Jackets’ win streak lasts into 2017, Kreider hat trick, Letang returns, plus more…
Happy New Year! I hope 2017 brings health, wealth, and happiness to you. And don't forget to be thankful that you survived another year. :)
If you didn’t have any New Year’s party plans (like me), there was probably enough hockey to keep you entertained on New Year’s Eve. I woke up this morning looking forward to three games: Canada/US World Junior, the Blue Jackets/Wild streak showdown, and Connor McDavid and the Oilers facing my Canucks.
Before I move forward, I’d also like to give my best wishes to Demetri Fragopoulos, author of The Contrarian. Today’s article will be his last, as he is moving on to focus on his other career plans. I will definitely miss being the first to read and edit his articles, which he no doubt put a lot of imagination and work into.
The World Junior game was a disappointment if you are Canadian, but you have to give the American team credit. My takeaway from this game was how well the American defense seems to be structured in a tournament that normally features a lot of end-to-end play.
Canada was given significant power-play time over the first two periods, which included a five-minute major with a 5-on-3 within it. But during that power-play time, Canada could manage only one goal. This probably explains why stay-at-home defenseman and Bruins prospect Ryan Lindgren was named the player of the game for the Americans (he recorded one assist).
Now that Jaroslav Halak has cleared waivers and will report to the AHL, we can now get a handle on the Islanders’ goalie situation.
Halak, owned in just under 50 percent of Yahoo leagues, becomes droppable in all but the deepest of formats. Expect him to remain in the AHL unless there is an injury to one of the other two goalies. He could still be traded to a team desperate for a goalie, but the Islanders would probably need to retain some salary and receive very little in return.
Thomas Greiss automatically deserves a pickup in the 50 percent of Yahoo leagues in which he is a free agent. He’s probably not a top-20 option between the pipes, but his ratios are at least respectable (2.49 GAA, .922 SV%) and his win total should improve now that he doesn’t have to share the net with Halak and his $4.5 million per season contract.
Jean-Francois Berube may be worth a streaming start or two now that he will at least be suiting up every game. But I wouldn’t be in a rush to pick him up given the Islanders’ low place in the standings.
The 14-game win streak collided with the 12-game win streak on Saturday, and the 14-game win streak survived and became a 15-game win streak. The Blue Jackets (yes, the Columbus Blue Jackets) are now tied for the second-longest win streak in NHL history. Or to put it another way, the Jackets went undefeated during the entire month of December.
Cam Atkinson can’t stop and won’t stop, still paying dividends for those who “bought high” (ahem… Dobber?) Atkinson scored another two goals, which believe it or not broke his two-game point drought. I have a player or two on my fantasy teams that wish their point droughts were only two games.
It was a great day for former NBA player Popeye Jones’ sons. First, Oilers’ prospect Caleb Jones was a part of the American team that defeated Canada 3-1. Then, Seth Jones scored a goal to increase his point streak to three and give him points in five of his last seven games. December has been a fantastic month for him with nine points (4g-5a) and a plus-8 in 14 games. Jones is up to seven goals this season, so a double-digit goal total is within reach. He is also on pace for 40 points, even though he has never reached 30 points in a season.
With two assists, Brandon Saad is on a five-game point streak. He is also having a December to remember with 15 points (8g-7a) and a plus-12 in 14 games. We all know that John Tortorella is not afraid to implement consequences, which means it shouldn’t be a total shocker that Saad was nearly a healthy scratch for a game back in November. I’ve never been a big fan of Torts, but whatever he is doing in Columbus seems to be working, as Saad recorded two points that game.
Players on the losing side of the Streak Bowl continued to pile up points anyway. With a goal and an assist, Mikael Granlund now has 15 points over his last 12 games. He also leads the Wild with eight multi-point games. Is Granlund’s breakout pace of 60 points sustainable? Vote in the Cage Match Tournament. If you don’t think so, then two reasons come to mind: 1) He does not receive first-unit power-play time, and 2) His shooting percentage sits at 15 percent, significantly higher than his 8 percent average from the last few seasons.
Jason Zucker also scored again to give him three goals in his past five games. He also finishes December with 11 points (6g-5a) and a plus-11 in 14 games. He’s on pace for 52 points, and his plus-23 rating places him in the top five in the league in that category. I can remember during the summer when someone in my keeper league was offering him for free. I wish I would have taken advantage, considering how thin I now am at left wing in this particular league (Jonathan Huberdeau and Patrick Sharp have been injured, and Mikkel Boedker has just sucked badly).
