Barrie Broken Hand, McDavid Near Miss, Barzal Hattie, plus more...
With the NHL going dark for a three-day Christmas break starting today, every team except for Calgary was in action on Saturday. Let’s jump right in to what happened and what it could mean.
Mathew Barzal scored goals number 10, 11, and 12 on the season with a plus-3 ranking in the Islanders’ 5-2 win over Winnipeg. The Isles’ rookie is now on a four-game point streak in which he has seven points (4g-3a). With 35 points in 36 games, Barzal is second among NHL rookies with 0.97 points/game. I’m sure there will be debate on this point, but the Calder Trophy competition is currently a two-horse race between Barzal and Brock Boeser.
Jordan Eberle earned the primary assist on all three of Barzal’s goals. He is on a four-game point streak of his own with six points (1g-5a). Should John Tavares skip town after this season, Barzal should be fine inheriting the number one center role, and maybe someone like Brock Nelson would slide in as the number two center. But it would be interesting to see how wingers like Eberle, Andrew Ladd, Josh Bailey, and Anders Lee are affected. I know I’m putting the cart before the horse here, but we never know what next season will hold. With the league’s second-ranked offense (3.56 GF/GP), the Isles’ offense is worth riding whenever possible in the here and now.
Josh Bailey recorded an assist in this game, extending his point streak to eight games. Bailey might become the player with the highest point jump from last season to this season, as he now sits tied for second (with Tavares) in NHL scoring with 46 points already.
Brad Marchand scored a goal and added two assists in the Bruins’ 3-1 win over Detroit. Of all the players I own this season, I have probably received the most injury notifications on Marchand, a testament of how much he has been in and out of the lineup due to various injuries. But of all the players to play at least 20 games, Marchand is current fifth with 1.23 points per game. So you shouldn’t waste any time getting him back into your lineup when he’s ready to go. This is also why points per game can tell you more about a player’s production than pure points. But injury proneness is still something to pay attention to.
The Edmonton Oilers won their fourth consecutive game, but it didn’t come without a scare. Connor McDavid left the game late in the third period after blocking a shot with his foot. Fortunately, x-rays came back negative. According to coach Todd McLellan, McDavid is expected to suit up when NHL teams return to action on Wednesday, although his foot is sore. Here’s the film:
Connor McDavid blocks a shot and needs help limping off to the dressing room. Uh-oh. pic.twitter.com/HrfRQm2wo1
— Faizal Khamisa (@SNFaizalKhamisa) December 24, 2017
Before he left the game, McDavid scored a goal and added an assist.
Leon Draisaitl recorded three assists in this game. He now has a four-game assist streak with seven assists over that stretch.
Everything is right in Leafland again. Not only did the Leafs snap their four-game losing streak on Saturday, Auston Matthews returned to the Leafs’ lineup after missing the past six games with a concussion. He scored a goal and added an assist in 18:42 of icetime while back on his usual line with William Nylander and Zach Hyman.
For this ugly sequence of events, Zac Rinaldo received a match penalty, which means an automatic one-game suspension with the possibility for more. Some (like Paul Bissonnette) will argue that punching Samuel Girard was the only thing that Rinaldo could do in that situation with Girard coming at him. But given Rinaldo's track record, he won't be given the benefit of the doubt by the league.
Yikes. After already taking out Nathan MacKinnon, Zac Rinaldo with a nasty punch on Samuel Girard pic.twitter.com/FsmZwWKajF
— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) December 24, 2017
If you’re looking at MacKinnon’s 8:14 in icetime and thinking he left the game with an injury, he was actually given a game misconduct after fighting Josh Archibald in the resulting melee.
But the Avalanche player that fantasy owners need to worry about because of an injury isn’t MacKinnon or Girard. It happens to be Tyson Barrie, who has been diagnosed with a broken bone in his hand after blocking a shot in the first period. Barrie is currently tied for second among defensemen with 27 points (4g-23a) in 34 games, so his loss will be felt.
With Barrie leaving the game on his third shift, we were able to get a look at how the Avalanche’s blueline situation might shake out with Barrie out of the lineup. Nikita Zadorov led Avs’ blueliners in both overall icetime (26:43) and power-play time (3:52). Zadorov recorded an assist with a plus-3 and five shots on goal, three hits, and three blocked shots, making the most of his opportunity for the handful of his fantasy owners out there. I’m not rushing out to add Zadorov, who has eight points in 30 games. But he is at least worth keeping an eye on.
My initial reaction was to assume that the youngster Girard would be able to step up into a greater role, but he amassed just 17 minutes of icetime total. He’s got a bright future, but 19 years of age is very very young for an NHL defenseman.
