilly Smith. Talented player but I don’t see reason to get that excited. He’s shooting 18.2%, which just screams regression.
Speaking of regression, remember when Brad Marchand was a complete disappointment this season? Yeah, that’s over. Even after going scoreless these last two games he’s scored 19 points in the last 19 games and has upped his shooting percentage all the way over his career average to 17.7% but he also shoots 15.7% for his career so that figure is perfectly legit, unlike Smith’s, which is shrouded in uncertainty.
And remember, Marchand does this without power play time. He and Pascal Dupuis are two of the league’s biggest anomalies, putting up big numbers without power play minutes.
Alex Burrows used to be up there as well until he fell off the face of the Earth.
Another C-word to look out for, Ben Bishop got smucked in the back of the head by Nikita Kucherov while diving for a loose puck and left the game, not returning. To add insult to injury the Senators were able to cycle the puck quickly and score on the open cage leaving Bishop and his owners with a beauty 33.03 goals-against average and .000 save percentage.
It doesn’t sound Bishop was seriously hurt though but monitor that situation.
Valterri Filppula was injured as well, going down with the dreaded LBI. Anyone have any guesses? I figure the skin of both his legs somehow grafted together like a mermaid (Merman. MERMAN!) and then he spent the rest of the game hopping to the hospital like he was in a potato sack race.
Ondrej Palat continues to rake with nine points over the last five games.
So does Victor Hedman who has eight points in the last four games. He fired seven shots last night. This guy is just a stud.
The Senators took full advantage of the Lightning injuries to claim a huge divisional win.
Jason Spezza notched a couple of assists and continues to be relevant despite his relegation to the second line this season. The Senators are apparently looking for help on his wings. At times he’s skated with Milan Michalek and Mika Zibanejad who each got assists last night.
You get the feeling that the Senators would really have something if they could roll with Zibanejad and Michalek on the “third line”, forming a solid checking unit and then giving Spezza some scoring wingers to use in more of an offensive role. I think it would be hilarious if Ales Hemsky wound up there just to see Sens fans go insane over those two underwhelming Band-Aid Boys.
The New Jersey Devils are bound and determined to bring back the late 90’s. Between their roster of geriatrics and their gruesomely slow style of play they are a real blast from the past. They allowed just 16 shots last night and took 24 themselves. A whopping 40 in total, which is even more depressing than the average depressing Devils game.
No team shoots less than the Devils do and no team allows fewer shots than they do. One of these days I’m going to have to get around to doing a study to see just where the Devils’ slow pace stands historically but I can say that the 51.6 shots per Devils game is dead last by a mile. The next closest team is Minnesota at 54.9 shots per game.
Naturally they won. And naturally Patrick Elias and Jaromir Jagr each got two points, because, like I said, late 90’s. The only difference is Cory Schneider is goalie coasting in for the victory this time. Apparently they ran out pixie dust by the time they got to Martin Brodeur’s goalie pads.
Valeri Nichushkin notched an assist for Dallas and was still up on the top line but he skated just 20 seconds worth of power play time, a continuing theme this season. Whenever he starts to see that power play time – possibly as early as next season – he is going to go off big time. A star in the making for sure.
It’s not looking so hot for PA Parenteau’s future in Colorado. The trade rumours are swirling and he’s seeing healthy scratches now that the Avs are back to full strength. I think the Avalanche might be a bit foolish to trade Parenteau though. I know they are looking solid with everyone healthy right now but what are the odds that continues the rest of the season and into the playoffs?
It’s a similar situation to what I was facing with my cap league team. I’ve been sitting with 24 regular players on a 23-man roster but constant injuries have enabled me to hang onto that situation without issue but I had been shopping around some of my fringe guys to see if I could get a good price and resolve my “problem” of excess. Then I found out that Mike Santorelli is done for the year. Problem solved, I guess.
It’s a good thing I held on to my depth because odds are Santorelli won’t be the last guy I lose. I have some minor eligible guys kicking around on my farm squad who I can call up in a pinch but I’m almost in the market for another body now that Santorelli is down, even though that technically pushes me over the limit for regulars again. You simply cannot have enough depth.
This is counter to what you’ll experience in most pools where there is a deep waiver wire that can be easily mined for replacements at will. In those pools you want to dump all the depth you can for superstars because the waiver wire is stocked with talent.
Now, I’m sure the Avalanche are planning on getting an NHL talent in return for Parenteau but I’m just not sure they’ll get one as talented as he. The recent Rene Bourque rumours raised more than a few eyebrows.
In the meantime, Jamie McGinn has been riding a nice run of relevance with nine points in the last 15 games, while getting some burn on the top line. McGinn has always been a solid source of hits so he could be a real catch in rotisserie leagues if he can maintain the modest scoring.
The return of Alex Tanguay has pushed Nathan MacKinnon back to third line center but he hasn’t seemed to mind with eight points in the last six games. This is hardly a reach but MacKinnon is winning the Calder this year. Just lock that in now. Nothing about his scoring this season has been a fluke. He’s just a great talent. There are other guys in the mix but when the #1 pick lives up to the hype he wins the Calder.
MacKinnon's a natural:
I am loving this run that Tyson Barrie is on and I really like his future with the Avalanche. He’s going to be dynamite manning the point for this glut of great forwards for a long time. It took him a while to earn Patrick Roy’s trust including some healthy scratches and a demotion to the minors but he’s coming along. Barrie has 14 points in the last 19 games if you haven’t been paying attention.
Oh, hello, Zach Parise. So nice of you to come out. After taking a couple of games to get his feet under him after returning from injury Parise now has seven points over the last two games including getting in on all four of Minnesota’s goals last night.