Kris Letang made a somewhat surprising return on Saturday, as the Penguins don’t play again until next Sunday (see here for bye weeks). He recorded two assists in 25 minutes of icetime. Justin Schultz owners might be worried, but the two can probably coexist. Schultz recorded an assist in 23 minutes. Both received over four minutes of power-play time in this game. Schultz scored 18 points and a plus-16 in 15 December games, so you’re not dropping him. But sell high if you’re really worried. Just remember that Letang was around for half the month, even if it seemed longer than that.
First there was Bonino Bonino Bonino… then Bang Bang Kris Letang… now there’s Phil “The Thrill” Kesselllllll. Harnarayan Singh should just become the full-time play-by-play announcer for the Penguins. Whaddaya say? Full disclosure: I watched an entire period of the 2016 Stanley Cup Final in Punjabi, even though I only know a few words of the Indian language learned from various friends.
— Hockey Night Punjabi (@HkyNightPunjabi) January 1, 2017
Another somewhat surprising return: Patrick Sharp. He was held without a point in 15 minutes of icetime, mainly playing on a line with Jiri Hudler and Cody Eakin. That’s one secondary scoring line that will need to get going if the Stars are to be a playoff team. Injuries and suspension (Eakin) have cut into all three players’ seasons, but this line has a combined five points in 30 games. Ouch.
Vincent Trocheck owners have been pulling their hair out all season when using him. But he’s recently found his scoring touch, scoring goals in three consecutive games with five points over that span. This streak coincides with Aleksander Barkov’s absence from the Panthers’ lineup. So if you believe that the Barkov injury will help Trocheck, then Vinny will go on a nice little run for 2-3 more weeks.
Andrew Ladd owners have also been disappointed in him this season. But the ones that are left have been rewarded for their patience. With a goal against his old team (the Jets), Ladd now has four goals and an assist over his last four games. Jason Chimera and Alan Quine aren’t the most appealing of linemates, but they’ve been getting it done lately. Add Ladd if he’s available, but don’t expect the world.
Teams have often been scoring an avalanche of goals against Colorado this season, so any Rangers were excellent options on Saturday. J.T. Miller and Chris Kreider delivered, as Miller scored twice and Kreider recorded a hat trick. Kreider has been lights out recently, scoring six goals over his last four games.
Like the aforementioned Trocheck, Kreider’s streak comes with another regular player out of the lineup (Rick Nash). Kreider is already on pace for around 65 points, so he may not be affected that much once Nash is back. In addition, no player scored more goals in December than Kreider, who found the back of the net 11 times last month.
The goaltending pendulum in Calgary might be swinging back to Brian Elliott. By posting a win against Arizona, Elliott has now won four consecutive games, allowing three or fewer goals in each of them. Granted, the opposition is scraping the bottom of the barrel in the Western Conference (Arizona twice, Colorado, and Vancouver). Yet Chad Johnson has lost each of his last four games, allowing at least three goals in each of them. Things in fantasy hockey can change like the chinook winds in Calgary.
Mikael Backlund, who was featured in my Sportsnet Waiver Wire Report this week, scored yet again on Saturday. Backlund has five goals over his last four games. His success has rubbed off on linemates Matthew Tkachuk and Michael Frolik. Tkachuk how has a six-game point streak, while Frolik is on a four-game streak.
Sidney Crosby is the NHL’s goal scoring leader with 26, which he has achieved in just 32 games. The only other player to reach 20 goals in a game that started in 2016 may have done so after you went to bed (assuming you promptly did so after the ball dropped in New York). Jeff Carter scored goal number 20 in the schedule’s latest game, which includes ten in December and eight in November.
The last time Carter hit 30 goals was as a member of the Flyers, but he is on pace to score 40 goals for a Kings’ team not known for scoring. Forty is probably a stretch, but 30-35 is well within reach. If not for Carter, the Kings would be in big trouble in the scoring department. Tanner Pearson, who is second on the Kings in goals, scored his ninth goal on Saturday.
Jared Coreau is the likely starter for the Centennial Classic, which would make him the starter of three of past four Red Wings’ games. Coreau is owned in very few leagues and is already factoring into Wings’ goaltending situation with Jimmy Howard sidelined. For more starting goalies, check out Goalie Post.
One waiver-wire pickup you could make for this game (if you have time) is Anthony Mantha, who has six points and a plus-7 over his last six games.
Enjoy your Sunday and whichever outdoor game(s) you watch. Follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.
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