Lost in the Rinaldo kerfuffle and Barrie injury was Derek Stepan scoring two shorthanded goals in this game. In the first Yahoo fantasy hockey league I played in, I would have rejoiced. That league counted shorties (as well as game-winning goals, if you remember when that was a popular league category).
Of the 29 NHL forwards who had played as least 500 minutes at five-on-five entering Saturday’s final pre-Christmas matches, just four had scored fewer than four goals at full and equal strength.
And so had Sidney Crosby.
It’s true that Crosby, who currently sits 25th in NHL scoring, is experiencing age-related decline. But a portion of that has to be attributed to the previous two long seasons of the Penguins. He hasn’t had much time to rest.
Earlier this week I received a message from a friend asking me at what point I would cut Justin Faulk, because he was about to do exactly that. As a Faulk owner in a deeper league, I’m glad I didn’t take a sip of his Kool-Aid. Faulk scored two goals on seven shots on goal in the Hurricanes’ 4-2 win over Buffalo. However, anyone who has been thinking about dropping Faulk recently has been justified in asking the question. Faulk now has points in two games, but before that he hadn’t recorded a point in 12 games.
In pure points leagues, Faulk barely appears rosterable with just 10 points in 35 games. Faulk has at least 15 goals during each of his last three seasons, but entered this game with only one goal. Faulk is only down slightly in terms of shots taken, so the fact that his shooting percentage is only 3 percent this season when it has been around 7-8 percent is significant. If you can get Faulk for very cheap, I say do it, particularly in multicategory leagues. This Geek of the Week is over a year old, but it explains well what you are getting in Faulk.
One other Hurricanes’ note: Cam Ward started again, allowing two goals on 22 shots. With Scott Darling struggling mightily, Ward has now started back-to-back games and four of the last six games. Over that stretch he has a 2.18 GAA and .922 SV%, better than what you’d expect from Ward (and what Ward’s season numbers really are). He’s owned in only 10 percent of Yahoo leagues.
James Reimer stopped all 38 shots he faced in shutting out the Senators on Saturday. With Roberto Luongo injured, Reimer has now started nine consecutive games. Reimer’s overall season numbers (3.15 GAA, .908 SV%) might look unattractive, but over his last seven games he has allowed just 14 goals with a .946 save percentage. He’s still unowned in about three-quarters of Yahoo leagues, so he’s another name to look for if you need goaltending help.
The Blues’ top forwards have struggled with Jaden Schwartz out of the lineup, having scored just six goals in the past six games entering Saturday’s game. Vladimir Tarasenko ended a three-game point drought with an assist on an empty-net goal from Alexander Steen, who scored his first goal in 18 games. A sniper who normally shoots in the 10-15 percent range, Steen is shooting at just 4.9 percent, which explains his lack of goals (four goals in 32 games). He could be worth buying super low on.
Brock Boeser is shaping up to be one of fantasy hockey’s top stories in 2017-18. Boeser was projected by many to reach 20 goals in his rookie season. He has managed to do that even before the Christmas break, scoring his 20th goal on Saturday. The summary of pretty much every Canucks games recently: “The Canucks lost, but Boeser scores.” If you bought on Boeser early on, congratulations. You now have a top-5 NHL goal scorer. Not rookie goal scorer. NHL goal scorer.
Here’s Boeser’s first 19 goals:
— Ryan Biech (@ryanbiech) December 24, 2017
And here’s goal number 20:
— Stephen Laidlaw (@SteveLaidlaw) December 24, 2017
A 21 percent shooting rate is high for most players. But Boeser’s ability to find position and fire his wrist shot with great accuracy should mean that his goal rate may not regress much. Boeser is already on pace to be a 40-goal scorer in an era where 40 goals is the new 50 goals.
One other Canucks’ note: Don’t start Jacob Markstrom right now. He lets in way too many soft goals. I'm not even going to bother to back that point up with statistics.
The scary part about the success of the Vegas Golden Knights: They’ve done it for most of the season without their showcase player, Marc-Andre Fleury. He stopped all 26 Capitals’ shots he faced in earning his first shutout as a Knight. He’s reeled off three consecutive victories. Yes, he’s worth starting in all leagues.
In a night in which fantasy owners were gifted with plenty of shutouts, Andrei Vasilevskiy, John Gibson, and Martin Jones also earned goose eggs. Hopefully you didn’t load up on players from Minnesota, Ottawa, Pittsburgh, Washington, or Los Angeles. All of those teams were shut out on Saturday.
Finally, I’d like to take the time to wish all Dobber Hockey visitors a very Merry Christmas. Enjoy yourselves during this three-day break from hockey, and remember to do it safely. In the meantime, feel free to air your fantasy hockey grievances below.
For more fantasy hockey information, follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.
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