It’s not all that hard to imagine where the Wild would be without Parise. After all, we got to watch a month of it while he was hurt. It’s not pretty. Parise is a beast, not only did he get four points last night but he fired nine SOG. I can’t wait until some of the young talent in Minnesota grows up because that depth is going to help unleash Parise once again. Until then we’ll have to settle for these flashes of brilliance and a 65-point version of Parise.
It’s nice of Parise to drag Mikael Granlund along on this ride. Granlund has scored seven points over the last four games. Easily the most productive stretch of his young career, although he has shown flashes before.
I was bullish on Granlund coming over last season figuring that the Wild would receive a boost from Parise and Ryan Suter and that the team needed a power play quarterback. Granlund had played that role for much of his time back home and in international competition. I neglected to account for the adjustment period needed for the speed difference faced when making the leap from Europe to the NHL.
I can’t wait until things start to really click for him and they will start to click for him because he’ll become a power play wizard.
Jason Pominville has enjoyed Parise’s return as well with six points over these last four games. What’s interesting is that Pominville and Granlund aren’t skating with Parise at evens. They are skating with Dany Heatley’s corpse instead but such is the magnetic pull of Parise. His line will always face the toughest matchups opening things up for the second line. And of course, they get to skate with Parise on the power play, which is a real treat.
So much for a friendly road trip through Alberta. After getting shutout by Ben Scrivens in legendary fashion on Wednesday they followed it up with a loss to the sad-sack Flames.
I guess something had to slow down Joe Pavelski who has gone scoreless in three straight for just the second time this season.
Sharks rookie Eriah Hayes scored the lone goal for San Jose. He also landed six hits, which might lead you to believe he has an intriguing future as a multi-category stud. I don’t know about all of that. He’s been largely irrelevant since getting called up at the start of the month. This was the first time he has skated over 10 minutes in a game and he made good so maybe there is something to him. What I do know is he has been chucking the body since he got called up with 32 hits in 13 games.
If you want to talk multi-category monsters, look no further than Zemgus Girgensons. This guy is a loud player. He and Ryan Miller are reason enough to watch the Sabres this year. I love watching him fly around the ice. He’s got some Ryan Kesler in him for sure.
Girgensons notched the game-winner, a short-handed goal, added an assist, fired four shots and landed five hits. Monster.
Oh yeah, and that Miller guy continues to be awesome. Stopped 38 of 40 shots last night. Free him! Somebody, free him!
Don’t sleep on the Tyler Ennis revival. He’s got 11 points in 13 January games.
Where has the offense gone in Phoenix? Remember when they had a top-five offense? Their 12th now and falling like a rock.
Radim Vrbata has been mired in a slump with seven points in 15 January games. He is still firing the crap out of the puck so there’s reason to consider him a buy low right now but I’m not overly confident in that.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s another one who has been tanking with just two points in the last seven games. I still figure he finishes with 40 points, which makes this a breakout campaign of sorts but I think we were all hoping for 50+. Don’t worry keeper leaguers. He’ll get there. He’s one of the best young defensemen in the game. I just hope he doesn’t fall into the Drew Doughty trap where he gets so worn out playing other roles for his team that the offense slips.
You can’t accuse Antoine Vermette of not carrying his weight. He’s got eight goals and 10 points in the last eight games. I’m not sure how long that lasts but I’ve been enjoying it.
Damn, damn, damn! Nick Bonino left the game early last night and did not return. No word on his status. If he misses any extended time this would be the opportunity someone like Jakob Silfverberg or Kyle Palmieri or Dustin Penner needs to steal his spot on the top power play unit. I’m not overly concerned as none of those guys brings the same intelligent puck-movement that Bonino does but young players don’t always have the tightest grasps on roster spots so there’s a chance this gets away from him mid breakout.
Cam Fowler notched an assist last night but he’s been really quiet here in January with just five points in his last 14 games. I’ve grown a bit complacent taking for granted that he’d been so productive during December that I stopped checking in on his production this month. I’ve got confidence that Fowler will pick up his pace once more though so I probably won’t shuffle the deck with him.
If Luca Sbisa could ever stay healthy he’d be one to go after in a multi-category pool. He landed four hits and two blocks last night, which is pretty much par for the course for him. Of course, it’s that rough and tumble nature that keeps getting him banged up. Catch 22, really.
The Ducks had little trouble dispatching the Flyers because, you know, Steve Mason. You guys tell me what the outlier is, his first couple months of the season or the other four and a half years of miserable goaltending?
Mark Streit is heating up! He’s got eight points in his last 10 games. He’ll get to 40 points, you watch.
Wayne Simmonds owners, it was fun while it lasted wasn’t it? His run is over now having gone four straight without a point.
Brayden Schenn has suffered a similar slow down. I blame Vincent Lecavalier who has been bumped onto their line to replace Scott Hartnell. Vinny just ain’t what he used to be. He has some jump on some nights but others he’s got nothing. He did score last night but meh, I’m not interested.
STFD and STFU, Vinny:
Matt Niskanen jumped up to take the top power play minutes and notched two assists. This guy is like herpes.
I can’t imagine how infuriating it must be to own Jussi Jokinen right now. Oh sure, he’s been productive but he is so high variance right now. He’s either getting you a donut or a multi-point effort. In a league with deep rosters it must be a nightmare trying to guess whether or not to play him. The solution is to just insert him and pray but I absolutely loathe players like this.
With the Kings still struggling to score Tyler Toffoli remains buried on the fourth line. Sometimes logic just does not prevail.
You can follow me on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.